Every city has its legendary hotels. In London you might name check Claridge’s or The Ritz; in New York its the Plaza. In Beirut, it’s undoubtedly The Phoenicia. It had its grand opening in 1961 when the city was booming and it was known as the “Paris of the Middle East”, attracting the great and the glamorous from all over the world. Despite being closed for several years from 1975 when the onset of Lebanon’s civil war made the hotel part of a battleground, The Phoenicia was reopened in 2000 and to this day retains its reputation as the city’s most luxurious hotel.
We checked in for two nights recently, our first time in Beirut, and we were blown away by this city with its pretty streets, warm atmosphere and incredible food – you can read all our tips in our travel guide. Located right by the sea and within walking distance of many of Beirut’s most exciting neighbourhoods, The Phoenicia was a great introduction to the city, allowing us to hit the ground running in style.
As you might expect from a hotel opened in 1961, The Phoenicia is old school five star luxury in style and definitely harks back to Beirut’s golden age – a place for modern design tropes this is not. There’s a huge entrance staircase, neoclassical marble columns, fountains, chandeliers and an outdoor swimming pool that has a Roman-style mosaic on the bottom. It’s not stuffy however, and there’s a buzzy atmosphere in the public areas at almost all times of day with people milling about between the restaurants bars, gym, and spa – it’s a hotel that’s full of life.
The hotel’s 446 rooms are located in two different towers (a second one was added after opening as the hotel was so popular). We were happy to be in the middle ‘Roman’ tower with views looking directly out over the marina and out to sea, although some rooms in the other tower have little outdoor balconies so pick whatever is more important to you. Design-wise the rooms are in keeping with the rest of the hotel, firmly in the old school style but supremely luxurious nonetheless. We had a huge comfy bed, a writing desk, sofa, coffee table, thick carpets and a marble-clad bathroom with separate bath and shower.
Beirut is an incredible food city and The Phoenicia plays to this with five restaurants and bars including the newly-launched Italian, Rossini. In the mornings breakfast is served in the light-filled Mosaic restaurant and, having been lucky enough to eat some pretty serious breakfast buffets all around the world, we can definitely say that this is one of the best. Flat breads are made fresh to order by the baker, sweet knafeh is constantly replenished, and eggs come flying out of the dedicated station. Plus there’s fruits, salads, ham, cheese, pastries, juice, coffee and just about anything else you could possibly want for breakfast. It’s an absolute knockout.
We weren’t around in 1961 but it’s not hard to see why The Phoenicia became so popular and we’re just glad it’s still here today – given that the derelict remains of the Holiday Inn still stand next door, this was no guarantee in a city that’s lived through so many years of conflict. Thankfully, Beirut is now super safe and we really can’t recommend it enough.
Rooms start from £205 per night