The entire Middle East intrigues me, so naturally one of my goals for living in the region is to see as many countries as possible. When you’re working full-time, weekend getaways are the perfect opportunity to see a new country without having to ask for days off. However, bad flight times can get in the way of being able to make the most of Thursday to Sunday morning. Luckily, I found that Beirut has great flights from Amman that leave on Thursday evening and come back early Sunday morning, leaving you with 2 full days to explore the Lebanese capital.
Keep reading below to see how I made the most of 48 hours in Beirut.
Tip: Bring US Dollars with you. You can pay for anything with USD and they will pay you back in a mix of Lebanese Pounds and Dollars. Yes, change tends to get confusing.
Thursday night – Amman to Beirut
I caught a taxi from work straight to the airport for my 8:30 pm flight with Royal Jordanian. The flight is only 1h45 minutes (a bit longer than it should take since RJ doesn’t fly over Syria) and will get you into Beirut Airport before 11 pm. Before midnight, you’ll make it to the city center as it’s only a short 10-15 minute drive (without traffic). If you don’t have a ride to pick you up, you can always book an Uber for maximum $20.
Tip: I couldn’t connect to the Beirut Airport wifi upon arrival, so if you don’t have a data plan, keep that in mind for using Uber.
Friday morning – Beirut to Byblos
After breakfast, we took an Uber to Byblos (we were quoted a price of ~$50 one way, but we ended up negotiating to $35 one way). Byblos is a coastal town and is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 8800 B.C.E. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the small fisherman’s village can take you through the history of civilization with architecture and antiquities from every period. Byblos is also the place where our contemporary alphabet was discovered.
For a more economical option to get to Byblos (~$2 one way), you can take a public transportation. “LCC bus 6” leaves from Cola intersection and takes you all the way to Byblos. There are also buses leaving from the Charles Helou bus station and Dowra, but you will just need to ask the bus driver to drop you off at the bus stop on the right side of the highway.
Tip: The name in Arabic for Byblos is Jbeil in the case you see that written on signs instead of Byblos, they’re one in the same.
Eat in Byblos
We arrived around lunchtime, so we started out at a Lebanese restaurant called Feniqia in the old town’s souk (bazaar). We got a hearty serving of hummus, moutabal (eggplant + tahini spread), warak arish (stuffed grape leaves) and fattoush salad.
Tip: try the chocolate fondant for dessert!
Souk + Port
After we were happily full, we walked around the souk and through the bougainvillea lined streets towards the port. Byblos Port is believed by the Lebanese to be oldest port in the world. Around 3000 BC, it was the most important timber shipping center in the eastern Mediterranean. It was used by the Phoenicians to ship their local wine, Cedars of Lebanon and other wood to the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt to be used in tomb construction and shipbuilding.
The last stop in Byblos was to see the 12th century castle. This castle belonged to the Embriaco family from Genoa from the end of the 12th century until the end of the 13th century; except for a ten year period (1187-1197) when it was captured and occupied by Saladin. It costs about $5 to enter and is well worth it if you want to learn more about the history of Byblos, or even if you just want to get the views from the top of the watchtower.
Tip: They offer guided tours for ~$10 per person, but you can most likely negotiate the price down.
Friday evening – Byblos to Harissa
Around 6 pm we left Byblos and caught a cab headed back towards Beirut to the town of Jounieh. In Jounieh, you can catch the teleferique (~$7 one way) to the top of Harissa Mountain and the observation deck of Our Lady of Lebanon.
Tip: The gondola ride takes 9 minutes to reach the top, so plan your time accordingly to go around sunset for the best views.
At the top of Harissa Mountain, you will find the 8.5 meter high statue of “Our Lady of Lebanon” (just think Rio’s Christ the Redeemer, but the Virgin Mary). You can climb up the statue base’s stairs to get a great view of the Mediterranean, Beirut & surrounding towns.
Tip: Our Lady of Lebanon is a pilgrimage site, so don’t be alarmed if someone asks you to respect the silence or if you see people taking off their shoes to climb the steps.
Friday Night – Harissa to Beirut
Food & Drinks
After Harissa, we headed back to Beirut for dinner & a night out in the Mar Mikhaël neighborhood. Here you can find a long street of restaurants and bars for any type of gastronomic or musical taste.
Saturday Morning – Raouché
In the morning, we went for a walk down the corniche (seaside path) in Beirut’s westernmost neighborhood, Raouché. Along the corniche, you will find many upscale cliffside restaurants and cafes, joggers and families out for a stroll and the famous Pigeon Rocks. Pigeon Rocks is also called Lover’s Rocks due to the couples you can catch there watching a romantic sunset.
Saturday Afternoon/Evening – Downtown Beirut
Every Saturday in the downtown souks, from 9 am to 2 pm, you can find Souk el Tayeb, Beirut’s first farmer’s market. Here, you can browse the stalls and pick up local produce, spices, honey, soap and sample other artisanal Lebanese products.
Old City Walking Tour
Note: We were supposed to go on a historical tour of downtown Beirut Saturday morning with the company Beirut Old City Walk, but unfortunately it was canceled due to bad weather.
Sunset Rooftop Drinks
As I just mentioned, the rainy weather wasn’t doing us any favors on Saturday, so the plan to have a drink at one of the best rooftops in Beirut, Iris Beirut, didn’t happen because it was closed. We did, however, check out the views from the top floor of the Four Seasons (they also have a nice rooftop). As the Four Seasons is right on the marina, they suggested we walk across the street to the Yacht Club, where they were holding a boutique fashion market.
If the weather permits, either a rooftop or the marina are great places to catch a sunset on your last night in Beirut!
Until next time Beirut!