This post is in collaboration with Hamra Urban Gardens
We finally made our first stop in the middle East a few days ago, arriving in Beirut, Lebanon after a whooping 55 hour trip from Phuket, Thailand! Long story, but we made a mistake with a transit visa for a connecting flight in Mumbai, India – which meant we had to miss or original flights and book new ones for the following night!
Anyway, we touched down in Beirut on Monday night and spent the following 3 days there exploring the city.
Beirut may not be your first choice of a holiday destination but this part of the world has a lot to offer. One of the safest locations in the Middle East, Beirut is full to the brim of fancy restaurants, wonderful scenic locations, and some amazing shops.
Enjoy the Free Walking Tours
If you would like to explore Beirut and learn a little bit about its history you need to go on a walking tour. A free tour is offered every Tuesday and Thursday and it begins at 5 pm. Meet your guide outside the Beirut Souks main entrance and be prepared to see some amazing historical landmarks. Learn about some of the area’s archaeological treasures and how the civil war started.
Lasting approximately 2.5 hours, the free walking tour will help you to discover all that the area has to offer. You will hear about untold stories that will shock and astound you. It will be very clear to you from the offset that the tour guides want you to have a good time. Friendly and very knowledgeable about the area the guides are keen to show off their capital city.
Bring your camera with you and don’t forget to tip your guide if you’ve enjoyed the tour.
Visit the Beirut Souks
The Souks (Traditional markets) are located in downtown Beirut and simply have to be seen to be believed. Located in a 5,000 year old trading centre the market is home to some international brands as well as quite a few local ones.
The market is a hive of activity and is a delight for the senses. The sights and sounds along with the smell of spices are nothing short of wonderful. This is a market that you have to visit at least once.
The market is full to the brim of vibrantly coloured materials and baskets. The spices, the plants and just about anything and everything sold here is a very pleasant attack on the senses. Make your way to the stalls that sell handmade baskets or visit a vegetable store that sells all kinds of freshly picked produce.
If you’re a little short on cash you may want to visit the market on a Sunday where everything is cheap. The market is rather noisy on a Sunday but trust me, it’s an experience you just need to have.
Spend Some Time in Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael
If you would like to spend some time in a rather laid back part of Beirut you should head to Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael. This is an area that’s ideal for hipsters everywhere thanks to its great bars and good music. The food served in this part of Beirut is also very nice and a welcome change from traditional pub meals that we’ve all eaten a lot of.
Also known as a bit of an artistic bohemian quarter the area is full of life, historical buildings, and narrow alleyways.
You need to take a camera with you when you visit this part of Beirut as you will undoubtedly find many wonderful locations you’ll want to remember. Please note that there isn’t much parking in Gemmayzeh and Mar Mikhael so you may want to jump in a taxi.
With a great vibe in the evenings and very scenic areas if you want to relax and enjoy yourself this is the place to be. The area does get quite busy during the evenings but it’s never too cramped. There’s a really friendly atmosphere and you’ll have ample opportunities to sit back, relax and enjoy yourself.
Where To Stay In Beirut?
When we visited Beirut we had the real pleasure of staying at the Hamra Urban Gardens Hotel for 3 nights. This hotel is home to a rooftop pool and bar, a cafe that serves delicious meals and a “Muscle Up” workshop. This hotel is so cool and a lot of fun to stay in.
In fact, it’s a refreshing change from hotels that take themselves too seriously. Mike, the manager, and his staff were all very accommodating and go out of their way to make sure your stay with them is pleasant and as enjoyable as possible.
Located in the middle of Beirut, you’ll find the Hamra Urban Gardens Hotel on Abdel Baki Street, Make sure you take a right turn off Hamra Main Street before you reach “Kababji”. The hotel is just a few minutes away on foot from some of the local shops and eateries.
Overall Impressions of Beirut
We really enjoyed our few days in the city. We’d definitely need a lot more time to really explore the outskirts of Beirut next time and to enjoy all the city has to offer visitors.
It’s not the cheapest city in the world by any means, but definitely not too expensive either.
We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a trip or holiday to Beirut.