Beirut, the booming, cosmopolitan capital city of Lebanon, has long-suffered from an undeserved reputation.
In the thirty years since the civil war ended, the city has poured billions into redevelopment and promoting tourism and, as a result, tourist numbers are starting to take off. The city has only just begun to shake off a reputation as an unsafe and boring destination, as more and more travellers head there to explore the most vibrant and diverse cultural and nightlife scene in the Middle East. Beirut was once known as the “Paris of the Middle East” and you’ll find tons of European architecture as well as a highly-educated local population, often fluent in both English and French. With the city now appearing on every travel bucket list around, here’s why this city should be on your radar.
The long and tortured colonial history of Beirut has meant the city has been a regional melting pot for over a century. You’ll still today find a smorgasbord of cultures from across the world represented here in a uniquely Lebanese way. Some streets will feel like modern-day Paris while others feel like the dusty alleys of Cairo and, once you turn a corner, you’ll suddenly think you’ve ended up in Miami Beach. As well as a 5000-year old history worth exploring in itself, the unique set of developments that have shaped modern-day Lebanon means Beirut is uniquely cosmopolitan and buzzing with an energy that’s hard to find elsewhere in the Middle East.
Home of tahini, falafel, kofte and mezze, it’s no small chance that you’ve already enjoyed the delicious smash hits of Lebanese cuisine at some point. Beirut is the epicentre of Lebanese food and the place to go if you want cheap and fresh dishes from one of the world’s most popular cuisines. Everyone has been wising up to Lebanese food in recent years, with eateries opening up across the UK and beyond and more people than ever clamouring to place orders for juicy shawarma with Deliveroo and other such food delivery services. Beirut allows you to experience the best of Lebanese food at every level, from cheap and cheerful street food carts, right up to elegant fine dining with a number of fusion twists.
Forget Dubai and Tel Aviv, the new consensus is that if you want to party in the Middle East, do it in Beirut. Alcohol flows freely in this city and there’s an endless array of world-class nightclubs where you can dance the night away to some of the best DJs in the world. If you only have one weekend there, make sure to hit up BO18, a former bomb shelter with a roof that opens up the dance floor to the stars above. Also make sure to try out one of the legendary beach parties that keep the locals awake all weekend.
Beirut is going through change at a breakneck speed, with more venues opening and closing every week than you can even count in this hugely energetic city – so make sure to get there quick and soak up its energetic offerings!