It is located on a hill in the eastern part of Beirut alongside the shore. Achrafieh is both a residential and commercial district characterized by narrow winding streets and prestigious large apartment and office buildings. It is a prime location for investment and tourism.
Until the 1930s, Achrafieh was largely composed of farmland owned and farmed by several Christian families that had ruled the country and the region for centuries. The Lebanese government, which at the time was under French Mandate, partitioned the land in Achrafieh to build roads and highways, forcing these families to eventually sell large parts of their land.
Achrafieh formerly was ruled by eight socially and economically prominent Christian families that formed Beirut's High Society for centuries: Fayad, Ferneini, Bustros, Sursock, Moukarzel, Trad, Tueini, and Araman.
The area is divided into numerous smaller neighborhoods. Its most prominent ones include St Nicolas (where important buildings include the Sursock House, Sursock Museum and the Sofil building) and Tabaris (among its important buildings: 812 Tabaris, Achrafieh Tower, Yared buildings, Metropolis, and L'Hermitage building).
During the Lebanese Civil War, which started in 1975, Achrafieh became a major strategic base for Maronite forces. Large numbers of Lebanese Forces militiamen were stationed there, led by Bachir Gemayel, and as such formed part of Christian East Beirut.
It was announced on August 13, 2009 that Achrafieh's neighborhood of Sodeco would be home to Lebanon's tallest tower, Sama Beirut. When the project is completed in 2014 it will be Lebanon's tallest project, standing at 200 meters.