Beirut is so much fun! I have such fond memories of my time living here and there is so much to do and see. But it’s not cheap! In Lebanon both the American dollar (USD) and Lebanese Pound (LBP) are used interchangeably. This post will focus mainly on things to do in Beirut, but if you want to indulge in Lebanese cuisine you can check my post here, or if you’re interested in checking out the beaches available you can check my post here. Beirut is pretty big, and so I’ve divided the post up into the sections of the city to make things a little easier.
Downtown Beirut is in the centre of the city towards the sea front, wedged in between the predominantly Muslim West and the predominantly Christian East. The area was almost entirely destroyed during war times and so most of the buildings today are upmarket new builds, of which the construction still continues today. This is contrasting from other Arab, as the downtown area is usually an older, more traditional style with a maze of independent markets.
Remains of the Roman School of Law, one of the first in the world
The Blue Mosque can be seen in the background, whilst in the forefront, known as ‘the egg’, is a bombed out cinema left over from the war
The egg, as seen above, is incredibly striking, juxtaposed amongst upmarket architecture and grand designs. I became fascinated with the structure during my time living in Beirut, it has been the centre of many campaigns surrounding its survival. Some argue it should be demolished whilst others advocate preservation of the structure as a key icon of Lebanese history. You can learn more about the egg and its surroundings by watching this short documentary. The egg is usually closed to the public, but I was lucky enough to be able to go inside. Shortly after I arrived in Beirut an art exhibition hosted by Plastik and Saint Hoax enabled us to look inside the mystery of the egg.
The artists projected film onto the cinema wall, the same way in which films would have been shown when the cinema was first functioning
Everywhere we walked in the cinema had a strange, eerie feel to it and you can see the scars of war
I’d like to introduce to you, the religious side of downtown. You can learn more about the significance of religion in Lebanon and the political history of the country in my post here. One of the most significant structures is the modern Blue Mosque, or Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque, as shown pictured earlier next to The Egg. Established in 2008, the interior and exterior of the structure is stunning. I highly recommend taking a look inside, but don’t worry if you aren’t dressed appropriately as they have dresses for tourists to borrow.
Ceiling decorations of the Blue Mosque
Just down the road from the Blue Mosque is the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, with the archaeological crypt museum underneath. It’s really something you can’t miss, the cathedral itself is beautiful and so rich with history – you can still see bullet holes in the inside walls of the church from war times! The Arabic text on the walls also surprised me, as something I’d never seen before, especially as I’d always come to associate Arabic with Islam. The underground museum shows the incredible layers of Beirut’s history, dating back thousands of years.
Inside Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Achrefieh, covering the east side of Beirut, is a predominantly Christian area and hosts a wealth of activities. I spent my time in Beirut living here, and my apartment was just off Gouraud Street. I highly recommend staying as near to this location as possible as it’s a great, buzzing area. It’s especially great for young people and you’ll find plenty of unique and daring art galleries, trendy cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s also the same area in which I went to Arabic school, at the Saifi institute.
Aaliya’s book cafe, one of my favourite cafes on Gouraud Street
There is so much graffiti, including colourful steps, to be found throughout the streets of Achrafieh!
Sursock’s modern and contemporary art museum
It’s definitely worth taking a look around Sursock’s art museum and taking a wander round the surrounding streets where there is beautiful architecture to be found, a prime example of how the Lebanese love to flaunt! On the other side, West Beirut, you’ll find Hamra, which is a predominantly Muslim area has it’s own unique buzz. Home to the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University, Hamra is a student hub and hosts many restaurants, bars and clubs. There’s also a brilliant little Arabic school in Hamra called ALPS, which is cheaper than the Saifi institute in Achrafieh. You can also take a walk over to see raouche rocks, although I’d highly recommend renting a kayak from nearby Sporting Club and kayaking round the rocks at sunset!
Raouche rocks in the distance
Other significant points of interest around Beirut include the National Museum, which I really recommend taking a look around if you have a spare few hours! Zaitunay bay is also the perfect place to go for an evening stroll (you can walk down to Raouche rocks if you’re down for a long walk), meal or just a drink to watch the sunset over the sea.
Beirut’s National Museum filled with ancient artefacts
Finally, but by absolutely no means least, I wanted to dedicate a section to the incredible night life in Beirut. No matter what your scene is, you’ll be able to find what you like here. I was first introduced to the nightlife scene through this short video and I instantly fell in love. I mean, how can you not? The organisation and marketing of the clubbing scene is very clever, whereby you have a selection of summer clubs which close for winter around September time, just in time for your favourite winter clubs to start opening. The opening and closing parties are incredible! For the large clubs, I’d recommend Skybar/O1ne (Skybar is the rooftop club open for summer times whilst O1ne underneath opens for winter), AHM, The Grand Factory and Garten.
Drinks at Iris rooftop, which overlooks Beirut city and the sea
Inside Beirut’s sea front club AHM where the roof comes off and you can dance under the moon!
Lock Stock bar on Armenia Street
If you’re looking for a tamer night than one of the major clubs or just somewhere to pre drink, I strongly recommend going down to Armenia street (just off Gouraud Street) in the Mar Mikhael area which is lined with loads of little bars which you can jump around until you find your favourite one – mine was Floyd the dog! Beirut is an enchanting place and for so many reasons, the history and culture is so rich, and there’s so much to see and do here that you could stay for a very long time and never get bored!