Lebanon is home to some of the most fascinating and impressive ruins in the Middle East and the world. The monuments of Lebanon are worth visiting. Lebanon is definitely a destination any history lover should have on their bucket list from ancient Roman ruins that rival anything in Italy to incredible crusader castles. Of course, the ancient city of Byblos, one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world, the grand temples of Baalbek, and the ancient Phoenician port city of Tyre get the most attention. But there are so many lesser-known historic sites scattered throughout the country. Here is a closer look at historical monuments in Lebanon that you should definitely visit:
List of Monuments in Lebanon
1. Temples of Niha
The village of Niha is home to four ancient Roman temples situated between the cities of Zahle and Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley. These historic religious monuments in Lebanon were constructed between the first and third centuries A.D. Two of the temples, which are better preserved, sit just at the edge of the village while two others are located about 2 km up the mountain, past the town. The lower temples were dedicated to the god Hadaranes (local name: Hadad) and goddess Atargatis (Astarte). While there are no records of the original date of the establishment of the village, its history largely follows the history of Lebanon marked by various invading armies over several millennia, and by the feudal system that was the norm during the Ottoman occupation. Until the Islamic conquest, the Bekaa Valley was a Byzantine stronghold. Many parts of Mount Lebanon, notably the Keserwan, were inhabited by a Shiite population after the arrival of Islam and these inhabited enjoyed the patronage of the Fatimids.
Address: Temples of Niha, Beqaa Governorate, Lebanon.
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2. Mseilha Fort
Built by the legendary Druze Emir Fakhreddine II in the 17th century, the fort was used to guard the route between Tripoli and Beirut. Located near the Lebanese town of Hamat and Batroun, Mseilha Castle is a historic castle. Its name means the fortified place where it was used for military and defence work. There is still no consensus on the history of this castle, but it is likely to be built in the 17th century because of the techniques used for construction. It is believed that this famous monument in Lebanon dates back to Prince Fakhruddin’s days. Many scholars believe that, while the fort is only a few centuries old, the rock has been used as a defensive spot since antiquity. Today, the bulwark still stands perched atop a cliff overlooking the highway between Lebanon’s two principal cities.
Address: Mseilha Fort, Batroun, Lebanon.
3. Rashaya Citadel
The Citadel оf Independence or Rashaya citadel has been declared а national monument of Lebanon, having been fіrst built аs а palace by the Shihab family іn the 18th century. Іt іs nоw stationed by the Lebanese Armed Forces and can be visited and seen under the army’s surveillance. The town wаs the scene of a massacre in June 1860, where twо hundred аnd sixty-five Christians were killed by Druze forces, sоme within the citadel. Around оne thousand victims were killed іn the areas of Hasbro and Rashaya between 10 аnd 13 June. The town wаs nearly obliterated and engulfed by one of the largest battles of the Great Druze Revolt, when four hundred аnd twenty-nine Christian homes were either damaged оr destroyed in November аnd December 1925. Three thousand Druze under Zayd Beg besieged the citadel оf French legionnaires under Captain Granger between 20 аnd 24 November. The Druze eventually suffered theіr fіrst major defeat tо French reinforcements, wіth heavy casualties marking а turning point іn the Druze invasion оf southern Lebanon. Under the French Mandate аnd оn 11 November 1943, Rashaya witnessed the arrest аnd the imprisonment оf the Lebanese national leaders іn іts citadel by the Free French troops. Thіs led to national аnd international pressure іn demand fоr theіr release, аnd eventually obliging France tо obey. Оn November 22, 1943, the prisoners were released аnd thаt dаy wаs declared the Lebanese Independence day.
Address: Rashaya Citadel, Rashaya, Lebanon.
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4. Downtown Beirut
Downtown Beirut is easily accessible from all parts of the city and is situated on the city’s northern coast. This important monument in Lebanon includes the adjacent Beirut Seaport and Rafik Hariri International Airport. The Beirut Central District underwent a thorough development and reconstruction plan that gave it back its economic and cultural position in the region due to the devastation incurred on the city center from the Lebanese Civil War. Although most people visit Beirut’s upscaled Downtown district for shopping and dining, the area is also home to many rich historic treasures. You can see the ruins of ancient Beirut just below the city’s iconic Martyr’s Square statue. Nearby, next to Muhammad Al Amin Mosque and Saint Georges Maronite Cathedral, more excavations of the ancient city can be viewed by passersby. Just a short walk away, below the prime minister’s residence – the Grand Serail – the remains of ancient Roman baths stand as a testament to the city’s historic luxury. Historic mosques, churches, and a synagogue are also scattered throughout the city’s downtown district.
