A land of golden beaches and stunning mountain landscapes. Landscapes that change with the seasons, but are always bathed in the warm sun. The daylight rising over Lebanon brings endless opportunities of fun, beach, nature and outdoor activities. You’ll never know what to choose. Whatever it will be, an unforgettable time awaits you under the shiny Lebanese sun.
Lebanese hors d'œuvres, or mezzes, are the savory beginning to a traditional meal and typically include hummus (puréed garbanzo bean dip), baba ghanoush (purée of eggplant), tabbouleh (parsley and cracked wheat salad), stuffed grape leaves, fatayer (triangular pastries stuffed with meat or spinach), and lebneh (yogurt dip with garlic). Hot pita bread, small bowls of olive oil, and fresh herbs accompany these dips and salads.
Main dishes follow and could include any or all of the following: kibbeh (minced lamb, bulgur wheat, onions, pine nuts prepared in different ways), half of a chicken with rice, grilled chicken or lamb on skewers, or fish served with tahini sauce.
Platters of fresh fruit and bowls of roasted pistachios or almonds cleanse the palate. Desserts are traditionally sweetened with honey, jam, dried fruits, or molasses, such as baklava (a phyllo dough pastry layered with honey or molasses and crushed pistachios) and maamoul (crunchy biscuits stuffed with nuts or dates).
Of course, no meal is complete without the national drink, arak. Arak is an anise-flavored liquor similar to Pastis (the French version), Sambuca (the Italian version), or Ouzo (the Greek version). It is drunk as an aperitif or with mezzes and main dishes.
Lebanon's great food culture is thought to be a major contributor to the success of its wine. After all, excellent wine is best complemented with suitably inspiring food. Although inhabitants of modern-day Lebanon have produced wine for over 4,000 years, the past decade has witnessed a rebirth in the wine's reputation, with praise from British, French and other European importers. Compared to other wine producing countries, Lebanon's production is very modest - 6 million bottles annually. Nevertheless, exports have doubled over the past decade, and Lebanon currently exports 40 percent of the wine it produces.
Wineries are primarily found in the Békaa Valley, where arid, sunny days and cool evenings create the perfect vineyard climate. Three big names in Lebanese wine are Châteaux Ksara, Kefraya, and Musar. They all produce wines that have won international acclaim in the wine press and in various competitions, and export a substantial portion of their wine to Europe, North America, and the Near East. Ksara is the oldest winery, founded in 1857 by Jesuit priests who brought vines from Europe. Kefraya is the largest winery, with vineyards that are 50 years old and a winery that is only 20 years old. Musar is located in an 18th century castle 15 miles outside of Beirut, but its grapes come from Musar vineyards in the Békaa Valley.
Other wineries include Château Fakra (Mount Lebanon), Clos St.Thomas (Békaa), Massaya (Békaa), Nakad (Békaa), and Domaine Wardy (Békaa).
Increasingly, Lebanese wineries are marketing themselves to tourists with guided tours of the wineries and vineyards, dinners, wine tasting, and special
Fall is harvest time in Lebanon, with cooler weather, fewer crowds, and scenic natural beauty.
Fall (October-November) brings cool, crisp weather that is perfect for taking in Lebanon's rich historical treasures. Temperatures range from 5-20°C (40-68°F) in the mountains and from 15-28°C (60-85°F) on the coast. Since these months are outside the summer and winter high seasons, there will be fewer crowds and better deals on accommodations.
Leisurely explore the country's numerous archaeological sites and historic monuments. Go on a hike in the Cedars forest or one of the nature reserves. Take a gastronomical tour of Lebanon, sampling regional specialties at the great restaurants scattered throughout the country. Don't miss wine tasting at the vineyards in the Békaa Valley, the citrus harvest in the South, and apple picking in the North.
Hire a small outfitter to take you on a trip along the ancient olive route to see the harvesting of the olives, learn how olive oil is pressed, and purchase Lebanese olive oil and luxurious olive oil soap.
Springtime (April-May) is one of the most pleasant times to visit Lebanon. The near perfect weather, 0-15°C (32-60°F) in the mountains and 15-25°C (58-72°F) along the coast, makes it a great time to discover Lebanon while soaking up the beauty of a Mediterranean spring.
Lebanon's archaeological treasures are on full display during the spring months, with snow-topped peaks in the background and bright wildflowers springing up amid the ruins. The Spring weather also makes it a fantastic time for outdoor activities. Varied terrain, scenic vistas, and historic environs combine to create unique trekking opportunities throughout the country. Particularly popular are hikes through one of the Cedar tree reserves (Al-Shouf, Horsh Ehden, Tannourine) or treks down into the majestic Qadisha Valley.
