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Things to Do in Beirut

Ancient yet charming, mysterious yet hospitable, Beirut—situated on the banks of the Mediterranean—has a multi-faceted allure that continues to entice travelers. Lebanon’s capital city was once known as the Paris of the East, and it seems to be reclaiming that nickname. Today, the renovated downtown brims with stylish professionals and gleaming skyscrapers, and a central business district offers boutiques, a stunning archaeology collection at the National Museum, and plenty of cafes serving thick black coffee and tasty mezes (small dishes). Outside of Beirut sit the ruins of some of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations, and tours that conveniently link multiple sites can maximize your sightseeing potential. First-time visitors will want to journey to the limestone caves of Jeita Grotto, 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Beirut, followed by Byblos, one of the world’s oldest cities, and Harissa, known for its Virgin Mary Statue as well as its sweeping views. Another tour links the Roman ruins of Baalbek (two hours from Beirut) and the Umayyad ruins of Anjar with Ksara Caves, a series of ancient caverns used as wine cellars. Or you can combine the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tyre, an ancient Roman city around an hour from Beirut that’s still inhabited today, with the holy sites of Sidon and the monument-studded city of Maghdouche. Whatever tour you choose, you’ll return to Beirut in time to hit up some of the city’s famous bars and nightclubs.
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Beirut National Museum (Musée National de Beyrouth)
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An essential stop for all visitors to the city, Beirut National Museum (Musée National de Beyrouth) features an impressive, well-displayed collection of archaeological artifacts from throughout the ages, offering a thorough overview of Lebanon’s history. Entry into the National Museum of Beirut is a staple of most historical Beirut walking tours.
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Martyrs' Square (Place des Martyrs)
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On May 6, 1916 a group of Lebanese nationalists were hanged for rebelling against Turkish rule. In 1965 a bronze statue was erected in their memory in what is today called Martyrs’ Square (Place des Martyrs). Since then it has served as Lebanon’s most important public gathering places and the site of the massive March 14th demonstration in 2005, which brought 1 million Lebanese to the square on the one month anniversary of the murder of Hariri.
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Mim Mineral Museum Beirut (Mim Musée des Minéraux Beyrouth)
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Along Beirut’s aptly-coined 'museum mile' is a real gem of a collection, housed at the Mim Mineral Museum Beirut (Mim Musée des Minéraux Beyrouth) on the Saint Joseph University campus. Featuring local engineer Salim Edde’s private collection of more than 1,400 minerals, the museum showcases precious stones from around the world, attracting chemists, collectors and enthusiasts alike.
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Banque du Liban Museum (Musée de la Banque du Liban)
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Beirut’s Banque Du Liban (Bank of Lebanon) Museum opened in 2010 to chart the story of currency throughout history and to increase public awareness of the role of the central bank; after its establishment, the Banque Du Liban (sometimes shortened to BDL) created the nation's fourth currency.

Exhibitions within the museum display banknotes and coins dating as far back as the Phoenician era, while others highlight the current Lebanese pound as a stable monetary system. It may not sound like it, but this is a family attraction that even children can enjoy, with money puzzles and the opportunity to calculate your weight in gold. You can also design your own banknote and get your picture printed onto it.

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Hamra Street (Rue Hamra)
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Take a walk through Lebanon's cultural history on a visit to Hamra Street (Rue Hamra) in Beirut. In the 1960s and 1970s, the neighborhood served as a cultural epicenter for progressive artists and thinkers, its many art galleries and multicultural way of life representing a new era in Lebanese history. Though far more commercial present day, Hamra maintains its energetic atmosphere, and a visit to the neighborhood is highly recommended.
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Chateau Ksara
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Founded in 1857, Château Ksara is one of Lebanon’s oldest wineries and an ever-popular stop on Bekaa Valley tours. Situated at around 3,280 feet (1,000 meters) above sea level, the estate has vineyards across Lebanon. Star of the show at the winery, besides the wines themselves, are the historic 1.5-mile (2-kilometer) cave cellars.
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Baalbek
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Set 53 miles (85 kms) outside of Beirut in the fertile Beqaa Valley, the ancient city of Baalbek is inarguably Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure. An architectural pinnacle of empire known to the Romans as Heliopolis, this UNESCO World Heritage site has served as a center of worship for a staggering number of millennia.

