The Blue Mosque
Martyr’s Square, Downtown
It took six years to complete this blue-domed mosque that opened in 2008. Formally named the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque, it’s especially awe-inspiring when lit up at night, and the aquamarine dome and 65-foot-tall minarets reflect the traditional Ottoman style. Dress modestly and be prepared to remove your shoes; inside, opulent chandeliers light up incredible ancient calligraphic art. (Note: It’s next to the city’s oldest Greek Orthodox Church, also worth checking out).
Rue Pasteur, Gemayze
One of the most romantic spots in Beirut, the Loris restaurant is named after a socialite who once lived there.
Al Nahar Building, Downtown
The Lebanese adore nightlife, and Iris is the pinnacle of Beirut’s: The sleek rooftop bar has incredible views of the sunset over the Mediterranean, and after dark, DJs from all over the world play until 2 a.m.
Victor Hugo St., Achrafieh
Chef MireiIle Hayek has opened some of the city’s most popular restaurants (La Parrilla, Yasmina), and her prix fixe menu at this locals-packed traditional Lebanese restaurant includes favorites like fattoush salad and hummus, alongside more unusual dishes like kibbeh nayeh (raw lamb mixed with wheat and spices) and sawda djej (chicken liver topped with pomegranate seeds). The ice cream with caramelized pistachios and spun sugar is just…there are no words.
Saint Nicolas, Achrafieh
Inside this bullet-riddled, semi-decrepit, since-1949 building is arguably the best ice cream in Beirut.
Rafic El Hariri
Perched on the edge of an active marina, the walking promenade on Zaitunay Bay has amazing shopping and incredible restaurants, all with spectacular views of the Mediterranean. It’s the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon lunch overlooking the port. Oh and while you’re there, rent a boat. You won’t be sorry.
The first thing you notice when descending the stairs to the Jeita Grotto is the drop in temperature. The cooling sensation is almost instant and a little startling—until you look up and realize you’re inside a cave filled with Dali-esque stalagmites and stalactites. Since its rediscovery in 1853, Jeita has been a national monument, and widely considered one of the unofficial wonders of the world. The cave is divided into two sections: In the upper grotto, there are rock formations that resemble melted candles and giant mushrooms, best viewed from a winding pathway hundreds of feet above the bottom of the cave. The lower grotto has a freshwater spring that actually provides drinking water to the city; a boat ride below the head-skimming formations is the best way to see it.
A 30-minute drive to the Mediterranean coast takes you to Jubayl, one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities and a former Phoenician port. Park your car at the marina and enter the walls of the old city, where there’s a castle built by 12th-century crusaders, an Ottoman mosque, and tombs of former Phoenician kings. It’s a scene straight out of 1,001 Arabian Nights; the best things to buy are handmade backgammon boards and traditional coffee sets.
The drive up to Club Thermique’s jump point is so steep and winding it can be nauseating, but who cares because the glide down is worth it. The tandem paragliding company has been sailing across the Beirut skyline for almost 30 years—it’s a serious adrenaline kick and a totally unique way to view the city. By the time you touch down on the beach miles below (about a 30-minute sail), you’re ready to go again.
499 Omar Daouk, Downtown
A perfectly curated selection of Middle Eastern-made items, from mother of pearl inlaid backgammon sets and hand-beaded eye clutches to incredible traditional fashion pieces (both men’s and women’s, vintage and modern). The entire space smells gorgeously of incense, and everything you buy will, too.
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