- Lebanon sights
- The Ruins of Anjar
- Jeita Caves
- The Virgin Mary of Lebanon
- Star Square
- National Museum of Beirut
- Martyrs’ Square in Beirut
- Sursok Museum
- Muhammad Al-Amin Mosque
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Al-Omari Mosque
- The Citadel of Sidon
- The shooting gallery
- Fortress of Mont Pelerin
- Mousses castle
- Cedar Shoof Reserve
*Review of the best according to the editors. About the selection criteria. This material is subjective, not an advertisement and is not a guide for buying. You should consult with an expert before buying.
The Lebanese Republic is one of the most hospitable and modern countries in the Middle East. It is adjacent to Syria and Israel, and its western part is washed by the waters of the Mediterranean Sea. The state occupies an area of 10.4 thousand square kilometers and has a population of about 6.8 million people. During its rich history, Lebanon has been under the rule of Alexander the Great, ancient Rome, the Ottoman Empire and the French Mandate. Due to this country is characterized by an amazing mix of cultures and religions: up to 40% of its residents practice Christianity, and there are no many restrictions inherent in most Islamic countries. After gaining independence in 1941, Lebanon soon gained status as the financial capital of the Arab world, with a booming tourism and entertainment industry. A civil war that began in 1975 and lasted nearly 15 years significantly weakened the country’s economy. But today Lebanon has completely rebuilt all of its conflict damaged infrastructure, is politically stable and is seeking to regain its unofficial title as the “Switzerland of the Middle East”.
The tourism industry is one of the most important sources of income for many Lebanese. The country is popular with travelers because of its mild climate, modern resorts on the Mediterranean coast, and the busy nightlife in major cities. And its compact size allows it to visit all the most interesting places without spending a lot of time on travel. We suggest you learn more about the main attractions of Lebanon.
|3||Ruins of Anjar||4.8|
|4||The Caves of Jat||4.8|
|5||Our Lady 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||Mont Pelerin Fortress||4.2|
|17||Shouf Cedar Reserve||4.1|
Landmark Rating: 5.0
The ruins of this ancient city are 65 km from the capital of Lebanon. In the 300s B.C. the settlement was a major center of worship of the sun god Baal, from whose name Baalbek derives. The city came under Roman rule in the first century A.D. The Romans erected a huge complex on the foundations of Phoenician sanctuaries, which included three temples dedicated to Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus. Around 1400 Baalbek was attacked by the forces of the conqueror Tamerlane and then gradually fell into disrepair. From the 17th century, the ruins of its grand temples began to attract the first tourists from Europe. About three hundred years later German scientists carried out a large-scale archaeological excavation at this place.
The best preserved one 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 more than the largest block of the Cheops pyramid. Researchers still do not agree on how these incredibly heavy megaliths were moved during the Phoenician era. Even at the Baalbek excavations, visitors can see the colonnade of the highest antique columns in the world, the main courtyard with the sacrificial altar and many other buildings. Beneath the temple complex lay an extensive system of underground tunnels, the purpose of which remains to be seen. In addition to archeological tours, Baalbek hosts a month-long international music festival every summer.
Rating of the sight: 4.9
Jebeil, also known as Byblos, lies on the Mediterranean coast, 32 kilometers from Beirut. It is considered one of the oldest settlements in the world. It is at least 7,000 years old, and some archaeologists believe that the settlement on this site existed 10,000 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 major trading center. Under Ottoman rule the town lost its importance and gradually became a fishing village, with only ruins to remind us of its former grandeur. Byblos found a new life with the development of tourism.
Today, visitors to the town will find excavations of ancient Phoenician temples, an Egyptian sanctuary, old Byzantine churches, a royal necropolis, and a Roman amphitheater. On the territory of Jebeil there is a fortress of the XII century, which was built by Crusader Knights for protection from the troops of Salah ad-Din. The fortifications were repeatedly rebuilt and used for military purposes until the early 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, which uses life-size wax figures to depict the history and traditions of Lebanon.
