The Wordrobe’s Editor Sophie Ritchie shares how to spend a weekend in Beirut, the Miami of the Middle East
More than 5,000 years old, Beirut is pretty sprightly for its age. One of the world’s most archaic cities, it was once considered to be the Paris of the Middle East. But these days, it’s more Miami in vibe, with a juxtaposing collision of old and new attitudes, fascinating architecture and enticing ambience.
The traces of political turmoil linger, but Beirut, with its wave of skyscrapers, hedonistic hotels, thriving food scene and wild nightlife exudes unstoppable energy. A melting pot of diverse culture, this tireless city demands to be both explored and enjoyed.
From impressive city stays and historical must-sees to lip-smacking Lebanese dishes and designer shopping dreams, here’s how to spend a weekend in this chicly chaotic capital city.
Where to stay: The Phoenicia
One of Beirut’s best hotels, the Phoenicia is a five-star hub of regal elegance with decadence-dripping interiors. Found in the city’s core, it sits between Beirut’s modern sky-rise buildings and the gleaming turquoise waters of the nearby marina, where yachts float idly.
Built in 1961, the Phoenicia was once a celebrity magnet – hosting the A-list elite in swanky fashion before it closed for twenty years. Its extravagant doors reopened in 2000 and today you’ll find 446 guest rooms and luxurious suites filled with luxe amenities. Decorated in old Hollywood meets sleek minimalist style, many overlook the nearby azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s no subtle wallflower – Phoenicia’s atrium alone is brimming with impressive marble pillars, glittering chandeliers which take up half the ceiling and plush pillows galore. There’s also a large spa that incorporates elements from the Med into its luxury treatments for a natural pampering experience.
With four restaurants to try, feast your way through a mix of Lebanese and international cuisine. The breakfast buffet, with its plethora of live cooking stations, army of staff and banquet style spreads is enough to keep you going for days – but save room for Eau De Vie on the 11th floor.
With a design inspired by couture fashion, this suave French rooftop restaurant boasts panoramic views of the surrounding ocean and an entirely indulgent menu. The wine tasting room is especially superb – as is the restaurant’s single malt whisky collection, which covets some of the rarest finds in Lebanon. Visit phoeniciabeirut.com for more.
Where to eat
1 For fine dining fans: Em Sherif
With chef Mireille Hayek at the helm, Em Sherif is renowned for its sublime Lebanese dishes. Tucked away in the heart of the vibrant Ashrafieh district, this opulent restaurant specialises in authentic cuisine and first-class service. Distinguished dining awaits. emsherif.com
2 For authentic lunches: Tawlet
Welcoming guests from Monday – Saturday, Tawlet comes with a fantastic community concept. With buffet-style lunches and communal seating, it offers traditional food made only with fresh ingredients from Souk el Tayeb, a local small-scale farmers market. What’s more, each day sees a different guest chef from a different village visit to serve their own local dishes – perfect for a taste of Beirut’s real cuisine. soukeltayeb.com/tawlet
3 For something stylish: Gilt
If it’s an experience you’re after, book a table at Gilt. Set in the centre of Beirut, the menu fuses Mediterranean with Asian and Peruvian dishes whilst the background of modern music and stylish architecture creates a cool, up to date feel. giltbeirut.com
What to do
1 Château Kefraya
Hire a driver (it’s essential for Lebanon’s wild roads) and pay a visit to this Bekaa Valley winery. Surrounded by mountainous terrain, enjoy a guided tour of the cellars and vineyard before strolling through the gorgeous parks – all of which are named after famed opera composers. chateaukefraya.com
2 Beirut Souks
The epitome of Lebanon’s post-war development, think less flea market, more Fendi. The 5,000 year-old trade centre is brimming with designer wares, as well as handmade jewellery, ceramics and antiques. beirutsouks.com.lb
Dance the night away at MusicHall, an enchanting live cabaret theatre meets thumping nightclub. Packed to the brim with locals and tourists alike, enjoy a succession of short musical acts from the around the globe until the early hours. Rock, Latin, Middle Eastern and jazz – there’s no shortage of culture from this diverse night of fun. themusichall.com
Words by Sophie Ritchie