20 Things To Do In Beirut

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The capital of Lebanon, Beirut, was once regarded as the jewel of the Middle East. It still has much to recommend it with peace coming to a city that was once divided into East and West during the Civil War. The internal struggles lasted for years in the second half of the 20th century, ending in 1990. Problems have persisted since, including a brief war in 2006 and the explosion in its port in 2020 the latest.

Almost half of Lebanon’s five million population live in the greater metropolitan area. Beirut sits on the Mediterranean at the midpoint of Lebanon with the Syrian to the north and the Israeli one to the south. Settlement began here 5,000 years ago and over the years, it has been Phoenician, Greek and Roman before the arrival of Islam. The Ottomans arrived in the early 16th century and at the end of WWI the French took control of the region. Lebanon only became an independent state in 1943, with Beirut installed as the capital.

There are significant numbers of Lebanese Christians, around 35% of the city’s population, with the vast majority living in East Beirut, while West Beirut is predominantly Shia Muslim. Tourism plays a significant role in Lebanon’s economy, with Beirut being the city where overseas visitors tend to arrive. So, naturally, you’ll find many things to do in Beirut. Here are our top picks. 

Beirut, Lebanon

Top Tours

20 Things To Do In Beirut

1- See The City On The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

There are few better ways to get an introduction to a new city than to jump on a hop-on hop-off bus which provides a tour of the city with a guide and audio commentary.

This certainly applies in Beirut, with a tour lasting around two hours.

If you do a whole circuit, then stay on the bus as it goes around again. You can get off whenever you wish to explore.

The trip goes through major streets, stops at museums and churches and heads along the coastline, where you will see fashionable hotels and quality restaurants.

To get your bearings, this is the first thing to do in Beirut before planning the rest of your time in the city. Skip the line and book your ticket here

2- Go On A City Tour

Splash out on a tour of Beirut with an experienced guide who can offer you a city tour that provides insights into Beirut’s soul.

The National Museum is the starting point, where you can learn about the fascinating history of this land.

Then head on to Martyr’s Square, which pays tribute to those who resisted Ottoman Rule.

Mohammad Al Amin Mosque, some Old Churches, Downtown, the Roman Baths, Beirut’s Souks follow before you head to the nearby coast and for a boat ride close to the famous Pigeon Rocks.

3- Go On A Cruise To Pigeon Rocks

Raouche or pigeon rocks panorama with sea and ciry centre in the background
Going on a cruise around Pigeon Rocks is one of the top things to do in Beirut.

Beirut has a beautiful coastline and you can see the city from the sea by booking a boat trip to get a different perspective of the city.

Raouche Rocks (Pigeon Rocks) is one of several highlights and if you head out late in the day, there is the bonus of a spectacular sunset. 

There are small caves in Pigeon Rocks that you may enter briefly.

While your time on the water is less than an hour, this small group tour which begins with your being collected from your hotel, is great fun with its size such that you will get very individual attention.

4- Visit The Chocolate Museum

chocolates in baskets
One of the fun things to do with kids in Beirut is to take a chocolate workshop.

Join a chocolate workshop to learn about everything from the bean from which it is made to the bar that is ready to eat.

It’s a fun time at the Chocolate Museum.

The workshop there will show you how to work with Belgian chocolate, some of the best in the world.

This is something for all the family and kids will enjoy making lollipops and then eating them.

There is a retail area on the site, so you can buy some professionally made products as well as take home those you have made but not already eaten. Skip the line and reserve your spots here

5- Marvel At The Wonderful Caves

Lebanon nominated two incredible caves as the new Wonders of the World.

Jeita Grotto is just a short distance out of the city and it combines with other experiences to provide a wonderful day for visitors to Beirut.

The Upper Cave is around nine kilometres (nearly 6 miles) long.

Visitors can walk about a kilometre (0.62 miles) from the entrance on a walkway specially constructed.

The shades of white, fawn, and brown may not have huge colour because the rock is limestone but the walk is amazing.

Nature has created great shapes from the floor and ceiling.

In the Lower Cave, you board a flatboat and sail along a river that you might imagine to be the legendary Styx.

Later in the day, there is a cable car ride looking down on the city and the Mediterranean then a visit to the ancient city of Byblos and lunch.

This is a “must do” tour while you are in Beirut. Find out more here

6- Stroll Along The Corniche

Vantage point of the Corniche sea front promenade, with high rise residential buildings and pedestrian walkway, with sunset on the Mediterranean sea
Strolling along the Corniche seafront promenade is one of the best things to do in Beirut to soak up the atmosphere.