The Ruins of Anjar
Rating of the sight: 4.8
The remains of the city-fortress of Anjar are located 58 kilometers from the Lebanese capital. It was built during the reign of the Arab Caliphate around 715 A.D. Enjoying a strategic position at the crossroads of the caravan routes, it soon became a major trading center in the region. But after the overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty Anjar was destroyed by the Abassid troops, and gradually fell into disrepair. The new city was founded in 1939 by the Armenian natives of the villages of Musa Daghe, it has about two and a half thousand people.
Soon after the declaration of independence of the Lebanese Republic large-scale archaeological excavations began in ancient Anjar. The works revealed the palace complex of caliph Walid I, mosques, dwellings and public baths. Caliphate style buildings amaze with their original blend of Oriental, Roman, and Byzantine architecture. The whole area of old Anjar is included in the list of World Heritage.
Rating of the attraction: 4.8
The two-level Jeita cave complex is located 20 km from Beirut; it is one of the country’s most unique natural attractions. The upper cave was discovered in 1836 by U.S. missionary William Thompson. The lower one was discovered in 1969 by local speleologists. The upper cave extends for 2200 meters, but only a relatively short section of 750 meters is accessible to visitors. There are footbridges across three halls, the tallest of which is almost 120 meters high. The longest stalactite in the world, 8.2m, can be seen in the cave known as the White Grotto. In the Middle Ages the caves were used as a secret weaponry shop, as shown by the remains of a foundry.
The upper cave communicates with the lower cave through a tunnel and several passages. It is almost seven kilometers long and has an underground river at the bottom which is the source of Nahr al-Qalb. Boat tours are organized for tourists around the lower cave. The Jeita complex is also often used as an organ concert hall, as it has stunning acoustics. It is also popular with honeymooners as a place to hold a wedding ceremony.
The Virgin Mary of Lebanon
Rating of the landmark: 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 Junia, on Harisa Hill, which rises 650 meters above sea level. The monument was made in France and donated to Lebanon in 1908 and since then it has been an important pilgrimage site for Lebanese Christians. Every year, according to tradition, residents walk up to the mountain and light a candle in the small chapel directly under the statue. Believers consider the Virgin of Charis the patroness of the country.
The bronze statue got its snow-white exterior just a few years ago. It is set on a 20-meter pedestal, which is a scaled-down copy of the Al-Malwiyah Mosque minaret in Samarra, Iraq. The sculpture itself is 8.5 meters high, its base diameter reaches 64 meters and it weighs 15 tons. You can reach the Virgin on foot or by cable car. At the foot of it there is an observation deck with a view of the Juniyah Bay and most of the city.
Attraction Rating: 4.7
Star Square, also called Etoile Square, is in the center of Old Beirut. From the top, it really reminds of a star with its divergent rays and streets. There was a Roman forum on the site in the first century AD. The square and the Nejmeh neighborhood were rebuilt in the 19th century by French architects, giving them typical Parisian features. This is the former residence of the French Mandate in Syria.
In the middle of the Star Square is a monumental tower with a clock; on the southwest and east sides you can see two Christian churches: the Greek Catholic Church of St. George and the Orthodox Church of St. Elias. 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 center of cultural life of the capital, and the neighboring blocks are replete with luxurious hotels, boutiques and expensive restaurants.
National Museum of Beirut
Rating of the sight: 4.7
The National Museum in the Lebanese capital has a huge collection of more than 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 visitors in 1942. Up to 1,300 artifacts are permanently on display in exhibition halls with a total area of about 6,000 square meters. The museum has several sections which correspond to specific periods in history: from the 3rd century BC to the reign of the Mamelukes.
The Lebanese Civil War, which began in 1975, threatened the very existence of the museum as the building ended up on the front lines and was used as a military bunker. Still, it survived, 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 archaeology. Artifacts from Phoenician times, including mosaics, bas-reliefs, sarcophagi of kings, mummies dating back to the 13th century, and so on, occupy a special place in the exhibition. Of equal interest is the collection of ivory and antique jewelry.
