Pita Bread: Everything You Need to Know!
Did you know: Lebanese people do not commonly use the word “Pita”! In general, we just call it...Read More
Ahla w Sahla! Coming to Beirut for a visit? You might just make it your new home! 🤍🤗
And I am not saying this lightly. Many tourists come to Beirut for a short period, yet end up staying for much longer!
No matter how long you’re coming to visit Beirut for, make sure you check out these places!
And when you’re done with those, you can fill your cravings for discovery by reading my other article on Places to Visit in Lebanon.
I will start off the list of places to visit in Beirut with the Downtown!
Roman Ruins in Beirut Downtown near Martyrs Square
Close to the Grand Serail, right in the center of Beirut, the Roman Baths are a sprawling complex of ancient Roman ruins. Also, just nearby, you can see the remains of the 5 pillars that still stand in the old market square.
In Beirut Downtown, you can easily find the ruins of ancient cities, the remains of Roman temples and the pillars of modern buildings, dispersed in a strange harmony.
This square has a lot of historical significance to Beirut. Indeed, after 15 years of civil unrest and despite reconstruction efforts, Martyrs' Square is still the bleeding heart of the city. This is a square in the center of Beirut, recognizable by the central statue in memory of the Lebanese nationalists who were hanged during the First World War under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.
Protesters have regularly organized mass gatherings in Martyrs Square to oppose and make accountable the ruling class and yet it remains silent.
Right next to the square, you can visit two places of worship. The Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque & the Saint George Cathedral, standing side by side.
Not many tourists visit this site! To tell the truth, it is small! Yet it has important archaeological significance. And it’s right in the middle of Beirut Downtown!
From about 2,500 B.C., inhabitants of the Tell worked the bedrock to create the first harbor facilities dedicated to small boats. In the Canaanite and Phoenician periods, two harbors were formed from rocky inlets near the ancient Tell. Afterwards, Roman engineers enlarged the western basin with concrete seawalls.
Under Ottoman rule, after feeling the heat from the Suez Canal construction (1859 - 1871), the Beirut Municipality sought a special decree from Istanbul to enlarge and modernize the harbor. In 1888, after rounds of negotiations, the authorities founded the ‘Imperial Ottoman Company of the Port, Quays and Warehouses of Beirut’.
Later on, under French Mandate, a new jetty extended the Ottoman Wall another 800 meters into the sea. This created the largest harbor in the Eastern Mediterranean until the mid 20th century.
Near the ruins, you will find the modern harbor square conceptualized by Gustafson Porter and Bowman. It offers an interesting play of light, shades and colors.
But enough history for now! Shops and restaurants await you just 2 minutes away!
A full-fledged outdoor mall in the middle of Beirut Downtown right by the sea sits on top of the old souks and ruins from previous civilizations. Beirut Souks is a great place to visit in Beirut if you are looking to shop, eat or catch a movie at the theater.
They even have an arcade place with many games for all ages! You might even catch some businessmen blowing off some steam on the basketball loops!
On Saturdays, you can walk amongst Souk el Balad stands, where locals display and sell their produce. You will find typical Lebanese mouneh as well as some new produce like spicy sauces made by 7r7r.hotsauce.
After the assassination of Samir Kassir, an influential journalist murdered in 2005, the Samir Kassir square was inaugurated right next to Al-Nahar newspaper headquarters.
There's no mistaking Saifi village. The small neighborhood is known as Le Quartier des Arts for its many art galleries, antique shops, craft shops and specialty boutiques and restaurants.
You can visit some of the prettiest and well-maintained houses of Beirut there. But you can only see them from the outside! Gardens and winding alleyways make it a hotspot for wedding photography sessions..
Saifi Village offers a heavily guarded living space with security personnel prowling the streets and guarding building entrances, giving Saifi Village the look & feel of a semi-private complex in Beirut. Subsequently, some people tend to feel out-of-place while walking in such a well-maintained neighborhood in Lebanon.
Zaytouna Bay, which stretches along the city's marina, is Beirut's sparkling waterfront, full of city life. The bay has now become a luxurious exposition of Beirut's gastronomy, entertainment and culture.
Sursock Street is a historic street named after one of Beirut's most famous families. This street is home to many of Beirut's beautiful historic buildings. The aristocratic families of Beirut such as Sursock and Boustros built them in the 18th and 19th centuries. Achrafieh is in fact home to a large amount of the architectural heritage of Beirut from the Ottoman Empire and the French Mandate.
The Beirut Port explosion of 2020 heavily damaged many buildings in Achrafieh. In fact, you can still witness the aftermath, with buildings under renovation such as the Sursock Museum.
The Sursock Museum was born out of Lebanese collector Nicolas Sursock’s commitment to the endorsement and promotion of art. In 1952, upon his death, Nicolas Sursock left his mansion to the citizens of Lebanon as an art museum.
For nine years, Sursock’s will was put on hold. Former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, in fact issued a decree turning the villa into a palais d’hôtes, housing various visiting heads of states.
Operating as a museum without walls, the Sursock Museum held its first exhibition before the Museum had even opened! Titled "The First Imaginary Museum in the World," it was held at the UNESCO building in Beirut in 1957, and featured 664 framed color reproductions of masterpieces from Asia, Europe, and America.
Finalized in 1860, the palace survived two world wars, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the French Mandate and Lebanese Independence. Unfortunately, the Beirut port blast damaged a major side of the palace.
