Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.
The Lebanese Republic is one of the most hospitable and modern countries in the Middle East. It is located adjacent to Syria and Israel, and its western part is washed by the Mediterranean Sea. The state covers an area of 10.4 thousand square kilometers, its population is approximately 6.8 million people. Throughout its rich history, Lebanon has been under the rule of Alexander the Great, ancient Rome, the Ottoman Empire and the French Mandate. Thanks to this, the country is distinguished by an amazing mixture of cultures and religions: up to 40 percent of its inhabitants profess Christianity, and there are no many restrictions inherent in most Islamic states. After gaining independence in 1941, Lebanon soon received the status of the financial capital of the Arab world, tourism and entertainment were actively developing in it. The civil war that began in 1975 and continued for almost 15 years significantly weakened the country's economy. But currently Lebanon has completely reconstructed all the infrastructure damaged during the conflict, it is distinguished by political stability and is striving to restore its unofficial title of “Middle Eastern Switzerland.”
The tourism industry is one of the most important sources of income for many Lebanese. The country is popular with travelers for its mild climate, modern resorts along the Mediterranean coast and vibrant nightlife in major cities. And its compact size allows you to visit all the most interesting places without spending a lot of time on trips. We invite you to find out more about the main attractions of Lebanon.
|3||Ruins of Anjara||4.8|
|5||Virgin Mary of Lebanon||4.7|
|7||National Museum of Beirut||4.7|
|8||Martyrs Square in Beirut||4.6|
|10||Muhammad Al-Amin Mosque||4.5|
|11||St Paul's Cathedral||4.5|
|15||Fortress of Mont Pelerin||4.2|
|17||Shuf Cedar Reserve||4.1|
Attraction rating: 5.0
The ruins of the ancient city are located 65 kilometers from the capital of Lebanon. In the 300s BC, the settlement was a major center of worship of the sun god Baal, from whose name the name Baalbek originated. From the 1st century AD, the city came under the rule of the Romans, who, right on the foundations of the Phoenician sanctuaries, erected a huge complex, which included three temples dedicated to Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus. Around 1400, Baalbek was attacked by the troops of the conqueror Tamerlane and then gradually fell into desolation. Since the 17th century, the ruins of its grandiose temples began to attract the first tourists from Europe. About three hundred years later, German scientists conducted large-scale archaeological excavations at this site.
The best preserved is the Temple of Jupiter, built during the reign of Emperor Nero. It is primarily known for its giant monolithic blocks weighing 800-1000 tons, which is ten times larger than the largest block of the Cheops pyramid. Researchers still disagree on how these incredibly heavy megaliths moved in the Phoenician era. Not yet excavated in Baalbek, tourists can see the colonnade of the tallest antique columns in the world, the main courtyard with the sacrificial altar and many other structures. An extensive system of underground tunnels has been laid under the temple complex, the purpose of which remains to be seen. In addition to archaeological excursions, the International Music Festival is held annually in Baalbek in summer, lasting a whole month.
Attraction rating: 4.9
Jebeil, also known as Byblos, is located on the Mediterranean coast, 32 kilometers from Beirut. It is considered one of the oldest settlements in the world. It is at least 7 thousand years old, and some archaeologists believe that the settlement at this place existed 10 thousand years ago. For a long time Byblos was an independent city-state, later it became part of the Phoenician state, where it played the role of a large trade center. Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, the city lost its importance and gradually turned into a fishing village, only ruins reminded of its former greatness. Byblos found new life with the development of tourism.
Today, guests of the city are greeted by excavations of ancient Phoenician temples, an Egyptian sanctuary, old Byzantine churches, a royal necropolis, and a Roman amphitheater. Also on the territory of Jebeil there is a fortress of the XII century, which was built by the knights-crusaders to protect them from the troops of Salah ad-din. This fortification was repeatedly rebuilt and used for military purposes until the beginning of the 20th century. From the roof of the knight's castle you can admire the panorama of the city and its picturesque surroundings. Of interest in Jebeil is the Wax Museum, where the history and traditions of Lebanon are described using life-size wax figures.
