Located just an hour from Beirut, Byblos is a popular touristic destination among those looking to escape the chaos of Beirut.
Like many of Lebanon’s coastal destinations, Byblos has witnessed the onslaught of Lebanon’s conquering armies, from the Phoenicians to the Greeks to the Crusaders. Luckily, these great civilizations left relics of their conquest behind, and ruins from ancient times abound in Byblos. For those more interested in modern times, the city also offers ample beach resorts, restaurants, cafes, and bars along the coast.
By car: Take the northbound road from Beirut past Jounieh and follow the signs to Byblos (Jbeil in Arabic).
By bus: Head to the Charles Helou Bus Station in Beirut and hop on the next bus to Byblos for 5,000 LBP, or get on the bus to Tripoli and ask your driver to let you off in Byblos.
WHAT TO DO
Ruins of Byblos
Byblos is believed to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, and some scholars even say that writing was invented in ancient Byblos. Even those who are not particularly interested in archaeology will find the site incredible, given its incredible history.
Layers of civilization are literally piled on top of one another in this expansive archaeological site. There is a Persian fortress from the 5th century B.C., a Crusader castle, medieval city walls, and an Obelisk temple that dates back to the times of the ancient Egyptians. You can spend your day looking for each of these ancient relics, or meander about this garden of ruins aimlessly and simply take in the expansive history that defines Lebanon.
Port of Byblos
One of Lebanon’s most picturesque ports, the port of Byblos is a collage of pastels and deep blues. Fishing boats speckle the harbor and the deep blue of the sea mirrors the bright sky above. You can enjoy the port simply by walking down it, or stopping by one of the many cafes and restaurants lining the seafront.
A wander around the old souks is essential, particularly if you’re looking for local handicrafts. Take a few moments to explore Gibran’s Lebanon (09 542226) to pick up literature from or about Lebanon. The shop also sells crafts made by local designers. A visit to Memory of Time (09 540444) is also worthwhile, where you can discover the only fish fossils to emerge from the Middle East.
After exploring the souk, take a seat at one of the countless cafes and restaurants to take a breather and watch the world go by.
WHERE TO EAT
Pepe’s Byblos Fishing Club
Overlooking the Byblos waterfront and a few partially-submerged ruins, Pepe’s Byblos Fishing Club has been a popular restaurant for fresh seafood since 1962. The restaurant itself has both indoor and outdoor seating, but come summertime, the views don’t get better than Pepe’s terrace. The walls are lined with pictures of Hollywood celebrities who once made up Pepe’s clientele. On the menu is fresh seafood and consistently taste Lebanese mezze.
Contact: 09 540213, pepeabed.com
Locanda a la Granda
Serving fusion-style cuisine and specializing in redesigning famous traditional Lebanese and international dishes, Locanda a la Granda occupies a prime spot in Byblos’ old souk. Enjoy the view from the terrace while you sample the delicious food and the restaurant’s special Locanda beer.
Contact: 09 944333/ 09 946333, locandaalagranda.com
WHERE TO STAY
L’Hôtel de Mon Père
Set on a hillside in Byblos, overlooking the sea, the cozy L’Hôtel de Mon Père offers boutique style accomodation. The family-run establishment boasts 17 charming rooms and is located within a 15-minute walk of the beach and a short drive from the historic wsites of Byblos.
Contact: 09 795996/ 70 225987, lhoteldemonpere.com
Byblos Sur Mer
This is the place to stay if you are a looking for an ultra-modern and posh retreat for the weekend. Perfectly situated within walking distance from the Byblos Ruins, Byblos Sur Mer is a hotel that breathes romance and tranquility, with artisanal touches like plush Oriental carpets, locally embroidered wall hangings and cabinet handles crafted from seashells. There is a large outdoor pool, beach area, upscale restaurant, and rooms have balconies and flat-screen TVs.
Contact: 09 548000, byblossurmer.com