Things to Do in Lebanon
While visitors to Beirut could always explore the rest of marvelous Lebanon – Baalbek, the Cedars, Sidon, Jeita Grotto, and Byblos to name a few – there is plenty to see and do right in the heart of the city. Whether your interests lie along the beach, in museums and galleries, or in the souks, you won’t run out of things to do in Beirut, no matter how long you stay.
Sightseeing with a View
Exploring Downtown Beirut on foot will leave you with a panoramic view of the city’s fabulously eclectic architecture. Much of the Central District has been recently reconstructed, but the architects kept one eye on the future with the other on the past. The new limestone buildings are every bit as modern as they are inspired by their 19th century Franco-Ottoman predecessors. Religious buildings also vary from minaret-adorned mosques to Greek Orthodox and Maronite cathedrals. The American University of Beirut campus buildings are a unique blend of Victorian gables and Venetian arcades. Winding, cobblestone streets are occupied by Ottoman mansions complete with Venetian-style windows, palatial Art Deco chateaux, and stuccoed houses with wrought-iron balconies and bay windows that may remind a few visitors of Paris or New Orleans.
For those more keen on natural views rather than man-made, you can’t miss the Corniche, the palm-lined promenade that stretches along the coastline for nearly 5 km. Relax at a café in Raouche and watch the waves break against Pigeons’ Rock, a rock formation that gracefully arches over the sea and stands as a sentinel over it. Pigeons’ Rock is a popular gathering point for locals and tourists alike, giving you a chance to do some crowd watching too.
Besides architecture, the AUB campus is also a self-proclaimed “flowering oasis.” The campus has its own botanical garden and bird sanctuary, not to mention its own stretch of beach. With Beirut’s rapid development, these green spaces are a welcome respite for nature lovers, whether Beiruti or from abroad.
To bring a little of Beirut back home, there are several places to go for a unique shopping experience. In Saifi Village, Gemmayzeh, and along Hamra Street, you’ll find an array of boutiques and other locally-owned shops where you can choose hand-made textiles or sweets, a trendy new clothing item or two, or an independent line of perfumes and cosmetics. For designer shopping, the place to go is the Souks in the Central District, which features over 200 stores and restaurants. The reconstructed buildings have even maintained aspects of the original layout, so you can shop with a sense of what it was like before the civil war.
More traditional-style souks include the Souk Et-Tayeb in Saifi Village and the Souk El-Barghout in Martyr’s Square every August. Souk Et-Tayeb is a farmer’s market with a mouth-watering selection of breads, herbs, vegetables, and street-food, all local and all delicious. It takes place every Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm. Souk El-Barghout is a massive annual flea market where you’re sure to find something special at the right price. To the haggler’s delight, there are antiques, jewelry, furniture, objets d’art, carpets, and just about anything else you could desire or imagine.
Arts and Artifacts
Beirut has always been a center for the arts, even in ancient times. In the 60s and 70s, the city was flooded with artists and intellectuals, whose presence can still be felt in the artsy district of Gemmayzeh. Nearby Saifi Village is also known as the Quartier des Arts because of its numerous art galleries and jewelers. The Beirut Art Center and September’s art fair hosted by ME.NA.SA. ART are testament to the ongoing importance of the arts in Beirut. There is also a dance company and an opera house for the theatrical arts, and the city boasts a lively music scene too.
For older art, visitors should go to the National Museum and AUB’s Archaeological Museum. Artifacts on display range from prehistoric to medieval and from colossal to Lilliputian, and each object highlights the incredible history of the region and its people. Of course, the ancient arts are also on display right in the Central District, where beautiful Byzantine floor mosaics are still in situ.
For More Things To Do in Lebanon Check out Attractions In Lebanon