Le Gray Beirut: the way a top hotel should be
Famous hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray opened Le Gray Beirut hotel in October 2009 in the heart of the city’s Central District. Le Gray was one of the most eagerly and long-awaited hotel openings of 2009 and when British taste-maker Campbell Gray (One Aldwych, Carlisle Bay) chose Beirut as the site of Le Gray, his first new hotel in almost a decade, the travel world took note. While mired in the perpetual civil war that lasted a generation and made the city’s name synonymous with urban war, the new Beirut seems bridged in to a gilded past with a visual French accent.
Le Gray’s location is on Martyrs’ Square in the heart of Beirut’s ever-hot Downtown and walking distance from Beirut Waterfront where locals strut catwalk beach fashions and tourists gorge themselves on minced lamb tarts and flatbreads before returning to the hotel’s Haussmann-inspired façade. This latest addition to the stable of CampbellGray Hotels, is housed in a sleek, impressive building designed by Australian architect Kevin Dash. With its traditional yellow-stone façade, Le Gray forms an integral part of the upmarket Downtown District of Solidere, once a battleground, now rebuilt on a grand scale.
The property, Beirut’s first design hotel, centres on a circular glass-domed atrium. The lobby is an intimate affair but packs a stylish punch thanks to a large illuminated wall of flowers and dragonflies. Le Gray Beirut captures the essence of Campbell Gray minimally chic design aesthetic with rooms that lean on the conservative side, as with most CampbellGray Hotels properties, with a neutral color palette and a stylish atmosphere that are combined with the attention of details, a great service, the captivating views, a superb location and the cutting-edge comforts. The hotel fits boutique travelers looking for a luxury edge popular with media and fashion travelers in lieu of the more business hotels-chain that caters to more of a financial crowd.
There are 87 spacious rooms and suites with large walk-in wardrobes. The decor is modern minimalism with bold sweeps of dusky pastel shades and wood panelling. This Beirut luxury hotel’s 87 rooms are cool with modern elements such as aqua televisions in the bathroom. The architecture by Australian Kevin Dash ensures all rooms and suites are soaked in Mediterranean sun, while the central floor-to-ceiling, glass-topped atrium means the building is filled with light from the inside out. The contemporary, clutter-free interior design is by Mary Fox Linton in close collaboration with creator, Gordon Campbell Gray. The palette includes pastel shades of blue, sage green or lilac, with dark grey tile and mosaic bathrooms. Original works by Lebanese, Syrian, Cuban and French artists from the hotel’s collection of 500 paintings make each room individual. All have hi-tech facilities, including iPod docks and deluxe espresso machines.
Considered among the best restaurants in Beirut, Indigo on the Roof is the beating heart of Le Gray Beirut. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the finest ingredients appear on the largely international menus, prepared in a dynamic, semi-open kitchen. Indigo on the Roof serves a fusion of international and Mediterranean dishes and it offers intimate lounge areas, covered and alfresco, all of which share spectacular sixth-floor views of the city. The Bar ThreeSixty for its 360-degree view of the Mediterranean and looming snowcapped Mt. Lebanon, is located at the top of Le Gray and it is one of the city’s hot new nightspots. Its color-lit tables and comfortable love seats are set around a gorgeous glass atrium. Gordon’s Café, on the ground floor, is an all-day dining outlet focusing on salads, steaks and pastries, it is ideal for relaxing over coffee after shopping in the area.
With the restaurant, the bar and the rooms in between, on the sixth floor, there’s also a rooftop pool that’s one of the sexiest in Beirut with its lounge area and both share the same magnificent views of the Mediterranean, Mount Lebanon and Martyrs’ Square that makes this luxury Beirut hotel stand apart. The vibrant poolside terrace with beautiful views of Beirut is perfect for early morning breakfast and basking in the sun but also for light food, fresh juices, smoothies and salads or eat in an air-conditioned lounge for the ultimate chill out.
Le Gray Beirut provides a Cigar Lounge, colourful and relaxed with comfortable chairs where enjoy the finest Cuban cigar collection and a great list of cognacs, single malts, whiskies and wines; a large gym with state-of-the-art Technogym facilities and the PureGray Health Club & Spa that includes six therapy rooms, including one couples’ room and one wet treatment room, a pre and post-treament chillout lounge, a hair & beauty salon and separate male and female saunas and lockers. At PureGray Health Club & Spa, they believe in the power of touch rather than machines to deliver a memorable Spa experience. From facials to lymph drainage to volcanic hot stone massage, several treatments to offer relax and wellbeing to each guest. They use Natura Bissé skincare specialists for facials and Tisserand organic aromatherapy oils for massages and body treatments. Moreover they also provide treatments devised specially for men, along with visiting practitioners in specific disciplines such as Reiki and Acupuncture.
Le Gray is located in the historic heart of downtown Beirut, 15 minutes drive from Rafic Hariri International Airport, in the smart Beirut Central District. Le Gray is a landmark five-star hotel in the heart of Beirut Central District overlooking Martrys’ Square. From 1975 to 1990, the area was razed by civil war. Now restored, the neighbourhood (known as Downtown) is the energetic soul of the city’s new identity. These days Beirut is considered the most liberated city in the Arab world, sitting as it does on the edge of the Occidental Mediterranean. Downtown is Beirut’s new Central District neighbourhood where everything happens and with Le Gray at its core, you are within a two-minute walk of the city’s shoreline, downtown luxury stores and the gastronomic lures of Gemmayze and Mar Mikhael neighbourhoods. Here the dazzling glamour, glitz and joie de vivre of modern Beirut plays out against a richly historic backdrop, from Roman to Phoenician to traditional Levantine.
Beirut is enjoying a growing revival of its reputation as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East. The city has survived a tumultuous history, with the country’s civil war nearly levelling it in the 1980s. Since then however, citizens have worked hard to restore the city’s image as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. Its diverse population includes more than 10 religious groups, and the majority have a reputation for being friendly and welcoming to tourists. The city’s architecture is a blend of French colonial buildings and religious structures sprinkled between modern skyscrapers and apartment buildings. Beirut is divided into several districts, including Ashrafieh, which is the focal point of Western culture in the city; Hamra, home to an abundance of shops and restaurants; Manara and Jnah, which are home to hotels and beach clubs; and Ramlet el Baida, which features the city’s only public and sandy beach.
The best time to visit Beirut is between April to November. This encompasses the spring, summer and autumn seasons of the city. Summer, like most Mediterranean coastal cities, is hot, humid and dry. This usually occurs between June to early September, with July and August being the peak tourist season in Beirut. Maximum temperatures average around the early 30° C mark, with August being the hottest moth of the year. Thus if looking to avoid the excessive crowds and relish the pleasant weather, the ideal time to visit is during the spring and autumn seasons. The former takes place during April to May and the latter between late-September to early-November. Whilst spring enjoys temperatures between 22° – 25° C, the autumn months experience temperatures in the range of 26° – 30° C, on an average. Winter in Beirut occurs during the months of December to March. This season is cool, with temperatures averaging between 16° – 20° C and also experiences the most rainfall in the year.