by Bianca Ohannessian
Urban meets aquatic along the beautiful coastal walk that winds its way around the western edge of Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut.
Lined with palm trees and looking out across the glistening Mediterranean Sea, a stroll along the attractive Corniche walkway is a great way to spend an afternoon in Beirut. You’ll find locals jogging, fishing or lounging on the rocks enjoying a shisha pipe, as well as visitors taking in the sights.
Although the scars formed by decades of civil war are still visible in Downtown Beirut, the city has begun to rebuild itself. Bullet-riddled buildings now stand next to sleek, modern architecture. Beirut has also begun to regain its reputation as an exclusive holiday destination. Dubbed the Paris of the Middle East, a rich history, restaurant culture, luxury nightclubs and stunning natural scenery have helped to attract visitors in search of a city break experience with a uniquely Lebanese flavour.
If you want to explore Beirut but need a break from the hustle and bustle of the heart of the city, then head to the calm Corniche. Taking a stroll along the sun-soaked seafront, you’ll find lots of reasons to stop and admire the views along the way.
Escape the hectic city traffic with a visit to the tranquil marina area, where a collection of mega yachts cluster together around Zaitunay Bay. A wooden walkway leads the way along the waterfront as palm trees tower overhead. The chic marina is lined with a string of contemporary cafes with outdoor seating where you can relax and watch the world go by.
Saint Georges Hotel
A hot spot for the rich and famous in its heyday, the famous Saint Georges Hotel was designed by French architect Auguste Perret and the building dates back to the 1920s.
Even though the hotel was damaged during the war and has not yet been fully restored to its former glory, it still represents a piece of history with past guests including heads of state, international film stars and the glitterati of the 1960s and 1970s. And although the hotel part is not open, you’ll still find people lounging on the pool-side terrace with views of the marina.
If you can rustle up enough people to form a team of pawns and other chess pieces, then why not pause for a game of giant chess? Designed by artist Lena Kelekian, the huge chess board covers part of the pavement and is detailed with colourful tiles pieces.
Or, bring along your own chess pieces and strike up a game on one of the built-in boards you’ll find on the many mosaic benches lining the walkway. Even if you’re not a chess player, the benches provide a welcome rest spot to admire the sea views and soak up the atmosphere.
Stop off for an ice cream and try quintessential Lebanese flavours, such as fragrant rose or mastic. Portions are often extremely generous and come fully loaded with a choice of toppings. Go for a coating of crushed pistachio nuts for a traditional twist.
The magnificent rock formation in Raouché, known as Pigeon Rocks, is a photo opportunity waiting to happen. The beautiful natural archway sits in the sea just off the coast and the silhouette looks especially stunning at sunset against a backdrop of orange and pinks.
This part of the coast is dotted with clifftop restaurants and cafes where you can enjoy fantastic views of the rocks and seaside scenery.
Beirut is unique in that you can choose to go skiing in the snow-capped mountains or swimming in the sea, all within 20 minutes of the city. There are several beaches along the coast of Beirut, including Raouché Beach, just a little way past the Pigeon Rocks.
Most of the beaches are private so expect to pay an entrance fee. With average temperatures reaching over the 20°C mark from April to November, and sea temperatures that remain warm for most of the year, there are plenty of beach weather days to enjoy.
Of course, there is so much to explore within the lively city of Beirut, from museums housing ancient treasures to some of the finest foodie spots in the world. However, a leisurely stroll along the lovely seaside boulevard is a wonderful place to start.