The trendy Solidere area of downtown Beirut has been beautifully restored and is a center for family outings, cafes, shopping, and leisurely walks.
The government has paid special attention to rebuilding this area since the war, and today the buildings are magnificant architectural gems, with yellow stonework, arabesque archways, and wrought-iron scrollwork. The cobblestone pedestrian streets are lined with shops selling unique traditional crafts, trendy designer fashions, jewelry, and many other things. There are over 70 restaurants and sidewalk cafes, which are popular places to spend a warm evening.
At the center of Solidere is the Place dEtoile and Clock Tower, a popular area for children to ride bikes and play while their parents relax at a nearby cafe. Solidere is also home to several Roman ruins sites that have been uncovered and preserved, several notable mosques and churches, and the National Parliament Building.
Baalbek's awe-inspiring temples and city ruins are among the largest and finest examples of Roman architecture in the world. Visitors can easily spend several hours, or an entire day, exploring the wonders of this ancient city – from the grandeur of the columned temples to the intricately carved stonework, and the sheer size of the stones used to construct the temples. Like many archaeologists and historians, you will be amazed at the ancient feats of engineering required to build these magnificent stone monuments.
Located in the fertile Békaa Valley, the city of Baalbek originated in Phoenician times as a place of worship to Baal, the Phoenician Sun God. During the Hellenistic period (333-64 B.C.), the Greeks named the city Heliopolis, or “City of the Sun.” However, Baalbek entered its golden age in 47 B.C., when Julius Caesar made it a Roman colony.
A thriving modern town built upon multiple layers of ruins, Byblos is a mix of sophistication and tradition. A contender for the title of “oldest continuously inhabited city,” Byblos is part of the coastal area once known as Canaan or Phoenicia. Modern scholars believe the site of Byblos dates back at least 7,000 years (5,000-4,000 BC).
The city’s current name is taken from the Greek word for “papyrus” (paper). Byblos was not only a major trading center and producer of papyrus, but is also famous for being the city where Phoenician scholars created the world’s first alphabet. Byblos has extensive archaeological ruins which have been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The ruins range from Stone Age huts to a Roman theater to a Persian fortress and an impressive Crusader castle. Take a walk through the medieval quarter of the city and explore the old souqs (markets), the medieval ramparts, and several beautiful old churches.
The small, harbor was once a thriving commercial center, where Lebanon’s cedar wood was shipped thoughout the region in ancient times. Visit the Wax Museum and Fossil Museum to explore the region’s political and natural history. An international music festival is held in Byblos each summer.
Located in southern Lebanon, the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve comprises some of the best preserved sandy coastline in Lebanon. Recognized as a “wetlands of international importance” by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the reserve's artesian wells are the source of the fresh water.
The wells date back to Phoenician times – a period in which the city of Sour (Tyre) was one of the most important city states along the Phoenician coast. Besides the many species of plants and marsh birds that flourish in this delicate environment, the reserve is a nesting site for the endangered Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles.
Visitors will enjoy exploring this coastal reserve on foot, by bicycle, or with snorkels and diving equipment.
The largest of Lebanon's nature reserves, the Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve stretches from Dahr Al-Baidar in the north to Niha Mountain in the south. Blanketed with oak forests on its northeastern slopes and juniper and oak forests on its southeastern slopes, the reserve's most famous attractions are its three magnificent cedar forests of Maasser Ech-Chouf, Barouk, and Aain Zhalta-Bmahray.
These cedar forests account for a quarter of the remaining cedar forests in Lebanon, and some trees are estimated to be 2,000 years old. The size of the reserve makes it a good location for the conservation of medium sized mammals, such as the wolf and the Lebanese jungle cat, as well as various species of mountain birds and plants.
The Al-Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve is a popular destination for hiking and trekking, with trails catering to all levels of fitness. Bird watching, mountain biking, and snowshoeing are also popular. From the summit of the rugged mountains, visitors will find a panoramic view of the countryside, eastward to the Békaa Valley and Qaraoun Lake and westward toward the Mediterranean.