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Shopping in Beirut

The Lebanese love to shop, but ironically, Beirut is hardly a shopping paradise. Only a handful of international brands have outlets in the city, and their stocks are minimal. Nevertheless, there are bargains to be had, most of which are to be found in the markets rather than the malls.

Key areas

Saifi Village, just off the Place des Martyrs, is a rabbit warren of interesting boutiques selling pieces by local designers and craftsmen, and hosts the Souk el-Tayeb (Lebanon’s first farmers’ market) on Saturdays. The student quarter of Hamra is where you’ll find most of the shopping centres, while on the Rue Verdun in Downtown, you’ll be able to pick up a piece of designer gear. For vintage and knick-knacks, Gemayzeh is the place to go.

Markets

While the Souk el-Tayeb specialises in local food and wine, the Artisans du Liban et d'Orient in Ain El Mreisseh is the place to go for traditional craftsmanship and souvenirs. Expect to find traditional silver jewellery, handcrafted robes and brightly coloured handbags.

Shopping centres

Most Beirutis, if asked, will probably recommend ABC Mall in Ashrafieh. The mall is home to over 200 stores but has nothing particularly special to recommend it. The other is Verdun 732 on Rue Hussein El Ouayni. Also popular with locals, it hasn't much to offer beyond international high street chains and the odd local boutique.

Opening hours

Shops throughout Lebanon are open Monday to Friday between 0930 to 1830 Monday while on Saturday, they open from 0930 to 1400. Shops are closed on Sunday.

Souvenirs

Beauty fans shouldn’t leave without visiting Khan Al Saboun (www.khanalsaboun.net), which makes what is possibly the best soap in the world. Also worth buying is intricate silver jewellery.

A digital image at https://illuminoto.com

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Talal Hotel offers bright, clean rooms complete with comfortable beds for next to nothing. Better still, it's within striking distance of Gemmayzeh and Place des Martyrs. The atmosphere is lively and the hotel also has a communal kitchen. The result is friendly but a bit like living as a student.

Regis Hotel

At first look, you could be forgiven for thinking that you'd just pitched up at the Lebanese Fawlty Towers. However, staff are warm and welcoming, rooms are clean and the breakfast is excellent. All rooms have modern air-con, fridges and TVs, but better still is Regis' proximity to the Corniche.

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The Casa D'Or is a welcoming, comfortable alternative to functional budget hotels or the home-stays that dominate the lower end of the market. It's not especially glamorous but rooms are clean, comfortable and well appointed, and a decent breakfast is included in the price. It also offers low season discounts.

Hotel Albergo

If nothing but the finest will do, make Hotel Albergo your base. With just 30 rooms and a swimming pool, everything screams opulence, including the excellent rooftop bar, complete with fabulous views of the city. Rooms are themed in European, Oriental, colonial and Mediterranean styles, and the lovely Italian restaurant is also well worth a visit.

Pension al-Nazih

Close to the main sites, including the Place des Martyrs, Pension al-Nazih is a small 10-room budget hotel offering pleasantly comfortable rooms complete with cable TV and 24-hour hot water – neither guaranteed in Beirut. Rooms are plane and a little dated, but it's still an excellent budget option. Wi-Fi and breakfast cost extra.

Port View Hotel

It's no Hilton but the Port View Hotel is comfortable, clean and well appointed, which is more than can be said for many mid-range sleeping spots in the Middle East. Set a little off the beaten track in the quiet Gemmayzeh district, it's convenient for the main drag to but still peaceful.