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Travel Guide Middle East Lebanon Beirut

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Introduction

The Green Line, Beirut

The Green Line, Beirut

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It was called the Paris of the east for a long time, until the civil war started in 1975 when 27 Palestinian civilians where killed by an attack on a bus. After the civil war which ended early during the 90's of the last century, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, struggled back to become one of the most pleasant places to live in the Middle East, settled along the Mediterranean coastline. Wandering along the Corniche, watching and being watched, is a pleasant activity at first light or in the late afternoon when the sun goes down again. Another attraction near, or actually in the sea, are the famous Pigeon rocks, which lie immediately east of the city. You will feel like being in a modern western city when drinking a beer on of the terraces in the centre of Beirut. But just a kilometre further away you will still be struck by some buildings destructed by the civil war, on both sides of the famous Green Line, which was the dividing line between Muslims and Christians.

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Neighbourhoods

Beirut is composed by many different neighbourhoods, each own having its own distinctive atmosphere and character. Damascus Road, which connects the centre with the National Museum, was known as the "Green Line" during the civil war era (1975–1990). At that time, it separated the mostly Muslim western sector of the city and the Christian eastern sector.

Martyrs' Square and the post-war development of Beirut Central District (BCD) are the geographical pivot of the city and serve quite well for orientation. The city sprawls over a peninsula with the sea to the north and the west, and the Mount Lebanon ridge to the east.

  • Downtown - Located in the heart of the city beside the Beirut port and Beirut marina; includes many cafés, restaurants, and places shop. Also home to many historical sites. Be warned, however, that it is very touristy, and not as authentic as other districts.
  • Ashrafieh - The center of modern nightlife in the city, though less so during the summertime. Ashrafieh, is divided into smaller areas; Gemmayze and Monot Street are the most popular nightspots, while Sassine Square and Sodeco Square are mainly afternoon shopping areas. Gemmayze consists of mostly pubs, though it does also contain a fine selection of restaurants. Many people are starting to think of it as a separate entity from Ashrafieh. Monot Street features a mix of restaurants, nightclubs, and pubs.
  • Ain El Mraiseh - Seafront district with plenty of hotels and restaurants.
  • Hamra - A hive of activity, and a shopping-lover's paradise. Hamra became the center during the troubles in the 70's. The more popular places are Bliss st., Hamra st., Sourati st. and Jeanne d'Arc st., each havings its own share of cafés, hotels, and restaurants. Hamra st. in particular has been redeveloped in recent years, with larger chains of restaurants and cafes opening there, including Starbucks, Costa, Nandos, Roadsters, and Applebees. There has also been a revitalization of the pub scene, with over a dozen bars and pubs operating in the area.
  • Ras Beirut - The westernmost district of Beirut. Ras Beirut literally translates to "the head of Beirut" due to its location on the tip of peninsula, home to the Manara Lighthouse and various beach clubs (though none feature any sandy beaches).
  • Rawcheh - The Pigeon Rocks, one of the iconic landmarks of the city, and many sunset-looking cafes and restaurants.
  • Ramlet El Baida - A residential area just south of Rawcheh, which hosted Beirut's only public beach before huge building projects started in 2016.
  • Verdun - A trendy shopping area, with cafes and restaurants. Many Gulf Arabs stay here during summer vacations.
  • Jnah - A predominantly residential area in southern Beirut, but also home to various clubs and hotels.

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Sights and Activities

  • Pigeon Rocks (Rawcheh District) A monumental natural arch jutting up from the Mediterranean. Great place to sit at one of the roadside cafes and watch the sun set.
  • Place de l'Etoile (Nejmeh Square)(Downtown District), originally built by the French in the early 20th century in the very center of the Downtown district, it suffered a lot of war damage during the war but recently has been restored. It is currently under heavy security given that the Parliament sieges in the middle of it, and there are many army and police barrages to limit the access thereto.
  • Martyr's Statue Downtown Martyr's Square, east of Nejmeh Square towards Ashrafieh.
  • Jeita Grotto is a compound of crystallized caves in Lebanon located 20 km north of Beirut in the Valley of Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River). This grotto is made up of two limestone caves, upper galleries and a lower cave through which a 6,230 metre long river runs. Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river. In this cave and galleries, the action of water in the limestone has created cathedral-like vaults full of various sizes, colors and shapes of stalactites and stalagmites, majestic curtains and fantastic rock formations. The total length of the cave is more than 9,000 metres and there is one among the biggest stalactites in the world hanging 8,20 metres. The grotto accommodates a huge hall with a distance of 108 metres from the ceiling till the water level.

