Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon and the largest city in this Middle East country. Though not a well-known travel destination, Beirut, Lebanon has so much to offer backpackers. Part of the reason why Beirut is still unknown is that it was ravaged by a 15-year civil war.
Luckily, it is now peaceful and the country is putting back the pieces ravaged by war. Here’s a guide of the best things to do in Beirut so that you can get the most out of your next backpacking trip.
Take A Walking Tour To Mohammad Al Amin Mosque
Take a walking tour around the city to one of Lebanon’s tourist attractions, Mohammad Al Amin Mosque. Non-Muslims are allowed to tour provided the guidelines are followed. For example, women are required to wear a type of outfit called Abayas. These are given to every female visitor who doesn’t have one at the entrance.
The Abayas are worn over your clothes. Also, everyone is required to remove shoes. The mosque is located on a site that was built in the 19th century as a prayer corner. Additionally, the highlight of this tour is the magnificent interiors.
Beirut’s Martyr’s Square
Beirut’s Marty’s Square is located in the center of the capital city and one of the country’s iconic places. It received this name in 1931 as a tribute to those who were executed for opposing the Ottoman Empire. The square was initially named Sahat Al Burj or Town Square.
Since its construction, the square has undergone a lot of transition. The previous statue that graced the square was that of a Christian and Muslim woman holding hands over a coffin. It showed the coming together of both Christians and Muslims in times of conflict. Also, the statue was changed in 1956 and later inaugurated in 1960.
During the civil war, the square was used as a place that divided Beirut to signify opposing sections of the East and West. Many buildings surrounding the square were destroyed during the war.
Saifi Village In Beirut Lebanon
One of the places to visit in Beirut, Lebanon is Saifi Village; an elegant and beautiful upmarket neighborhood located in the southern part of the city. It is quite serene with attractive walking spaces. It has walking benches that are free to sit on. Here you can just sit and admire the beautiful surroundings. The buildings around the village resemble old French buildings.
Beit Beirut Lebanon
Beit Beirut Museum was constructed in the 1920s. It was initially the residence of the wealthy Barakat family. After the 1975 civil war, it became a den for snipers. The museum stands on a crossroads which was called the intersection of death during the civil war.
Beit Beirut is a cultural and arts center that mainly commemorates Beirut’s 15-year civil war. The walls of this museum are still visible with craters from bullets that hit the building during the conflict, depicting the effects of warfare. The lower area of the building was also blown away by snippers making it impossible to access the stairs. Some of the graffiti on the wall still stands to date.
Touring this museum takes you through the before and after photos of the museum. The first floor of the building showcases photos of the Lebanese before the civil war. Going up to the second floor brings you closer to the actual conflict as here you will find photos of the civil war.
Admission to the museum is free. It is located within the city and about 15 minutes’ walk from the Mohammed Al Amin Mosque.
Sursock Museum In Beruit Lebanon
This is a contemporary museum located in Beirut. The idea to have this museum was initiated by its founder Nicolas Sursock. He was a passionate art collector and has committed the promotion of art in the country. Therefore, he went to the extent of donating his mansion and converting it into an art museum when he passed away in 1952.
The Museum opens daily from 10 am to 6 pm. There are also days where there are late openings such as Thursdays where it opens from 12noon to 9 pm. Much to backpackers’ delight, admission to the Museum is free of charge. Also, there are guided tours of the collections including the exhibitions. You are welcome to the museum to take photographs without flashes.
This rock stands majestically inside the Mediterranean ocean at the heart of Beirut city. Raouche came into being in the 13th century after a huge earthquake hit the area.
Raouche is a very beautiful spot to visit in the evening where you get to watch the beautiful sunset. Here, you can also get the local boat owners to take you for a ride around and through the conical shaped rock. Remember to negotiate the price before you set out.
Archaeological Museum of the American University of Beirut
This is yet another museum worth a visit while in Beirut. The gallery is located within the grounds of the American University of Beirut. Admission to the university is about 3 Euros.
The museum has a lot of items ranging from the Roman to the Islamic periods. These items include jewelry, coins, and ceramics among others. Also, photography within the museum is not allowed.
There is so much to do while here from guided tours, lectures, gallery talks to special exhibitions. The museum has a shop where you can stop by and purchase gift items for yourself and loved ones.
Roman Baths In Beirut Lebanon
This is a garden and ruins of pre-historic Roman baths. This area was originally found in 1968 and the place underwent a facelift. Also, between 1995 and 1997, more excavation was done to improve the area.
The area has 4 halls the first part is the main room where the central part of the site is located. In the first area, clay piers can be seen all around supported by marble slabs. The second area is also organized like the central area. Additionally, the third area consists of a large stone basin that contained water for use. Finally the fourth is was a pool that served as a sauna.
Additionally, what’s amazing about the Roman baths is that they were built thousands of years ago and are still intact even after the civil war. You can also visit this free place at any time of the week as it is opened 24 hours a day. It is located close to the Beirut Parliament.
Horsh Beirut is the biggest park located in the capital city of Lebanon. Originally the park was a pine forest that covered a very huge space of 1.25 million squares, however, due to the construction and development of the city coupled by the civil war, the park now only covers 330,000 sqm.
If you want to go for a run during your trip then this place is ideal for you. The surrounding areas have beautiful landscapes and green spaces. The area was also a refugee camp for Palestinians for a little while.
Lebanese Prehistory Museum
If there is one aspect that Beirut is blessed with, it’s the number of museums that are packed in the city. The Lebanese Prehistory museum is among these museums. It was officially opened in the year 2000. The museum displays research that was conducted into the prehistoric era of Lebanon.
Located in a building that occupies two floors, the museum boasts of a collection of human and animal skeletons, pottery from the Neolithic era and other ancient items discovered from over 400 archaeological sites.
It costs about 3.30 dollars to access the museum which is opened from Tuesday to Friday from 8.30 am to 3 pm. It also opens on some Saturdays upon request.
Your backpacking trip is not complete without a tour to Jeita Grotto and Mzaar Ski Resort. These are some of the best things to do in Lebanon before your trip is over.
Located 18km north of the Beirut is Jeita Grotto caves situated at a place called Nahr al Kalb valley. Jeita Grotto is two caves made of limestone that are separate but connected and run for 9 km.
The caves were discovered in 1836 by an explorer named Reverend William Thompson. The cave channels a river that runs underground. The river is a source of fresh water to the Lebanese. The tour to Jeita Grotto can only be done by boat.
Mzaar Ski Resort In Beirut Lebanon
This is a very popular ski resort that’s a must-visit, if you are backpacking in Lebanon, Beirut during the winter season. The Mzaar ski resort occupies a span of over 100km of land and the largest in the Middle East. For Mzaar Ski Resort, get your skiing boots ready to have fun as the place is occupied by restaurants, bars, and outdoor, indoor and kid-friendly activities.
Some of the outdoor activities include zip lining that opens on weekends. It glides for over 1,000 meters and once you get on it you get a peek over the beautiful slopes in spectacular surroundings. Raquettes are available too for hire where you can explore the mountain.
Other outdoor activities that you can take part in include tubing, sledding, and snowmobiles where you can discover the mountain terrain. There are also indoor activities too such as swimming, bowling, and a spa. You can decide to spend a night here as there is accommodation available.
Beirut is an unexplored touristic gem that every backpacker wishing to discover the Middle East should venture into.