Stay The Night: Phoenicia Hotel, Beirut

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

The Phoenicia, like Beirut itself, has emerged from civil strife to regain its reputation for good times, says James Litston

Appearances can be deceptive. With its polished façade and glitzy interiors, you'd never guess that the Phoenicia Hotel has just celebrated its 50th birthday – or that it's had such a turbulent history.

Throughout the 1960s it was the Mediterranean's most fashionable address, overlooking the marina. Then came 15 years of civil war, which devastated the city and saw the Phoenicia reduced to a burned-out shell. The hotel reopened in 2000 but was damaged again five years later when a massive car-bomb detonated right outside, killing the Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

But Beirut today is a peaceful place, and the city is fast regaining its reputation for a party spirit. The Phoenicia is also busily recapturing the essence of its heyday, investing in a multimillion pound renovation to bring it bang up to date.

Don't be fooled by its affiliation with InterContinental Hotels; this family-run property doesn't have the feel of a chain hotel. Thanks to Najib Salha (the grandson of the hotel's founder), the public areas have been given a seriously stylish overhaul; the chic, contemporary canvas is embellished with distinctive Middle Eastern touches, such as ornate lanterns and geometric patterns, to add a satisfying sense of place.

The end result is a thoroughly individual hotel with outstanding service and unfailingly charming, tri-lingual staff. And, judging from the other guests, the Phoenicia has already reclaimed its status as the hippest hangout in town.

The rooms

There are 446 rooms and suites occupying two separate towers. After the stylish lobby, my room in the Phoenician Tower seemed disappointingly drab. Although undeniably spacious, with a huge marble bathroom and good-sized balcony, the decor felt pallid and rather dated. That's all set to change next spring, however, when British designer Martin Hulbert is let loose on the guest rooms. As the creative force behind the Phoenicia's stunning lobby, his new-look rooms should be show-stoppers.

The food and drink

With seven restaurants and bars on site, there's little chance of going hungry. Start the day with a few laps of the breakfast buffet ($36/£23) at Mosaic, a bright, airy, space with views across the yacht-filled harbour. Besides the typical European dishes, try the manoush (like mini pizzas topped with thyme) and Lebanese mezze. By day, the poolside Amethyste lounge is ideal for lingering over lunch and a chilled glass of Ksara, the local wine. Dinner is served with more sea views at Eau de Vie, the top-floor destination restaurant that's also had the Martin Hulbert treatment. Expect high-end French food with a price tag to match (around $60 a head for three courses, without wine). Plus, there's an outpost of London's Whisky Mist bar in the basement.

The extras

The in-house spa is probably the best in town and there's a decent gym, though top billing goes to the fabulous outdoor pool area, where the sleek design and chilled-out beats feel more akin to Miami than the Middle East. Downtown Beirut and the bar-filled Ashrafieh and Gemmayzeh districts are an easy walk. Don't miss the Saturday morning Souk el Tayab farmers' market (soukel, where producers sell fruits, honey, pastries, pickles and hand-made crafts. Among the trips available further afield are visits to the Bekaa Valley with its well-preserved Roman temples at Baalbek and award-winning Ksara winery.

The access

Children are welcome. There are non-smoking floors. Five rooms have facilities for guests with disabilities. Wi-Fi access is free throughout the hotel.

The bill

Double rooms from $288 (£186) per night, room-only. Return flights from London Heathrow with BMI (0844 8484 888; cost from £454.

The address

Minet El Hosn, Beirut, Lebanon (00 961 1369 100,

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice