Can you imagine that the tiny country of Lebanon is packed with a wide spectacle of Roman Ruins? As you know by now, I love Roman history and ruins in general, so I did my utmost best to find all the Roman Ruins in Lebanon for you (and myself). I give you my top 10 list of the most remarkable Roman Ruins in Lebanon. Including practical tips on how to see them.
10 Remarkable Roman Ruins in Lebanon everyone must visit
Help Beirut and the people of Lebanon after the harbor explosion of August 4, 2020
Roman Ruins in Lebanon
Lebanon is the base of many civilizations that ruled the area over the centuries. Remains have been found for habitation as early as the prehistory. The Phoenicians started their rule in Sidon and Tyre followed by the Persians, the Greeks and then the Romans. Lebanon was an important piece of the Roman puzzle for trade routes in the Levant. After the Romans, the Byzantines, Muslim rulers and Crusaders followed. Via the Ottomans and French rulers, the state of Lebanon was finally founded.
The Romans however, left an important mark on the region. But in Lebanon, many ruins still stand or the building material has been used by later generations, leaving a little bit of Roman history, in all the ruins of Lebanon. Some of the most spectacular Roman Ruins can be found in Lebanon and I was very excited to see them all. Find my top 10 below!
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Video with the Top 10 Roman Ruins in Lebanon
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Roman Amphitheatre in Batroun
Batroun is located 17 km (10,5 miles) north of Byblos and 53 km (33 miles) north of Beirut. The small town is famous for its souk and the ancient Phoenician wall to keep the sea at bay. However, tucked away in the yard of a guest house, in between residential Batroun, you can find the remains of an ancient Roman Amphitheatre in Batroun!
It was such a lucky find and I absolutely loved how the ruins are part of a modern garden. As it is free and Batroun is a lovely village to visit on your way along the coastal highway, I’d say: add it to your list!
Entrance fee: Free.
Location: You can find the Roman Amphitheatre in Batroun in the garden of Studio Jammal. It is not far from the Sea Side Road in Batroun.
Bziza Roman Temple in Bziza
The tiny village of Bziza in Lebanon is located in the mountains in the Koura District. Here, you’ll find a tiny Roman Temple. The entrance is free and you probably don’t need more than 15 minutes to check it out. As it was on my route, I thought it was worth to stop here.
The temple is very small, but it has 3 of the columns of the front portico still standing tall. You can walk inside the shrine and the views are pretty impressive.
Entrance fee: Free.
Location: Easiest is to take the Chekka-Amioun Road from Batroun and after Amioun, take a right. You’ll meander up the mountains to Bziza. Use the following coordinates for your navigation: 34°16’11.2″N 35°49’17.4″E.
From Batroun, it is roughly 30 minutes drive to the Bziza Roman Temple.
Qasr Naous Temples
Very close to Bziza, you’ll find another Roman Temple Complex. This is definitely worth your time if you like Roman Ruins and can be easily combined with the Bziza Roman Temple previously mentioned.
At the end of a dead-end road in the small mountain village of Ain Aakrine, you’ll find a gated compound filled with majestic pine trees and nothing but Roman Ruins around you. The entrance is free as well and once you go through the gate, you’ll immediately see one of two impressive Roman Temple.
The one you’ll see first is in the best condition. You can recognize the Corinthian capitals on the columns, the large ceremonial staircase and the altar inside the temple. Most of the temple walls and some columns are still standing. If you walk past the first temple, you’ll find the ruins of the 2nd one. Located near the edge of the hill, 600m above sea level, it offers sweeping views across the valley below. Can you imagine approaching the Qasr Naous Temples in antiquity from the valley below? It must have been a monumental sight!
Entrance fee: Free.
Location: The Qasr Naous Temples are signposted from the village of Ain Aakrine, but it is better to type in the coordinates in your navigation: 34°17’21.4″N 35°50’43.3″E,
Roman Cardo Maximus in Beirut
Right in the center of Beirut, Lebanon’s bustling capital, you’ll find some Roman ruins. Next to the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque in Beirut, you’ll find the remains of the ancient Roman Cardo Maximus. Cardo Maximus can be considered the main road of any Roman town or city.
Beirut was named Berytus in Roman times. It was conquered around 64 BCE. In modern-day Beirut, you can see the remains of 5 columns still standing tall at the ancient market place and central road across Beirut. You cannot go down to the ruins but you have a pretty good view and impression from the street level.
Entrance fee: Free.
Location: The Cardo Maximus of Beirut is located next to the St. Georges Maronite – Church and at the backside of the Mohammad Al Amin Mosque. The best views on the columns are from the sidewalk on El Amir Bachir Street.
Ancient Roman Baths in Beirut
Although the Roman Cardo Maximus in Beirut is nice, it is not the best site with Roman ruins in Beirut. Not far from the Grand Serail (the prime minister’s house), you’ll find the impressive remains of the Roman Baths.
Discovered in 1968, the Roman Baths were carefully excavated to unearth the ancient Roman heating system of the city of Berytus. The thermae complex consisted of 4 baths and was probably built around the 1th century ACE. An earthquake in 551 ACE destroyed the whole complex.