Martyrs’ Square in Beirut
Rating of the attraction: 4.6
Martyrs’ Square is located in the central part of the capital, close to the Al-Amin Mosque. It used to be called Burj Square, but in the 1930s a monument by the Italian architect Renato Mazzacuratti was erected there and the square was renamed. A sculptural composition dedicated to the Lebanese who were executed in 1916 for taking part in the rebellion against the oppression of the Ottoman Empire. When the Lebanese civil war was raging in Beirut, the square was crossed by the so-called Green Line, dividing the city into Christian and Muslim parts.
Today, the square serves not only as a tourist attraction, but also as a place for rallies, demonstrations. Destroyed during the war, buildings and street infrastructure have been fully restored; only the bullet marks on the monument are a reminder that it was the scene of fierce fighting not so long ago.
Rating of the sight: 4.5
Sursok Museum is located in a historic district of Beirut and is a magnificent white-stone building whose architecture combines features of Venetian and Ottoman styles. The interior of this small palace is no less impressive, decorated in the style of the oriental baroque. Originally owned by the wealthy Lebanese aristocrat Nicolas Soursouk, it was built in 1914. After his death, in accordance with his will, the villa and his unique collection of around 5,000 objects passed to the state.
The museum’s collection mostly features works of art from the 18th-20th centuries. Paintings by famous artists, sculptures, ceramics and glassware are on display. A room is devoted to the works of Islamic craftsmen and contains a collection of 19th-century Turkish silver and a water jug from the late Umayyad period. Another famous historical artifact is the 10-volume Bible printed in the mid-17th century under the auspices of French Cardinal Richelieu. In addition to the permanent exhibition, the Soursok Museum also hosts regular exhibitions of contemporary Lebanese art.
Muhammad Al-Amin Mosque
Rating of the sight: 4.5
One of Beirut’s most beautiful mosques is located in Martyrs’ Square. It was built in 2002-2007 on the initiative of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who allocated over $24 million for the project. After his sudden death, Hariri was buried near the mosque. The architecture of the structure combines Ottoman and some features of Egyptian style. Author Atsmi Fakuri was inspired by Istanbul’s famous Blue Mosque.
The dome of the structure reaches 42 meters high, and there are four 72-meter minarets at the corners. The exterior cladding material was yellow ochre in perfect harmony with the blue dome. Gold walls are adorned with Quranic verses, the interior is carved in traditional Arabic script, finished in stone and includes gilding elements. Residents call Muhhamad Al-Amin the “new jewel of Beirut.”.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Rating of the sights: 4.5
Of the roughly a couple dozen different temples and monasteries around Mount Harissa in Lebanon, St. Paul’s Cathedral draws particular attention. The temple was built from 1947 to 1962. It belongs to the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, which is noted for its adherence to Byzantine rites of worship.
The cathedral is in Byzantine architectural style, with many domes, varying in size and located on different levels. The large entrance doors are decorated with oriental ornaments and applied reliefs. The interior of St. Paul’s Church is richly decorated: the floor is covered with marble patterned slabs and the vaults supported by massive columns display mosaics depicting Christ, the Apostles and biblical scenes.
Rating of the sight: 4.5
One of the largest mosques in the Lebanese capital is also considered to be the oldest city building that has survived and is still in continuous use today. A pagan temple stood there in the 3rd century BCE, later destroyed by an earthquake. After the conquest of the city by the Muslims, a mosque was built on the ruins of the temple, and was named after the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab. During the Crusader period, the mosque was twice converted into a Christian church, until it became a Muslim shrine again under Mameluk rule. During the Ottoman period, it was given the name Yahya Mosque because it housed a sacred relic believed to belong to the prophet Yahya, known in the Christian world as John the Baptist.
In the middle of XX century the mosque was restored, it had to be rebuilt again after the civil war. Today, thanks to donations from scholars, Al-Omari has been restored to its former glory and tourists can admire this early medieval architectural monument. Mosque is active, with weekly sermons and daily prayers.
