Things to do in Beirut if you have a Beirut Airport Layover or Extended Beirut Airport Stopover
If you have a layover at the Beirut Airport, consider taking the opportunity to get out and about to see the local sights. Beirut was once the self-proclaimed "Paris of the Middle East" and it still has an outdoor cafe culture with European architecture, so it is really worth seeing if you have the opportunity.
As the city is quite compact, walking is the best way of getting around. Most people will walk within certain districts and take cars/taxis to get from one district to another. Many Beirutis (as well as other Lebanese) speak French and/or English, to varying degrees, along with Arabic.
Take in a Museum
There are several good museums to choose from, including:
- National Museum Of Beirut (South Ashrafieh District). About 1,300 artifacts are exhibited, ranging in date from prehistoric times to the medieval Mamluk period mainly dealing with Lebanon's Archeology and History. Closed Mondays and Holidays.
- Sursock Museum (Ashrafieh District) was ranked #7 of 112 things to do in Beirut by Lonely Planet travelers. The building itself is a perfect example of the typical 18th century Lebanese palace. Lebanese and International contemporary modern art is permanently displayed in the intricately preserved interior. Expansion underway, due to be completed end of 2012 (check before visiting).
- Beirut Art Center (Sin El-Fil District) was the first non-profit public space in Beirut, housing an exhibition space, screening and performance auditorium, bookstore, mediatheque, cafe and terrace. Contemporary modern art. Designed by architect Raed Abi Lama.
Soak up the sun at a Beach Club
Soak up the sun in one of the beach clubs on the Beirut coast. Very few actually have sandy beaches, and most unfortunately have been converted into spas with swimming pools and paved terraces, but despite all that, they all have access to the sea. A few of them are completely private and members-only, but can be accessed by paying for a guest ticket if going in with a member. The Saint George Yacht club in Ain El Mreisseh and the Riviera Beach and Yacht Club at the Riviera Hotel are two such popular clubs, where access to the beach club for non-members is US$20 per day. You can chill in one of the pools or have a drink at the bars and cafes while listening to music in the afternoons. Long Beach Club is another good place. The entrance is just to the left of the Ferris wheel on the Cornich right before the hill. Bring a beach towel.
See the Pigeon Rocks
Pigeon Rocks (Rawcheh District): A monumental natural arch jutting up from the Mediterranean. Great place to sit at one of the roadside cafes and watch the sun set.
Walk the Cornich
Walk, jog, skate, cycle, stroll (or whatever you consider exercise) along Paris Avenue which links up to General De Gaulle Avenue (both locally known simply as the corniche) which stretch around the entire Central Beirut perimeter (approx. 5km). Start the walk, jog, skate etc. at the Beirut marina (Downtown Beirut District) about an hour or so before sunset and finish at the Pigeon Rocks in time to watch the sun go down while sipping on a drink at one of the outdoor cafés.
Visit the Jeita Grotto
Jeita Grotto is a compound of crystallized caves in Lebanon located 20 km north of Beirut in the Valley of Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River). This grotto is made up of two limestone caves, upper galleries and a lower cave through which a 6230 m long river runs. Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river. In this cave and galleries, the action of water in the limestone has created cathedral-like vaults full of various sizes, colors and shapes of stalactites and stalagmites, majestic curtains and fantastic rock formations. The total length of the cave is more than 9000 m and there is one among the biggest stalactites in the world hanging 8,20 m. The grotto accommodates a huge hall with a distance of 108 m from the ceiling till the water level.
Tip: Anything goes in Beirut. Shorts and T-shirts are perfect for the summer heat, for both men and women, however you should cover up if visiting religious sites, such as mosques and churches.
As always, make sure you leave plenty of time to get back to BEY Beirut International Airport and clear security in time for your connecting flight. Enjoy your transit city rather than whiling away the time leaning up against your luggage in the departures lounge.
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