Explore / Downtown Beirut

The Saifi village

On the outskirts of downtown Beirut stands a small agglomeration that has a traditional Lebanese architecture, the Saifi residential neighborhood. The area had its share of destruction during the Lebanese conflict, but akin to downtown Beirut, it had its share of restoration and renovation in order to regain its former glory. New average-sized buildings were erected in order to finalize this residential set that enjoys a Mediterranean architecture, which is characterized by the pastel colorings and the arcade windows.


Wadi Abu Jemil

Built in the mid 1800's, this sector is the old Jewish neighborhood in Lebanon. Located at the foot of the Grand Serail, its buildings were inhabited by refugees that left them almost in ruins. Currently, the neighborhood is part of SOLIDERE's reconstruction and renovation project.


Allenbi-Fosh area where there are the grandest buildings of the city, stores and restaurants. This spot is only allocated for pedestrians, and it includes the repaired buildings whose date of construction goes back to the French Mandate era. 

The Squares

The Martyrs' Square

This square is also known as the canons' square or the Burj square. It has been Beirut's beating heart for ages. It was erected in the memory of the Lebanese martyrs who were lynched in 1915 and 1916. In the 18th century, the Burj al Hachich square dubbed the canons' square after the Russian army set up its heavy artillery there in order to control the city, a situation that only lasted for a few months. The first monument that honors the martyrs was the work of Yussef al Howayek; it represented 2 women: one being Christian and the other being Muslim, and is currently on display at the Sursock museum. In 1960, it was replaced by a masterpiece that was executed by the Italian sculptor Marino Mazacurati; it represents the martyrs who paid with their life, holding a torch in their hand and leading the way for future generations. It was restored at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik following the 1975-1990 war stigmata.

Completely devastated during the war, the square was the first excavation field and an integral part of the postwar reconstruction plan.


Star Square or Nejmeh Square

Inspired by its French counterpart, it reflects an architectural fusion that combines French, oriental, and modern influences. The clock tower that was erected in 1933 by Michel EI Abed stands in the center of the square. The square is bordered by restaurants and cafés, and is a junction between many several restored souks.


The Riad al Solh Square

Known until 1950 as the Sour square (the wall's square) due to its proximity to the ancient city's walls, the square was named after the father of the Lebanese independence H.E Riad al Solh, the first Lebanese Prime Minister in 1943. After the war, it was restored and a statue of Riad al Solh was erected therein. The square neighbors a road that bears the same name and that was since the 1950's and 1960's a major business pathway comprising several banking, financial, and administrative institutions.


Samir Kasir Square

Situated to the east of Weygand Street and designed by the architect Vladimir Djurovic.

The Gardens

The Gibran Khalil Gibran Garden

Facing the new United Nations building and the Riad al Solh square, a 6000 square meter was set up and dedicated to the author of the internationally renowned book "the Prophet", Gibran Khalil Gibran. Inside its green plots, the garden comprises an abstract sculpture that represents Gibran's chest, a fountain surrounded by trees, and six obelisks.


Hadiqat al Samah (the forgiveness garden)

This public park was set up over the Cardo Maximus site and other archaeological vestiges, which allows it to offer visitors green spaces dotted with vestiges and ruins from Beirut's past. It was later surrounded by the Saydet el Nourieh church, Greek Orthodox St. George church, the Maronite St. George church, Greek Catholic St. Elias church, the Mohammed al Amine mosque and the Mansour Assaf mosque.


The Roman baths garden

 This garden that is dotted with waterfalls and terraces embellishes the Roman thermal baths by joining the scents and colors of the Mediterranean Sea.

The garden hosts open air festivals and musical shows. 

Ruins and Vestiges

The Glacis

Tourists can see 3 of them: the first was constructed in 2 stages: during the first stage, it was erected above the city's anterior walls with irregular stones while the second stage was conducted later in order to block the chicane entrance. The 3rd glacis is made of sea pebbles and goes back to the end of the Bronze Age and the beginning of the Iron Age.


The 5 columns (also known as the 40 martyrs' columns)

Located to the left of the Maronite St. George church, those columns were discovered in 1963 and were part of a colonnade in Beirut during the Roman era.


The Roman Exedra

Elements of this semi-circular cultural building were discovered west of the Maronite St. George cathedral in 1963. They were displaced and rebuilt on the outskirts of the Charles Helou Boulevard near the port entrance.


The Roman Baths

Uncovered in 1968-1969 behind the banks' street, the thermal baths were covered with ruins during the Lebanese war. The site was cleaned up after the war and became a spot of extensive excavations between 1995 and 1997. The baths are among the most important discoveries in Lebanon, uncovering the chambers of the cold and heated bath, the water pipes that are dug in the rocks, the heating system in the ground and the thresholds that are supported with brackets.


4 columns and their architraves

Those columns are located in the center of the "Place de I' Etoile" square facing the parliament. They were discovered in 1968-1969 while the clock tower also known as "al Abed clock" was being moved.


Columns with molded architraves

These columns were brought from the roman basilica's peristyle, a part of which was found in the 1940's between the "Place de l’Etoile" square and the Grand Mosque. They have been set up ever since facing the National Museum on the Damascus road.


The Mosaics Floor

The mosaics that we see in the middle of the National Museum square originate from a Byzantine church that was discovered in the 1950's in Khaldeh, south of Beirut, during the construction of the Beirut International Airport.


The Cardo Maximus

Fragments of this cardo were revealed in the churches' neighborhood near the "Place de l’Etoile" square. The 40 martyrs' columns that are located there could have been part of a tetrakionion, a monument that provides a junction between the Cardo Maximus and the Decumanus Maximus at the very spot where the latter changes direction.


