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- 28 Jan 2020, 3 nights
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Beirut is a cosmopolitan city in Lebanon dotted with remnants of a troubled past. Its landmarks and neighbourhoods clash and contrast: luxurious new builds stand next to war-damaged architecture, and western influences sing alongside eastern culture and traditions. There are archaeological sites offering glimpses into ancient history, while museums tell the city's story. You can wander vibrant souks fragrant with incense or drop into a vintage bar for a quirky cocktail in a disused factory. There's always something new to see here, plus plenty of places to order a mouthwatering mezze platter.
At most hostels in Beirut you can expect free Wi-Fi and social spaces like outdoor terraces for meeting other travellers. Bonus extras can mean free breakfasts, and some Beirut hostels have their own bars and cafés. Help out refugees while you stay in Beirut at a government-approved hostel where proceeds go towards educational projects, or stay in an old public school that now houses an exhibition space for young Lebanese and Arabic artists.
There are four must-visit neighbourhoods in Beirut. Hamra is a liberal cultural centre with theatres, street events and historical cafés alongside buzzing pubs, while Downtown Beirut is a glamorous district filled with luxury hotels, high-end boutiques and the city's souks. Kaslik is the modern end of Beirut, where you'll find streets filled with international shops and gleaming storefronts. For nights out, head to Mar Mikhaël where industrial buildings have been reimagined into retro-themed bars, cosy pubs and top cocktail spots.
While in the city, check out the frescoed tomb at the National Museum of Beirut, then marvel at the Byzantine mosaic floor beneath the cathedral at the slightly spooky St George Crypt Museum. For a day trip, visit the Roman temple at Baalbek, which in the summer hosts the Baalbeck International Festival for music and theatre among the ruins. Stay downtown on Sundays to experience the authentic frenzy of the Souk al Ahad flea market, making sure to barter over locally crafted goods.
Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport is a 10-minute drive from the city. The easiest way to travel is via taxis that are regulated by the airport with set rates, whereas local taxi fares will vary. The city is fairly compact and roads can get jammed with cars, so walking between places is often faster than driving. If you do need a car, you can jump in a servees (shared taxi) – look out for the Azizah ones decorated with Lebanese flags for a truly patriotic journey.