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Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon. The city is on a relatively small headland jutting into the east Mediterranean. It is by far the biggest city in Lebanon.
Beirut is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
Downtown - Located in the side of the city beside the Beirut port and Beirut marina; includes many shops, hotels, and Beirut souks (modern shops districts). Also home to many historical sites and old churches and mosques.
Badaro - Located at the heart of Beirut, Badaro is the "Village" of Beirut in the green district. A very active Pub and Café scene with a mix of Bohemian and yuppies crowd.
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.
Ain El Mraiseh - Seafront district with plenty of hotels and restaurants.
Clémenceau- Historical neighborhood adjacent to Hamra and Ain el Mraiseh. Famous for its clothing boutiques such as Piaff Boutique and indie art deco shops such as Artisan du Liban, interspersed across the Clemenceau district
Manara - The north-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, the focal point of this district, are located on the shore off this posh neighborhood which is Beirut's most expensive area after Downtown.
Verdun - A trendy shopping area south of Hamra and east of Raouché, Rue Verdun (or Verdun st.) is the main area where you'll find many hotels and shops. The area also features cafes and restaurants. Many Gulf Arabs stay here during summer vacations.
Ramlet El Baida - A residential area just south of Rawcheh, here you'll find Beirut's only public beach. It is also the only beach featuring any sand.
Ashrafieh - The eastern center of the city. It is home to all kinds of shops and boutiques. Its core is Sassine Square, the highest point in Beirut. Another famous area is Sodeco Square on its utmost western edge where the notorious ruin of the beautiful Beit Beirut stands.
Gemmayze - This neighbourhood east of Martyrs Square and north of Achrafieh hosts many bars and at least one nightclub called Yukunkun. Its popularity has been fading since bars opened further down Gouraud Street in Mar Mikhael's Armenia Street in the early 2010s, but it remains one of the most important magnets for party goers.
Mar Mikhael - Mar Mikhael is the place to be for bar and cocktail lovers as of 2015 and is located in the north-east of Beirut. The countless bars on Armenia Street are so popular that the crowds standing in front of the bars at times occupy parts of the street.
Monot Street - Technically in the central Saifi area but with a different feel from the posh boutiques in the area's core this was a popular nightspot in the first decade of the 21st century before the bar scene shifted to Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael. It still is home to several bars and restaurants.
Jnah - A predominantly residential area in southern Beirut, but also home to various beach clubs and hotels.
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 neighboring cities. The two other main hubs are Cola in the south of the city and Dora in the north-eastern suburb of the same name.
Beirut is very culturally diverse, quite cosmopolitan and thus multilingual. Lebanese Arabic is the native language but everyone understands (but rarely speaks) Standard Arabic, the official language, while English and French (especially the former) are also spoken by many people.
Shop signs are in Standard Arabic, English, French, and sometimes in Beiruti colloquial. Most restaurant menus, event listings, and such are also in English alongside Standard Arabic and sometimes in French. Road signs, however, are in Standard Arabic and French.
Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport (BEY), is the country's only international airport and the hub of Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA). Most international airlines have daily flights between Beirut and the major European capitals. The airport is located 7km south of Beirut, and is roughly a 10 to 15 minute drive from the city center.
At the moment, there is no public transportation to or from the airport, but there are private minivans serving as public transport across the car park in front of the airport on the only road connecting the airport with the city. You might have have to walk a little further if no buses run past you.
There is no official bus company serving the airport, but private minibuses depart from the 2nd (departure) level just outside the exit. These are white and sometimes red or green minivans (majority are Kia Besta) with red plates but no numbers in their windows, which pick up airport service people and bring them to Beirut. There are no bus stops but the buses will stop anywhere where people flag them down or give them signs with their eyes. The fare to any destination is LL 1000, but bear in mind that the buses are minivans and you might be expected to pay for an extra seat for your luggage if you need one. Minibuses from the airport go to Dora (the 'o' is pronounced like the 'ou' in house and the 'r' somewhat like the Spanish, Italian, Polish or Bavarian 'r'), a suburb in the north-east of Beirut, and cross right through Beirut on their way. Ask the driver for Dora when they stop.
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. 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.
There are also minibuses, usually white, sometimes red or green, connecting different destinations. Some of those buses run the same route as the official line 4 and they also sport a big red 4 in their screen. Most of them don't have numbers though, and you have to know respectively ask where they go. It's best to ask people waiting for a bus or a taxi by the roadside or the bus driver how to get to your destination.
