The Sursock Museum is currently closed for renovation until January 2022, following the Beirut blast. However the gift shop and restaurant are open, and the surrounding area is still one of my favourite places to while away a couple of hours in Beirut. The museum is tucked away on a quiet, tree-lined street in Achrafieh, dotted with vast private 19th-century mansions. Built by Lebanese aristocrat Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock, his impressive private mansion became a public museum in 1961.
The Sursock Museum hosts local contemporary artists, and there’s also a permanent collection showcasing Islamic and Ottoman works, plus Japanese woodcut prints. Even if art isn’t your thing, the building itself is worth seeing. Built in 1912, it has elements of Venetian and Ottoman styles which were popular in Lebanon at the time. One of the highlights is the Salon Arabe, a room used to host guests, with its intricately carved wooden ceilings and walls which were imported from Damascus in the 1920s. I also love the stained-glass windows decorating the front of the house.
If you want to skip the culture altogether, head for Resto, the glass-fronted café, try one of the refreshing mulberry lemonades and admire the sculptures in the courtyard. Despite being closed, the Museum is hosting occasional events. Check their Twitter feed for more information.