Like a plucky phoenix, this Mediterranean port city keeps rising from the ashes to spread its glossy plumage. Despite the lingering effects of a devastating war, Lebanon's capital is a brash, cosmopolitan hotbed of glamour and fine wine, cutting-edge art and designer brands. Experience the city's fascinating mix of new and old in the emerging contemporary art scene at Sfeir Semler gallery and the renovated Roman Baths in Downtown. Be prepared to party: In fun-loving Beirut, you're never far away from a tableful of mezzes and a nargileh waterpipe.
Things to do
Beirut might seem like one huge rebuilding project, but even in its spruced-up areas, you'll discover such historic landmarks as the Roman Cardo Maximus marketplace in gleaming Downtown. The slender minarets of the dazzling blue Mohammed el-Amin Mosque rise above the relatively small city center; it was built by the late president Rafik Hariri. Close by, at the Place D'Etoile, bullet holes can be seen in the restored murals at St. George Orthodox Cathedral.
Nightlife and entertainment
Whether hanging out in a relaxed neighborhood bar or dancing on a table in a basement club, locals know how to enjoy their evenings out. Follow the crowds of well-heeled locals to a trendy bar in Gemmayze to sip on chilled Chateaux Kefraya against a background of lounge music, or head farther east to the up-and-coming bohemian Mar Mikhael neighborhood. Sip strong coffee and play backgammon into the wee hours in an outdoor waterfront cafe, or hunt down summer music festivals for a chance to hear traditional music.
Restaurants and dining
Locals love nothing more than dressing up for dinner out. At the buzzing square Place de L'Etoile in Downtown, families gather for traditional Lebanese mezze, puffing away on a fruity nargileh waterpipe to finish. The hub of a trendy dining district is Rue Gourard in Gemmayze, where Italian bistros, French gastro fare and sushi bars compete for attention. Rue Bliss in Hamra, opposite the university, is the place to find no-frills Lebanese diners and late-night coffee shops.
Enjoy a morning jog along the sandy beach at Ramli el Bayda as locals arrive to soak up the rays. Beirutis love to ski, and it's a quick trip to the slopes at Faraya. In early spring you can ski in the mountains in the morning and take a swim in the city in the afternoon. Hiking around the Shouf Cedar Reserve gets you close to Lebanon's iconic tree, emblazoned on the national flag. See the Corniche on two wheels with a rented bicycle from Beirut by Bike club.