At one time, Beirut, the capital of the East Mediterranean nation of Lebanon, was the top tourist draw of the region. Known as the Paris of the East, it attracted the rich of the entire Arab region. While Lebanon has suffered greatly in the endless wars in neighboring Syria and Israel, it has picked up in recent years. Today, Lebanon offers visitors a modern Arab experience, together with a deep look at its carefully preserved history. Here are ten incredible places to visit in Lebanon.
1. The Corniche
The Corniche is a popular promenade area along the Beirut’s seaside. With a wide coastal Boulevard running along its length and the famous Raouché rock arching out in the distance in the sea, the Corniche is a wonderful spot to spend an evening when the place fills up with families and couples, out for a walk. While most people simply come to stretch their legs, for those who are more zestful, the Luna Park amusement park nearby is a great attraction. Pole fishing is another fun possibility.
2. The Temple of Bacchus
The Temple of Bacchus is a vast and ancient ruin built on the same architectural theme as the Parthenon of Athens. Dating to 150 AD, the temple at the time was originally dedicated to Venus. Today, the Temple of Bacchus is in much better repair than the Parthenon. Many architectural details have survived the centuries.
3. The Central District of Beirut
While the downtown area of Beirut is completely urbanized, its many historical sites are kept in well-preserved condition. The Garden of Forgiveness, the Roman Baths and Garden in the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, all have great historical significance. Other great attractions include the Castle Square, the site of the ancient settlement of Berytus, and the legendary Nejme Square. The central district has a modern side, too – it has fashionable boulevards and hundreds of modern stores for tourists to explore.
4. The National Museum
Beirut’s National Museum curates more than 1,000 archaeological exhibits from the country’s prehistoric and medieval past. The highlights of the museum’s collection include Phoenician statues of children dating to the 5th century BC, Byzantine gold jewelry and gilded figurines from Byblos.
Byblos is famous for being one of the oldest settlements of the region. The history of this small, coastal fishing town goes back 5 millennia. The ruins of the Crusader Castle are the top attraction in this town today. A walk around this medieval town can be fascinating, taking you past beautifully preserved streets and ancient stone houses, still lived in. For tourists, Byblos has great seafood and souvenir shopping.
6. Qadisha Valley
The Holy Qadisha Valley has been part of the Christian tradition for millennia. Ancient Christian monastic communities live there to this day. Owing to its cultural significance, the Valley finds a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Qadisha Valley is worth a visit for its natural beauty, too. With the Qadisha River running in a gorge between mountains on either side, the valley has beautiful groves of cedar trees, and is good for hiking in summer.
Tyre, in southern Lebanon, was one of the great trading centers of ancient times. Today, this ancient Phoenician city is famous for its ancient ruins: a hippodrome and harbor dating to 2750 BC. Tyre is far from simply a ruin, though; it is a busy, modern port city of more than 100,000 inhabitants.
8. The Jeita Grotto
The Jeita Grotto is a vast, interconnected cave system and subterranean river spanning many kilometers that finds a spot in the New 7 Wonders of the Natural World list. With a guided boat tour to take you past the cave system’s colorful rock formations, the Jaita Grotto is a great place to visit with the family.
Built on a mountain 50 km away from Beirut, Beiteddine Palace was established in the 19th century as the luxury palace of the local ruler, Emir Bechir Chehab II. With its spectacular Middle Eastern architecture, multiple courtyards, ornately decorated rooms and grand Middle Eastern baths, the palace is a must-see.
Along with Tyre, Sidon was world-famous in its time as a Phoenician trading city. Not much of the city’s castles survive today. The main city of Sidon, though, has a spectacularly preserved medieval city center where the markets and eating houses function as they have done for centuries. They offer a great look into the Middle Eastern Way of life.
Lebanon is one of the most beautiful countries in the world that offers many things to do and to see. Unfortunately, many people avoid visiting Lebanon because they think that this country is not worth visiting. However, from personal experience I can say that it’s worth visiting. Once you visit Lebanon, it’ll become one of your favorite places, I promise! Have you ever been to Lebanon? What are your favorite places to visit?