Most sightseeing tours in Lebanon start from the country’s capital – Beirut . The largest city in the country is located in the central part of the Mediterranean coast on the hilly peninsula of St. George and is separated into a separate administrative unit. Here is the main port of Lebanon and the largest port on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.
The first mention of Beirut dates back to the 18th century BC. The city became known during the reign of the Phoenicians under the name of Berytus. Berit was one of the most important trade centers in the Mediterranean. Beirut became the country’s capital in 1943, when Lebanon gained independence from France.. Beirut has been dubbed the “Paris of the Middle East” for its special appearance, in which the architecture of a wide variety of epochs, from the reign of the powerful Phenicia to the Ottoman Empire, has been mixed. Unfortunately, during the civil war of the late 20th century, the city was badly damaged. Today, however, the restoration of Beirut is proceeding at a rapid pace: most of the historical monuments have been restored, and modern buildings are growing next to them.
According to TOP-MEDICAL-SCHOOLS, the main attractions of Beirut are located in the Central District. In the very heart of it is the Star Square., which is similar to the Parisian square of the same name. It got its name because of the streets that radiate from it, like the rays of a star, in all directions. There is a clock tower in the center of the square. Star Square is a great place for walking, in its surroundings there are many attractions of Beirut, and on the nearby streets there are shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. Near the square , the Grand Serail Palace is interesting. It was built in 1853 as the residence of the Ottoman sultans. A little to the south is the Archaeological Park, where you can see the ruins of Roman baths. To the east of the Star Square rises the Cathedral of St. George in 1888 – the main Maronite temple of the country. Close to the Mosque of Omar or, as it is called, the Great Mosque. Initially, this place was the Cathedral of St. John, which was erected by the crusaders in 1113 – 1115. It was rebuilt into a mosque by the Mamluks in 1291. In the vicinity of the Cathedral of St. George and the Mosque of Omar is the Martyrs’ Square. The square was built in the 30s of the 20th century in memory of the Lebanese who fell in the struggle for independence from Ottoman rule. Celebrations of one of the main national holidays of the country – the Day of the Martyrs, which is celebrated on May 6, take place here.
In the southern part of Beirut are the most famous museums of the city – the Lebanese National Museum, which is the largest archaeological museum in the country, and the Sursok Museum, which has the largest collection of contemporary art. Also in the southern part of the city is the building “Pines”, which houses the French Embassy . From the south, it is adjacent to the largest park in the city with a pine grove.
The main place for walking in Beirut is the promenade, called in the French manner “Corniche”. Here you can have a great time in numerous restaurants and cafes, just walk or ride a bike. On the waterfront is the American University Beach . The University itself is located nearby. It houses the Archaeological Museum, which contains archaeological finds from both Lebanon and and from various parts of the Middle East. From the embankment you can see the symbol of Beirut – Pigeon rocks. These are two small rocky islands that rise right out of the water. Not far from here stretches the vast beach area of Rafik Hariri, which is full of tourists and locals during the summer months.
In the western part of Beirut is the commercial and financial center of the city, the Hamra district. Most shops, banks, restaurants, clubs and cinemas are concentrated here. From Beirut, you can easily get to any part of the country. The city is surrounded by all sorts of attractions: natural, cultural and historical.
13 km north of Beirut the Dog River flows, which in ancient times was a powerful obstacle for the conquerors of the city. Here you can see rock inscriptions left by foreigners who tried to cross the river. The inscriptions refer to various eras, ranging from the 2nd millennium BC. and ending in the 20th century. A little north along the coast is Jeita Cave., which consists of two levels – Lower and Upper. The total length of the cave is 3500 m. Labyrinths and galleries stretch along its entire length, which were formed by the power of water. The lower level of the cave was discovered in 1836. It can only be traveled by boat, because its bottom is occupied by the river. A 120-meter lift leads to the Upper Level. It is worth noting that the Upper Level is open all year round, while the Lower Level may be closed to the public during the winter. The walls of the galleries of the cave are covered with stalactites and stalagmites, and some of them reach incredible sizes – up to 10 m. All galleries are illuminated.
