Beirut is a dynamic, cosmopolitan city with lots of museums and a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene. Still, many of Lebanon's most captivating attractions, including some of the most impressive ancient ruins in the Middle East, lie beyond the boundaries of the capital.
Downtown Beirut (Beirut Central District)
Compact and attractive, downtown Beirut is best experienced on foot, whether as part of an organized walking tour or food tour or as a self-guided meanderer. Even by Middle Eastern standards, Lebanon has crazy traffic, and driving in Beirut is not for the faint-hearted. Downtown Beirut tours typically visit Nejmeh Square, Martyr’s Square, the Roman baths, and at least one museum, perhaps the National Museum of Beirut with its Phoenician art and artifacts.
Things to Know Before You Go
Downtown Beirut is a must for anyone who loves good food and drink.
The area is usually safe, but the political situation in Lebanon can change rapidly. Review your government’s travel advice and your travel insurance before you visit, as touring a destination your government advises against visiting will invalidate most travel insurance.
If you have Israeli stamps or visas in your passport—or an exit stamp on a border crossing with Israel—you will be refused entry to Lebanon.
Narrow sidewalks, often steep streets, and steps in places make downtown Beirut a challenging destination for wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Downtown Beirut is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport. Driving in Beirut is stressful and dangerous, and the major international ride-hailing apps have yet to come to Lebanon, so most opt to arrange airport pickup, book a private driver/guide, or join an organized tour.
When to Get There
If food, drink, and socializing are your interests, then a balmy summer evening (June through mid-September) is the perfect time to explore downtown Beirut, with the rooftops in full swing. Lebanon follows the Christian working week, so the biggest nights are Friday and Saturday. If your interests are cultural, visit during the day, and be aware that many sights close on Mondays.
What to Eat in Downtown Beirut
Lebanese cuisine has traveled the world with good reason, although downtown Beirut’s cosmopolitan dining and drinking scene is not limited to local fare alone. Besides Middle Eastern signatures such as falafel, hummus,kofte, and shawarma, seek out the cheesy breakfast known asmanoushe, savorlabneh soft cheese and spicy Lebanese sausages, and be sure to try some local wine.
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- Banque du Liban Museum (Musée de la Banque du Liban)
- Martyrs' Square (Place des Martyrs)
- Hamra Street (Rue Hamra)
- Mim Mineral Museum Beirut (Mim Musée des Minéraux Beyrouth)
- Beirut National Museum (Musée National de Beyrouth)
- Jeita Grotto
- Our Lady of Lebanon (Notre Dame du Liban)
- Beiteddine (Beit ed-Dine)
- Byblos (Jbeil)
- Forest of the Cedars of God (Horsh Arz el-Rab)
- Chateau Ksara
- Sidon (Saida)
- Qadisha Valley (Wadi Kadisha)