The largest city in Lebanon, Beirut is also the capital and an exciting, fast-paced destination filled with wonder. It is the most cosmopolitan destination in the country, and is the commercial and financial center. Despite the country’s small size, there is much to do here—from museums and mosques to beautiful gardens, cultural restaurants and shopping. Because of its diverse climate and culture, Beirut is a popular getaway for tourists and has often been referred to as “the Paris of the Middle East.”
One of the top sites to visit is the National Museum of Beirut, which houses an impressive collection of Lebanese archaeology and artifacts. Visit Jeita Grotto, the longest cave in the Middle East, which is where two interconnected limestone caves are located. Located in downtown Beirut, the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque (aka ‘Blue Mosque’) is a beautiful Sunni Muslim mosque known for its blue domes. Check out the impressive collection of modern and contemporary art at Sursock Museum, and stroll through the beautiful flowers at the Rene Moawad Garden in the Sanayeh District. This garden is one of the oldest public open-air spaces in Beirut. Walk around Martyrs’ Square in the heart of downtown, which is home to a special monument created by Italian sculptor Marino Mazzacurati. For good shopping, head to the Beirut Mall or Eldorado Shopping Center to get all of the latest fashions and trends. There are many amazing restaurants in Beirut, particularly if you’re looking to experience Lebanese cuisine. A few places to try include Abu Naim, which serves traditional dishes, Frida (which serves Mexican inspired dishes), La Tabkha (styled after a French bistro), and the colorful Enab, which is located on the first floor of a former French colonial house.
There are many great day trips near Beirut, including the city of Tripoli, which is just over an hour away along the coast to the north. Tripoli is northern Lebanon’s largest city and is home to The Great Mosque, The Arch of Marcus Aurelius, and other beauty historical sites. The city of Baalbek is an hour and a half to the east and is famous for its ruins including its three temples: The Temple of Jupiter, Temple of Bacchus, and Temple of Venus. Jounieh is just a 23-minute drive north from Beirut, and is a bustling seaport city that has a great nightlife and many beautiful resorts. Another fun place to go is Mzaar Kfardebian—the largest ski resort in the Middle East, which is conveniently located one hour from Beirut.
Beirut has a variety of accommodations available, from apartments to private homes. The neighborhoods close to all of the action and easily accessible by foot include Achrafieh, Monot, Gemmayze, Hamra and Mar Mikhail. These are the trendier parts of town near all of the restaurants and nightlife. Monot has a lot of great pubs and restaurants. Other recommended areas to stay in include Sodeco (near lots of shopping), Downtown (museums and historical sites), and Rawcheh (one of the poshest neighborhoods in Beirut).
The main forms of public transportation in Beirut are buses, minibuses, and taxis. The red and white Lebanese Commuting Company bus operates on a hail-and-ride system, where you wave it down and they will stop for you. The bus typically runs from 5:30am to 7pm daily. It is important to note that taxis in Beirut don’t use meters, so you will need to agree on the fare in advance with your taxi driver. If you’re looking to rent a car, one of the recommended companies to use is Advanced Car Rental.
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