Phoenicia Hotel Beirut review: downtown luxury in Lebanon’s capital city
Once known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’, Beirut offers everything for a perfect weekend break
Described as the “wild child of the Middle East” by Time Out, Lebanon’s capital city Beirut certainly has a varied history - both culturally and politically.
Located on the eastern Mediterranean, Beirut is most definitely an “east-meets-west” metropolis that combines a broad spectrum of cultures and influences.
Historically Beirut is one of the world’s oldest cities where inhabitants first settled more than 5,000 years ago. In the downtown area of the city there are remains from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman eras. Lebanon was also a French colony after the First World War.
However, Beirut is mostly known for its Phoenician history. The city’s name is said to have been derived from the Canaanite-Phoenician word for wells - be’erot - while another theory is that it’s named after Beroe, the Phoenician daughter of Adonis and Aphrodite, says the Lebanon-based website The961.com.
This mixed history, the inspiration of past civilisations and the use of three languages - Arabic, French and English - makes modern-day Beirut the ultimate melting pot. Add in the food, wine, music, fashion, sun and ski, it’s a perfect weekend destination for any time of the year.
Beirut’s Central District, or Centre Ville, was all but destroyed during the Lebanese civil war between 1975 and 1990. But less than 30 years later it’s been regenerated with a plush new shopping and entertainment district. There’s also high-rise offices, residential towers and the Zaitunay Bay marina featuring a host of restaurants, nightlife and moored yachts.
The Beirut Souks district is home to more than 200 shops and 25 restaurants as well as attractions such as Cinemacity, Planet Discovery - the first permanent children’s museum in Lebanon - and Cosmocity - a “futuristic entertainment centre” filled with games and activities.
Besides the hip souks you will also find the remains of Beirut’s past civilisations including the 9th Century wall and moat, Byzantine mosaics and the Zawiyat Ibn Iraq Mosque built in 1517 by Mohammed Ibn Iraq ad-Dimashqi. Beirut Central District is also home to Martyrs Square and the Mohammed Al-Amine Mosque.
Downtown Beirut really is the “phoenix from the flames”.
One of the most recognisable landmarks within walking distance of downtown is the Phoenicia Hotel Beirut. Inspired by the Phoenician culture and art, the 446-room hotel has a range of restaurants and bars that are used by guests, locals and businessmen and women. Views, bites and pool-side relaxation
Lebanon is famous for its food, so it would be wrong not to over-indulge at the hotel’s bars and restaurants.
Guests can enjoy sea views, cocktails, bites and single malt whiskies on the rooftop Eau De Vie Lounge Bar and Grill. The Mosaic restaurant offers international and Lebanese menus while the Cascade Lounge Bar is open all day for coffee, tea and cocktails.
During the daytime guests can relax at the Amethyste Pool Bar and Lounge for drinks, shisha, bites and entrees. Then at night, you can enjoy a cocktail and, on the weekends, dance the night away to music from a rotating roster of local and international DJs.
Relax and recuperation
If it’s a home-from-home you are looking for then the Phoenicia Hotel Beirut is a perfect place to relax.
Every Sunday the hotel hosts a night swim where guests can take a dip in the pool before settling in for a blockbuster movie.
Screen fans have also enjoyed films inside at the “Grand Stairs Cinema” - Beirut’s newest theatre which made its debut in January.
If swimming outdoors is not your thing then head inside to the spa and wellness centre. There’s an indoor pool, 24-hour fitness centre and various classes including zumba and yoga.
A base to explore the city
Perfect for weekenders, the Phoenicia Hotel Beirut’s proximity to the center of town means there’s so much to do just a short walk away.
By taxi, you can explore Beirut’s other lively districts. Head to Gemmayzeh for bars and restaurants, Hamra street for shopping and cafes or go along the corniche to enjoy shisha and fresh seafood with views of the picture-postcard Raouché Sea Rock.
Things to do in Beirut and Lebanon
Places to visit in Beirut
- Beirut Souks
- Gemmayzeh Street
- Zaitunay Bay
- Rouche Rocks
- National Museum of Beirut
Day trips away from Beirut
If you have a few days to spare on a trip to Beirut, it’s worth heading to some of Lebanon’s historical sites such as Byblos and Baalbek or explore its natural wonders like the Jeita Grotto or The Cedars of God forest in Bsharri mountain. See Destination Lebanon for more information.
Red, white or rosé?
Don’t forget your ski gear…
It’s an over-used slogan but did you know you can actually “ski in the morning and swim in the afternoon”? Beirut is located on the Med, but jump in the car for a couple of hours and you can hit the slopes for ski and snowboarding. The season runs from December to around April and ski resorts include Faraya, Mzaar Kfardebian and Cedars. See more at Ski Lebanon.
Getting to Beirut
Flight time from London to Beirut is on average 4hrs 35mins. Two airlines fly between the two cities, Middle East (MEA) and British Airways.
How to book the Phoenicia Hotel Beirut
- How much: standard room start at £272
- Rooms: 446 rooms and suites
- Facilities: bars and restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, spa and wellness centre, business centre, grand stairs cinema
- Website: phoeniciabeirut.com