Before I traveled to Lebanon, I was a bit apprehensive of Beirut. I don’t like big cities and Beirut seemed massive. But as soon as I arrived in Beirut and checked into my hotel, I was pleasantly surprised by the great vibe of Beirut. Soon I discovered that there are too many things to do in Beirut!
The city never sleeps and you’ll find many widespread places to visit in Beirut. To help you figure out what to do in Beirut, I list my Beirut 17 favorite things to do!
Are you planning on spending some time in Beirut? This post can be your inspiration about all the things you can expect in Beirut.
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17 Amazing Things To Do in Beirut – Lebanon
Beirut, or Beyrouth, is called the Paris of the Middle East. Other nicknames are also the Jewel of the Middle-East on the Mediterranean sea. Although I understand the need to compare the city to something familiar, in my personal opinion, Beirut is truly unique and stands completely on its own.
I visited Beirut in springtime when the city was basking in bright sunlight. The streets were dipped in the smell of jasmine and apple blossom. The air was crisp and clean and people excitedly got out to enjoy this lovely day.
Unlike my other trips, I didn’t have a plan or a list of things to do in Beirut. I figured I’d just go out, walk around and take in the city and find some nice things to see in Beirut.
I did just that, but I was overwhelmed by how many places one must visit in Beirut. In the end, I didn’t get to experience everything Beirut has to offer but I sure tried.
I list my favorite activities in Beirut and the things you cannot miss, so you have a good plan of action when you visit Beirut.
Most Important Things To See in Beirut
If we’re talking highlights and what to see in Beirut, then the list is both short and infinitely long. Beirut doesn’t have a Colosseum or Statue of Liberty. But you’ll find plenty of nice places to visit in Beirut that might surprise you! Below are my personal favorite Beirut sites worth seeing:
Find the Roman Ruins of Beirut
As you might know by now, I love historic ruins and I was surprised to learn, Beirut has a couple of Roman Ruins! Of course, I had to find them and see them.
In Beirut, you can find 2 different ruins from the Roman Empire. One is the Cado Maximus, the main street of ancient Roman Berytus.
Nowadays, you can find it on an open plot of land, near Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque and next to Saint Georges Maronite Cathedral. What remains today is a set of ruins, some columns with their capitals and a view of the layout of the ancient city. You can view it from the street level from above but you can’t roam amongst the ruins.
Another Roman Ruin in Beirut was a bit harder to find. The Roman Baths took me quite a few circles around the block, but I was happy to find them in the end. It turned out, I approached them from the wrong side, totally overlooking the Roman Baths.
It is best to find them on Riad El Solh Street, close to BSL Bank. You’ll see several unearthed foundations of the ancient baths. You’ll see the stomps of the pillars that formed the heating system and there are some explanations in English of the function of the bath complex in Roman times and modern times.
Visit a Church and Mosque on the same day
Or several! I was a bit naive maybe, thinking that Beirut would have separate areas or districts with more Muslim citizens or predominantly Christian architecture. I’m sure Beirut has plenty of those, but in the center of Beirut, I found them next to each other. Shoulder to shoulder, you can hop from Christan churches to Muslim mosques in mere minutes.
Depending on your religion, religious interest or simple curiosity, you can visit churches and mosques in Lebanon by the dozen.
A good opportunity to visit a church and mosque just minutes apart, are the aforementioned Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque and Saint Georges Maronite Cathedral. Situated next to each other, it captures an excellent image of the multiple layers of religion that make up Lebanon.
Sadly, during my visit, the church was closed and the time for Friday Prayer in the mosque was just about to start. What I saw from my brisk peek inside the main hall of the mosque, I’d say that the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque is definitely one of the must-see things in Beirut.
Instagram The Colorful Houses In Saifi Neighbourhood
From the mosque, I continued my walk through Beirut and suddenly found myself in a picture-perfect pastel-colored neighborhood. The little streets with hardly any traffic and staircases with lazy cats really is one of the places to visit in Beirut if you love pretty things.
The lovely French-style mansions brightened up the streets with their balconies and inner court-yard. Walking through the Saifi neighborhood is every Instagrammer’s dream!
Be dazzled by the sweet architecture and boho-chic vibe in this area of Beirut!
Be Shocked by Lebanon’s Violent Past
After Saifi Village, I returned to the mosque and stumbled upon the statue at Martyr’s Square. The sun was shining brightly into my eyes, piercing through the metal sculpture, exposing Beirut’s violent past.