The Medieval Wall

It is a Crusaders' and Mamluk' wall that was discovered in the excavations carried out north of the Weygand Street, along the ancient wall of Maronite patriarch Howayek.


The Crusaders' Castle

We can see the remains of this castle that was erected near the port during the crusades. This castle was first demolished in 1860 during the expansion of the old port, and the 1995 excavations unraveled several parts of the castle walls. Those parts have shown that the structures were solid and fortified by Roman columns placed in headers.


The Grand Serail

Built in 1853 by the Ottomans as a military barracks, this humungous building was the headquarters of the French governor during the French mandate and became the headquarters of the Lebanese Prime Minister after the independence.


The Ottoman Military Hospital

Facing the Grand Serail stands this huge building built in 1860 to serve as a military hospital. It housed the Justice palace since the beginning of the French mandate until the 1960's; and today, after its renovation, it became the headquarters of the development and reconstruction council.


The Clock Tower

Located near the Grand Serail, the tower was built in 1897 and restored in 1994.


The Antoun Bey Khan

A department store whose architecture is inspired by that of the Ottoman "Khan" (caravanserai) has been built on the location of the Antoun Bey Khan. The courtyard was transformed into a central atrium with a glass ceiling.

The Churches

The Greek Orthodox St. George cathedral

The church was first built in 1767 on Crusaders and Byzantine structures neighboring the Roman law school and is considered one of the oldest buildings in the city. Its iconostasis, fresco, and icons were heavily damaged during the war, and during the restoration process, the icons were renovated by Russian and Greek artists. The cathedral is erected on the ruins of a church that goes back to the crusades era and built on the ruins of a Byzantine church. Could it be the Anastasia church?


The Greek Catholic St. Elias Cathedral

Neighboring the" Place de l’Etoile" square, this church that goes back to the 18th century was built with a Byzantine oriental touch and boasts a magnificent marble iconostasis. The church was restored in 1994 and its restitution was accomplished off in 2003.


The Maronite St. George Cathedral

Built between 1888 and 1894 with a neoclassical architecture, this church that is very similar to the Marie Majeure church in Rome was the highest building in Beirut before the war. It was fully restored after the war and is currently the Episcopal seat of Beirut's Maronite archdiocese.


The Capuchin St. Louis Church

Built in 1864 and inaugurated in 1868, the church was supposed to fulfill the Latin community's needs in Beirut. During the war, the church was burned and shelled several times, while the restoration works began in 1994 to regain its past splendor.


The Evangelical Church

Built in 1869 by the Anglo-American missionaries to fulfill the needs of Beirut's Protestant community, the church was completely destroyed by the shelling in 1976 and rebuilt using the same stones in 1998.


St. Maron Church - Gemmayzeh

The roman-style church was built in 1875. It is known for its arcades and quarried stones, and its beauty is reflected in its stained glass windows and its white marble altar which is surmounted by a portrait of St. Maron that was painted by Daoud el Corm.


The Maronite St. Elias Church - Minat el Hosn

The original building goes back to 1907. The church was built on the ruins of a small ancient Maronite church. The yellow-stone church was restored in 2002 and its windows were painted by the French artist Jack Guiton.


The Armenian Catholic Sts. Elian and Gregory Church

When constructed in 1860, it was the first Armenian Catholic Church. It has been demolished and rebuilt in 1901 in order to be expanded to hold a greater number of believers. In 1950, it had the same fate of destruction aiming to build on its location the cathedral of St. Elian and Gregory at the time of the Cardinal Agajajian.


For more info, check the Religious Tourism.

The Mosques

The Grand al Omari Mosque

It is the largest mosque in Beirut, and its name pays homage to the caliph Omar Ibn AI Khattab. It was built on the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church that was in turn built on the ruins of Roman thermal baths. The crusaders transformed the mosque in 1150 into a cathedral dedicated to St. John, before the Mamluk definitely turned it into a mosque in 1291. Thus, it became the grand mosque of the city during the reign of King Al Achraf Khalil.

Its architecture is reminiscent of that used in oriental basilicas with the use of Roman capitals on the external and internal parts of the building.


Zawiyat Ibn Iraq

Built in 1517 by Mohammed Ibn Iraq ad-Dimashqi, the building was originally an Islamic theology school during the Ottoman rule. It was discovered in 1991 in the cleanup activities that were kicked off after the Lebanese conflict.


The Emir Assaf Mosque

Also known as the Bab al Saraya mosque due to its proximity to the Emir Assaf's Serail, the mosque lies facing the municipal palace. It was built by the Emir Mansour Assaf (1572-1580) on the ruins of a Byzantine church that was dedicated to the Savior.


The Emir Mounzer Mosque

Also known as al Nafoura due to its original fountain, the mosque was built in 1620 by the Emir Mounzer, governor of Beirut, on the ruins of an ancient structure from which 8 granite columns remain in the mosque's courtyard.


The al Majidiyyeh mosque

Originally, the building was an ancient maritime citadel in Beirut, and it was turned into a mosque in the middle of the 19th century by the Sultan abdul Majid (1839- 1861) and named after him. The mosque was destroyed in the 15-year Lebanese conflict but was restored afterwards, and another minaret, higher than the original one, was added to it.


The Abu Baker Mosque (or the dabbagha mosque)

It goes back to the year 1294, to the Mamluk epoch. It was demolished in 1915 to give way to modern public roads before being rebuilt during the French mandate. The mosque sustained heavy damage during the Lebanese war only to be restored and reopened in 1999.


The Mohammed al Amine Mosque

The mosque was erected near the Martyrs' square with an Ottoman and oriental touch. It was built with yellow stones and has a blue cupola with 4 minarets that stand 65 meters high. The former Lebanese PM Rafik AI Hariri (assassinated on 14 February 2005) is buried within the mosque’s boundaries.


For more info, check the Religious Tourism.

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