The “Paris of the Middle East”, colorful Beirut, without the slightest exaggeration, can be called a city of contrasts at the junction of East and West. The free-spirited and democratic European spirit is successfully combined here and perfectly coexists with Arab traditions: “dabka” is danced in completely Parisian brasseries, the melancholic tunes of Fairuz are heard from elite gourmet restaurants, local beauties with antimony eyes lined up do not consider it shameful to show off in a bikini on the beach, and Lebanese gentlemen manage to catch a jazz concert right after the evening prayers in the Al-Omari mosque. And in Beirut, a remarkable number of monuments are concentrated: Roman baths, Byzantine basilicas, Ottoman palaces, Christian churches, mosques, parks… in a word, no matter how long you come to the city, you are guaranteed to have something to do! According to populationmonster, Beirut is one of the largest cities in Lebanon.
How to get to Beirut
You can fly from the capital of our Motherland to Beirut on the wings of Aeroflot: on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from Sheremetyevo. The journey will take about 4 hours. Citizens of Belarus and Ukraine, as well as other cities in Russia, will have to get to Beirut also through Moscow. But the residents of Armenia are lucky: they will be taken to Beirut by direct flights of Armavia. In addition, transfer options are possible with such airlines as Cyprus Airlines (via Larnaca), Turkish Airlines (via Istanbul), Egypt Air (Cairo), Qatar Airways (Doha), Emirates (Dubai).
Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport is located 5 km south of the city centre. There is no public shuttle from the airport to the city, so you will have to take a taxi to cover this distance. Official airport taxis wear the appropriate logo on board and charge a flat fee for delivering a passenger to the city center (at the same time, it never hurts to bargain). Ordinary city taxis park a little further from the exit from the arrivals hall and are known for their desire to “lift” prices to the limit. Tip: bargain mercilessly! In both cases, the trip should not cost more than 25,000 LBP (approximately 17 USD).
In addition, minibuses for staff run between the airport and Beirut city center (departure from the departure hall). They can also be reached as a tourist. The trip will cost a maximum of 2500 LBP.
How to navigate in the city
The city center – Old Beirut – is located next to the commercial port and the port of pleasure yachts (marina). All famous architectural and historical sights are located here, but the authentic color is not enough – there are too many tourists. Ashrafiye – the center of nightlife, where there are a lot of bars and nightclubs; there are also restaurants and nice shops. More shopping opportunities are in the Hamra districts and on Verdun Street, while Ain el-Mraisa, which stretches along the coast, brings to your attention a bunch of hotels and restaurants overlooking the sea. Beach clubs are concentrated in Manara and Ramlet el-Bayda, as well as in Jna. Ravshe can boast of a natural monument – Pigeon rock.
Transport in the city
The easiest way to get around the historical center of Beirut is on foot – the distances are short, and the heavy traffic on the streets with cars does not make you want to take a taxi. For longer distances, you can travel by taxi – ordinary, for one client, and “services” – in which the fare is divided equally between 4 passengers. The first ones will take you anywhere at your request, the second ones run along certain streets (along all major and the vast majority of minor ones). There are no meters in the taxi, and the fee must be negotiated in advance. A trip from end to end of Beirut will cost about 10,000 LBP for individual taxis and 2,000 LBP for “services”. It is customary to pay for “services” at the end of the trip. Among other things, you can pay for 2 seats and ride more comfortably.
Also in Beirut there are municipal buses of white and blue or white and red “suit”. The first are ordinary buses, the second are mini-versions. Tolls within the city range from 500 to 1000 LBP. There is no need to look for a bus stop: buses stop with a wave of the hand on any section of the road. To get out of the transport, you need to inform the driver in advance.
There is no shortage of beach clubs in Beirut, but the lack of beaches is felt quite significantly. Within the city, it is customary to come to a land area near the sea (not necessarily sandy or, even more so, with a descent into the water) to sunbathe, drink cocktails and generally relax in every possible way. As a matter of fact, the proximity of the city does not improve the quality of sea water. The only beach in the usual sense of the word is located in the Ramlet el-Bayda area. There is a certain amount of sand and a convenient entry into the sea. Ras Beirut is also a nice stretch of coastline, with several resort hotels and modern upscale residential areas.
In general, the townspeople prefer to swim in Jounieh, from which Beirut is separated by 20 km.
Cuisine and restaurants in Beirut
There are many catering establishments in Beirut, both traditionally Lebanese and offering Turkish, French, Mediterranean cuisine. You should definitely try the traditional “mezze” – three dozen different salads, nut and bean pastes and tiny pies. At the same time, mezze is served both in “folk” eateries and in upscale restaurants – the cost varies according to the composition of the delicacies.
