24 Hours In… Beirut
In 1943 the French granted independence to Lebanon, abandoning the capital city of Beirut, yet leaving a cultural footprint that has withstood the years, and now provides further allure to this Middle-Eastern cosmopolitan getaway. Presenting a fabulous east-meets-west cultural melting-pot, Beirut provides a look into the Paris chic of the past; with bustling pavement cafes, classy boutiques and jazz bars; evoking a sense of 1960s parisian cool, without the tainting effects of commercialism that many capital cities have seen in recent years.
9:00 – Check in at the ever popular 5 star haven Le Gray. Heavily influenced by the cities dual-identity, Le Gray is in keeping with Beirut’s Parisian vibe, presenting a French exterior and name, yet also showcasing high-end Middle Eastern design within, to create a lavish hideout during your stay. Simplistic luxury and premium facilities make this hotel an excellent base; located in the vibrant downtown district amongst some of the city’s best eateries and retailers. If you can catch a spare minute, be sure to visit the rooftop Bar 360, providing a fantastic vantage point to view Beirut’s unique architecture, while also making the most of the city’s wonderful climate.
10:00 – Begin the day with a delicious brunch at the contemporary hotspot Ginette. Simultaneously a boutique, a contemporary art gallery and an eatery, Ginette provides a luxurious and varied offering of breakfast meals and light bites; opt for the Lebanese breakfast to fully embrace your richly exotic surroundings. With sleek furnishings and a perfect location in the heart of the bohemian quarter (an area architecturally reminiscent of the French era), this is the perfect venue to revitalise ready for the day ahead. Ginette Convivium V Project, Gouraud Street, Gemmayze, Beirut.
12:00 – Beirut Art Center. Take a 15 minute taxi ride to this unlikely industrial space and prepare to be mesmerized by what lies within. A cutting-edge platform for the latest in Lebanese and world contemporary art and design – this 1500 square ft space, designed by architect Raed Abillama, is a worthwhile afternoon adventure. Exhibitions come and go regularly, however the gallery’s undercurrent of modern cool and innovation is present all year round. Beirut Art Center Jisr El Wati – Off Corniche an Nahr. Building 13, Street 97, Zone 66 Adlieh. Beirut
14:00 – Relax with a coffee on the roof terrace at Sweet Tea Beirut, a salon-de-thé owned by French chef Yannick Alleno, serving an array of french pastries and light snacks to enjoy on a warm afternoon. The airy roof-garden is the perfect place to soak up the mild lebanese sunshine, while taking in more spectacular views of the city. Furnished in saccharine pastel shades, complete with rose covered teapots and dainty white birdcages, give this cafe a truly french feel in the heart of downtown Beirut. Try Le Choc’Alleno, Sweet Tea’s own take on the Pain au chocolat that oozes decadence.
16:00 – As the afternoon sets in, head downtown to the city’s shopping district. Here you may expect to find a traditional lebanese souk, complete with spices and vegetables. These markets do indeed exist in Beirut, however the downtown remains very much in the chic shadow of the city’s French past. Here you will find the original Elie Saab flagship store (the Beirut-born designer now holds a flagship in Paris at the top of the Champs-Élysées), as well as the renowned department store Aïshti, founded in 1989 and now a high-end playground for Beirut’s fashion forward populace, stocking Céline, Dior and Alexander McQueen, amongst a plethora of top design brands. Aïshti, 71 El-Moutrane Street Beirut.
19:00 – Take in the cooler evening sunshine with a cocktail at Iris. Boasting a stunning rooftop garden that rivals any Paris pavement café, and a menu of exciting cocktail blends to. Here you will find Beirut’s fashion pack, winding down after a long week of professional endeavours with a quiet drink. As the evening becomes nighttime, take a look at Iris’ food menu, a sophisticated offering drawn from both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines, with dishes set to wow and satisfy, possibly even more than the excellent view.
22.00 – Experience Beirut’s glittering nightlife scene in the city’s favourite place-to-be or be seen, Skybar. An award winning superclub that has hosted celebrities, locals and everyone beautiful in between, Skybar provides the perfect combination of class and chaos to have you dancing all night, above the lights of Beirut and among some of its most beautiful people. The music is varied and lively, providing a great opportunity to dance the night away, after all, the view is better when the sun’s up…
by Lucy Maguire