The Corniche, the promenade along Beirut’s Mediterranean coast, is an excellent place for a stroll.

Pigeon Rock attracts significant numbers but you can stop anywhere on the Corniche to sit with a drink or have lunch, looking out to sea.

The hotels that line the coastline have rooms with wonderful views out to see, but they may not be for the budget traveller.

However, even the budget traveller can enjoy a walk without spending a single Lebanese Pound.

The Corniche is 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) and is lined with palms.

Look inland and you will see the Mountains of Lebanon to the east.

7- Head To The National Museum

The National Museum is a real gem if you wish to learn more about the history of this land, which finally became the independent Lebanon state in 1943.

It owns over 100,000 items, only a small number of which can be on permanent display.

It was a French initiative just after World War I that began the collection; the earliest are from prehistoric times, with items covering that period right up to the time of the Ottomans that ended with that war.

There was extensive damage during the Civil War but the collection was preserved for future generations.

8- Photograph The Mohammad Al Amin Mosque

Beautiful structure, and picturesque architecture, with blue domes and four minarets.
One of the top things to do in Beirut is to visit a mosque, such as the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque downtown.

One of the most significant landmarks in Beirut is the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque downtown in the corner of Martyrs’ Square.

It is on a site with a Zawiya (prayer corner).

In the 19th century, it took some time to get sufficient land to build this colossal mosque, the largest in the country.

It was not inaugurated until 2008, after it was finally started in 2002.

Its design borrows much from Ottoman architecture with its nickname, “The Blue Mosque”, similar to one in Istanbul, coming from the colour of the domes.

9- Explore The Roman Forum

Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral and the ancient Roman Forum ruins in the Downtown city centre of Beirut, Lebanon.
One of the best things to do in Beirut is to explore the Roman Forum ruins, which sit next to the Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in the city’s downtown area.

The façade of the Roman Forum was only discovered in the 1990s and then by accident as other construction was taking place.

In years gone by, Berytus, a Roman settlement, seems to have included a hippodrome and basilica as well as large baths, all typical of an ancient Roman city.

A massive earthquake in the middle of the 6th century caused extensive damage, yet evidence remains of earlier times with several Roman columns still standing.

The clock tower nearby was restored after the Civil War, having been dismantled to allow for excavations.

If you have time, it’s also worth taking a day trip to Baalbek, which is home to some of the largest Roman temples in the world. 

10- Explore Hamra

Hamra Street is one of the most famous thoroughfares in Lebanon’s capital.

Hamra has been regarded as Beirut’s cultural heart, a place of entertainment and cafes though the Civil War stopped everyday life here.

It is a popular neighbourhood with tourists and it is where you will find educational institutions, quality hotels, and cafes where locals debate issues of the day.

Shoppers will also find plenty of retail outlets, so your day can be shopping, drinking coffee and watching the world go by.

By night, clubs open their doors to anyone wanting lively nightlife.

If you are in Beirut in the autumn, the annual Hamra Festival is a significant cultural event held in Lebanon.

11- Admire The MIM Mineral Museum

This private museum has over 2,000 minerals on display, collected from more than 70 countries.

Salim Eddé, a chemical engineer, began to collect them in 1997.

The museum finally opened in 2013 after the Rector of St. Joseph University embraced his ideas and reserved space within a campus near the Beirut National Museum.

The vast variety of colours and shapes you will see, all created by nature, is truly amazing.

This museum is one of a kind and certainly worth some of your time while you are in Beirut.

12- Learn About The Divided City At Bayt

Bayt Beirut, “the house of Beirut”, is on what was the boundary between East and West Beirut during the Civil War.

It is a building dating back a century in Ottoman style and was spread over three storeys, with eight apartments before the Civil War broke out.

Then it became a shell where snipers were known to hide and shoot at enemies.

After the war, it was initially seen as of little value but was saved from demolition by activists keen on preserving the city’s history.

The intent is that it will act as a museum telling stories of the region over the centuries and work is ongoing.

13- Visit The Cathedral

Saint Georges Maronite cathedral and Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque in the background in the center of Beirut, Lebanon.
One of the best things to do in Beirut to soak up some history is to visit both the Saint Georges Maronite Cathedral And Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, which are side by side.

Saint George Maronite Cathedral took 10 years to build, completed in 1894.

It stands on the site of an 18th-century church dedicated to St. George.

It suffered during the Civil War with significant looting, but fortunately, most of its art was recovered later, with the highlight being the painting of St. George by Eugene Delacroix.

After a few years of work, it was reconsecrated in 2000.

