Episode 01: 48 Hours in Beirut
48 Hours in Beirut: Zeitouna Bay, Underground Clubs, and Byblos
Beirut in a weekend? It is totally possible, if you plan it right. We just returned from an amazing and exhausting weekend in Beirut with friends, and if you live in Dubai and haven't done it yet, you're an idiot!
We have heard amazing things about Lebanon for years, but it wasn't until last weekend we finally went. It was a three day weekend in Dubai, but with only a 4 hour flight, it can easily be done in a normal weekend if you plan it right.
Emirates offers direct flights from DXB to Beirut International Airport twice daily. We took the early flight and arrived in Beirut at around 10:30am Thursday. Here is our complete guide to a weekend in Beirut, do exactly like we did and you will come home exhausted with endless stories.
We landed in the late morning on Thursday and after an easy customs process checked in at the Radisson Blu Martinez in the heart of Beirut and then went for a stroll on foot starting with Zeitouna Bay (which greatly remind you JBR if you live in Dubai), and its small restaurants by the sea, its harbor and its nice pedestrian area.
*TIP*If you don't already have the Entertainer app, download it for free and the travel section is included with some amazing 2 for 1 hotel deals!
We continued towards Downtown Beirut, with a short stop at the Beirut souks. We passed a beautiful mosque and a cathedral which were absolutely superb. The spirit of the streets and the colors are to die for. Beirut has a rich and difficult history, and this is reflected not only on the walls of the city but in the mentality of so many Lebanese people - they enjoy life to the fullest no matter what.
We stopped in a little cafe in the center of a square full of charm in the heart of Saifi Village. Balima served great food and drinks and we enjoyed a lovely cocktail outside in the perfect weather with a heaping plate of pork ham and cheese. Yes, Anne cried a bit.
We continued towards Mar Mikhael, the main street for pubs and bars overlooking the street and local restaurants - truly "the place to be" on Friday and Saturday night. The streets are alive, and the feeling is very European with an Arabic twist.
After the cliche photo on the famous colorful stairs, we headed towards Train Station, which is exactly as its name suggest - a train station, beautifully abandoned and converted into an open-air bar. The atmosphere is great, very nice music, delicious cocktails and an aperitif ... FREE! Grab a table early, this place fills up quick, and its easy to see why. This is a must visit in Beirut.
After dark we headed to Music Hall Beirut, the original Music Hall. The atmosphere is like none other with international guest taking the stage and performing every type of music imaginable, from opera to classical Arabic, pop and even Bob Marley - absolutely do not miss during a weekend in Beirut.
After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, we hired a driver for the day for 200,000LBP (AED500/150USD) split between four people. This is simply the best way to see all there is without any of the hassle of a taxi. The driver was extremely nice, knew the roads like the back of his hands and was safe in the pouring rain. $40 a day for a driver in a new Mercedes ain't too bad.
*TIP*Ask your hotel to help arrange a taxi or driver. They will arrange the best rate and you won't get ripped off. For anywhere in Beirut you shouldn't ever pay more than 15,000LBP or 2,000LBP per person.
We went first to visit the caves of the Jeita Grotto, about 30 minutes drive from Beirut.
These absolutely gigantic caves are filled with old stalactites and stalagmites first discovered in 1836 and are now visitable on foot and by boat throughout the caves, which is truly stunning. Cameras and phones are not allowed in, so take the pictures with your mind, its all you'll have! Tickets are 18,000LBP, or about 30AED. We jumped back in the car, now about 9am and drove to the city of Jounieh, to take the cable cars up to Harissa for a closer look at Our Lady of Lebanon and one of the most amazing views of Beirut there is. Don't miss out on a trip up here.
After leaving Harissa we drove straight to the ancient city of Byblos, and what a surprise! Byblos is the oldest continuously lived in city on Earth and the beautiful stone streets and ancient ruins are incredible and almost feel like a movie set. We walked through this little corner of paradise and ended up on the port at "Pepe's" a restaurant recommended to us and for good reason - it is one of the most famous in the country. The walls boast pictures of all the famous people who have visited Pepe in the 60s, 70's and 80s, including Brigitte Bardot, Johnny Hallyday and other singers, celebrities and politicians. The view of the harbor and fishing boats is as amazing as the humus and fresh fish, which make for the perfect Lebanese meal.
Check out the ruins in the city, $5 gets you in to a nearly perfectly preserved ancient castle, once ruled by the Romans, then Phoenicians, Crusaders and everyone in between - it feels like a video game level, amazing.
For dinner, we were directed to Mar Mikhael street and we opted for Italian - again, no regrets! If you're looking for amazing food before a long night out, check out the Italian Project, and try their truffle pizza, it will change your life.
We ended the evening with a few drinks at Junkyard then in B-018, which we also strongly recommend. Junkyard is one of the most funky and unique bars on Earth and B-018 is a typical grungy nightclub - except it is underground and feels like an abandoned bomb shelter with a retractable roof that opens at 6am as the sun comes out, to the glee of all the crazy kids who have partied all night - which yes, was us.
Saturday was pretty relaxed with a stroll through the city, a return to the Junkyard for a light lunch before flying back to Dubai on a late evening flight, in time to land at DXB at 7am Sunday morning and go straight to work.
WHERE WE ATE IN BEIRUT:
- Balima, Saifi Village
- Italian Project , Mar Mikhail
- Junkyard , Mar Mikhail
- Bonus: Pepe in the port of Byblos
WHERE WE SLEEP IN BEIRUT
WHERE WE DRINK IN BEIRUT:
WHERE WE EXPLORED IN BEIRUT:
- Jeita Grotto
- Our Lady of Lebanon
WHERE TO WALKED IN BEIRUT:
- Mar Mikhail
- Zeytouna Bay
- Downtown Beirut
- Saifi Village
- Beirut Souqs
- The Cornish
Have you been to Lebanon? Anything we missed in our complete guide to a weekend in Beirut? Please leave your comments below!