Ruins of Anjara
Attraction rating: 4.8
The remains of the walled city of Anjar are located 58 kilometers from the Lebanese capital. It was built during the reign of the Arab Caliphate, around 715 AD. Occupying a prime location at the intersection of caravan routes, the city soon became a major center for trade in the region. However, after the overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty, Anjar was destroyed by the Abassid troops, and gradually fell into desolation. The new city was founded in 1939 by Armenian immigrants from the villages of Musa-Dagh; about two and a half thousand people live in it.
Soon after the declaration of independence of the Lebanese Republic, large-scale archaeological excavations began on the territory of ancient Anjar. During the work, the palace complex of Caliph Walid I, mosques, residential buildings and public baths were discovered. The buildings of the Caliphate times amaze with their original combination of Eastern, Roman and Byzantine styles of architecture. The entire area of old Anjar is listed as a World Heritage Site.
Attraction rating: 4.8
The two-level cave complex Jeita is located 20 kilometers from Beirut, it is one of the most unique natural attractions in the country. The upper cave was discovered by US missionary William Thompson in 1836. The lower one was discovered in 1969 by local speleologists. The upper cave stretches for 2,200 meters, but only a relatively small section of 750 meters is accessible to visitors. There are pedestrian bridges running through three halls, the largest of which is almost 120 meters high. And in a cave called the White Grotto, you can see the world's longest 8.2-meter stalactite. In the Middle Ages, the caves served as a secret weapons workshop, as evidenced by the remains of a foundry.
The upper cave communicates with the lower one through a tunnel and several passages. Its length is almost seven kilometers; an underground river flows along the bottom, which is the source of the Nahr al-Kalb. Boat excursions are organized for tourists in the lower cave. The Jeita complex is often used as a hall for organ music concerts, as it has amazing acoustics. It is also popular with newlyweds as a wedding venue.
Virgin Mary of Lebanon
Attraction rating: 4.7
The statue of the Virgin Mary of Lebanon is almost as important to Lebanon as the statue of Christ the Redeemer is to Brazil. It is located in the resort town of Jounieh, on the Harissa hill, which is 650 meters above sea level. The monument was made in France and donated to Lebanon in 1908, since that time it has become an important pilgrimage site for Lebanese Christians. Each year, according to tradition, residents walk up the mountain and light a candle in a small chapel, standing directly under the statue. Believers consider the Most Holy Virgin of Charis the patroness of the country.
The bronze statue acquired its graceful snow-white appearance only a few years ago. It is installed on a 20-meter pedestal, which is a miniature copy of the minaret of the Al-Malwiyah Mosque in the Iraqi city of Samarra. The sculpture itself is 8.5 meters high, with a base diameter of 64 meters and a weight of 15 tons. You can get to the Virgin Mary either on foot or by cable car. At its foot there is an observation deck, from where you can see Jounieh Bay and most of the city.
Attraction rating: 4.7
Zvezda Square, also known as Étoile Square, is located in the center of Old Beirut. From a height, it really resembles a star with street beams radiating from it in all directions. In the first century AD, there was a Roman forum on this site. Both the square and the surrounding Nejmeh district were rebuilt by French architects in the 19th century, giving them typical Parisian features. It was the seat of the French Mandate of Syria.
There is a monumental clock tower in the middle of the Star Square; from the southwest and east you can see two Christian churches: the Greek Catholic Church of St. George and the Orthodox Church of St. Elijah. Beirut is one of the few places in the Middle East where Christian places of worship are practically adjacent to Muslim shrines. The square is the focus of the capital's cultural life, and the neighboring quarters are replete with fashionable hotels, boutiques and expensive restaurants.
National Museum of Beirut
Attraction rating: 4.7
The National Museum in the capital of Lebanon has a huge collection of over 100,000 items. Most of them were discovered during archaeological excavations in the country. The museum building bears the features of the Egyptian architectural style, it was built in 1930-1937, the museum was officially opened for visits since 1942. In the exhibition halls with a total area of about 6 thousand square meters, up to 1300 artifacts are constantly displayed. The museum has several departments, which correspond to certain periods in history: from the 3rd century BC to the time of the Mamluk rule.
The Lebanese Civil War, which began in 1975, jeopardized the very existence of the museum, as the building was on the front line and was used as a military bunker. Nevertheless, it resisted, and many items damaged by moisture, shells and vandalism were restored. Restoration work continued until 2016, after which the museum once again became the greatest treasure trove of Lebanese history and archeology. Artifacts from the Phoenician time occupy a special place in the exhibition, including mosaics, bas-reliefs, sarcophagi of kings, mummies dating from the 13th century, and so on. Of no less interest is the collection of ivory and antique jewelry.
Martyrs Square in Beirut
Attraction rating: 4.6
Martyrs Square is located in the central part of the capital, near the Al-Amin Mosque. Previously, it was called Burj Square, but in the 1930s a monument was erected on it, created by the Italian architect Renato Mazakuratti, and the square was renamed. The sculptural composition is dedicated to the Lebanese, who were executed in 1916 for participating in the uprising against the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. During the civil war in Lebanon, the so-called “green line” passed through the square, dividing the city into Christian and Muslim parts.
Today, the square serves not only as a tourist attraction, but also as a place for holding meetings and demonstrations. Buildings and street infrastructure destroyed during the war have been fully restored, and only traces of bullets on the monument remind that fierce battles took place here not so long ago.
Attraction rating: 4.5
Sursock Museum is located in the historic district of Beirut and is a magnificent white stone building, the architecture of which combines features of the Venetian and Ottoman styles. The interiors of this small palace look no less impressive, they are decorated in the Eastern Baroque style. Built in 1914, the building originally belonged to the wealthy Lebanese aristocrat Nicolas Sursock. After his death, according to his will, both the villa itself and the unique collection of about five thousand exhibits he collected were transferred to the state.
The collection of the museum contains mainly art objects created during the XVIII-XX centuries. Here you can see paintings by famous artists, sculptures, ceramics and glass products. A separate room is dedicated to the works of Islamic masters, it displays a collection of Turkish silver from the 19th century and a water jug created at the end of the Umayyad era. Another famous historical artifact is the 10-volume Bible, printed in the middle of the 17th century under the auspices of the French Cardinal Richelieu. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Sursock Museum regularly hosts exhibitions of contemporary Lebanese art.
Muhammad Al-Amin Mosque
Attraction rating: 4.5
One of the most beautiful mosques in Beirut is located on Martyrs Square. It was built in 2002-2007 on the initiative of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, who allocated over $ 24 million for this project. After his sudden death, Hariri was buried near the mosque. The architecture of the building combines the Ottoman and some features of the Egyptian style. The author of the project, Atzmi Fakuri, was inspired by the famous Istanbul Blue Mosque.
The height of the dome of the building reaches 42 meters; at the corners there are four 72-meter minarets. The exterior cladding material is yellow ocher, which is in perfect harmony with the blue dome. The golden walls are decorated with quotes from the Koran, the interior is painted in traditional Arabic script, decorated with stone and contains elements of gilding. Residents call Muhammad Al-Amin “the new pearl of Beirut.”
St Paul's Cathedral
Attraction rating: 4.5
Of the approximately a couple of dozen different temples and monasteries located in the vicinity of Mount Harissa in Lebanon, St. Paul's Cathedral is particularly noteworthy. The temple was built from 1947 to 1962. It belongs to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is distinguished by its commitment to the Byzantine rites of worship.
The cathedral is made in the Byzantine architectural style, it has many domes, differing in size and located at different levels. The large entrance doors are decorated with oriental ornaments and applied reliefs. The interior space of St. Paul's Church is richly decorated: the floor is covered with patterned marble slabs, on the vaults supported by massive columns, you can see mosaics with images of Christ, the apostles and biblical subjects.
Attraction rating: 4.5
One of the largest mosques in the capital of Lebanon is also considered to be the oldest city building that has survived and is continuously used to our time. In the 3rd century BC, a pagan temple stood on this place, later destroyed by an earthquake. After the conquest of the city by Muslims, a mosque was built on the ruins of the temple, naming it after the second caliph, Umar ibn al-Khattab. During the time of the Crusaders, the mosque was twice converted into a Christian church, until during the Mamluk rule it again became a Muslim shrine. In the Ottoman period, it was named Yahya Mosque, because it contains a sacred relic, presumably belonging to the prophet Yahya, known in the Christian world as John the Baptist.