I’m not sure I ever saw a bullet hole like that before. (I told you, I am naive). As the figures tower out above you, slightly bending over, you can see their gaping wounds as the sky and the sun fills them up with brightness.
Another testimony of Beirut’s civil war is the Old Holiday Inn Hotel, best seen from Rafic El Hariri Avenue.
This once proud, plush hotel (the biggest in its class) is now empty and a confronting reminder of how brutal the fighting has been. Now completely bullet-riddled, the hotel is a silent reminder of Beirut’s not so distant past.
If you want a little bit more guidance, you can join an excellent Beirut Historic walking tour.
Click here for more details.
Walk the Corniche
After such a confronting history lesson, the contrast with modern, buzzing Beirut couldn’t be any bigger. One of the things you must see and experience in Beirut is the corniche of Beirut.
In my opinion, I didn’t find any magnificent sights to see, but walking along the Corniche in Beirut is an experience on its own.
The massively congested traffic slowly creeps by, while you walk on an endless stretch of pavement, dotted with palm trees and benches.
On one side, the sea is crashing onto the rocks, teasing hopeful fishermen with the catch of the day. The waves refresh the young (and old) boys full of bravery, jumping on the rocks and bathing in the sun.
While on the other side, the glitzy hotels, apartment blocks and glass-domed offices reflect the bright blue sky and sea.
Meandering through a plethora of people on the Cornish is a must-do. This is people-watching at its prime, with loved-up couples, bodybuilders and city-runners, young schoolgirls in uniform, and elderly neighbors decking out their chairs on the pavement and firing up the grill.
Tired of walking? Did you know that Beirut also has a hop on and hop off bus?
Check out the route and prices here.
Visit the American University of Beirut
The AUB, the American University of Beirut is not only one of the most prestigious universities in the region, but it is also a peaceful oasis in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Beirut.
Away from the fumes of the never exhausting traffic of Beirut, the University compound is spread out over 25 hectares on a hill, filled with trees. Lush and green, the area is a great place to contemplate on the bigger issues of life or just take in the architecture from 1860 onwards.
If that is not enough, dive deep into the Archaeological Museum of the AUB, wander the botanic gardens or visit the bird sanctuary.
Watch the sunset (or sunrise) at Raouche Rock
What better point to stop your stroll around the Beirut Corniche than at the famous Raouche Rock or Pigeon Rock. These natural arches in a bay on Beirut’s shore, are the perfect opportunity to gaze out over the water and reflect on the places you’ve visited in Beirut so far.
You can follow the path down to get closer to the rocks or enjoy a boat trip around the arches.
There are plenty of café and restaurants lining the bay, so if you just want to sit and enjoy your coffee as you take in the views, then take your pick.
See the city from the sky
If you’re brave enough, take a tandem flight and sour high in the sky above Beirut and the Lebanese coastline. Look down on the city, her traffic, and fantastic shore as you slowly seer through the sky.
See Beirut from the water
Another great way to change your perspective of Beirut is from the water. Join a boat trip, sailing cruise or board a yacht and set sail to the open waters.
As Beirut is literally on the Mediterranean shore, you can see a good portion of the city from the water.
Sail around Beirut as you take in the best views of the city with a salty sea-breeze in your hair.
Top Things To Do in Beirut
After you hit the highlights of Beirut, you’ll soon notice there are so many other amazing things to do in Beirut! The city is the beating heart of the nation and you don’t have to wonder what to do in Beirut. The answer: literally anything you can think of doing.
Want to go rock climbing? Do it in Beirut.
Fancy Ethiopian dinner? Beirut has it.
Tango dancing for beginners? Why not?!
In Beirut, you can do anything imaginable. But to help you narrow it down, I list the top things to do in Beirut that are low-key and easy and truly define the hearth of Beirut.
Indulge in Beirut’s Coffee Culture
Imagine Beirut as the center stage for intellectuals across the Middle East, men sipping their black brew at small tables on the side of the street while discussing the big things in life. That was once the great past of coffee in Lebanon.
What tea is for Turkey, coffee (or kahweh) is for Beiruti and Lebanese. Talking, hanging out, and indulging in the robust aromas of arabica beans.
Nowadays, those romantic days are long gone, wiped out by the civil war but new coffee bars pop up all around the Hamra neighborhood.
Young baristas cater to hipsters, models, and the local crowd. And to tourists. Take a seat at one of the many coffee bars in Beirut and enjoy the coffee culture. The movement is still young but based on historical traditions. And the dark brew takes center stage again!
If coffee isn’t your cup of tea, you can also enjoy Beirut’s relaxed vibe in a shisha lounge. Or any restaurant that offers shisha pipes for smoking.
