5 Free Things to do in Beirut, Lebanon While Exploring Downtown
Beirut is the capital of Lebanon and is a beautiful city that has also been unfortunately faced with incredible hardships, especially since the port explosion in 2020 that has only exasperated an already unstable economic environment. The financial crisis has plummeted the value of the Lebanese Pound, which I wrote about my experience with this in one of my other blogs. This devalued currency has made it incredibly cheap to travel in Lebanon, but there are also ways to fill your day in Beirut by exploring downtown without spending a bunch of money except on perhaps getting a delicious meal from a local restaurant.
Below are 5 locations in downtown Beirut that were great to spend my time at and did not cost anything to visit.
Mohammad Al Amin Mosque
So far in my travels, this has been the most beautiful mosque that I have been able to visit. The Mohammad Al Amin Mosque is also known as The Blue Mosque and is a 19th Century Sunni Muslim Mosque. The ceiling is beautifully decorated and it is paired with a stunning crystal chandelier in the middle.
Entrance is allowed 6 times a day for each prayer, and anyone is welcome to enter the mosque. It is not restricted for Muslims only and there is no entrance fee of any sort as well. They also provide robes for entrance if you are not wearing long pants and a head covering for women.
Outside of the Mosque, another site to see is a statue at Martyrs' Square which is a memorial monument commemorating nationalists who were executed in 1916 under Ottoman rule. There is a massive Lebanese flag flying in the background of the square.
The Gesture (Memorial for the Port Explosion)
The Gesture is a somber reminder of how fragile life is and how quickly things can go catastrophically wrong. This is a memorial built out of some of the destroyed shipping containers that were damaged along with large sections of the city when on August 4, 2020 a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the Port of Beirut in the capital city of Lebanon exploded. This explosion caused at least 218 deaths, 7,000 injuries, and US$15 billion in property damage, as well as leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless*.
As of August of 2023 visitors are still not allowed to visit the port for obvious reasons as it continues to be worked on and is guarded by the Lebanese military. If you are walking in downtown you can walk along the adjacent road (there are sections with no sidewalk and you must walk on the shoulder of the road) and can reach the spot where you can look out to the memorial.
Across from The Gesture on the street side is the Statue of The Immigrant which displays the partnership between Lebanon and Mexican heritage.
Beirut Seaside Park
This Seaside Park is located in the Beirut CBD which, as of the time of my visit in February 2023, was pretty barren with a few business' beginning to function again such as a few restaurants and nightclubs. The walkway is built out of concrete and extends from Zaytouna Bay to Beirut Port. On a sunny day, it is a perfect location to sit and watch the waves crashing into the side, picnic, bike, or get some fishing in.
The Rocks are along a section of the walkway and are these huge concrete blocks that I imagine will eventually be dropped into the ocean to join the ones already along the wall to help prevent erosion. It is impressive to stand beside them and just take in how big they are.
Roman Forum of Beirut & Roman Bath Ruins
The Roman Forum is located just behind the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque and also includes the Roman Cardo Maximus with its few remaining granite columns. This was the center of Roman society during the height of the empires control in the city and is now located alongside St. George Cathedral.
The Roman Bath Ruins run alongside the side of the Government Palace which is separated by a crazy amount of barbed wire and road block setups. The Bath Ruins are easy to look at and there are signs along the road that include some historical tidbits about the daily routine when these were in their prime.
Just around the corner you reach the Beirut Souks which are stores that are still currently a work in progress in recovering. This is where you can take some photos in front of the I love Beirut Sign.
Pigeon Rocks & El Delie-Rouche
Last but absolutely not least are the Pigeon Rocks. This is without a doubt, the highlight of the visit to Beirut and is a must see during sunset. These limestone formations are just offshore along the western coast of Beirut and are a popular tourist destination. Visitors can either look at them from the cliffside along various viewing spots or can pay for a boat ride that will take them right up to them and even go through the arch that has eroded into one of the rock formations.
Another viewing spot is across the street fence and down the hill through the bush down to the coastline that offers another angle of the Pigeon Rocks. I feel like sunset is the absolute best time to visit as you watch the sunset over the horizon behind the rocks.
This is not a free activity, but I feel like it must be mentioned because of it being such an amazing experience, having a sunset dinner at Petit Cafe Restaurant. The dining area outside is directly on a cliff that overlooks the Pigeon Rocks and it serves some amazing food and Shisha for any wishing to partake. It was such a pleasant experience that I went back the second night and had a Sunset dinner again.
Beirut is Worth the Visit
Beirut is an awesome city that allows you to be immersed into the craziness of a city that has been put through some incredibly tough situations and yet, the people continue on trying their best to give themselves the means to survive and thrive. Because the US dollar is widely accepted throughout the city, it is a destination that is fairly easy to navigate and will certainly be memorable. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @travelingibson. Best of luck with your travels!