If you want to get out of Beirut on a Sunday but still be by the sea, enjoy remarkable historic sites, savor particularly good fish, stroll around an old souk and feel like Frank Sinatra or Marlon Brando – then get in the car and take the Tripoli Highway north to Byblos.
It’s only about 38km from Beirut and the highway is in good condition, but even so, always bear in mind that driving in the Lebanon is a science all by itself. If you don’t feel comfortable enough, better take a taxi.
Byblos is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, founded around 5000 BC. The Greek word Byblos is also where the name ‘bible’ came from and the Arabic name of the city is Jbeil.
Park the car in the parking lot, following the sign ‘port’ underneath the sign Byblos sur Mer and explore on foot. The ancient port of Byblos is today a favorite destination of yacht owners from Beirut and abroad and once you take a look, you can perfectly understand why the place held such an attraction for the likes of Frank and Marlon in the 60s and 70s.
History fans can get an eyeful by visits to the temple of Baalat Gebal, Byblos Castle and the medieval church of St. John. Excavations and restorations are still under way and you can watch busy archaeologist carefully lift the tiniest shards out of the ground and cataloguing each find there and then.
Walk further on to the southeast section of the historic city and enter the partially covered souk, one of the oldest markets which sells souvenirs, trinkets and clothes.
Next stop should be one of the many fish restaurants all of which serve the freshest fish dishes, followed by a sun down drink in an open air bar before heading back to Beirut.