Even before Lebanon gained independence from France in 1943, those in-the-know referred to Beirut as “the Paris of the Middle East.” Wealthy travelers flocked there for the high culture, the exquisite shopping and the trendy restaurants. Then a brutal civil war ignited in 1975. That lingered until 1990. In the intervening 15 years much of the country’s cultural and historical sites were destroyed.
Happily, since the end of the war Lebanon has been (mostly) at peace and Beirut has undertaken a massive and aggressive rebuilding project to restore the city to its once-prominent position. Travel to Beirut today and you’ll once again see the companions with Paris.
That resurgence of Beirut has brought with it a resurgence of Beirut hotels, from modest budget accommodations to waterfront resorts. Here’s a review of the three best boutique lodging options:
Albergo Hotel Beirut
A quick drive from Rafik Airport and in the middle of the charming and traditional area called Achrafieh you’ll find Albergo Hotel Beirut. A part of the exclusive Relais & Chateaux group, the hotel is set in a 1920’s era city mansion. A 2006 remodeling turned the Albergo into the best of Beirut’s boutique hotels.
A stay at the Albergo puts visitors in walking distance to all of the nightlife of Gemmayzeh and Mono streets, next to Sodeco shopping, and a 15 minute walk to the ABC Mall. In addition, nearby are lots of shops and restaurants and several museums.
Albergo is one of the Beirut hotels that opt for high-end comfort by providing 33 lavishly decorated suites rather than a sparse and utilitarian room. Décor like Bohemian crystal chandeliers, original artwork, and antiques make the feel of the suites opulent. There are also Jacuzzi bathtubs and imported marble and porcelain.
Several restaurants are located inside the hotel, which is renowned for its food. One of them, the Terasse, is an open air restaurant on the roof, complete with lush plants all around and a beautiful view. Also on the roof is a beautiful swimming pool and terrace area for visitors. Some of the rooms have double French windows, pocket doors, and beautiful archways, as well as balconies to overlook the bustling city below. It would be nearly impossible to get tired of your hotel suite, as each room is completely different from the next.
Al Bustan Hotel
The coolest feature of the Al Bustan: the views! Perched high atop a hill, the Hotel Al Bustan is a landmark that can be seen from almost anywhere in the Beirut. And from the hotel guests get exceptional views, day or night, of the city, the Mediterranean Sea and the harbor.
The Al Bustan hotel is impeccably furnished with paintings of local and international artists, as well as lots of antiques. It is a peaceful place located five minutes from the Roman and Byzantine ruins.
Each year, the hotel hosts the Al Bustan music and arts festival, typically in February and March.
Le Gray Hotel
Some Beirut hotels are located in the historic center of the city, but one that also overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Lebanon is the Le Gray Hotel. The hotel is a short drive from the airport, walking distance to museums, restaurants, and archeological sites, and an hour’s drive to the ski slopes.
Newly built and designed by famous architect Kevin Dash, the Le Gray features large rooms decorated by Mary Fox and trendy interiors everywhere you look with an ultra-modern feel all around, and no two rooms alike. The hotel features an expansive spa and health club, a boardroom for meetings, designer boutiques and a number of restaurants. Gordon’s Café on the ground floor is open all day and serves light and healthy fare with a view of the city from inside or on the terrace.
On the rooftop, you”ll find Indigo, with an extensive wine list and exceptional glass wine cellar. Bar 360° offers live entertainment, a wide assortment of martinis, light fare, and stunning views of downtown. The Pool Lounge overlooks the rooftop swimming pool (highlighted purple at night) and the Mediterranean Sea, offering stunning views day or night and your choice or indoor or outdoor seating. There is also a lavish Cigar Lounge with the best international choices for cigar lovers.
Shokran to Denise Gabbard for guest writing this post. Denise is a professional writer with a passion for travel and learning about the history and culture of new places around the world. Find out more about Beirut Hotels before you reserve your flights.