In a hurry, you can have a bite of Lebanese pizza “mankushe” – with cheese and spices and “manaish” – with cheese and minced meat, donuts “kaek”, fried nuts “krikri” and, do not be surprised, sweets – in Lebanon they are considered something like universal snack. Shawarma and kebabs are also in use (feel the difference!). In addition, the city has a variety of fast food chain restaurants, including international KFC, McDonald’s, TGI Fridays, Subway, etc.
In search of a more solid establishment, head to the waterfront district of Ain el-Mrais, where wonderful fish restaurants work.
You can refresh yourself after a cognitive day with freshly squeezed juices: kiosks of “squeezers” are located at every step.
Shopping and shops
Chic Middle Eastern fashion is the main interest of a shopaholic in Beirut. On the famous streets of Hamra, Mar Elyas and Verdun, there are boutiques of leading Lebanese couturiers, whose dresses adorn many Eastern and European stars. Eminent fashion designers – Elie Saab, Basil Soda, Pierre Katra, Robert Abi-Nader – present exquisite feminine cuts, flying silks and transparent chiffons and rich finishes to the fashionistas. Beirut shopping malls are definitely worth a look: ABC Mall, Souks de Beirut, Beirut Mall, Miss ABC, City Mall.
For authentic items, head to the markets of Beirut: the old Central Market with a mass of medieval passages and a whole bunch of treasures (as well as all sorts of junk), the Sunday market in the eastern district of the city, where you can find many antiques, rare clothes and jewelry, and the El Saturday market. – Tayeb – for handicrafts and fresh farm products.
Twice a year – in November and May – in the center of Beirut, the grandiose Souq el-Bargut market unfolds, where it seems you can buy absolutely everything your heart desires.
Famous souvenir shops in Beirut are L’Artisan du Liban, Oriental Art Center, Ceramic Lounge.
Entertainment and attractions in Beirut
The sights of Beirut are very difficult to divide into authentic oriental and modern European ones – their diversity is so great. Most of the places of tourist interest are architectural and historical monuments: churches, temples, mosques and palaces. No less interesting is the heritage of the French colonial past: well-groomed squares and parks and graceful buildings with stucco facades. Beirut did not remain deprived of natural beauties – the natural phenomenon most beloved by the townspeople is Pigeon Rock, an arch standing in the sea.
Historical sights of the city: Al-Omari Mamluk Grand Mosque (13th century), the resting place of the medieval saint Ibn al-Arak (16th century), colorful mosques Amir-Assaf, Amir-Munzer and Majidiya. There are also temples of many Christian denominations: the cathedrals of the Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches, the Church of the Capuchin monks of St. Louis, the Evangelical Church and the Maronite Cathedral of St. George. It is interesting to visit medieval monuments – the castle of the Crusaders, the Ottoman Grand Serai, now the government building and the Turkish military hospital. It is worth seeing the remains of the medieval city fortifications and the Turkish clock tower. Ruins of the Roman era: Beritus colonnade, baths, exedra, columns of a Roman basilica.
To feel the spirit of colonial Lebanon, you should definitely visit the Solider district, where there are many French-style buildings.
To feel the spirit of colonial Lebanon, you should definitely visit the Solidaire district, where there are many buildings in the French style, the Place of the Fallen and the central Place d’Etoile. The American University of Beirut is a modern building set in 28 hectares of gardens and parks. And in search of natural attractions, go to the Ravshe region, to Pigeon Rock. You can also take a walk in the fresh air in the 40-hectare coniferous forest of Horsh-Beirut, Sanaye and Khalil Gibran parks and the Botanical Garden.
You can spend time with health benefits and harm to your wallet at the Beirut Hippodrome, where races of purebred Arabian horses are held every Sunday.
Museums in Beirut: The National Museum of Beirut, which displays over 1300 artifacts from prehistoric times to medieval Mamluk rule, the Sursoc Museum is the largest private collection of modern art, exhibited in a magnificent 18th century palace, the Museum of Archeology and History. Old books, ceramics, carpets, religious objects and jewelry can be seen in the private museum of Robert Mouawad. The Museum of the History of Armenians will tell about the life of the Armenian community and show many valuable exhibits. And the smallest tourists will love the Planet Discovery Museum, where interesting experiments from the field of natural sciences will be offered to their attention.
Beirut hosts many festivals: cinema in October and jazz in July, the Francophone Film Festival in March, the Big Sunday of club music and the summer Bacardi Nights.