Address: Beirut Central District, Lebanon.
5. Taynal Mosque
Located on the left bank of the Abu ‘Ali River, near the Bâb al-Raml cemetery, this mosque was commissioned by Taynal, governor of Tripoli (r. 1326-1333, 1335-1340 and 1341) whom ’Ibn Battata describes as a rich man. The wakf act, engraved in the inner portal, details the considerable revenues that are to ensure the upkeep of the building. The mosque has always intrigue its visitors, because of particularities that set it apart from the other popular monuments in Lebanon. In 1700, Al-Nabulsi described it as “having a strange style and surprising architecture”. To the north, the entrance is marked by a large pointed arch containing a rectangular door surrounded by superimposed black and white stonework, in accordance with the ablaq system. This entrance was apparently changed in a later period, involving the addition of an arch-shaped awning jutting out on the façade. It leads to the first section of the mosque. In the entrance hall, the rectangular space is divided into three aisles by four granite columns of various sizes. The central aisle, the widest, is covered by two domes. This part still has its marble mosaic floor covering, but the marble fountain has disappeared.
Address: Taynal Mosque, Tripoli, Lebanon.
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6. Beaufort Crusader Castle
Situated one kilometre southeast of the village of Arnoun and 800 meters above sea level the Beaufort Crusader Castle warrants a detour provided you have your own transportation. This ancient monument in Lebanon was a military stronghold of the King of Jerusalem to defend the extreme north of his kingdom before 1139. Construction of the Crusader castle began in 1139 and after Saladin captured Beaufort in 1190, it was returned to the Crusaders in 1240 who named it ‘belfort’ or ‘beaufort’ (French for beautiful fortress). The Arabic name of this castle is Qalaa al-Shaqif which means Castle of the High Rock. The castle was renovated by Fakhr el-Dine Maan II in the early 17th century and soon after it fell in the hands of the Ottomans. At the start of the Civil War, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) occupied the castle until the Israelis and SLA (South Lebanon Army) took over in 1982 and stayed there until the end of the occupation in 2000. Renovation is still ongoing and therefore its main attraction is the amazing view reaching as far as Israel and the Golan Heights. Below the castle, the pleasant Kalaa Resort/Rest House offers Lebanese food and drinks. The best way to reach the castle from Saida by public transport is to take a bus (2,000 LBP) or a Service (about 5,000 LBP) to Nabatieh. Both leave from the Nejmeh roundabout and take between 30 and 45 minutes.
Address: Beaufort Crusader Castle, Arnoun, Lebanon.
7. Anjar ruins
The ruins in Anjar date from the 8th century A.D., standing as a unique architectural example of the Umayyad period. Discovered by archaeologists relatively recently in the 1940s, excavations revealed a fortified city surrounded by walls and flanked by forty towers. While this best monument in Lebanon offers archaeologists a better understanding of Umayyad city planning, the city was actually never fully completed. The city’s caliph was defeated in 744 A.D. Following the loss, the partially destroyed city was abandoned. Along with a visit to Baalbek temple in the Bekaa valley, tourists usually go on this trip. It was a fantastic day to visit the ruins of Anjar. There are one free standing building structure and a columned facade. Mostly, the ruins are remains of a small city. It takes an hour to walk to all the sites. There are many signs with information about the ruins and it is in English too. After a visit to this site, you can visit the nearby Al-Shams restaurant for a good Lebanese meal.
Address: Anjar ruins, Bekaa, Lebanon.
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8. Sidon Sea Castle
The Sidon Sea Castle was originally built by Crusaders in the 13th century. However, the small island, where the fortress now sits, was formerly home to the temple of Melqart, the Phoenician version of Heracles. The castle fell into Mamluk control during the Crusades and was partially destroyed. The Mamluks later rebuilt the fortress and added the causeway to the shore. By Emir Fakhreddine II it was later restored in the 17th century. Considering it has experienced centuries of wars and battles, the castle remains remarkably intact today. This most famous monument in Lebanon is interesting if you read about history and try to comprehend how old it is. It was built by the Crusaders in 1228 using previous foundations of an earlier Phoenician Temple and there is a compact little dome built by the Ottomans. For these reasons, it is worth the visit. It was lovely to see school children having geography and history lessons there. It was a very hot day to spend too much time here.
Address: Sidon Sea Castle, Saida, Lebanon.
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Of course, there are lots of other important cultural monuments in Lebanon, and if we’ve missed any, be sure to share them in the comments below. In the meantime, you can also read about the future of tourism in Lebanon.