Top 10 Things To See And Do In Beirut's Central District

Andrew Ricca

Beirut Central District is the financial center of Lebanon, as well as the historical and geographical center of its capital. Severely damaged during the 15 year long civil war (1975-1990), it’s reconstruction constitutes one of the most ambitious urban redevelopment projects anywhere in the world. Now nearing its completion and successfully enjoying a vibrant second lease of life, here are 10 sights and activities to pursue in unique juxtapositions of old and new Beirut.

Nejmeh Square

1. Robert Mouawad Private Museum


Beirut Souks
© rabiem22/Flickr
The Robert Mouawad Private Museum in Zokak el-Blat quarter was used as a private residence up until 2006. Its present owner, businessman and jeweler Robert Mouawad, then converted this neo-gothic palace, first erected in 1911 by Lebanese politician and art collector Henri Philippe Pharaoun, into a museum housing its first owner’s eclectic collection of aesthetic and historical objects, including Byzantine Mosaics, Roman marble sculptures, Chinese porcelain, Christian icons, manuscripts and a carpet collection – all of which is housed within rooms adorned by decorative 19th century wooden panels.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun, 09:00-17:00

Saifi Village – Quartier des Arts

The New-Urbanist style neighborhood of Saifi Village is finished with cobblestone streets and flowery gardens around every corner. A walk through this upscale residential area, planned by French urbanist Francois Spoerry under the auspices of reconstruction company Solidere, takes you past pastel colored façades modeled on colonial Ottoman architecture. It may very well give off a sense of artificiality reminiscent of a film set, but if that doesn’t make it enough of a draw, a visit to the many antique stores, art galleries, and quirky Lebanese design boutiques situated here, should.

Grand Serail and Hamidiyyeh Clock Tower

Serail Hill Ottoman Monuments

With intermittent views of the Mediterranean Sea down below, Serail Hill is home to some of Beirut’s best preserved Ottoman structures. Due to security concerns, the roads around the Grand Serail, a monumental Ottoman-era building housing the Prime Minister’s headquarters and spread across 39,700 sq. m at the highest point of Serail Hill, may not be easily accessible. Thankfully, the lobed arches and austere vision of its majestic 80m façade can be appreciated from afar. Adjacent is the Hamidiyyeh Clock Tower; first erected in 1897, then the highest structure in the city, and the premises of the Council for Development and Reconstruction.

Grand Serail, Majidiye, Beirut, Lebanon

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