At the end of Spring season there is no better place to be than the Mediterranean. I chose an unusual destination: Beirut. Lebanon has always been high up on my list of countries to visit and I just realised that last week. I met the charming city of Beirut with everything that comes with it: a generous heart and an unbreakable soul. I fully enjoyed my 5 days city-break there and here are my recommendations on things to do and where to stay.

What to do

Beirut’s metropolitan area is home to almost 2.1 million people. It is by far the biggest city in Lebanon so it has so many things to offer to its visitors.

See

Pigeon Rocks

Pigeon Rocks

These rocks form a natural arch on the Mediterranean Sea, few meters off the coast. The view is amazing from the rooftop café of Raouché Arjaan by Rotana.

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Nejmeh Square

Named Place de l’Etoile in French, this square is right in the heart of Downtown Beirut. It was built by the French in the 20s but suffered lot of damage during the wars. It was rebuilt again. At the middle of the roundabout there is an interesting clock tower.

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Saint George Maronite Cathedral

Right off Nejmeh Square, this cathedral is absolutely stunning from inside or outside. It is considered to be the first cathedral of the city as it includes an underground crypt museum. It is interesting to notice the Arabic alphabet inside the cathedral.

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Beirut Souks

Modernity clashes with tradition in this shopping centre. It’s worth walking around and finding the iconic “I love Beirut” installation.

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Mohamed Al Amine Mosque

Built recently by Rafic Al Hariri, this mosque is absolutely amazing from in and out. It’s blue dome dominates the skyline and its islamic architecture inside is simply fantastic.

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Roman Berytus Columns

Five columns discovered in 1963 are found left of St George Maronite Cathedral.

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Zaytouna Bay

A modern marina at the foot of the newly built towers of Beirut. There are so many restaurants and café to enjoy a drink at sunset.

Party

Beirut has been described “Paris of the Middle East”. Until now, it conserves so many things from this heritage. It has also developed a great nightlife. There are so many bars and clubs to check out!

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Mar Mikhael

This is by far my favourite spot in Beirut for the night. It is a whole area starting in Gemmayzeh and extending to Mar Mikhael. It has so many bars and pubs one next to the other. Easy to navigate and crawl around. People are friendly so it’s the best area to meet locals!

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Iris

On top of Al-Nahar Building, this rooftop bar is overlooking the city and the nearby mountains. It is advised to get there before sunset for an enjoyable end of the day.

Contact: An Nahar Building, Downtown, Beirut +961 3 090 936
Website: http://irisbeirut.com/

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Train Station

This is so original. An abandoned train station transformed into a bar/club. The music is amazing, quite diverse, people are friendly and prices okay. Must-see in Beirut for a ride to the golden days…

Contact: Mar Mikhael, Beirut +961 78 907 090
Website: https://www.facebook.com/trainstationmarmikhael

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The Garten

This is literarily a garden with an original setting. It has a big screen for special events. The day I was there, they screened the final of the Champions League. Entrance was $30. A bit expensive but fun night with so many young Lebanese.

Contact: Biel, Beirut +961 76 363 662
Website: http://www.uberhaus.me

Where to stay

Raouché Arjaan by Rotana

Overlooking the Pigeon Rocks and the bustling Corniche Raouché Arjaan by Rotana has a convenient location in Beirut. I stayed there for 4 nights and I can definitely recommend it to you and here is my experience there:

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This modern 4 stars hotel apartment property has a small lobby but a useful and helpful receptionists who were ready to assist me at anytime. The rooms particularly were quite spacious and had the looks of a 5 stars hotel with all amenities available and a strong attention to details. I stayed in a Premium Studio on the 12th floor with a stunning view from the balcony over the Pigeon Rocks.

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On arrival, I found a lovely table full of fruits, sweets and Lebanese pastry offered to me as a welcome. The rooms are well equipped with a small kitchenette including all accessories to cook or simply use the fridge or even the microwave to heat the remains of my lunch. Well, I did that! Moreover, a variety of channels are available on TV, a phone with shortcuts to call for services within the hotel, a hair dryer, a safety box and much more. The hotel is designed to host all types of travellers: solo, business or families.

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Every morning, I found a newspaper on my door before making my way to the breakfast buffet. The buffet is varied with so many delicious food to try including a Lebanese touch which was my favourite as it included a huge selection of cheese. I also had the opportunity to go to gym on the 3rd floor. The personal trainer was so friendly that we had an interesting conversation. He guided me through my workout and provided a fresh towel and water.

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But not only! On the 17th floor, there is a rooftop swimming pool. This is particularly interesting as it has a view over the city and the Mediterranean Sea including once again, the Pigeon Rocks. There is also a restaurant by the pool which serves great burgers with a decent price!

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Oh, I almost forgot… The wifi! It is free by the reception. However, it is charged as an extra when used from the room. I found that it could cause a bit of inconvenience as there is no better than free wifi. But, their system is very well built that buying a code once grants you wifi access to 4 of your devices with a high speed connection.

Thank you Rotana for an amazing stay in Beirut!

A post shared by Omar Oualili ✈️ (@omarinacitynearyou) on

 

Overall, it is my first time staying with Rotana Hotels chain. And surely, it will not be my last. I’m glad that I chose Raouché Arjaan by Rotana as I felt like everything was made easy by the team. For example, they called taxis on my behalf at anytime and offered to send me a taxi whenever and wherever I wish when I am within the city. Their recommendations on things to do were useful. I was happy during my stay but sad to leave. I will go back!

Contact: Raouché Arjaan by Rotana, Chouran, Beirut, +961 1 781111
Book your fabulous stay here!

Get out

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Lebanon is a small country so it’s easy to reach other places. I visited in one day Jeita Grottos, Jounieh and Byblos. I would say that Jeita Grottos are quite exclusive as I’ve never seen such thing before and taking pictures is strictly forbidden. So you have to go to Lebanon to see one of Middle-East’s wonders!

Disclaimer: I accepted a complimentary stay at Raouché Arjaan by Rotana to provide my honest personal opinion about my own experience on this article.