Paris of the Middle East
Backpacking in Beirut
If you’re planning on taking a backpacking holiday in Beirut, you’re sure to have a great time. Just bear in mind that, if your backpacking holiday to Beirut is part of a larger trip, you won’t be allowed to enter Lebanon if you have an Israeli stamp on your passport. Other than that, you’ll certainly have a great time and find that backpacking is a great way to experience Beirut’s interesting cultural mix, extremely friendly people, and fascinating lifestyle.
There are a number of low-cost accommodation options for backpackers and budget travellers in Beirut. Many places, such as the Al Nazih Pension or Talal’s New Hotel offer a number of different tariffs, depending on your budget and what sort of room you’re after: you’ll find a mixture of dorm rooms and private single, double or triple rooms, all of a fairly high standard. Accommodation options like these in Beirut offer a great way to meet other backpackers and travellers, and usually have a communal area where you can chat to other backpacking holidaymakers over a beer or a coffee. Some places also have free laundry, book exchange and kitchens. You’ll also find that the majority of budget hotels and hostels offer a free internet service, so you can keep everyone updated with your backpacking adventures in Beirut. Al Nazih Pension is even offering $15 tours around Lebanon. Cost of public transport is cheap and good in the daytime.
In terms of low-cost activities on a backpacking trip to Beirut, one of the most fascinating past times in Beirut is going out to see and be seen. You can settle down in one of the bars on Beirut’s cornice for just the price of a beer and watch all the people go by.
Beach in Beirut
If you’re planning a beach holiday in Beirut, there are numerous beach clubs set along Beirut’s coast. However, be aware that, whilst all of them have access to the sea, most are spas with swimming pools and hardly any actually have sandy beaches, so don’t offer a typical “beach holiday” experience. Despite that, the beach clubs in Beirut are a great place to catch some rays, and chill out by the pool or bar watching the sea. Some of the beach clubs in Beirut – like the Riviera Beach and Yacht Club - are private, but you’ll be able to get access as a non-member if you’re going with a member and pay for a guest-ticket.
City Breaks in Beirut
The compact size and vibrant lifestyle of Beirut make it ideal for a short city break. In terms of exploring the city, some of the sights to fit into your city break in Beirut include the Statue of the Martyrs, the awe-inspiring Al-Amin Mosque with its stunning ottoman-style architecture and decoration, the fascinating Roman baths, and the Lebanon National Museum. Or, you may just want to chill out on your city break in Beirut and take a stroll along the Corniche or do some people-watching at one of Beirut's many bars and cafes.
If you are feeling a bit more active, you may even find the time on your city break to Beirut to head a little way outside of the city. There are many fabulous sights on the outskirts of Beirut, such as the Jeita Caves - an extraordinary network of limestone caves only half an hour's journey from the city - or the Casino du Liban in Jounieh, which was the playground of the rich and famous in the 1960s.
A city break in Beirut will also give you the opportunity to sample some fabulous restaurants and nightlife. Beirut is famous for its delicious Mezze, and there are hundreds of restaurants to choose from serving this Lebanese speciality. Going out to bars and nightclubs also shouldn't be missed on a city break to Beirut: try the clubs in the Gamayzah district or the Rue Monet for some of the best parties in town.
Culture and Arts in Beirut
Beirut’s culture and arts scene is a little more subdued now than in the days before the civil war when Beirut attracted performers, artists, and cultural exhibits from all over the Middle East. That’s not to say that you won’t find opportunities to enjoy culture and the arts when on holiday in Beirut, and Beirut is certainly the centre for culture in Lebanon. However, the lack of reliable funding for culture and the arts in Beirut means that you may have to search a little harder to find theatrical or artistic happenings.
There is a calendar of festivals in Beirut for those seeking out the culture and arts scene on holiday. Film festivals are particularly well attended, including the Beirut Ayam Cinema’iyya, which is held every two years, and Ne a Beyrouth, a yearly film festival usually held in August. These Beirut film festivals include a showcase of Lebanese and Arab filmmakers. You’ll also find annual performing arts programmes - such as the Al-Bustan, Beiteddine and Baalbek festivals - and the Beirut International Jazz Festival in the summer.
The best places to explore the arts on holiday in Beirut tend to be the various foreign cultural centres, which also play host to various events throughout the year. You’ll find Lebanese and International Art at both Beirut’s Sursock Museum and the Matignon Gallery, and opportunities to soak up some culture and history at the National Museum of Beirut and the AUB Museum.
