The Mediterranean nation of Lebanon is the warm, beating heart of the Middle East. Despite its periodic times of strife, the country has remained one of the most beautiful and alluring spots to visit in the region, and the world, thanks to its endearing culture, cuisine and landscape of pine forests, ancient ruins and cool beach towns. At the centre is the capital Beirut, a pioneer in the Middle East’s gastronomic and gallery scene and the region’s nightlife capital. The city’s warmth and creativity is apparent in its bevvy of cool boutique hotels, which channel Wes Anderson frivolity and boast rooftop pools, killer cocktail bars and fragrant, shaded gardens. Here are the best Beirut hotels, and the hotels worth leaving the city for.
Best Beirut hotels for 2023
Arthaus Beirut has come a long way since the fateful day it was due to open. The historic, 25-room property – the baby of former hedge fund manager Nabil Debs and his wife Zoe – was due to launch the same day the tragic ammonium nitrate explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital, and so prompted more years of restoration to the property. In the years that followed, the couple has worked tirelessly to restore the boutique property to its glory, and the result is a breathtaking Ottoman-inspired retreat that centres around a large garden courtyard with a swimming pool and garden. Arthaus Beirut is arguably the most charming of Beirut hotels, located off bohemian Gemmayze’s main street and capturing the city’s artsy and vibrant spirit. Rooms have lofty arched ceilings, exposed stonework and earthy-hued furnishings, with original tiles and windows, and some have terraces overlooking the garden and separate living spaces. Dining takes place in the stunning courtyard with its jumble of wrought iron tables positioned under the Lebanese sun, and breakfasts include traditional Lebanese fair like foul mudammas and labneh. Dinner is more of an occasion with creative cocktails and dishes. There’s a spa area housed in two excavated vaulted rooms and a fitness suite.
Wes Anderson would certainly approve of Albergo Hotel – a colourful, all-suite boutique hotel housed in a historic buttercup yellow apartment block in the east of the city. The beautifully restored boutique hotel is a visual feast of colour and original design touches – think high-ceiling rooms, a vintage-style elevator that shudders as it travels between floors, ornate arabesque touches and tiling and a stunning rooftop with city views and a swimming pool – the latter setting the scene for hedonistic parties. Lebanese breakfasts are served on the sun-soaked terrace or in the ornate all-day cafe, and highlights include zataar manoush, homemade granola with the thickest local yoghurt and creamy labneh with za’atar, honey and olives. The hotel is a hotspot for dining in the city and attracts a crowd of pretty young things for the Ottoman-inspired The Restaurant, green oasis The Terrace and sultry The Swim Club serving killer cocktails. All 33 suites are individually designed in a Lebanese-oriental style and feature old-world, boudoir-style touches, antique furnishings and a treasure trove of other pieces, complemented with a bathroom stocked with Dead Sea products and handmade local soaps.
Four Seasons Hotel Beirut (temporarily closed for renovation)
For modern luxury and the facilities of a global hospitality giant, the best Beirut hotel is Four Seasons Hotel Beirut. Located in the city’s downtown district, close to Beirut’s historic and bustling markets, Zaitunay Bay marina and the brilliant blue Mediterranean Sea, the five-star hotel is best known for having the highest rooftop pool in the city, which is the ideal spot for sundowners, Asian-inspired bites and lazy days with a book. Aimed at a more mature crow, guest rooms are spacious and typical of the global group – with luxurious furnishings, neutral colour palettes and those iconic Four Seasons beds – and there’s a fantastic spa and fitness suite with views overlooking the marina and ocean. Five dining outlets keep guests fed and watered – including sumptuous The Grill with Lebanese classics and prime cuts of steak, laid-back shisha terrace Arabesque and the bright and elegant Lobby Lounge serving traditional afternoon tea.
Villa Clara (temporarily closed)
Villa Clara is a charming family-run hotel in the Lebanese capital, tucked away in a 1920s building in the trendy, hipster neighbourhood of Mar Mikhael. The property is home to just seven artfully designed rooms, decorated in warming pastel shades with original pieces of artwork, and, more impressibly, affordably priced for the visual feast that awaits. The property is bursting with character and charm, and guests won’t want for photograph moments, thanks to high ceilings, hand-painted silk wallpaper, mosaic marble floors, freshly cut flowers and bespoke damascene chandeliers. A stay at Villa Clara feels more like staying in a beautiful private home than a hotel, with the warmth of the artwork and furnishings translating down to the atmosphere and ambience. There are two shaded gardens, a cocktail and wine bar and a tasteful on-site French restaurant serving seasonal cuisine. It’s a short walk from the property to the contemporary Nicolas Sursock Art Museum, keeping with the hotel’s artsy theme.
Best hotels in Lebanon
Travel outside the capital, and you’ll find a country filled with outstanding natural and manmade beauty – of golden beaches, pine-covered mountains (some with ski resorts) and cities with fascinating ruins from antiquity. Sitting 1,000 meters above the coast in the preserved village of Batroun is Beit Douma, one of the most beautiful hotels in Lebanon and a grounding and restorative retreat from Beirut. Perched atop a mountain surrounded by olive groves, the traditional Lebanese home-turned-design-led boutique hotel dates back to the 18th century and has an original Summaqi stone floor in the library – filled with cookbooks and other reads. There’s an unrivalled sense of peace and being at home, from the hot coals that hear the room in the cooler months to the open and bright kitchen where homemade breakfasts (complete with fresh bread baked in the Tabouneh) and dinners are served, and guests convene at the tea and coffee counter. There are just five beautifully decorated, yet simple, rooms, the largest being on the ground floor, complete with a terrace. All rooms have organic bathroom amenities and rustic cotton bedding. Gardens are abundant in laurel and jasmine, and views of Tripoli and the Mediterranean are mesmerising. This is a hotel that’s worth making the road trip for.
Rooms from AED480 a night; hotelibanais.com