Lebanon News

Off the beaten path: Best unique stays in Beirut

BEIRUT: Finding a hotel in Lebanon’s capital is an easy enough task, thanks to its tourism boom, but finding something a little different can be a bit harder. Here are The Daily Star’s top tips for the capital’s best unique stays. Saifi: Looking for a budget stay off the beaten path? Saifi Urban Gardens in Gemmayzeh is one of the only bargain stays in the city that also offer more than just a room and bed. The hostel’s rooms are sparsely furnished and lightly cleaned but can be had for well under $40 a night. The real draw is that the hostel is just one building in a complex that is part of the Gardens area.

Guests can leave their rooms and walk down to Café Em Nazih, a tucked away coffee house and bar that offers some of the cheapest food and drinks in Gemmayzeh and attracts locals as well as foreigners.

The roof of the hostel turns into the Coop d’Etat bar when the sun goes down, and there’s a music venue below the complex as well as picnic benches on the grounds. For foreign travelers the complex also offers an Arabic language school.Reservations for Saifi Urban Gardens can be made at: http://www.saifigardens.com/.

Hayete: A step up but still on the budget side, Hayete offers a personalized stay in the city. Hayete is a four-room guest house in Ashrafieh that caters to travelers who don’t need all the pampering of a posh hotel. Instead at Hayete the premium is on unique rooms and an immersing city experience.

“It’s a place where people come over, groups mainly, and they feel like it’s their own home,” says guide for the guesthouse Mike Salim Najjar.

The hotel’s four rooms have accents of art nouveau as well as traditional Lebanese styling and go for about $100 per night. But Najjar says the guesthouse isn’t for everyone, and the owners don’t cater to typical hotel travelers.

“It’s for people who want to really see Lebanon,” he said.Reservations for Hayete can be made online at: http://www.hayete-guesthouse.com/.

Albergo: For an upmarket stay with a difference, the Albergo offers 33 suites in an old mansion, each uniquely decorated, meaning no one stay is the same as another. The Albergo boasts having been the first boutique hotel in Beirut, and combines luxury with an eclectic charm, with prices ranging from $310 to $2,700 for the Royal suite. Ideally situated in the undeniably charming Monot area of Ashrafieh, it is also just a few minutes away from the glossy Downtown district.

The Albergo hosts acclaimed restaurants, including an Italian, Al Dente, and is home to a rooftop bar and pool with a fantastic view of the city.Reservations for the Albergo can be made at http://www.albergobeirut.com/.

Zico House: For something really different, Zico House is a cultural center in an old house in the Sanayeh district, a 30 second walk from the park of the same name, which hosts musicians and artists in its three rooms. To qualify, you need to be working on some kind of cultural project, whether in collaboration with Zico House, or individually, or be invited through one of the cultural NGOs the center works with.

“Any city should have some place for people, for artists, who don’t have money,” says Zico himself.

Once there, you are immersed in one of Beirut’s cultural hubs, with artists coming and going, and performances on a sporadic basis. Prices are not set, for more information call 01-746-769 or visit http://www.zicohouse.org.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 11, 2012, on page 2.

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