48 Hours in Beirut
Why it’s hip: Forget Milan, Paris and New York. They’re just soooo last decade. Post Christmas, if you’re planning a little January sales action, there’s no better place to pop off to than Beirut. Yes, you heard us right. Just a three and a half hour flight from the UAE and you can hit the tarmac in time for some serious credit card bashing – and a bit of culture, of course! On top of being a shopper’s paradise, Beirut is also famous for its party atmosphere (these guys never hit the hay before 6am) and Kodak-worthy scenery. Think dramatic old-world architecture mixed with mountains, vineyards and beaches. (NB to beach babes: Beirut is rather chilly in January, so save your monokini for a summer break to the city.)
Spend the day: A shopaholic’s dream destination, Beirut is jam packed with cute boutiques and swanky designer stores. Your first stop should be super-chic shopping district Souk of Beirut (beirutsouk.com). This new shopping hub is known for its little known boutiques like Dakessian Jewellery (dakessian.com), where you’ll literally be blinded by the bling, as well as high-end stores like Prada and Pucci. Those looking for a bargain, should head to ABC mall (abc.com.lb) where you’ll find every high street brand from H&M to women’secret. And if shops aren’t your style, there’s always Artisans du Liban et d’Orient (artisansduliban.com). This quaint market, in the centre of the city, is the one-stop shop for souvenirs. You’ll find everything from key rings and carpets to the less obvious bits like handmade mosaic boxes and one-off illustrations.
And the night: Whether you’re on holiday with your other half or leaving him at home for a well-earned break with the girls, book a table at Indigo on the Roof. This plush rooftop restaurant in Le Gray hotel (campbellgrayhotels.com) is located in the historical area of Beirut’s Central District, so you can marvel over the panoramic views of the city while enjoying the delicious Mediterranean fare. FYI, we recommend you try the grain fed beef – it’s a house specialty that will tickle your taste buds. After dinner, hit BO18 (b018.com) for some serious dancing and cocktails. On top of being the hippest hang out in town – think dim lighting and wall-to-wall beautiful people – this place has beats that’ll have the roof moving... literally! Once the party gets started, the ceiling opens up so you can dance under the stars.
Bed down: Splash out and stay at Le Gray (campbellgrayhotels.com). The brainchild of hotel design guru Gordon Campbell Gray, this hotel oozes contemporary style and chic minimalism, and the hotel’s signature bar, ThreeSixty, is not to be missed. Set around a glass atrium, the live music and extensive cocktail list (word is, they serve the best Bellinis in Beirut) should help you chill after a hectic day of retail therapy. Priced from Dhs1,200 (plus 10 per cent tax) including breakfast.
Getting there: Fly to Beirut with flydubai (flydubai.com) from around Dhs900 return.