The Citadel of Sidon
Sight rating: 4.4
This fortified structure was built in the 13th century by Crusader knights to protect the city 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, narrow isthmus. Formerly the site of a temple to the Phoenician deity Melkart. Mameluk troops, who conquered the city, destroyed the castle in a battle with the crusaders. In the 17th century, the fortress was restored by the Lebanese emir, Fakhr ad-Din II.
Of the two towers, the best preserved is the western one. Inside is the vaulted hall, once used as an armory, which contains parts of ancient weapons. The spiral staircase in the tower leads to the roof of the tower, where you can admire the panorama of the fishing harbor and the city’s buildings.
The shooting gallery
Rating of the attraction: 4.3
The ruins of the ancient city of Tyre are in Sura, one of Lebanon’s largest cities. Founded in 2750 BC, Tyre was one of the most important Phoenician ports. It was known far beyond the country’s borders for its unique purple dye, which was extracted from a rare type of shellfish. The city flourished during the Roman period as well. Most of the archaeological sites here date from this period.
The excavations are divided into two areas: Al-Mina and Al-Bass. The first includes Roman thermae, dating back to the 3rd century A.D., an arena where wrestling competitions were held, and the remains of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross built by the Crusader Knights. In the archaeological park of Al-Bass you can see a necropolis carved in the walls with marble sarcophagi, the impressive Arc de Triomphe, a Byzantine chapel from the 6th century and a Roman hippodrome with a capacity of up to 30,000 people. The latter is still in use today – it is the site of a summer arts festival. Many more Roman ruins lie drowned in the coastal waters, attracting divers.
Fortress of Mont Pelerin
Rating of the sight: 4.2
The citadel of Mont Pelerin, also called Saint-Gilles, was built in the early 12th century by crusaders under Count Raymond of Saint-Gilles. The castle is located within the city of Tripoli, on the Hayach Hill. The impressive structure is 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. Its architecture incorporates all the typical features of oriental fortifications built by the Knights of the Realm. Before the Crusaders came, this strategically important place wasn’t empty: the Persian king Khosrov II had a garrison on the hill.
In the early 19th century, the dilapidated citadel was reconstructed by the ruler of the Ottoman province of Tripoli, Mustafa Aga Barbara. During the civil war, the fortress served as a prison, and with the advent of the armistice, it became a tourist attraction.
Landmark Rating: 4.2
The castle, which locals call “The Castle of Dreams”, is located in the mountainous region of the country, 40 kilometers from Beirut. It was built by a simple Lebanese man named Moussa Maamari, who dreamed of having his own castle since childhood. It was also his way of trying to win the favor of a girl from a wealthy family with whom he was in love. Construction of the castle began in 1962 and lasted until 2005. The Lebanese romanticist had help in making his dream come true, both from the neighborhood and from guest craftsmen. Rumors even reached the president, who backed a bank loan. It is worth noting that Moussa never won the attention of his beloved. So this unique fortress-like structure has become a symbol of determination and unrequited love.
There is a museum inside, the exposition was collected by the castle’s owner. A part of it is dedicated to the daily life of Lebanese highlanders, and the other part contains an extensive collection of arms and armour from different periods of history.
Cedar Shoof Reserve
Rating of the attraction: 4.1
Al Shouf Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected ecological site in Lebanon. Its total area reaches 550 square kilometers, about five percent of the entire territory of the state. The main value of the reserve – the forests of the famous Lebanese cedar, some growing here more than two thousand years. In addition to the cedar, the nature area has about 500 plant species, the Shuf is also home to 32 species of mammals and 250 species of birds. The park is home to wolves, lynxes, gazelles, mountain chamois, partridges, pheasants, Griffon Vultures and golden eagles.
Established in 1996 the reserve soon became the most popular eco-tourism destination in the country. On its territory, there is also a historical attraction – the ruins of a cave fortress dating back to the 10th century AD.