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Ancient yet charming, mysterious yet hospitable, Beirut—situated on the banks of the Mediterranean—has a multi-faceted allure that continues to entice travelers. Lebanon’s capital city was once known as the Paris of the East, and it seems to be reclaiming that nickname. Today, the renovated downtown brims with stylish professionals and gleaming skyscrapers, and a central business district offers boutiques, a stunning archaeology collection at the National Museum, and plenty of cafes serving thick black coffee and tasty mezes (small dishes). Outside of Beirut sit the ruins of some of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations, and tours that conveniently link multiple sites can maximize your sightseeing potential. First-time visitors will want to journey to the limestone caves of Jeita Grotto, 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Beirut, followed by Byblos, one of the world’s oldest cities, and Harissa, known for its Virgin Mary Statue as well as its sweeping views. Another tour links the Roman ruins of Baalbek (two hours from Beirut) and the Umayyad ruins of Anjar with Ksara Caves, a series of ancient caverns used as wine cellars. Or you can combine the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tyre, an ancient Roman city around an hour from Beirut that’s still inhabited today, with the holy sites of Sidon and the monument-studded city of Maghdouche. Whatever tour you choose, you’ll return to Beirut in time to hit up some of the city’s famous bars and nightclubs.
After its rainy winters, Beirut dials up the activity levels, with visitors arriving for its comfortably warm and sunny spring days, and numbers climbing again for July and August’s blazing heat. A steady flow of events keeps the atmosphere upbeat, starting with June’s Cultural Festivals and often culminating in the head-banging of September’s Metal Fest.
Moving quickly in the city can be a challenge thanks to Beirut’s traffic, turning even short-distance trips into epic journeys. Shared taxis and ridesharing apps are easy to use and your best bet for traveling between neighborhoods. But if you’re looking to explore locally, then there’s no better way than on foot, especially in more pedestrian-friendly districts such as Hamra, Gemmayzeh, Achrafieh, and the downtown area.
Lebanon counts no less than 18 official religions, and you can find traces of them all in Beirut. Head downtown to Martyrs’ Square to see two side-by-side religious landmarks that testify to the city’s mixed heritage: the spectacular, domed Sunni mosque of Mohammad Al-Amin, open to non-Muslim visitors, and St. George Maronite, a Catholic Italianate cathedral famous for its ornate, gold-painted interiors.
The US State Department currently advises against all travel to Beirut, citing risks including crime, terrorism, armed conflict, civil unrest, and kidnapping. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office also considers Beirut unsafe and unstable. Sadly, now is not the best time to plan a Beirut vacation....More
Beirut is in Lebanon, a small, proud nation with thousands of years of history. But it is close to Syria: in fact, the Syrian border is just a 40-mile (65-kilometer) drive from Beirut. In some historical periods, the name Syria meant an area much larger than modern-day Syria and that sometimes included Beirut....More
No day in Beirut would be complete without a feast of delicious Lebanese cuisine and a taste of the city’s buzzing nightlife scene. In between, visit Pigeon Rocks, tour mosques and ruins, or explore art at the Sursock Museum or history at the National Museum of Beirut....More
Beirut’s tragic recent history—civil war, a huge port explosion, and economic collapse—can sometimes overshadow its charms. Long known as the Paris of the Middle East, this cosmopolitan city is famous for food, culture, and heritage. Its history dates back to the Phoenicians, long before ancient Rome....More
When times are right, Beirut is a wonderful place to visit, with all the charms of Lebanon right on your doorstep: cedars, ski slopes, beach clubs, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and more. Despite its war-torn past, the city itself offers plenty of history, delicious cuisine, vibrant nightlife, and friendly people....More
Travel in Lebanon is cheaper than Israel or Jordan but more expensive than Egypt. Elite Beirut hotels such as Le Gray will run to hundreds of dollars, but a cheap hotel or vacation rental can cost under US$50 per night. Budget-conscious travelers can eat falafel and shawarma for very little money....More
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