Viewing all of Beirut in one day is, as with most cities in the world, an impossible task. However, much of Beirut’s history, culture and lifestyle can be absorbed in one day by following the itinerary below:
Get off to an early start with the heart of Beirut, Downtown, your starting point. From here it is easy to access most parts of the city. The reconstructed Solidere area with the renovated buildings, although modern, is traditional in spirit and as you go from one site to the other, you get a fairly good idea of the grandeur of Beirut in days gone by.
The rediscovered Roman and Byzantine structures; the Roman Baths, Roman Exedra, four corniced columns, group of five columns are all close by. You can also visit St George Maronite Cathedral, Al Omari Mosque, Amir Assaf Mosque and the Grand Serail.
The National Museum of Beirut is a treasure house of objects from Lebanon’s long past and if you are a history enthusiast, this is one place you mustn’t miss.
After this you can have lunch at one of the many open-air cafes on Maraad Street. The city center is teeming with food outlets to suit every palate and you can find something to pamper your culinary preferences.
You can’t visit Beirut and not go to Jeita Grotto. An afternoon trip to the nearby caves of stalactites and stalagmites can be arranged with a tour company.
Another option is to make the American University of Beirut your next stop, for its seaside campus is one of the most beautiful in the world. Its natural setting is enhanced by a great variety of trees and shrubs including pepper, pistachio, walnut and seasonal flowers like myrtle, jasmine and oleander. You can join a walking guided tour of the campus and visit the three buildings that attract tourists in droves; the Archaeological Museum, the Nami Jefet Memorial Library and Assembly Hall.
No visit to any city is complete if you haven’t visited its shopping districts, so next head to the city center where there are close to 350 retail outlets selling fashion clothing and accessories, jewelry, furniture, books and records, hi-fi and electronic equipment, handicrafts and gifts .Souk El Barghout on Maraad Street is where you should pick up souvenirs from to take back home. Don’t forget to test your bargaining skills here.
Go straight to the Corniche next and watch a glorious sunset over the Mediterranean as you stroll along the promenade taking in wonderful views of the coast. Pigeon Rocks, a group of rock formations set in a cove in Raouche, is the most dramatic of the views, as well as a popular backdrop for evening drinks.
Night time is party time so if you still have the energy and the inclination and of course the time, head to The Blue Note Café on Mankhool Street, next to AUB campus. This music club in Beirut hosts a selection of local and international jazz musicians every week.
One thing to keep in mind during your trip is that Beirut is not just about a long list of sites or attractions; it is mostly about ‘atmosphere’, the mix of people, religions and cultures that give the city its dynamic edge. If you do nothing but just stroll down cobbled pathways and ‘people watch’ the entire day, you can be sure you have caught the pulse of the city and got a glimpse of the resilient nation that never says ‘die’.