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Things to do in Beirut

Forget the city at Pigeon Rocks

Pigeon Rocks is one of Beirut's true natural landmarks and a brilliant spot to seek out if you are finding the city a little claustrophobic (you wouldn't be the first). The two rock arches are just off the coast of Raouche; take the track from the cliff's southern side that leads down into the lower cliffs, where you can creep between shadowy cliffs and inlets. Aaaaaaaaand, breathe.

Hitch a ride to the sky in a cable car

Don't attempt this nine-minute cable car ride if you suffer from vertigo – although the unique view you'll get of the city definitely compensates for any discomfort. The Telerifque (tel: +961 9 936075; www.teleferiquelb.com) picks up from the bay of Jounieh, 16km (9 miles) outside of Beirut, and alights at the Our Lady Of Lebanon shrine in Harissa. Somewhat gallingly, there's a Burger King at the top.

Party on the site of a former prison camp

In a town renowned for its party scene, B018 (tel: +961 3 810 618) is its most controversial nightclub. Housed in the semi-industrial Karantina district, site of some of the worst atrocities during the civil war, it's said to be built on the site of a former Palestinian camp. Nowadays known as an after-party destination (don't go there before 2am), it has a sliding roof that opens up to reveal the rising sun.

Robert Mouawad Private Museum

This neo-Gothic palace (tel: +961 1 98 09 70; www.rmpm.info) is home to the vast collection of businessman Robert Mouawad. A cornucopia of art, jewelry, ceramics and antiquities, it is the best local museum to visit if you want to see classical Lebanese artifacts. The building it's housed in is just as impressive, and propped by gleaning Roman columns throughout.

Slap on those salopettes

Lebanon might not be up there with the Trois Vallees when it comes to famous skiing areas, but the Mount Lebanon mountain range is home to no fewer than six ski resorts, all within an hour's drive of the capital. Arguably the best is Faraya Mzaar Kfardebian (commonly known as Mzaar), which offers excellent skiing between December and April (tel: +961 70 103 222; www.skimzaar.com).

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City Highlight: Beirut

One of the oldest cities in the world, Beirut is an intoxicating mix of East and West.

Featured Hotels

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Casa d'Or

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.

Talal Hotel

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.

Le Gray

A remarkable 5-star hotel in the centre of Beirut, Le Gray offers 87 modern rooms bathed in natural light. The infinity pool overlooks the city, while the spa, bar and restaurant could all be destinations in their own right. LCD TVs, Wi-Fi, fresh fruit and flowers are all part of the deal, Mediterranean and Mount Lebanon vistas included.

InterContinental Phoenicia Hotel

When you're looking to rub shoulders with Beirut's A-list, this prestigious hotel is the play to stay. It certainly looks the part with acres of marble floor, draped silk curtains and gold gilt fitting. Plus, it has some of the best facilities in town, including an excellent gym and pool area.

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.