There are restaurants and souvenir shops in the vicinity of Jeita Cave, and there is even a theater at the entrance to the Upper Level. Not far from here on the shore of Juniya Baythe resort area of Jounieh is located. Sandy beaches with numerous hotels stretch along the coast of the bay, surrounded from the east by the high mountains of Lebanon. During the summer, Jounieh becomes the premier beach destination in the country. Rising above Jounieh is the 600-metre-high Harissa Hill, where a statue of the Holy Virgin Mary was erected in the early 20th century. Harris Hill has been chosen as a sacred site for Catholics. Similar hills with statues are located all over the world: In the USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Australia and Europe. A cable car is laid to the top of the hill, along which tourists are delivered. There are dozens of monasteries and churches on Harris Hill. The famous “Casino du Luban” is also located in the vicinity of Jounieh, which is considered one of the best in the Middle East. The casino was opened in 1959 and at that time was a small gambling center. To date, the area of the casino is 34 thousand square meters. m. Gambling for every taste is offered here: 60 game tables for American roulette, poker, Black Jack, Punto Banco and other games, as well as more than 300 slot machines. 20 km from Jounieh is the city of Jebel , known in antiquity as Byblos.
. It is believed that Byblos was founded in 5000 BC. It is one of the oldest still inhabited cities in the world. It was in Byblos on the lid of the stone sarcophagus of King Ahiram that the most ancient writings were found – Phoenician, dating back to the 13th century BC, and it was here that the foundations for creating books were born. During the time of the Phoenicians, Byblos was a major trading center in the Mediterranean, but under the Mamluks and Turks, the city turned into a small fishing village and lost its significance. To date, Jebel is a living history of the country: visiting it, you can see the buildings of various eras, from the time of the origin of civilization in these parts to the present. The historical part of the city is a vast area of archaeological excavations, it is surrounded by a wall. Here you can see the medieval Byblos fortress, which was built in the 12th century by the Crusaders, the Church of St. John of 1150, the ruins of Phoenician temples: the GreatTemple and the Balat Jebel Temple of 2700 BC, as well as the Temple of the Obelisks of 1600 BC. The Old City of Jebel hosts the international Byblos Festival every summer.
East in the mountains of Lebanon, which border the central part of the Mediterranean coast of the country, there are several ski resorts: Faraya-Mzaar, Fakra, Kanat-Bakish, Zarur, Lakluk and Cedars . They are close to the beaches and the main attractions of the region, which allows you to combine several types of tourism. All mountain resorts in Lebanon work all year round. From December to April, skiing is possible here, and at the beginning and at the end of the ski season, mild weather conditions are observed on the coast, so after skiing you can go to sandy beaches or visit ancient coastal cities. In summer, mountain resorts offer hiking tours of natural and historical attractions.
In the northern part of the mountains of Lebanon, in the vicinity of the highest point in the country – Mount Cornet es Saud (3083 m) – not far from the Cedar ski resort, there is a protected area of ban ancient cedar forest, whose age reaches 2000 years. The forest grows on the slopes of Mount Makmel and consists of 400 trees, some of which are up to 35 m high and 14 m in diameter. Cedars were used in ancient times very widely: for shipbuilding and the construction of houses, and under the Turks for heating at all. By the beginning of the 20th century, only a few areas of cedar forests remained on the territory of the country. Now the Lebanese cedar is a symbol of the country and is protected by the state. The history of this protected area goes back to 1877, when, by decree of the Turkish Sultan Rastum Pasha, 102 hectares of cedar forest were surrounded by a high stone wall. Today, about 3 km of hiking trails have been laid in the forest, the Maronite chapel of 1843 and the sculpture “Five Christs” created by the sculptor Rudy Rame from dead Lebanese cedar are interesting here.
In addition to the protected forest, the city of Bsharre is interesting in this region.. The famous Lebanese writer, poet and artist Gibran Khalil was born and died here. In Bsharra, the Gibran Museum is open, where you can see his paintings, drawings and manuscripts. Also in the region it is worth visiting the highest mountain village of the country – Bka Kafra, which is located at an altitude of 1560 m, Tannurin and Horsh Eden cedar reserves and the Kadisha valley. Qadisha Valley from the 6th century CE was a refuge for the Maronites, here in the village of Diman since the 19th century there has been a summer residence of the patriarch of the Maronites, and in the vicinity you can see many Maronite monasteries carved into the rocks. In this regard, the valley is often called “Sacred”. The Kadisha valley with its caves, rivers, waterfalls, monasteries and original villages is a great place for hiking. In 1903, caves of the same name were discovered here, the walls of which are covered with stalactites and stalagmites. Under the caves is a picturesque waterfall.
