Sometimes referred to as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, Beirut is a busy city that never sleeps - offering all you could possibly want from an alternative stag experience. Though it’s an expensive trip, you can still find hotels and restaurants to suit every budget here. Fast establishing itself as the hip destination for weekends away, it’s got everything from beaches to ski-slopes, upscale nightclubs...and not forgetting, an abundance of Lebanese eye-candy.
Return flights from the UK to Beirut (Rafik Hariri International Airport) are around £350. The airport itself is only a 10-15 minute drive from the city centre. Your best bet is to stick to the taxis parked just outside arrivals with an official airport logo on them as their fares are regulated. Or you can get private minibuses, which depart from level two of the airport, at a modest fee of 2,000 Lebanese Pounds (about 85 pence).
Great Mediterranean weather is yet another thing that adds to the allure of Lebanon, but it does vary quite a lot between seasons. April to June is the ideal time to go with temperatures of around 19-25°C. July and August get very humid so you’ll need a hotel with air-con if you travel at this time.
Rainy season spans from December to Feb, when it’s still sunny but you’ll need to wrap up warm as temperatures will be considerably lower as soon as the sun sets.
If you book in advance you can get some good value four star hotels starting from around £55 per room per night. For tighter budgets, you can get hostel accommodation for £8 per person per night. Those who wish to be engulfed in the decadence of Beirut can to pay anything from £90 to £200 per night for the convenience of roof top bars and quality restaurants in the same building. If you can afford this type of trip, there's no better way to experience this city.
You can head to the Beirut Hippodrome to watch some Arabian horse racing, which happens every Sunday. Entrance is free but you’ll need to present your passport/ID on at the entrance. Biking, canoeing and a whole barrage of water sports are available at vendors along the promenade, for those looking for some physical activity.
Lebanon also has five stunning ski resorts that can be visited as a day trip from the capital. The ski season runs from December to April.
The trendy, bustling areas of Gemmayzeh, Ashrafieh and Hamra are lined with a good mix of restaurants and eateries. What makes these locations ideal is that you can follow your evening meal with drinks at a nearby pub or bar, followed by a more high-octane club experience later on in the night.
In addition, there are plenty of places along the promenade that offer a slightly more chilled out vibe with delicious authentic mezze accompanied by shisha. For decent Lebanese cuisine on a budget, all you need to do is venture a little further off the main touristy streets.
...And when nothing but a burger and chips will do, you have halal varieties of all the world’s major fast food franchises for those of you who get deprived of this luxury in the UK. Again, the options from extravagant to budget and everything in between are fairly varied.
Drink & Party
The Gemmayzeh area is the place to be after sundown. The area comes to life in the evenings when the young Lebanese party crowd flocks in for a few drinks before heading out to the clubs. You can expect pubs and bars to empty around 2am. After that, you can head to Rue Monot in Ashrafieh which offers a mixture of pubs and nightclubs as well the increasing popular Rue Bliss in Hamra.
‘Loud, fun and expensive’ is how we would describe Beirut nightlife, with many of the clubs being in open air and rooftop locations. Gorgeous podium dancers and impeccably dressed locals looking for an awesome night out, all add to creating the ultimate clubbing experience in Beirut.
Beirut was declared safe to travel to in 2009 and has seen a dramatic increase in tourism since then. You’ll generally be OK so long as you stay around the city centre and don’t go wandering off to rural refugee camps insulting locals. You will, however, need to keep your wits about you in the general sense as scams and rip off merchants do operate around the town, but let's face it, that's part of the Middle Eastern appeal.