Ideal stay: 4days
Temperature: depending on season, between 12ºC and 32ºC
My other half and I were looking for a spot to travel to during a longer weekend so Beirut came to our mind. My Arab friends (incl. Lebanese) were so excited that I was going and I got kind of snowed under with recommendations – whereas my European friends immediately discouraged me from doing this trip.
Why is this? Yes, due to Media and the urge to quickly spread rumours about the unknown.
Beirut got nicknamed the “Paris of the Middle East” due to its cultural and intellectual life as well as French influences. Yes, it got partially destroyed during their civil war but has been rebuilt in the decades since.
So, as usual we took our credit card, booked the flights (Etihad: AUH-BEY) and started this journey!
We booked the early flight with Etihad at around 4am – which I do not recommend at all. A flight full of crying babies, noisy and hectic people all over – and us, surrounded by them, lacking sleep. Mabrook!
The proof of severe fatigue – self-painted picture made on the airplane board computer…
At 6am we arrived at the old-fashioned airport and encountered straight away the typical, rather lazy but friendly, Lebanese at the Europcar stall. As usual, we rented a car.
It’s simply the best way to come around and explore the most within a tight time frame.
After a crazy drive, where we learned that in Beirut you get to ignore the red lights, we checked-in at the Four Points by Sheraton which is centrally located.
We slept for a few hours and went for a late breakfast nearby. Once we were strengthened we went to Jeita Grotto. To reach the top Grotto you have to take the cableway to the top, which is included in the entrance fee of around 12$ for both Grottos. This dripstone cave was just stunning.
We walked through the bigger one, took the kids train down to the smaller one – but this Grotto was even more incredible due to the water and the recommended boat trip in the Grotto.
Our journey continued to the well-known “Cristo Rei”. In Portugal we have a similar one… Btw. I constantly commented “oh this looks like Portugal” – “ah like in Portugal” – so, Portugal-Lovers, you would def LOVE Beirut!
So far the drive was quite tiring due to the crazy driving style of the Lebanese people. Before you plan your trip people will recommend you to take a taxi or “rent” a car with driver but if you are a good driver, willing to adapt to the local behaviour – you will be fine.
Rule Nr 1: Just don’t stop! You have to go with the flow… Everyone speeds? Speed, too.
Everyone rushes over red lights? Do it, too, otherwise the guy behind you will become your seatmate.
To recover from this, we stopped at the wooden bakery which is well-known for its delicious Manakeesh. Normally I do not like “Zaatar” but this time – wow. It was soooo nice and yummy, we could not stop!
After this yummy stop we moved on to Harrissa where we searched for the Lady of Lebanon. Many come up the mountain by cablecar – we opted for our car.
Don’t worry – you will see some machine guns from time to time – but contrary to our “European Point of view” this is really to ensure safety.
Once we found her, we were just amazed. We walked all the stairs up and this is what we got:
We waited there till…yes, Sunset! Like usual and felt just blessed to be part of this natural spectacle.
Our evening ended with some drinks in the famous district Gemmayzeh – Mar Mikhael a road full of bars and restaurants which caters to everyone’s needs.
Good to know: If you ever take a taxi, like we did in the evening, ask for “servicienne” else the Taxi drivers will try to bullshit you with an expensive taxi price.
This morning started quite crazy. Well, it’s actually just us… We turned the music on and danced through the room while preparing for the day. It makes such a difference if you sleep properly in a bed during the night instead of spending the night in an overcrowded plane.
Btw during this trip I fell in love with the song ‘one dance’ by Drake which from my point of view stands for ‘life is one dance’ – sometimes it’s a steps-sequence easy to memorize and sometimes off-beats due to rapid changing life rhythm.
We went for breakfast at Paul’s near Beirut Souks. To be honest, it was totally overpriced and not worth it but still great views from our outside seating.
This new city centre is just incredible. It’s the perfect mix between traditional and modern flair. Bit like an Arabic city but has def also the “Parisian” atmosphere.
In the middle of the city trouble of a cosmopolitan city I was lucky to spot a church and a mosque on the same street. This is the perfect example for tolerance and freedom of belief. There is no need to fight for “the right” – who judges right or wrong? You should not…
Good to know: It’s quite normal to select the reverse gear in the middle of the highway as well as it is regular business to turn 3 lanes into 5! I told you its quite chaotic over here…
We dedicated this second day to “Byblos”. Byblos is only 30min drive away from the city centre of Beirut. We strolled down the ancient city… with its lovely souq.
This country has a great cultural background and you come to learn things which you would have never thought. Byblos is justifiably crowned as UNESCO World Heritage.
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We enjoyed our walk through the temple of obelisk and its stunning views over the eastern Mediterranean.
After this great trip we drove back to Beirut city where we chased the sun through the lively corniche until the famous pigeon rocks.
Again, “just like in Portugal”… I just love it! The whole ambiance, the crowd, the sights, the temperature – it was all just perfect. I could not imagine a better place to be on that particular day – just happy with and thankful for life.
On our third day we woke up (again) in a great mood, excited to drive up the hill to Broumana. We checked-out from the Four Points and on our way to our next temporary-home, we stopped at a lovely Boulangerie.
Actually, it’s almost impossible to fail culinary-wise here in Lebanon. Everything is just yummy, fluffy and simply mhhhhh.
We finally checked-in in one of the most beautiful places we have every stayed in:
Grand Hills, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Spa.
Hard to explain but I believe “wow” would do.
Incredible room with THE view.
Coming from the European world, stamped and shaped by the circulating rather negative rumours, I would have never thought to encounter such beauty in “disreputable Lebanon”.
Beautiful vineyards, natural mountains and first and foremost: gracious people.
We took our time to reach the famous restaurant MOUNIR and enjoyed a “Radler” on our way. Contrary to popular belief, Lebanon has a quite balanced religious mix: 54% Muslims and 41% Christians.I always wonder where these rumours and associated prejudices come from…
For Dinner we went to the in-house restaurant but my highlight of the day was the surprise organized by #favtravelpartner – Sunset on the hotel’s roof. Incredible…
B e a u t I f u l
Unfortunately our last morning has come and this trip has come to an end.
These days were just revitalizing, astonishing and lovely.
I really enjoyed the time over here and am proud that we did this trip despite all negative influences…
Start your day right
We enjoyed our last breakfast with a perfect view and headed to the airport.
To sum up, this trip was so much more than we expected and I do recommend it to everyone.
Yes, there are some parts which are still not very safe to travel to but Beirut and especially Byblos are awaiting you and your open mind!
The Lebanese style is much influenced by “go with the flow” and if you do so you will enjoy your time a lot!