Beirut is a cosmopolitan city, rebuilt seven times after natural disasters and extended civil war. Explore the modern city to discover its historic roots from a range of civilizations including Ottoman, Abbasside, Omayyad, Byzantine, Roman, Hellenistic, Persian and Canaanite. Excavations have revealed a Roman hippodrome at Wadi abu Jamil and prehistoric tools dating back to 200,000 B.C.
Step into the National Museum of Beirut, bathed in golden light and featuring antiquities discovered within Lebanon. Highlights of this important site include carved ivory, Roman busts and three 6th century B.C. Phoenician statues of young boys. Bring headphones to listen to the complimentary audioguide.
Other museums include Planet Discovery for kids, the Sursock Museum of contemporary art in a beautiful Venetian-Ottoman mansion and the Robert Mouawad Private Museum, with fine jewelry, porcelain and other antiquities.
See the structures residents have built for the various religions practiced in Beirut. The 12th-century Al-Omari Mosque and the blue-domed Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, built in 2008, show the lasting presence of Islam. Near the modern mosque, the ancient St. George Greek Orthodox Church displays historic relics from an earlier Byzantine period.
Overlook the Mediterranean Sea as you walk along the Corniche promenade. In this great spot for people-watching, observe Muslim women in hijab, teenagers in Western-style T-shirts and international visitors from around the world. Sit in a cliff-top restaurant to watch the sun set behind Pigeon Rocks, two limestone monoliths rising from the water. Another peaceful spot is the Gibran Khalil Gibran Garden, a memorial to the famous Lebanese-American poet and essayist, the author of The Prophet.
Visit city souks, selling goods from farm-fresh produce to ornate gold jewelry. Enjoy Lebanese and Armenian specialties, including lamb kebabs, labneh cheese, bulgur and olives. Find nightclubs in the Gemmayzehdistrict and join tours to see some of Lebanon’s natural beauty outside the city. Check the U.S. State Department website for any current advisories in Beirut or other parts of Lebanon.