Hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray (One Aldwych, in London; Carlisle Bay, in Antigua) has fallen in love with Lebanon’s gritty capital, which is why he chose to open his latest property there. Designed by British doyenne Mary Fox Linton (along with Campbell Gray), the 87-room Le Gray (doubles from $360) faces the Hadiqat As-Samah, a garden in central Beirut. Here, Campbell Gray shares his favorite places in the city.
Set in an old villa on the seafront, Casablanca (brunch for two $60) has excellent fresh fish and lobster, and the produce is all organic. Come evening, I like Karam (dinner for two $100), designed by Christian Liaigre; it has delicious Lebanese meze. Or, overlooking the Bay of Jounieh, just outside the city, Chez Sami (dinner for two $120) serves regional specialties such as tabbouleh and hummus.
Spend an afternoon exploring Beirut’s religious architecture, including Amir Assaf Mosque (Weygand St.) and St. George’s Cathedral, an 18th-century Greek Orthodox sanctuary built atop the ruins of a Byzantine church; both are near Nejmeh Square. For the best shopping in town, don’t miss Marad Street, in the Bourj Hammoud district. Boutiques there sell everything from spices to traditional jewelry.
For a fun Saturday night, the place to be is the open-air Sky Bar. DJ Jojo spins great dance music until the late hours.