Disabled Needs in Beirut
Beirut doesn’t cater well for disabled holidays. Although the rejuvenated Beirut Central District claims to be accessible for those in wheelchairs, you’ll find there are virtually no facilities for the disabled on holiday in Beirut. If you’re lucky, you may find an occasional wheelchair ramp at a hotel or two, but this is about as far as Beirut provisions for the disabled go. There are also intense levels of heavy traffic, and few pedestrian crossings with traffic lights, so getting out and about can be a real challenge for the disabled, and none of the city’s infrastructure is set up for disabled visitors at all.
Family Holiday in Beirut
Beirut may not seem the most obvious choice for a family holiday, but once you get past the stereotypes, all the family can enjoy a fantastic holiday in Beirut. For a start, the people in Beirut are incredibly friendly, so you can expect a genuinely warm welcome for all the family on holiday in Beirut.
The compact nature of Beirut also makes it great for families – you’ll be able to walk to most of the main attractions easily, or take a taxi if you’re planning on going a little further afield. And, if you want to take your family out of the city of Beirut to explore Lebanon this is definitely worth doing, particularly if you have any young history buffs in tow: some holiday highlights for the family include the city of Byblos – now a fishing port with fascinating archaeological sites to be enjoyed, and the fabulous ruins of the Bekaa valley.
And, if your family likes swimming on holiday, there are numerous “beach clubs” in Beirut where the family can hit the pool, and some good family-friendly beaches in the rest of Lebanon – such as the sandy beach at Tyre. There’s also Splash Mountain – a water park just over six miles from Beirut - which has tube and water slides, an adventure beach and two swimming pools for the whole family to enjoy. Another family-friendly water park, Waves Aqua Park, can be found slightly further up the coast from Beirut in Mar Roukoz.
Just an hour away from Beirut, in Mnaitra, you’ll also find La Reserve Eco-Tourism resort, which is perfect for families on holiday. The resort is spread over a huge area of natural beauty, and offers horse riding, orienteering, canoeing and caving, amongst many other family fun activities.
And what’s more, the food in Beirut is also perfect for families on holiday. You’ll find a tempting variety of mezze, nuts, fruit and juices to satisfy the kids’ rumbling tummies, whilst you can sample some of the excellent Lebanese wines on offer.
Gay and Lesbian in Beirut
Beirut is the Arab world’s most gay-friendly city, despite the fact that homosexuality is technically illegal in Lebanon. Gay and lesbian tourists come on holiday to Beirut from all over the world, particularly from countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, to enjoy the fairly open society of Beirut. Beirut is also home to the Helem organisation: the Arab world’s only gay advocacy group.
As a result, although there is no immediately transparent gay and lesbian activity in Beirut, you won’t have to search too hard for the Beirut’s gay scene on holiday: the hottest club is Acid, in Sin El Fil – about a 15 minute drive from downtown, and it’s also worth checking out BQ18 in Karantina – one of the world’s most notorious clubs built underground on the ruins of a refugee camp.
Party Holiday - Singles Life in Beirut
Partying in Beirut is almost a national pastime, so if you&rsquo;re looking for a party holiday with packed nightlife, Beirut is a great place to come. Beirutis love to dress up and party hard - so, as you'd expect, there are a multitude of clubs and bars that stay open until sunrise, filled with trendy partygoers. Party lovers on holiday in Beirut will find most of the clubs and nightspots concentrated in the Rue Monot neighbourhood in Ashrafiyeh, although the Gemmayzeh and Downtown areas of Beirut are also popular - particularly if you're looking for a slightly more chilled atmosphere.
Beirut's hectic nightlife and party atmosphere is one of the main reasons that the city was named as one of the top ten liveliest cities in the world by the Lonely Planet in 2009, and the number one Place to Visit by The New York Times. So, if you want to experience the best on a party holiday in Beirut, prepare to party hard, make sure you dress to impress and check local listings for the best bars and clubs.
Skiing - Snow Boarding in Beirut
Whilst you won&rsquo;t be able to do any skiing in Beirut itself, Lebanon is rapidly becoming one of the best international destinations for skiers and snowboarders alike. There are a total of six ski resorts in Lebanon, the best of which is Faraya-Mzaar - less than an hour away from Beirut. A skiing or snowboarding holiday here is world-class: there is an international standard ski school, founded by the French Ski Federation, and the whole ski resort in Lebanon has undergone multi-million pound development in recent years. If you want to take a skiing holiday from Beirut here, you'll find good snow, plenty of off-piste opportunities, and a vast amount of mountainside for fearless snowboarders and skiers to enjoy.