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Events and Festivals

Workers’ Day

May 1 sees the observation of this public holiday which is recognized as Labor Day elsewhere.

Eid al-Fitr

Taking place annually around August and September – the exact date is determined by the lunar calendar – Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan and the end of the Islamic fast. This public holiday is characterized by food, gift exchanges and shopping for new clothes.

Lebanese Independence Day

Observed November 22, Independence Day marks the date in 1943 when the country gained freedom from France after a 23-year period of rule. This nation-wide celebration sees most people enjoy a day off work, military parades, and locals displaying the Lebanese flag outside their homes.

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Weather

Beirut has a typical Mediterranean climate with generally warm, dry and sunny summers and relatively mild but wet winters. Average days in summer (June - September) are between 28 °C and 32 °C, while nights average around 23 °C. With winds blowing from the desert to the east and south, temperatures in May and June can rise to over 40 °C! December to March is winter, with temperatures between 16 °C and 19 °C during the day, and between 11 °C and 13 °C at night on average. June to September has hardly any rain at all, while November to February is the wettest time of year, with 130 to 190 mm of rain a month, spread out over 12 to 15 days each month.

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Getting There

By Plane

All international flights arrive at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY). There are direct flights to a wide range of cities in the Middle East, Asia and Europe. The main carriers are local Middle East airlines, Air France, KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways. KLM and Air France have direct flights to Amsterdam and Paris respectively. Also, Gulf Air and Emirates have good connections with Lebanon and through connections to Australia.

By Train

There are no trains within Lebanon at the moment.

By Car

Beirut is linked with all coastal cities through the coastal road. Entrances/exists off this road connect it to districts adjacent to the coast such as Maten and Kesrwen (and others). Beirut is linked to Zahle and Baalbek (and the rest of Bekaa) through Dahr Al-Baydar road (linked to Emile Lahoud highway at the entrance of Beirut).

By Bus

Buses, minivans and taxis go virtually anywhere from Beirut, including to Tripoli, Zahlé, Byblos and Baalbek.

Charles Helou Station lies approximately one kilometer east of Nejmeh Square, on Charles Helou Avenue, facing the Beirut Port. From there you can take the city buses or hop onto the larger coaches that link Beirut with the neighbouring cities.

Buses connecting Beirut with the south of Lebanon arrive at an intersection next to the Cola bridge. The bus stop is known as "Cola" among the locals. This place is in the southern part of Beirut - in area known as Mazraa.

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Getting Around

By Car

There are two types of taxis in Beirut; the old (often) battered hail-taxis, and the prebooking taxis.

  • Hail-Taxis: The most convenient form of transport in Beirut, as they are absolutely everywhere. Those taxis are predominantly Mercedes Benz cars (though recently, due to increasing petrol prices, taxi drivers are opting for more economic forms or transport) and can be quite easily identified by their yellow illuminated taxi sign on the roof and red number plate. Fixed meters aren't provided so it is recommended to ask how much your trip will cost before hopping in. The fare will be charged per destination and not per distance traveled (which is an advantage since traffic is a big problem in the city). A typical journey from one side of Beirut to the other (roughly 3 km) may cost LL10 000 (€5.00). Many taxi drivers speak at least a few words of English and French. Knowing the name of your destination in the local language may solve any misunderstanding.

Keep in mind the names of the landmarks around the city, as they will come in handy when traveling by public transport (some drivers aren't that good at orienting!).

  • Prebook taxi - These require that you call them and book a ride, they generally cost more but are much more luxurious and are normally air conditioned. All hotels should provide you with a taxi directory, if you wish to use this type of service. Taxi prices are considered cheap if compared to US and European taxis. Major taxi companies are: Geryes Taxi (+961 1-332747), Taxi Premiere (Tel 1260 or +961 1-389222). Allo Taxi (Tel 1213 or +961 1-366661).