Young men carry the intricately decorated pipes with smoldering coles around. They will smoke the pipe up to speed for you, releasing a cloud of fragrant fumes and gurgling sounds that tickle your tummy.
Choose for apple or strawberry flavor or go for the cedar wood taste of hookah tobacco. Take your pick from the menu or let the shisha boys choose for you.
Bask in the sun in a snazzy beach club
Walking the Corniche of Beirut, you see beach clubs situated at the beach fronts. Away from prying eyes and traffic noise, you can bask in the Lebanese sun by the pool.
Pay the entrance fee for the club that you like, pick your free drink from the menu and a whole afternoon of sunny fun time awaits you. Some beach clubs aim for a younger crowd, with loud music and entertainment, but there are plenty around Beirut for a quiet relaxed time at the beach.
Dance the night away in Beirut
Many cities in the world are said to never sleep. I think Beirut can be among them. Beirut’s nightlife is notorious around the Middle East. Party the night away, drink in hand and let the music sway you away in the balmy Beirut breeze. Dancing, clubbing and partying are really the top things to do in Beirut at night.
As I’m not a real party person myself, but I still want to offer you insider tips on where to go partying in Beirut, read more here.
Laze the afternoon away with afternoon snacks
What is straight up my alley; is food. The Lebanese kitchen is elaborate, stacked with flavors, some familiar, others not so much. Everything is freshly made and from locally sourced ingredients. But you can only eat so much per meal.
That is why I love mezze that much! Little bite-sized finger foods to sample a whole cuisine in one plate. Start with cold mezzes, dips and spreads to go with the warm bread. Try some houmous of course. But also don’t forget the baba ganoush or vine leaves stuffed with rice and tomato.
Then move onto the hot mezzes, the chef’s signature dishes in miniature portions. Sample the best falafel on the block, or cheese wrapped in filo pastry. Mmhhh…
Before you know it, the afternoon light is fading and you spent the whole afternoon sampling Lebanese cuisine and looking at Beiruti going about their business.
If you want to experience the best food of Beirut, in bite-size bits, then I recommend the Beirut Bites food tour.
Check out options and prices here.
Learn to cook Lebanese food
If mezzes are not enough to still your hunger for Lebanese food, then learn to cook and have lunch with a Beirut family! Go to the market together, chop the vegetables and learn the insider secrets from Lebanese cuisine first hand!
And the good part is: you get to eat what you’ve cooked! Dinner and unique experience with locals in Lebanon, what more do you want?
But where do you find a local chef that wants to trade their secrets and host you for a meal?
Go shopping in Beirut
Do you need a Lebanese sim card (I surely recommend one)? Or looking for some fancy jewelry? Maybe a new designer bag? Or something you didn’t know you needed yet? Beirut has it.
Visit one of the many souks in Beirut and just browse the stalls. Sample some pistachio nuts, smell some rosebuds or try on a pair of new leather shoes.
Or go for higher-end branded stores and stock up on must-haves. Do you need a new wardrobe? Or are you in dire need of the help of a stylist? Hire one and go shopping in Beirut!
Check out the options here.
Close to the Beirut Souks, you’ll find the colorful (and famous) I love Beirut sign. Another must-do on your Beirut things-to-do list is getting a photo with the sign!
Take a day trip from Beirut
What makes travel to Lebanon so easy, is the fact that Lebanon is such a small country. As Beirut is literally in the middle of it, a day trip from Beirut is easily arranged. Unesco World Heritage Sites like the Bekaa Valley with the Baalbek ruins are just a couple of hours away. But also the major ski-resorts of Lebanon are a taxi-ride away from Beirut. If you want to go hiking in the heart of Lebanon and see Cedar trees, arrange a bus or taxi and you’re there in a couple of hours.
To help you along, I list some of the best and most popular day trips from Beirut. You can do it all yourself with local transport or join a tour group or arrange for a taxi driver.
Best things to do in Beirut
As you can see, Beirut has a lot of amazing things to do and places to see. I don’t think 1 trip is enough, so I’m sorry people who like it, will come back. My best advice to explore Beirut is: don’t plan too much and take your time to take in the vibe and atmosphere of Beirut.
Whether that is by walking around or hopping from one cafe to another curbside restaurant. People watching was my favorite pastime in Beirut and I’m sure you’ll like it too!
What would be the first thing you’d like to do in Beirut? Any bucket list items for your trip to Beirut? Have you been to Beirut? What was the best thing you did in Beirut? Let me know in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you.