Lebanon also has great mountain biking, caving, rafting, and paragliding through spectacular mountains-to-blue-oceans landscapes. And, after a day of activities in the mountains or sightseeing on the coast, you can spend cool spring evenings sampling Lebanon's gastronomic delights at one of the country's many open air cafés and restaurants.
With sun and fun, mountain escapes, and cultural festivals, Lebanon's summer offers something for everyone.
Summer (June-September) in Lebanon is made for sun worshiping, beaches, mountain escapes, and cultural festivals. The clear skies and warm temperatures along the coast, 20-32°C (68-90°F), lure Lebanese and tourists alike to the waters of the Mediterranean. The atmosphere here is a mixture of trendy “see and be seen” and utter relaxation.
As usual, Lebanon offers tourists more than a traditional “sun and fun” vacation. When not soaking up the sun, visitors can soak up some history at a plethora of archaeological sites. For a change of pace, head to the mountains. Plenty of outdoor activities, including hiking, rafting, and mountain biking, await in the cooler mountain climes, 6-22°C (45-70°F).
For arts enthusiasts, summer is when Lebanon hosts a large number of festivals, featuring both local and international performers. The largest of these festivals are held at historic and archaeological sites, serving as breathtaking backdrops for performances. For example, the Baalbek Festival is hosted on the site of spectacular Roman temples; the Beiteddine Festival is held at a 200 year-old palace in the mountains of the Chouf; and the Byblos Festival takes place in one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
The international festivals attract premier talent in a variety of performance areas, ranging from opera or jazz to renowned dance companies and famous comedians. For festivals on a smaller scale with more of a local flavor, many villages throughout the country host summer fairs or festivals.
From the snow-covered mountains to the warm Mediterranean coast, Lebanon's winter is a season of contrasts.
From the warm Mediterranean coast to the snow-covered mountains, Winter (December-March) presents visitors to Lebanon with a host of contrasts. Winter along the coast is a mild affair, characterized by warm days and cool evenings, with temperatures ranging from 10-20°C (50-67°F). As such, it is a wonderful time to visit the many historical and cultural attractions along the coast, including the ancient cities of Jbail (Byblos), Saida (Sidon), and Sour (Tyre). Not only will you avoid the crowds, but you may actually find yourself as the solitary visitor to these ancient ruins.
The real draw during the winter, however, is Lebanon's winter sports. With six ski resorts catering to skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels, and kilometers of backcountry cross-country and snowshoe trails waiting to be explored, Lebanon has something for everyone. Winter is the rainy season in Lebanon, which translates into plenty of powder at the higher elevations where temperatures range from -5-5°C (25-40°F). If timed correctly, a visit during the tail end of the ski season affords visitors the opportunity to ski in the morning and take a relaxing swim in the Mediterranean in the afternoon.
The country's famous nightlife, entertainment, and shopping do not slow down during the winter months. There is also a popular classical music festival each February at the Al-Bustan Hotel which features renowned classical pieces and performers.
Fashionable and trendy, Beirut is the cultural epicenter of Lebanon. The city is bustling with life and oozing with charisma. Beirutis live life to the full, taking in all the city's gastronomic delights, ambience, and leisure activities until the wee hours of the morning. Between the time they leave work and the time they arrive home, a true Beiruti fits in shopping along Rue Hamra, a gallery opening, drinks with friends at a new bar, dinner around 10pm, and a Lebanese espresso, before hitting a nightclub in Achrafiyé around midnight.
Whether it's music and theatre, galleries, shopping, or dining that you're after, there is no end to the choices for those visiting Beirut.
Beirut’s new architecture – which includes contemporary high-rises, as well as Parisian-style buildings constructed in the old tradition with beautiful wrought iron work – blends well with the old. And the old can be very old. Visit the ruins of the Roman Baths near the Grand Serail, the Parliament building, the Al-Omari Mosque, and St. Georges Cathedral. If these sites captivate your interest, take a tour of the local museums. The National Museum and the American University of Beirut Archaeology Museum showcase antiquities from Lebanon’s past.
Shopping is a quintessential leisure activity in downtown Beirut. Lebanese track the European fashion trends closely in both interior design and clothing. Designer garments, jewelry, and accessories are introduced in Beirut first before they spread to the other Arab markets. Rue Hamra is a shoppers' paradise, with everything from stylish everyday wear and shoes to upscale evening wear.
Some of Beirut's home furnishings stores rival cutting edge retailers in Europe and the United States in terms of selection and interesting items. Visit Charme d'Antan in Achrafiyé, located on Elias Sarkis Avenue facing the Rizk Tower. For good bargains on old or replica furniture, visit Le Hangar de Denise in Horsh Tabet or try the flea market in the old streets of Basta Tahta. Carpets are also big in Beirut. Kabalan on the Salim Salam Bridge, Maktabi in Verdun, and Nalbandian in Achrafiyé are big names in new and antique carpets.