Service (pronounced the French way but with a rolled R) is a very common form of transport, especially with daily commuters. They are regular taxis which operate as shared taxis and cost 2000 LL compared to up to 10000 LL for a cab. Taxi drivers decide on the spot to operate as a shared taxi. A driver will try to pick up more passengers along the route, but often you will go all the way by yourself. Service drivers may choose not to take you if you are not going in the same direction as them. They also won't go the shortest way, but take some small detours in search of more passengers.
Beirut is not a bike friendly city and you will hardly see people riding bikes apart from the wide sidewalk by the shore. There are some bike rentals though for the brave and the shore-cyclers. Every month a small group takes part in the worldwide Critical Mass rides.
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 poorly signposted, often giving a number instead of the street name you will have on your map, and few Beiruti locals would know how to navigate according to their names. Directions are usually given by building placement and landmarks.
Some roads and especially pavements in Beirut are in poor condition. Not so much in Downtown, but especially the farther you get from Downtown the more road works you will most probably find. Very often the pavement is used as a parking lot or it will feature a huge trash container, a street sign, a street light or some other pole right on it making it difficult or impossible to pass. So do it as the locals and walk on the streets next to the cars.
You can always check out a Beiruti-run walking tour called Walk Beirut. They offer weekly tours around the city.
What to see
Beirut was once the self-proclaimed "Paris of the Middle East". It still has an outdoor cafe culture, and European architecture can be found everywhere. Many Beirutis (as well as other Lebanese) speak French and/or English, to varying degrees, along with Arabic.
Each district has its own sights and places to visit. The following listings are just some highlights of things that you really should see if you can during your visit to Beirut. The complete listings are found on each individual district page.
Parks & Squares
For a guide to Beirut's parks visit Beirut Green Guide.
Sanayeh Park, Emmile Eddé Road, Hamra, Beirut
Horsh Beirut (Beirut Pine Forest), (adjacent to the Beirut Hippodrome south of Ashrafieh); this park is now open since september 5, 2015 to the general public.
Khalil Gebran Park Downtown District (between Amir Amine St. and Toufik Khaled St.)
Debbas Square Saifi village Downtown (bewteen Charles Debbas St. and Dmascus St.)
Nejmeh Square Central Downtown
Herbal Garden Riad El Solh St. Downtown.
Festivals & Events
To stay up to date on Beirut's nightlife scene, visit any Virgin Megastores branch to ask about any upcoming events. Many live concerts are held throughout the year with international musicians and DJ's. Beirut has hosted some of the world’s biggest names in Dance music such as Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Above and Beyond, Bob Sinclar, Hernan Cattaneo, James Zabiela, Cosmic Gate, Paul Van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Nick Warren, Anthony Pappa, Sasha, John Digweed, Danny Howells, Steve Lawler and others.
Beirut International Jazz Festival. Held annually during the month of July over a period of four days, some of the greatest international jazz artists as well as musicians from around Lebanon play some quality music near the Beirut marina.
Festival du cinéma francophone, Held between the month of march and April over a period of two weeks, films are in French. Cinéma Métropolis - Masrah Al Madina, Beirut.
One Big Sunday, Beach party with live DJs held every Sunday during the summer months in various resorts and beaches, organised by Mix FM.
Bacardi Night, Annual festival held during the summer with some of the hottest DJs and bands from around the world, organised by Mix FM.
Flea markets are surprisingly hard to find, occasional organized markets are held that are made to resemble flea markets.
Souk El Tayeb Held every Saturday near BIEL downtown between 9AM-2PM, feed your soul as well as your face in Beirut's first organic farmer's market. Promoting traditional methods of farming and preserving, it's a great place to pick up local honey, cheese and breads, plus artisans' crafts. It also runs regular cookery classes, to learn how to make that perfect tabouleh (bulgur salad).
Sunday Market (Sou al-ahhad in Arabic (the 'q', 'qof' in arabic is rendered either silent or as a glottal stop in Lebanese) Get up early and join the locals for a rummage at the Sunday Market which opens between 7AM and 1PM, next to Beirut River in the east. You might find antique jewellery, clothing and beads, or maybe just bric-a-brac, but there's an eclectic selection of goodies on show. Remember to bargain hard!
Burj Hammoud Beirut's Armenian quarter, perfect place to shop for cheap bric-a-brac, artisan's crafts, souvenirs, copper and brass ware and faus-brands. Don't forget to haggle. Burj Hammoud is located to the East of Ashrafieh across the Beirut river.