Civilizations as old as the Phoenicians worshiped here and themselves built massive stone structures to “Baal”, revered Phoenician deity and possible subject for the town’s name of Baalbek. With the arrival of the Romans in 64 BC, Baalbek was converted to a pagan center of worship and work was begun on the massive Temple of Jupiter, a hulking structure of granite columns which would eventually become the largest temple ever built in the history of the Roman Empire. While many of the columns have crumbled and eight were even relocated to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, six columns still remain standing and provide a relevant framework.

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Jeita Grotto
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Once considered as a finalist for the “7 Natural Wonders of the World”, Lebanon’s Jeita Grotto is a sprawling cave complex located 11 miles (17.7 kms) north of the capital city of Beirut. The caves are divided into two separate grottos the upper and the lower grottos. The White Chamber in the upper grotto famously boasts the world’s largest stalactite, which hangs down 27 ft. from the cavern ceiling above. Accessible via a specially built walkway, the upper grotto reaches a dramatic terminus when the third chamber rises to an astounding height of 390 ft. A hollow chamber which gazes into the innards of the Earth, Jeita Grotto easily ranks as one of the top cave complexes on the planet.

Though evidence suggests that Jeita Grotto was once inhabited during ancient times, the gaping caverns were only rediscovered in 1863 after an American missionary stumbled upon the lower grotto.

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Our Lady of Lebanon (Notre Dame du Liban)
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On a 1,970-foot (600-meter) hilltop just north of Beirut overlooking the Bay of Jounieh stands a painted bronze statue of the Virgin Mary with her hands outstretched toward the city. The shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon (Notre Dame du Liban), the nation’s patron saint, was erected in 1908 and has become one of the world’s most important shrines to the Virgin Mary and attracts millions of pilgrims and visitors each year. It's also occasionally known as Our Lady of Harissa.
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More Things to Do in Beirut

Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)

Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)

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Only two and half hours from the glitzy beaches of Beirut, the cedar groves of Lebanon are the pride of the Lebanese mountains. Northern Lebanon has some of the tallest peaks in the Middle East, some rising to over 10,000 feet, many of which used to be covered in dense forests of precious cedar.

From as early as 3,000 BC the surrounding civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and later the British lusted for the hard wood found in the forests of Lebanon. Unable to provide wood of their own for shipbuilding and railroad ties, the cedar forests of Lebanon were rapidly depleted and nearly destroyed.

Despite the international demand, however, some of the most remote groves managed to remain, the most famous of which is located in the village of Bsharre just 15 minutes from Lebanon’s most popular ski resort. Believed to be the oldest cedar grove in Lebanon, four of the largest cedars reach heights of over 115 feet and are locally referred to as Arz el Rab.

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Sidon (Saida)

Sidon (Saida)

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Anjar

Anjar

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Set 36 miles (58 km) outside the capital city of Beirut, the ancient city of Anjar is literally a Lebanon attraction unlike any other. While many of the ruins in Lebanon existed under a multitude of rulers, the fortified city of Anjar was occupied solely by the Umayyad dynasty during the 8th century AD when it flourished for a mere number of decades. This city's Opulent rulers eventually fell to the Abbasids, but at one point their influence stretched from the valleys of India to the shores of southern France. With the exception of a mosque in nearby Baalbek, Anjar is the only place in Lebanon which provides an example of the Umayyad period.

Located in the fertile Beqaa valley amid the Anti-Lebanon mountains and along a prosperous trade route between Beirut and Damascus, Anjar made a perfect summer retreat for the ruling dynasty.

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Gibran Museum

Gibran Museum

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Tyre (Sour)

Tyre (Sour)

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Beiteddine (Beit ed-Dine)

Beiteddine (Beit ed-Dine)

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Downtown Beirut (Beirut Central District)

Downtown Beirut (Beirut Central District)

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Chic, sexy and ultra-modern, downtown Beirut can once again be considered the “pearl of the Middle East”. A booming coastal metropolis in the midst of an economic revival, a city once divided by 15 years of civil war is now home to high end stores, trendy restaurants, and a modern population living among thousands of years of history.

Travelers to Beirut can relish in the simple pleasure of sipping a thick coffee at an outdoor café or people watching along the Corniche, a three-mile coastal promenade where bullet holes still riddle the well-manicured palm trees. Visitors can similarly amble along the newly constructed Zaitunay Bay esplanade where private yachts moored offshore bear witness to Beirut’s surging wealth.

Though Beirut has no shortage of easy transport, travelers can take pleasure in strolling in the pedestrian mall around Nejmeh Square and gawk at the masterfully planned architecture.

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