To the west on the Mediterranean coast is the ancient city of Tripoli . Tripoli is the second largest city in Lebanon and the main port of the northern part of the country. It is believed that the first people appeared here in the 14th century BC. In the 9th century BC. on this place the Phoenicians founded the city of Trablos, which became a major trading port. Under the Arabs, Tripoli became the center of shipbuilding, and under the Turks it became the main city of the northern part of the Lebanese coast. Modern Tripoli is divided into 3 parts: the Old City, the port area of El Mina and the modern city surrounding them. In the Old Town are the medieval fortress of Saint-Gilles from the 13th century; Great Mosque of 1315; Al-Kartauiya Madrasah (first quarter of the 14th century); the oldest still operating Turkish baths of the city – Hammam El Abed; caravanserai Khan El-Sabun; the so-called “soap yard”; the baths of Hammam Izz al-Din, which were donated to the city by one of its governors; mosque-madrasah Burtasia of the first quarter of the 14th century, the mihrab of which is covered with golden mosaics and the oldest mosque in the city of Abd El-Vahid of 1306. However, if you want to feel the spirit of ancient Tripoli, then you need to visit the areas of ancient markets and caravanserais, especially the El-Kharaj market which has been operating since the 14th century. These areas have changed little over the past 500 years: among the bustling malls selling all kinds of souvenirs and handicrafts, there are craft workshops. If you head north to the port area of El Mina, you can see the quadrangular Lion Tower from the mid-15th century. It was erected under the Mamluks to protect the city from attacks from the sea. The port area of El Mina is a great place for walking. On the local promenade there are many restaurants where you will be offered to taste dishes from all kinds of seafood. From here, excursions depart to the nearby Isle of Palms, on which a nature reserve has been extended since 1922.
No less interesting is the southern part of Lebanon. Bietddin is located 30 km southeast of Beirut at an altitude of 850 m. In ancient times, the city was known as the place of residence of the Druze hermits. It was here that in 1788, under the reign of Emir Bashir Shihab II, the construction of the chic palace complex, which has survived to this day, began. The palace was built for about 30 years. It was built by craftsmen from Damascus, Aleppo and Italy, so the architecture mixed Arabic and Italian Baroque styles. Since 1943, the palace has been the summer residence of the President of Lebanon.. Today, some of its halls are open to the public. There are several museums in the palace complex: the Kamal Jamblatt Museum, which exhibits photographs, documents and manuscripts telling about the life of one of the most famous Druze leaders – Kamal Jamblatt; the Rashid Karami Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum, whose collections include Bronze and Iron Age pottery, Roman glass, gold jewelry, and Islamic period sarcophagi; as well as a museum of mosaics, located in the stables. Under Emir Bashir Shihab II, 3 more palaces were built in Bietddin for his sons. To date, of these, only Amin’s palace has survived, which now houses a hotel. Not far from here, on the slopes of Mount Barouk, lies the El Chouf Sidar nature reserve., where on the territory of 550 sq. m is about 25% of the Lebanese cedars preserved in the country and about 500 plant species. Of the historical sites of the reserve, one can distinguish the cave castle of Kalat-Nia, the tomb of Al-Nabi-Ayub, where the prophet Job is buried, whose name in Arabic sounds like Ayub, and the Druze fortress of Kaab-Elyas, which in ancient times protected the path from Beirut to Damascus. Saida is located 48 km south of Beirut. It is the largest city in the southern part of Lebanon and an important commercial center of the coast, which has not lost the benevolent atmosphere of a small eastern city. These places began to be inhabited as early as 4000 millennium BC. Under the Phoenicians, the city was called Sidon. and was an important trading center in the Mediterranean. The heyday of Sidon fell on the 10th-6th centuries BC, when glass and the famous purple paint began to be produced here. Sidon is mentioned in the Bible as one of the places visited by Jesus Christ and the apostle Paul.
The old city of Saida is located in the city harbor area. During the time of the crusaders, in 1228, on the coastal island, on the site of the Phoenician temple of Melqart, the impregnable fortress of Qalaat al-Bahr was erected. After the crusaders were defeated by the Egyptian Mamluks, all medieval fortresses were destroyed, including the fortress of Sidon. To this day, only 2 towers connected by a wall have survived from it. From the western tower you have a beautiful view of the city. There is a stone road leading to the island where the fortress stands, along which you can see the remains of Roman columns used by the crusaders to build the fortress. In the center of the Old City of Saida , the Khan El-Franj caravanserai, the Bab El-Saray mosque of the early 13th century, the Great Mosque, the Fakhr Ed-Din Palace of the 17th century, the oldest Maronite church of Saida – the Church of St. Elyas, the Audi soap factory of the mid-17th century, where the soap museum is now located, and the remains of the medieval fortress of St. Louis.
1 km north of Saida, surrounded by orange orchards along the banks of the sacred Avali River, there is a unique archaeological site – the temple complex of Eshmun, which the locals call Bustan Ash-Sheikh. The temple complex was erected by the Phoenicians and was dedicated to the heavenly patron of Sidon, the god of health and longevity – Eshmun. Most of the buildings date back to the 4th century BC. Also, during the archaeological excavations, structures of the Roman and Byzantine eras were found here.