Lebanon supports its own echelon of fashion and furniture designers, artists, and photographers, whose work can be seen in galleries and shops throughout the city. Try Aishti, or visit one of the many designer stores in the Solidère region, to find the latest fashions.
The traditional crafts are also a big pull: hand-made olive oil soaps, Jezzine cutlery made from animal horns, boldly designed silver and gold jewelry, and hammered copper trays with arabesque designs are must-buys. Traditional crafts can be found at several artisanat shops throughout the city. There is a large Ministry of Culture-sponsored artisanat shop near the Corniche and a private artisanat shop on Rue Clemenceau, near the Gefinor Center.
Nightlife in Beirut merits a special note. The city is brimming with restaurants, beach clubs, centers for performing arts, music venues, movie theatres, a casino, and a number of discos, pubs, and bars. The best approach may be to get warmed up for your evening at one of Beirut's state-of-the-art health clubs, such as Lifestyles, near the Corniche, or the Spa Intercontinental, at the Phoenicia Hotel. Then check out the performance schedules while sipping a Lebanese espresso or enjoying a cocktail at a café in trendy Solidère.
If it's live music you're after, try the Blue Note on Makhoul Street next to AUB, or the bar, Strange Fruit, also located downtown. As its name suggests, the Blue Note specializes in jazz and hosts a variety of local and international talent. Strange Fruit is a funky establishment serving nouveau cuisine and headlining an eclectic mix of artists, from jazz to local alternative music bands. Head to Achrafiyé for atmospheric piano bars. Folkloric music and dance is the specialty of the restaurant Nahr Al-Founoun on the Pont de Nahr El-Kalb. The Lebanese National Conservatoire performs classical pieces, as well as classical Arabic and jazz music, at the Charles Khater Theatre at St. Joseph University. For seasonal big ticket performances, check out the schedule at the UNESCO Palace.
Theater is making a comeback in Beirut. The city boasts a number of theaters (Al-Madina, Monot, George V, Beirut Theater, Athenee) that showcase plays, music, dance, poetry and other theatrical arts. The Al-Madina Theater in Clemenceau was opened in 1994 by a well-known Lebanese actress, Nidal al-Achkar. The Beirut Theater is known for its avant garde approach, interweaving the dramatic arts with multimedia. At all the theaters, performances are in Arabic, French, or English, depending on the particular performance.
Lebanon has long been the center of the contemporary art world in the Middle East, renowned for the eye and skill of its artists. Nowhere is this more aptly displayed than at the Sursock Museum in Achrafiyé. The museum houses a collection of modern and contemporary Lebanese art and presents themed exhibits and international collections. If you're interested in starting your own private collection or just browsing, be sure to take in a gallery opening or view a collection. Beirut's galleries are too numerous to mention, but Galleries Zaman, Janine Rubeiz, and Aida Cherfan are a few of the well respected.
Nightclubs and Casino
For late night activities, try your luck at the Casino du Liban or "see and be seen" at one of Beirut's many happening nightclubs. Rue Monot in Achrafiyé is a hot spot for clubs and bars and the latest fad restaurants. Put on all your finery and dance to techno house, hip hop, or Arab Latin music until the wee hours of the night.
Cosmopolitan Beirut brims with cafés, pubs, and restaurants catering to a range of local and international tastes. Hotel breakfast buffets typically include juice, coffee, croissants, platters of fruit, yogurt, and a variety of hot and cold entrées, from omelets to cereal. If breakfast is not included in the price of your hotel room or you fancy going out, try Casper & Gambini. The stylish restaurant serves up European cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pain au chocolate, beignets (French doughnuts), and toasted bagels with a variety of fillings are breakfast specialties (US$1 to US$5).
For lunch or dinner, there are numerous outdoor cafes in the beautifully reconstructed Solidère area that revive the weary traveler with crêpes, sandwiches, salads, etc. (US$5 to US$15). Also in the Solidère area is Al-Balad, an atmospheric restaurant with outdoor seating serving excellent Arabic food (US$15). Off the Corniche (seaside road), one can find good Italian pastas, pizza, and salad at Caffe Mondo (US$8 to US$20), an outdoor café in the Phoenicia Hotel that can be accessed from the street. For Chinese and Japanese food, try Chop Sticks (Chinese, US$10 to US$15) or Scoozi (Italian/Japanese, US$25) both in Solidère.
If you're on the move or on a budget, Lebanese fast food places are all over the city. Each establishment tends to specialize in a few basics, such as shwarma and kebabs or sandwiches (US$1 to US$2). Look around for places that serve melted chocolate and banana for dessert. Achrafiyé is the trendy place to go for full-course Lebanese or European cuisine and a puff on the water pipe, nargileh, after dinner.
The official currency in Lebanon is Lebanese Pound LBP , and the USD