In the middle of the 20th century, the mosque underwent restoration; the building had to be restored again after the civil war. Today, thanks to the funds of patrons, Al-Omari has regained its former appearance, and tourists can admire this architectural monument of the early Middle Ages. The mosque is active, it hosts weekly sermons and daily prayers.
Attraction rating: 4.4
The fortified structure was built in the 13th century by the Crusader Knights to protect the city's port of Sidon. At that time, the city was of great economic and political importance. The fortress sits on a small island that is connected to the mainland by a long and narrow isthmus. Previously, the island housed the temple of the Phoenician deity Melkart. The Mamluk troops that captured the city destroyed the castle during the battle with the crusaders. In the 17th century, by order of the Lebanese Emir Fakhr ad-Din II, the fortress was restored.
Of the two towers, the western one is the best preserved. Inside there is a vaulted hall that once served as an armory; parts of ancient weapons still remain in it. A spiral staircase in the tower leads to the roof of the tower, from where you can admire the panorama of the fishing harbor and city buildings.
Attraction rating: 4.3
The ruins of the ancient city of Tire are located in Sura, one of the largest cities in Lebanon. Founded in 2750 BC, Tire served as one of the most important Phoenician ports. It was known far beyond the borders of the country thanks to the unique purple paint produced here, which was obtained from a rare species of shellfish. The city flourished in ancient times, most of the archaeological sites date back to this period.
The excavations are divided into two areas: Al-Mina and Al-Bass. The first includes Roman baths dating back to the 3rd century AD, an arena where wrestling competitions were held and the remains of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, erected by the knights-crusaders. In the Al-Bass archaeological park, you can see the necropolis carved into the walls with marble sarcophagi, the impressive Arc de Triomphe, the Byzantine chapel of the 6th century and the Roman hippodrome, which can accommodate up to 30 thousand people. The latter is still used today – it hosts a summer arts festival. Many other structures from the period of the Roman Empire rest at the bottom, in coastal waters, attracting divers here.
Fortress of Mont Pelerin
Attraction rating: 4.2
The Citadel of Mont Pelerin, also called Saint-Gilles, was built at the beginning of the 12th century by the Crusaders under the leadership of Count Raymund of Saint-Gilles. The fortress is located in the city of Tripoli, on the Hayyazh hill. The imposing structure is 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. Its architecture embodies all the typical features of the fortifications erected by the knights in the east. Before the arrival of the crusaders, the strategically important place was not empty – earlier on the hill was the garrison of the Persian king Khosrov II.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the dilapidated citadel underwent reconstruction by decree of the ruler of the Ottoman province of Tripoli, Mustafa Aga Barbara. During the civil war, the fortress served as a prison, and with the onset of the armistice, it turned into a tourist attraction.
Attraction rating: 4.2
This castle, called the “Castle of Dreams” by the locals, is located in the mountainous region of the country, 40 kilometers from Beirut. It was built by a simple Lebanese named Moussa Maamari, who since childhood dreamed of having his own castle. In addition, in this way he tried to win the favor of a girl from a wealthy family with whom he was in love. The construction of the castle began in 1962 and continued until 2005. The Lebanese romantic was also helped in making his dream come true by the residents of the surrounding area and invited masters. Rumors even reached the president of the country, who provided support in obtaining a bank loan. It is worth noting that Moussa never got the attention of his chosen one. Thus, the unique structure in the style of a fortress has become a symbol of determination and unrequited love.
There is a museum inside the building, its exposition was collected by the owner of the castle. One part of it is devoted to the daily life of the Lebanese highlanders, and the second contains an extensive collection of cold and small arms from different periods of history.
Shuf Cedar Reserve
Attraction rating: 4.1
The Esh Shouf Biosphere Reserve is Lebanon's largest protected ecological site. Its total area reaches 550 square kilometers, which is about five percent of the entire territory of the state. The main value of the reserve is the forests of the famous Lebanese cedar, some of the trees growing here are more than two thousand years old. Along with cedar, there are about 500 plant species in the natural zone, and Shuf is also home to 32 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. There are wolves, lynxes, gazelles, mountain chamois, partridges, pheasants, griffon vultures and golden eagles can also be seen here.
Founded in 1996, the reserve soon became the country's most popular place for ecotourism lovers. On its territory there is also a historical landmark – the ruins of a cave fortress dating back to the 10th century AD.
Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.