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Beirut City Guide
Beirut is a dynamic and bold city with a long history of regime change. Over the past 5000 years, this city by the Mediterranean Sea has been host to the Phoenician, Roman, and Ottoman Empires. Lebanon gained its independence from France after WWII, with Beirut remaining its capital to this day. After a period of civil war the city has bounced back and is once again a bustling and cosmopolitan capital of fashion, commerce, and culture. ¶ As a result of its multiple historical changes, today's Beirut city guide feels like a combination of many different cities rolled into one. In its heady old town, you'll find exquisite architecture like the Ottoman Majidiya Mosque. Neighbourhoods like Achrafiye are young and trendy, with quirky shops and hip bars. Cap it all off with the tranquillity of the deep blue Mediterranean viewed from the Corniche at sunset for a relaxing visit.
Things to do in Beirut
Many are drawn to Beirut for its hedonistic nightlife, but its cultural heritage is also worth exploring. Don't miss a trip to the National Museum of Beirut, which is stocked with artefacts spanning thousands of years. A walk through the city's centre allows you to admire its innovative architecture, including the former Green Line which divided East and West Beirut during the civil war. You'll see faded Ottoman mansions next to ornate mosques such as the Mohammed al-Amin Mosque in Martyr's Square. Marvel at the colourful stained glass of the Sursock Museum, which is lit up at night to further enhance its kaleidoscopic beauty. One of the best things to do in Beirut is to finish your day with a walk along the peaceful Corniche.
Things to see in Beirut
There's no shortage of top quality museums, but the contemporary art scene is also one of the most interesting things to see in Beirut. The Beirut Exhibition Centre or Beirut Art Centre are the perfect places to start, both are industrial sized spaces featuring the latest movers and shakers. Pigeon Rocks is an impressive offshore rock formation that can be viewed from the Corniche and there are trails leading down to these rugged cliffs. When you're ready to indulge in a little retail therapy, head down to the Mar Mikhael neighbourhood. The area's garages have been transformed into independent boutiques in an industrial setting. Inhale the scent of dusty used books and admire the sleek curves of modernist furniture design in this labyrinthine quarter.
Beirut is served by Lebanon's only international airport, Beirut Rafik Hariri International. It's located just 10-15 minutes away from the city centre. Although there isn't any public transportation to or from the airport, it's well served by inexpensive taxis. Within the city, there is a convenient network of public buses operated by the Lebanese Commuting Company and OCFTC. These will take you to the majority of tourist destinations within the city. For a cheap form of Beirut transport, try hailing a service taxi. These are shared with three other passengers, all of whom pay a flat fee for the service.
Lebanon's diverse range of religions and cultures means that there are public holidays throughout the year, as well as a number of cultural Beirut events. June's Fete de la Musique opens up the normally congested city streets to a range of diverse local music acts, or you can enjoy the underrated products of Lebanon's vineyards during the city's Vinifest in October. The Hay Festival is a celebration of intellectual thought, culture and the arts, with writers and artists giving talks around the city. Runners from all over the world attend the Beirut Marathon each fall, with over 70 nationalities represented.
Restaurants in Beirut
One of Beirut's biggest claims to fame is its hummus, the rich chickpea and tahini spread that's become a staple condiment around the world. Here it's served dripping with lusciously fruity olive oil as part of a larger mezze spread. ¶ From fine dining to street food, restaurants in Beirut provide a feast for the senses. Don’t miss the farmers' market at Souk el Tayeb, which is filled to the brim with freshly squeezed juices, fig jam, and tart cheese. Visit "Little Armenia" in Bourj Hammoud for 24-hour food stalls. For upscale fine dining, visit the trendy lounges of Gemmayzeh.