“Beirut? You’re in Beirut? How long for? Stay safe…”
Things to do, day one:
Interesting fact of the day: during the construction of the mosque, archaeologists uncovered a large section of the east-west main Roman street, complete with paving and columns. The ruins have been left there for visitors to appreciate. in all their glory.
Is it weird that one of the highlights of my trip was wandering around a college campus? This university will make you nostalgic for the leafy green, architecturally magnificent tertiary home you never had. The grounds are incredible, the vistas sweeping, the buildings beautiful, and there are tonnes of cats, and – actually, what more could you want? Cats.
Of all the hipster districts in Beirut, this just might be the hippest of the lost. Geymazzeh is full of brand-new eateries and bars where people spill out onto the street clutching at wine glasses and laughing loudly, and the result is a convivial neighbourhood you’ll probably come back to at least once during your stay. Dragonfly and Demo Bar were easily our favourite haunts – the former is pricey but classy (9000LL for a house wine, 7000LL for a beer), and the latter is grungy but hip (5000LL for a wine, 4000LL for a beer).
Street art, social media worthy staircases, and more bars: Mar Mikael is essentially just an extension on Geymazzeh, but that’s a damned positive as far as I’m concerned. It’s worth a jaunt, a drink, and a feed in.
Things to do, day two:
This strange rock formation just off the coast is easily accessible on the main promenade around the waterfront. It’s an impressive structure, with a hole in the middle, and makes for good photo backdrops if nothing else. You can walk down along the cliffside to get a closer look, and if you’re really game you can take a boat trip out to it. Don’t worry about looking for a person to take you out there – you’ll be approached by many enterprising locals at just about every turn.
Tip: watch the video of the restoration that plays in the video room every 30 minutes.
Get around the city
WALK: I cannot overstate how walkable the central district is, and even for parts that aren’t so central (the National Museum), some of the most interesting parts of the city are on the jaunt about the place. We chalked up 23km+ each day we were in Beirut, and for good reason: some of the most beautiful parts of the city are down an alley you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed. Don’t be worried about safety – aside from the slightly crazed drivers, you’ll find the Lebanese neighbourhoods incredibly genial.
MINIBUS: If you’re feeling game, jump in one of the many minibuses zipping around the streets and essentially carpooling people to each of their random destinations. It will cost you peanuts, and it’s a bit of fun if you’re trying to get somewhere your feet won’t take you. Just make sure your driver is definitely going your way, and he’ll ask you for a couple hundred, or a thousand pounds when you decide to jump out.
‘TAXI’: This needs inverted commas simply because everyone is a taxi in this city, whether their car announces it or not. Walking along the road, hearing a toot just about every time a car goes past is not uncommon, and yes – more often than not they are tooting at you. Some will say ‘taxi’ somewhere on their vehicle, some simply won’t even pretend. Regardless, enter at your own peril. Not because it’s dangerous, simply because the haggling over fees often isn’t worth the hassle.
Where to stay in Beirut
Where to eat in Beirut
Tip: try the rosewater.
More info on the concept here.