The family undertook renovation efforts to protect the historical landmark that so many tourists and locals enjoy visiting when in Beirut.
With its large garden and beautiful facades, the Sursock Palace is home to perfect cocktail parties and receptions, art expositions and music performances. You can read more about its history here.
Gemmayzeh is a historical street of Beirut with a Lebanese traditional character. Being at the bottom of the Achrafieh hill facing the sea, the street of Gemmayzeh became the main party street of Beirut, with bars, restaurants lining up the old street.
Now, it has transformed into a calmer neighborhood, ideal for people looking for a peace of mind. You will find many delicious restaurants nearby, hiding within the lush alleyways of Gemmayzeh.
As you enter the hidden park dedicated to the Virgin Mary, situated at the highest point in Achrafieh (Sassine), you will feel an incredible feeling of serenity wash over you.
It is the perfect place in Achrafieh to sit on a bench and relax under the shades of the massive trees that make up the shrine. You can take some time there to meditate. Or maybe read a book or write in your diary!
Fans of Assassin’s creed can even enjoy an intriguing sight of what looks like the Apple of Eden sitting in the Virgin Mary’s hands!
Here’s a beautiful proverb for you:
‘Stairs always lead somewhere, even when somewhere is nowhere ’ - Me
Because Achrafieh stands on a hill, the older inhabitants of the region have been using stairs as shortcuts to more easily move between neighborhoods.
There are more than 15 stairways spread across Achrafieh, many of which have been affected by the chaotic urbanization efforts of our government. Let us know if you think these stairs merit to be protected as an archeological treasure of our history!
The four main staircases of Achrafieh are the Geara Stairs, known locally as the Vendôme Stairs, as well as the Al Hazinien Stairs, the Massaad Stairs and the St Nicholas Stairs, the last of which is located in the neighboring area of Gemmayze. My favorite are the Saint Nicholas Stairs!
These stairs connect the Church of St. Nicholas, the Orthodox Archbishopric of Beirut, on Gouraud Gemmayze Street, with Sursock Street near the Sursock Museum.
The proximity of St. Nicholas Stairs to the Sursock Museum and the Greek Orthodox Archbishopric of Beirut on Sursock Street makes the 125 steps and 500-meter staircase, considered the longest in the region, a very popular place for tourists to visit in Beirut. From the top to the bottom, you will find restaurants and private houses lining up the stairway.
Now, let’s move West to another neighborhood of Beirut to visit! Ras Beirut and the famous Hamra Street!
Hamra Street, in the western district of the capital, Ras Beirut, has always been a place where Christians and Muslims live together. During its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, Al Hamra Street was the elegant centerpiece of Beirut's Champs-Elysees in Lebanon's pre-war, metropolitan era.
Look at a map of Beirut and you will easily find the American University of Beirut (AUB). Just look for the biggest green area near the sea!
Located at the tip of Beirut in a neighborhood named Hamra (literally translating to Red), AUB is a massive campus of low-rise buildings dispersed amongst the well-taken care of nature.
Raouche is a natural attraction that offers visitors a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains in Lebanon. You can also enjoy some Lebanese food at one of the restaurants in this area or go shopping at one of the nearby stores.
The main attraction along Raouche is Pigeon Rocks. This rock formation is located on the coast. It was created by erosion from waves crashing against it for millions of years, which has made it look like it's made out of stone - hence its name Pigeon Rocks.
The ancient Manara or Lighthouse and the historic "Pink House" are part of Beirut's history and heritage. Old men describe the Beirut Lighthouse not only as an important landmark in Beirut, but something they care about and an important part of their childhood.
Finally, let’s talk about some places to visit on the outskirts of Beirut.
As Beirut grew, other neighborhoods began to form and fill up the remaining spaces. Below are some places worth visiting in these parts of Beirut. I chose to start this short list with my favorite! Horsh Beirut.
Horsh Beirut, literally translating to Forest of Beirut, is the biggest public park in the capital. You can access the park from the main entrance that is usually open during day times only and is located near the Tayouneh roundabout. In summer the park closes around 7pm but some people are still able to access it from other hidden entrances.
When you visit the park, you will understand why the word forest can be more appropriate when describing it. It might seem a bit overrun but it is a great place to run in the mornings when visiting Beirut. There are even ruins with interesting engravings just laid out there!
Although rather small for a national museum, the National Museum of Beirut offers a wide variety of artifacts from many different epochs, going all the way back to the Phoenicians and Canaanites.
Of the 100,000 objects available in the museum collection, only 1,300 are displayed to the public. During the civil war of 1975, the Egyptian section of the museum was heavily damaged but luckily, most of the artifacts were saved thanks to preventive measures.
And finally, Souk el Ahad. In essence translating to “The Sunday Market”, the souk has become so popular, it started opening on Saturdays too! Yet the name remains.
Before you go there, make sure you keep an eye on your things! The souk has a lot to offer (and take), usually at a good price but their sources might be dubious. The quality of products can sometimes be doubtful since no official documents regulate this market.
Yet, you can find pretty much anything you want, and possibly some stolen stuff. From hacked computer programs to monkeys and clothes, you’ll be amazed by what you can stumble upon by just walking there.
If you're coming for more than a few days to Lebanon, make sure to read my other article about places to visit in Lebanon!