Our first impressions of Beirut, Lebanon
Beirut is a truly captivating city that is bursting with charm and intrigue. Henrietta Loyd, our co-founder, travelled to the Lebanese capital to experience its wonders for the first time
Please note that the tragic explosion in Beirut last August has caused substantial destruction to the city. We are carefully monitoring the situation and are in constant contact with our friends on the ground, keeping up to speed on what’s going on as well as developing incredible new experiences. We will keep this page up-to-date and look forward to designing extraordinary trips to this captivating destination as soon as possible.
I am not sure why I have always had this urge to go to Lebanon and, especially, Beirut – perhaps my interest was sparked by our next-door neighbours who were half Lebanese and lived between the two. However, I was thrilled to be able to travel to this incredible city with a colleague in October 2019.
Our first impressions set the tone. We were staying at the Hotel Albergo, which epitomises old-world charm, with old-fashioned service and situated in a wonderful 1930s building in the heart of the city. From the lovely terrace overlooking downtown Beirut and the delicious traditional Lebanese breakfast to the wonderfully vibrant rooms, we were totally enchanted on every level and ready to explore.
Enjoying the views of Beirut from The Hotel Albergo balcony
Armed with a little black book of off-the-grid places in the Mar Mikhael neighbourhood and people to see, we set off full of anticipation and there was not one day in Beirut that did not deliver. The city is a juxtaposition of old and new. Known as the Paris of the East, there are some charming, small boulevards in the old town, modern areas down by the waterfront and, of course, evidence of the civil war in 1975 – not least the still bullet-ridden Holiday Inn now surrounded by restored buildings and concept stores, such as Orient 499. Despite this, Beirut was, without doubt, one of the most welcoming cities I have visited. At no time did we feel unsafe or unwelcome, and we walked and walked, soaking up the atmosphere, which was calm and friendly.
Exploring old town Beirut
The food scene here is insane and we had been given some stunning restaurant recommendations. We ate in some of the better-known restaurants, such as Liza Beirut, but our favourite was BARON, where we had the best Brussels sprouts known to man. We also enjoyed simple street food – from the most colourful and healthy grilled vegetables and amazing fresh fish and meats to fantastic juices and even Lebanese wine – and one day, we stopped with our guide at a local breakfast joint and feasted on falafel, which still lingers in my memory.
Colourful Lebanese street food
A really good, informative guide is key to all the trips we design, and our experience in the city absolutely lived up to our high expectations, with excellent visits to the Beirut National Museum, the American University of Beirut and the Sursock Museum. There are a never-ending number of galleries for art lovers to savour here, and we know the best ones to explore as well as the most inspiring and informative guides to bring them to life.
Beirut has a wealth of culture and history to digest
We, at cazenove+loyd, would really recommend four or five nights in Beirut. There is so much to see in Lebanon, and being such a small country, there is a great deal you can do both in and around Beirut, using the city as your base. I feel that this friendly, vibrant country, despite what is going on with its neighbours, is a must. It is both a brilliant combination with Jordan for a longer trip and a fantastic standalone destination.