Another great advantage of a skiing holiday in Lebanon is that during the middle of the week there are hardly any crowds, so it can feel as if you've got a whole mountain to yourself and, in Faraya Mzaar, the mixture of wind and humid sea air from the Mediterranean means that the snow rarely forms an icy wind crust that can be seen in the Alps.
Scuba Diving Activity Holiday in Beirut
For diving enthusiasts, a scuba diving holiday in Beirut certainly has a lot to offer. There are several respected dive centres in Beirut, and scuba diving is really booming in popularity in Beirut. The shoreline is dotted with shipwrecks, submerged historical sites and shark and ray habitats, along with impressive canyons and caves to explore. There are 36 shipwrecks in all, making for quite a bewildering choice for scuba divers on holiday in Beirut. Some notable wrecks that are good for scuba divers include the HMS Victoria, the flagship of Admiral Sir George Tryon which sank in 1893; Alice B, a British freighter which sank in the 1980s; Le Souffleur, a French WWII submarine; the Macedonia, which sank in 1962; and the National Star, a freighter which went to the bottom in 1991.
There are also a wealth of submerged archaeological sites to see on a scuba diving on holiday in Beirut – where you’ll find the depths of the sea scattered with Phoenician and Roman columns, pottery and pathways. All in all, a scuba diving holiday in Beirut certainly makes for an interesting experience.
Hiking Activity Holiday in Beirut
A hiking holiday starting in Beirut can be a fascinating experience. The city of Beirut itself is best seen on foot. Walking around on holiday you’ll not only discover fascinating historical finds from the Byzantine, Ottoman, Roman, Phoenician and Persian times – such as the Roman baths set behind Bank Street, for example – but also absorb the atmosphere and cultural diversity of this stunning city. The cornice road which runs along the shores of the Mediterranean is a popular place for walking and people-watching.
Wider afield, the mountainous geography of Lebanon is ideal of hiking holidays, and you’ll find yourself in a walker’s paradise, only a few miles outside of Beirut. There are stunning mountain routes in the Chou mountains, hike to Lebanese villages, visit maronite chapels in the Kadisha Gorge, Mediterranean vistas, roman roads and temples, and medieval and ottoman castles, see the forests of Lebanon and the diversity of other habitats and wildlife. A hiking holiday here doesn’t need a high level of fitness – guides will match their pace with your ability, so you can enjoy the views and sites at your leisure. To make the most of the weather, the best time to take a walking holiday from Beirut is from late March through to October.
Shopping Holiday in Beirut
A shopping holiday in Beirut is a great experience, whatever you're interested in buying. As the fashion capital of Lebanon, Beirut is a fantastic place to shop for clothes, being home to some fashion designers - like Elie Saab, Pierre Katra and Robert AbiNader -who easily hold their own amongst the best of the world. For designer shopping when on holiday, make your way to Downtown Beirut with its wealth of designer boutiques, and the Rue. Verdun which has several department stores and shopping malls. If your fashion forward, this is definitely shopping heaven.
If you&rsquo;re after some bargains when shopping on holiday, then try out Beirut's Mar-Elias Street or Hamra Street, where you'll find many of the shops selling Lebanese brands which tend to be local and cheap. There are also a few regular markets which can be a great place to buy crafts and souvenirs or to shop for local foods and farm produce. If this is the sort of shopping you're after on holiday, then check out Beirut's Souk El Tayeb, which is held on Saturdays in Beirut's Saifi village and is the first organic famer's market in Beirut as well as a great place to buy artisan crafts. Or, try the early morning Sunday Market, next to Beirut River, where you can shop for an eclectic range of clothing, beads and jewellery. Alternatively, there's the Burj Hammoud, in Beirut's Armenian quarter - a good place to shop (and haggle!) for souvenirs, crafts and copperware.
Wine Tasting Holiday in Beirut
Wine production is big business in Lebanon, so a wine tasting holiday in Beirut is ideal. Wine making started over 6,000 years ago in Lebanon – introduced by Phoenician wine traders who sold their wines throughout the Mediterranean – and today you’ll find a thriving wine industry, producing countless award-winning wines that are exported to Europe, the UK, the United States and the rest of the world.
So, unsurprisingly, there are many excellent opportunities for wine tasting when on holiday in Beirut. One of the main wine-production areas in Lebanon is the Bekaa valley – around 75km away from Beirut. It’s well worth the journey for some excellent wine tasting, particularly if you visit between April and November, with September being the best month for tasting during the grape harvest. Just a few of the excellent wine producers that you should look out for in Lebanon include Domaine Wardy, Clos de Cana, Enotica, Couvent St. Sauveur, Nabise Mont Liban, and Chateau Kefraya.