Beirut is a dynamic, cosmopolitan city with lots of worthwhile museums and a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene. Still, many of Lebanon's most captivating attractions, including some of the most impressive ancient ruins in the Middle East, lie beyond the boundaries of the capital. See below for the must-see ancient sites near Beirut.
Known as Jbail in Arabic, the seaside town of Byblos is about 23 miles (37 kilometers) north of Beirut. Believed to have been inhabited for more than 7,000 years, it is often touted as the oldest city in the world. The city's archaeological site contains Neolithic, Bronze Age, Greek, and Roman ruins as well as a rebuilt 12th-century Crusader castle.
About 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Beirut, Sidon was once a wealthy Phoenician port city and a center for glass manufacture and purple dye production. Evidence of its ancient history can be found scattered around the historic Old City, while just northeast of town sits the well-preserved Phoenician Temple of Eshmun, which dates back to the seventh century BC.
Set 36 miles (58 kilometers) east of Beirut, not far from the border with Syria, are the ruins of Anjar. Rediscovered in the 1940s, this fortified Umayyad city—now a UNESCO World Heritage Site—was originally built in the eighth century and is surrounded by sturdy stone walls. Key monuments include palaces and Roman-style thermal baths.
About 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Beirut, the seaside city of Tyre is believed to date as far back as 2750 BC and was overseen by the Egyptians, Assyrians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and others—all of whom left their mark. Archaeological sites, such as Al Mina and Al Bass, hold extensive Roman remains including archways, bathhouses, arenas, mosaics, and a necropolis.
About 54 miles (87 kilometers) from Beirut sits Baalbek, a city whose collection of Roman ruins rival any found in the Western Mediterranean. Known as Heliopolis (Sun City) in ancient times, Baalbek is home to many large temples, including the huge Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Bacchus, which is elaborately decorated with carvings of gods and goddesses.