Bored of the same old European destinations you’ve frequented since you were a child?
Bored of the same old European destinations you’ve frequented since you were a child? Well, look no further than Beirut, Lebanon—an exotic Arab, French and English speaking Eastern Mediterranean capital nestled in between Syria and Israel.
Recovering from fifteen years of civil war and the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Lebanese capital has transformed itself from a warzone to the New York Times’ number one travel destination. And having recently enjoyed a vacation in what was once crowed one of the ten liveliest cities in the world by Lonely Planet, Beirut is thoroughly deserving of the title. After all, how many countries can you enjoy both skiing and a beach visit on the same day?
Sexy, glamorous and entirely unapologetic, this vibrant city is an ideal destination for students seeking to soak up its cultural richness and fantastic nightlife. Here is my guide to exploring the lively capital:
Beach resorts are a must visit in this Mediterranean capital; with temperatures at mid-twenties and early thirties degrees, the scorching sunlight is a sun worshipper’s heaven. But don’t expect to see the usual lying on deckchairs a la Brighton – Beirut women take beach fashion very seriously, so don’t be too shocked if you see women clad in plastic heels, heavy make-up and enough jewellery that could buy a tiny island!
Beach resorts in Beirut go in and out of fashion as quickly as Lady Gaga changes hairstyles. For the best resorts, I would recommend Riveria, Coral Beach and Pangea.
Although beach resort Edde Sands is an hour’s drive away in Byblos and pricier than your average resort in Lebanon, it is a definite must-visit. Boasting pretty pink and white décor surrounded by palm trees, Edde Sands is home to notoriously wild pool parties and is definitely something I would recommend, and not just for the over-generous vodka servings. Stay the night and recover from a hangover in the swimming pool with a relaxing massage in the Wellness Centre.
Top tip: Beware, the beaches in Lebanon are not free, which may come as a surprise to tourists. Although you may be tempted to visit the Cornish Ain El Mreisseh promenade beach as it is free, it is best to avoid swimming in it as it is polluted.
Whether you’re seeking a quiet drink or dancing till the early hours of the morning, the once party capital of the world caters to a diverse range of tastes, where beautiful women congregate and expensive sports cars line the streets and everyone’s ‘live for today’ motto is infectious. Be warned, clubbing in Beirut is expensive and at the end of a summer, you may probably realise you could have bought a season ticket for Chelsea FC.
The narrow pebbled streets of Gemmayzeh and Monot Street, Beirut’s answer to London’s Shoreditch, are lined with a cluster of bars, pubs and clubs, attracting a good-looking and fashion-forward young clientele. In the student-populated district of Hamra, there is an abundance of restaurants, bars and clubs, the budget-conscious tourist can enjoy the booming nightlife location and alcohol at a student-friendly cost.
And the electric party atmosphere is not just restrict in the districts of Gemmayzeh and Hamra, but in Downtown Beirut, where some of the world’s most fashionable and exclusive clubs line its streets and an equally glitterati clientele take full advantage. Pre-game at Revolver Bar and then head off to the hip Mad nightclub, boasting psychedelic interiors – be warned, at a closing time of 5am so you will be dancing till early morning.
And of course, the legendary Skybar, rated in 2008 the ‘Best bar in the world’, the multi-level rooftop club with beautiful views of the ocean attracts big spenders is a must-visit. Although in the case of that club, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know…
Top Tip: Beirut is based on a glamorous aesthetic so if you’re not looking polished from top to toe, don’t expect to enter.
Beirut is famed for its rich cultural history so take the time to explore a multitude of historical and cultural attractions, whether you venture downtown and browse the markets at Martyrs Square, or Souk el Barghou for souvenir shopping.
Stroll in the Corniche, the seafront promenade with beautiful views of the Mediterranean, lined with palm trees. People-watch in one of its outdoor cafes and sample some of the vendors’ local snacks. Don’t forget to check out the iconic Aw Rawsha (the pigeon rocks)!
Zaitunay Bay, located on Beirut Marina, is a great place to people-watch and take in the beautiful view of the promenade and the yachts on the dock. The Bay also features boutiques and restaurants and is a great spot for a relaxing evening.
Beirut Arts Centre, a platform for contemporary art, also features exhibitions all-year round. The Arts Centre also has a theatre for film screening, concerts and performances and has a big terrace for outdoor events.
Most neighbourhoods in Beirut have a communal bread oven where you can get man’ouche (a pizza-like flat bread) topped up with cheese, olive oil or a Beirut take on the classic American sausage—it is street food at its finest. Additionally, instead of stocking up at the local supermarket, visit your local market to source fresh fruit and vegetables and sample the exotic fruits on display. You should also sample fatayer, delicious little triangle-shaped pastries stuffed with either cheese or spinach.
Top foods to try: Lebanese breakfast of labneh (yoghurt with olive oil and mint), zaatar (sesame), Halloum cheese, fresh vegetables, and Man’ouche (freshly baked Lebanese bread with any topping)
Top tip: If you’re craving pizza or burgers, there are your typical Western eateries such as Pizza Hut, Road Star Diner and McDonalds situated around the capital.
Beirut is home to wealthy citizens and attracts many tourists from the Gulf. And if there’s one thing Arabs can do, its shop! For upmarket shopping, try Downtown Beirut, the equivalent to London’s Knightsbridge, which stocks the latest designs from designers such as Jimmy Choo, Chanel and Herve Leger.
Recently refurbished Beirut Souks should not be missed – a commercial shopping district and entertainment hub, is well worth a visit as it is Beirut’s largest shopping area.
So if you’re looking for a destination with beautiful scenery, delicious cuisine and a lively nightlife, look no further than the beautiful Mediterranean city of Beirut!