The interior resembles that of the Basilica of St. Maria Maggiore in Rome.

The explosion in Beirut in 2020 again caused damage, but donations ensured that repairs were undertaken.

14- Spend Time At Zaitunay Bay

A very modern, high end and newly developed area where yachts are embarked and it's perfect for a waterfront promenade.
One of the relaxing things to do in Beirut is to explore the waterfront.

Zaitunay Bay is a development close to Beirut’s marina.

You can get there from the promenade, the corniche to the south or the waterside city park and if you have a car, there is plenty of underground parking.

The initial concept was to provide a beach with space allocated for artwork and amenities.

The Quayside Restaurant Strip has become a focal point for visitors with numerous restaurants, retail outlets, with the project extending to the Yacht Club to the east.

You will find a swimming pool, restaurant, bar, fitness centre and games room at the Yacht Club.

15- Enjoy Place De L’Etoile

local architecture of downtown Beirut, the Mohammad Al-Amin mosque and Greek orthodox church of St George.
One of the first things to do in Beirut, Lebanon, is to explore Nejme Square, where you will find the clocktower.

This plaza was the idea of the French who governed Beirut between the First and Second World Wars.

The departing Ottomans had destroyed many of the buildings in the city’s heart, not always with bad intentions.

That was certainly an aid to the French, who were presented with a blank canvas.

Some elements of their plans were not implemented because of opposition from Beirut’s elite.

You will see the clock tower, the parliament, an original Ottoman building, churches, restaurants and cafes in the plaza.

It is another site that suffered during the Civil War, and it was almost a decade before it reopened to the public after peace was declared.

16- See The Art At Nicolas Sursock Museum

The Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock Museum is the place to go if you are interested in modern and contemporary art.

Sursock was a Lebanese aristocrat who built a villa just before the outbreak of the First World War.

When he died in 1952, his will requested that the villa was to be converted into a museum that opened to the public nine years later.

The villa takes much from Venetian and Ottoman design and is one of only a handful that still survives in Beirut.

As well as having a permanent collection, regular exhibitions are held in the museum with paintings and sculptures covering the 19th century.

The Italian Government helped with its restoration after the 2020 explosion.

17- Relax Along The Mediterranean

Beirut has an extensive coastline, and there are few greater pleasures on a sunny day than relaxing by the Mediterranean away from the city’s bustling streets.

There are private beaches, several are open to the public, and cafes sell refreshments throughout the day.

Beirut can virtually guarantee sun and warm weather for several months of the year.

Dry weather is a feature of Beirut’s weather from spring until the approach of winter.

18- Go Scuba Diving Or Snorkelling

If you want to exercise while in Beirut, the coast is somewhere that will give you a range of activities.

Snorkel or scuba dive to see plenty under the waves; clear water can reveal an underwater valley if you want to explore.

The terrain is fascinating, with tour companies able to offer equipment, advice and guidance to those wanting to scuba dive and qualified to do so. You can stay above the waves as well.

What about parasailing? No problem. Likewise, jet skiing is readily available. Simply swimming may be your thing.

19- Soak Up The Vibe In Badaro

Panoramic photo of a Beirut City at Night. Thunderstorm and Lightning over Beautiful Cityscape.
You’ll find plenty of things to do in Beirut at night too.

Badaro is an exciting district within Beirut, part business, part residential.

There are three parks in Badaro, where you will also see the French Embassy and its Ambassador’s impressive residence, a 19th-century villa.

It was first developed two centuries earlier and has always had that feel of quality.

It is often referred to as Beirut’s village with its leafy streets, the tomb of the “unknown soldier”, bohemian residents and the smell of freshly made bread and pastries in the small retail bakeries.

Gen Z is undoubtedly attracted to Badaro and its nightlife welcomes visitors.

20- Learn To Cook Lebanese Cuisine

lebanese meshwi mixed bbq grilled meat set with chicken, lamb and beef in beirut restaurant
Joining a cooking class is one of the top things to do in Beirut to explore the food culture.

Lebanese cuisine is full of Middle Eastern flavours and if you want to know about its preparation, book a cookery class with a local family to learn more.

The experience will start from the very beginning, which is buying the ingredients from a local market to use during the preparation.

The shopping list will include fresh vegetables, exotic fruit, spices, herbs, and the meat or fish needed.

Some ingredients might well be taken from your host’s garden, and nothing is fresher than that.

In Lebanon, meals are an important social occasion, making it an experience for anyone booking a cooking class. Or you might also like to pair your food with local wine at a winery or brewery.

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Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.