Lebanon’s capital city was once known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. Unsurprisingly, a civil armed conflict lasting some 15 years had placed some strain on the moniker. However, since the nineties Beirut has been rapidly gaining back its reputation of a fun loving population and a cultural oasis in the broader region. Much of its charm, and its location on the Mediterranean coast, it had never lost. Here are 10 of the most exciting sights and activities to pursue in Beirut.
Beirut Central District
Beirut Central District is the name given to the city’s geographic, administrative and commercial center. Perhaps more significantly, it is an area which urban landscape speaks volumes of the country’s recent history. Much of the area surrounding Nejmeh Square, and the 1930s clock tower standing in its center, is testimony to the city’s post-war reconstruction efforts overseen by Solidere, one of the grandest urban uplift projects anywhere in the world. Straying only a couple of blocks from here you reach the ruins of the Roman Baths, and for a chance to witness the scars still visible from some of the civil war’s most intense fighting, head to Martyr’s square, itself in an ongoing process of redevelopment.
National Museum of Beirut
Sitting on the infamous Green line, the city’s front line during the civil war, the National Museum of Beirut suffered more damage than most. Now restored back to its full glory, it is once again home to the largest and most significant collections of archaeological artifacts in Lebanon, and of the most extensive anywhere in the Middle East. The 1,300-strong collection, housed in a building inspired by French design, ranges from prehistory up to the Roman and Byzantine period and the following Arab conquest. Highlights include intricately carved Phoenician sarcophagi belonging to the world’s most important collection. Address: National Museum of Beirut, Museum Street, Beirut, Lebanon.
Hamra Street, or as it known locally, Rue Hamra, is one of Beirut’s most important streets and commercial centers. From the sixties to the nineties it was home to intellectuals, journalists and artists frequenting a string of theaters and sidewalk cafes. Today it bears the marks of a shift in identity, aligned with western retail outlets, hotels and coffee shops, and also attracts large numbers of youths in its bars and clubs. A stroll through the entrance of René Moawad Garden situated on the same street makes for a quick shift in the pace of daily life on this busy street.
The word corniche knows few better referents than the one in Beirut. Encircling the city’s promontory for nearly 5 kilometres from St. George Bay to its end at Ramlet al-Bayda, this seaside promenade – first designed during the French Mandate period – gives extensive insights into the life of the city. Here’s the chance to spot Beirut’s wealthiest sitting at upscale cafés and in luxurious cars, with a backdrop of the Mediterranean sea on one side and the summits of Mount Lebanon on the other. A visit isn’t complete before reaching one of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Pigeon’s Rocks belonging to Raouché neighborhood.
Grand Omari Mosque
A visit to the Grand Omari Mosque takes you to the heart of Beirut’s layered history. Before being eclipsed by the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Al-Omari used to be the city’s most important one. The mosque knows its origins to antiquity; the foundations were first laid for the construction of a pagan Roman temple, later to be converted into a Byzantine church, and a later still a Crusader church. Mamluk rulers eventually established the present sandstone structure in the 13th century, though recent restorations have revealed many inscriptions from each period. Address: Al Omari Mosque, Majidiye, Beirut, Lebanon.
Saint George’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral
Situated on Beirut’s central Parliament square, and just above the ruins of the Roman law school, Saint George’s Cathedral sits on the same site shared by previous ancient and medieval churches, each of which were reduced to ruins by subsequent earthquakes. The present structure dates to the eighteenth century, making it the oldest extant church in the city. Following its restoration, it opened its doors once more in 2003. Remains and artifacts from three previous churches excavated and discovered on site are housed in a museum beneath the cathedral. Address: Saint Georges Greek Orthodox Church, Majidiye, Beirut, Lebanon
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.