As one of the oldest cities in the world, Beirut is as cosmopolitan and cultured as you’d expect. You’ll find a hipster farmer’s market in the shadow of centuries-old ruins; ancient mosques sat cheek-by-jowl with crumbling churches; and a population that’s both achingly cool and rooted in tradition. But alongside its food and culture, Beirut has something else to offer. On the edge of the Mediterranean, its beaches hold all of the glamour and less of the crowds of their European counterparts. Bear in mind, though, that there’s little in the way of public transport in Lebanon, so you’ll either have to hire a car or hop in a taxi to get to most places, and be sure to leave extra time for your journey.
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The only public beach in central Beirut is prime for people-watching
Best for Those looking for an instant cool-down – this is the closest beach to Beirut and the only public beach in the capital.
Getting there A 15-minute cab from the central Hamra neighbourhood.
Who goes City folk looking for a place to play volleyball on wide swathes of sand or take a dip along the 1.2km-long coastline.
Don’t miss A wander around Hamra on your way there. The streets are packed with niche coffee shops, hipster restaurants and cool boutiques.
Do try The nearby trendy Sporting Club, a beach club that dovetails a beautiful natural rock formation with crashing waves below. With some of the best views in the city, it’s the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon.
Pick up Before getting a cab back to the city, grab a wrap from the falafel shop on Rue de Rome, which does special blond falafel that are lighter and crispier than ones you’ll find elsewhere.
Find rocky coves and beach shacks at this seaside city
Best for Beachside aperitivos overlooked by rocky ruins that look poised to tumble into the sea.
Getting there An hour-and-a-half drive north of Beirut.
Who goes Out-of-towners looking to let off steam.
Don’t miss Orchid Lounge, where you can feel ultra cool by renting your own private sundeck or taking a dip in the ‘floating’ Jacuzzi. Jump off the jetty at Jammal restaurant on a tiny slice of beach. If you’re after a budget day out, the city has some of the best free beaches in Lebanon – a rarity in the country.
Do try For something more laid-back, head to Pierre & Friends, a restaurant and sailing club on a pebble beach, with a wooden bar overlooking the sea.
Pick up A glass of zingy RIMonade (lemonade), mind-blowing Lebanese ice cream and traditional sweets from Patisserie RIM in the city centre.
An ancient port city that now attracts a manicured see-and-be-seen crowd
Best for A well-established seaside summer resort.
Getting there An hour-and-a-half drive from the city, but a well-placed pitstop on the way to the wineries of the Bekaa Valley.
Who goes Preened Lebanese hunting for a summer breeze.
Don’t miss With seven millennia of human habitation, Byblos (Jbeil in Arabic) is considered to be one of the world’s oldest cities, with a gorgeous old town and Crusader castle to match.
Do try In the harbour, make sure you stop in at Byblos Fishing Club, also known as Pepe’s after its owner. The restaurant is a celebrity stalwart, and former guests include Brigitte Bardot and David Niven. For a restaurant with a less star-studded history (and more wallet-friendly prices) head to Bab el Mina next door, which has the same prime harbour views.
Pick up In the old town there’s a shop peddling spices, with sacks overflowing with cumin, rose petals, saffron and traditional sweets.
There’s water sports galore at this popular Beirut seaside resort
Best for Snorkelling around ancient ruins.
Getting there A two-hour drive south of Beirut, along the coastal highway.
Who goes Water babies and history nerds.
Don’t miss The nearby Al Mina UNESCO archaeological site, where you can snorkel (or scuba dive, if that’s your thing) around a submerged ancient harbour – a relic of Roman times – and explore city ruins that date back to the third millennium BC.
Do try Stop for lunch at Captain Bob, which has plastic chairs, a wooden terrace over the water and absolutely incredible fish and seafood.
Pick up If you’re still peckish, snack on a hearty meat sandwich loaded with salad from the market.
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Tahet el Rih
A slice of sun-bleached Mediterranean glamour
Best for A picture-postcard blue-and-white ramshackle beach resort that’s wonderfully vintage.
Getting there Just over two hours’ drive north from Beirut – this is one to save for a full day trip with the option of staying overnight.
Who goes Glamorous couples posing by beach club pools and pretending they’re in Mykonos.
Don’t miss A post-prandial stroll around the whitewashed town after diving off the cliffs into crystalline waters.
Do try Sweet cafés with seafood mezze and sea views, or the slightly more upmarket beach club Chez Fouad, with chimineas, a pool crying out to be Instagrammed and direct sea access.
Pick up Local sea salt, often referred to here as white gold. You’ll spot makeshift windmills dotted around the town that are used to pump sea water for salt extraction.