By Public Transport

There are currently two public transport companies. The OCFTC that operates a fleet of blue and white city-buses, and the LCC with a fleet of red and white minibuses; Bus fares cost either 500LL (OCFTC bus 24) or 1000LL ($0.33 to 0.67). The service is very efficient and the buses come very often, to get onto a bus you must stand at the side of the road and signal with your hand as a bus approaches; the buses will stop anywhere.

By Foot

As the city is quite compact, walking is the best way of getting around, and perfect for getting off the beaten track to find unexpected surprises. Most people however will not walk throughout the city, rather they will walk within certain districts and take cars/taxis to get from one district to another. Streets are generally well signposted, but few Beiruti locals would know how to navigate according to their names, directions are usually given by building placement ("straight down the road until you reach building X, turn left there, then right..."), and many streets have local nicknames that wouldn't match the map. That said, if you find yourself lost in the streets, simply ask any passer-by for directions; no one will refuse to help! Otherwise you can stop at the nearest hotel or shop and ask. Hotel concierges and shop keepers will most definitely speak some limited English.

Some roads in Beirut are in poor condition. Not so much in the center, but the farther you get from downtown the more road works you will most probably find. So take care!

You can always check out a Beiruti-run walking tour called Walk Beirut. They offer weekly tours around the city.

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Eat

Lebanese cuisine is a mix of Arab, Turkish, and Mediterranean influences, and enjoys a worldwide reputation for its richness and variety as well as its Mediterranean health factor. Olive oil, herbs, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables are commonly used, as well as dairy products, cereals, fishes and various types of meat. A visit to Beirut includes the traditional Lebanese Mezze (Meza), an elaborate variety of thirty hot and cold dishes. A typical Mezze may consist of salads such as the Tabboule and Fattouch, together with the caviars: Hommos and Moutabal, and some patties such as the Sambousseks and finally, the stuffed grape leaves, with of course the Lebanese flat pita bread which is essential to every Lebanese Mezze.

If you're on a tight budget, or if you simply miss the food that you can get back at home, fast food is your best option. All major international fast food restaurants have opened chains in Beirut (KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, TGI Fridays, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway etc.), but many local fast food restaurants have sprung up to compete with the major franchisers.

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Drink

Alcohol is readily available in Beirut. Many of Beirut's districts have their own fair amount of cafes, bars, and clubs, although many areas are "dry" or, while serving alocohol, do not have a vibrant nightlife. This said, two of the hotter nightspots, with the highest concentration of pubs and nightclubs, are Gemmayze (mostly pubs) and Monot St (mix of nightclubs and pubs), both located within close range in the Ashrafieh district. Hamra is also seeing a revival in its nightlife, with over a dozen new pubs and bars open there now. The best way to find out what's in and whats not is by checking the local press or simply going there and seeing for yourself. There is no curfew in Beirut, thought expect most pubs and bars to empty by 2:00am, and most nightclubs to empty between 4:00am and 4:40am.

During the summer, Monot tends to be much less busy, as many open-air clubs outside of the area tend to dominate the nightlife in Beirut. Gemmayzeh remains popular year-round.

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Sleep

There are lots of hotels in Beirut's metropolitan area, ranging from cheap hostels to luxury suite hotels. Prices and quality vary across the spectrum, but if you look well enough, there's bound to be the perfect hotel inside whatever budget you set.

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Beirut or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Lebanon offers fairly good internet services throughout the country, with internet cafés and (free) wifi quite common in Beirut and some of the larger cities and popular tourist places.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The international telephone code is 961.

MTC Touch Mobile phone operator offers a GSM card for $15 including a $10 credit (The START plan). Internet access starts at $10 for up to 100 MByte in a month. Alfa is another mobile phone operator which offers several prepaid plans ranging from $10 to $68. Like MTC Touch, internet access starts at $10 for a 500 MByte bundle per month.

Post

Libanpost offers postal services in the country. Post offices are open Monday to Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm and Saturday from 8:00 am to 1:30pm. Kiosks at shopping centers keep longer hours and are open every day. They offer track and trace services and sending a postcard or letter is fairly cheap and reliable. For sending a pacakge, you might use international companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx, as they are fast and not much more expensive.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 33.887189
  • Longitude: 35.513404

Accommodation in Beirut

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This is version 16. Last edited at 3:02 on Aug 2, 17 by sleepBot. 32 articles link to this page.

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