Today, you can look down on several of the bath complexes and you can clearly see the tomb-like pillars of the heating system. Seen from the street, there is no entrance fee. In Roman times, the baths were not only a place of personal hygiene but also a place for social gatherings, politics and gossip. Today, occasionally, performances are scheduled to uphold this tradition.
Entrance fee: Free.
Location: I had a bit of a hard time to find the baths as it is not well signposted from all sides. You can find the Roman baths in Beirut in between Capuchins street and Riad el Solh. There are several pedestrian-only entrance ways in between the large banks of Beirut.
Qalaat Faqra Roman Ruins
The Faqra Roman Ruins were a last-minute addition to my list of Roman ruins in Lebanon. The tiny village of Faqra is a mountainous town located on the Kfardebian-Aayoun el Siman Road very close to the Mzaar Kfardebian ski-resorts. Located at 1,500 m altitude (4,920 ft), in the Nahr al-Kalb valley, it is part of the UNESCO tentative listing.
At this site, you need to pay an entrance fee, it was 3.000 LL ($2). Once you enter through the gate, you can either go left or right. I was pleasantly surprised by the scale and preservation of the ruins. On the right is the large temple complex for Adonis. The temple is partly cut from the rocks. The facade is made up of restored concrete Corinthian columns and you can find several altars inside.
On the other side, you’ll find the temple of Atargatis and the remains of a Byzantine church. As you can walk in between the ruins and shrine, this is a pretty cool experience.
Entrance fee: 3.000 LL (2$) for adults.
Location: Driving on the Kfardebian-Aayoun el Siman Road from Faraiya to Baalbek (if the road is open) you’ll find the ruins on your right from the side of the road. Use the coordinates to navigate to the Faqra Roman ruins: 33°59’53.5″N 35°48’27.0″E
Byblos Roman History
The city of Byblos, or Jbeil, is located 37 km (23 miles) north of Beirut. Byblos is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I absolutely loved Byblos.
Think cute small town, by the sea, ancient souk for shopping and a wide range of different bars and restaurants where you can lurk on your shisha under the blossoming trees. Add in the ruins of a Crusader fortress with Phoenician, Roman and Byzantine history around it and it felt like I have arrived in geek heaven!
Standing on the stronghold, overlooking the site of ancient Byblos and the sea, I was absolutely ecstatic. At the day of my visit to Byblos, there was a storm raging over the Mediterranean sea with strong winds and overcast sky. Nevertheless, I had a fabulous afternoon, discovering Byblos.
Now, I am going to be honest with you. If you visit the site of Byblos, you’ll have to work hard to find the Roman ruins in Byblos. You can see the restored and downsized Roman Theatre at a different location than it was before. Also, you can find some standing columns of the temple of Adonis. But most noticeable is the Crusader Castle and the surrounding walls, ditches and structures on the Byblos site. Given that you probably like ancient ruins in general and Roman Ruins specifically, the site of Byblos is absolutely not to be missed as a treasure trove of history.
Entrance fee: 8.000 LL (5.30$). You can book a guide at the entrance for 25$.
Location: The Byblos Citadel can be reached from the souk in Byblos. You can visit Byblos as part of a road trip around Lebanon or on a day trip from Beirut. Find the best tours to Byblos here.
Tyre Roman Necropolis
The city of Tyre, locally called Soûr, in the south of Lebanon, is located 80 km (5o miles) from Beirut. Founded around 2750 BCE, the city flourished due to its harbor and production of purple dye (named the Tyrian purple). The city was conquered by Cyrus the Great (Persians), Alexander the Great (Greeks) and Romans each of them left their mark on the city. After the Byzantine and Mamluk area, the Crusaders made Tyre the see of their Roman Catholic Archbishopric of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
Today, you can visit Tyre and not just find one site with Roman ruins but two! No wonder it is so high up on my list with the best Roman Ruins in Lebanon.
First, make a stop at the ancient Necropolis and largest Hippodrome in ancient Roman history. You can walk the main road, pass under the massive triumphal arch, admire the aqueduct and circumnavigate the entire length of the Hippodrome.
You need at least 2 hours, or more, depending on how many pictures you’ll take and how much time you need to take in the site.
Entrance fee: 6.000 LL (4$).
Location: The Tyre Necropolis and Hippodrome is located just off the main road 51, Saida to Tyre Highway. You can reach it by own transport, there is a carpark, or take a day trip from Beirut, as I did. Or book a tour to include Tyre and Saida. Find your options here.
Tyre Roman Ruins
Can you imagine a small town not only having one important set of Roman Ruins but actually two!? If that doesn’t make it worth a visit, I don’t know what is. This smaller site with Roman ruins is located near the souk and old harbor of Tyre. Overlooking the Mediterranean sea and the beaches of Tyre, these ruins offer a sweeping view.
I took a local taxi from the Necropolis in Tyre to these roman ruins and was pleasantly surprised by the sight of them. Tall standing Roman columns, urban settlements, bath complex and a lot of decorative debris. I had a ball wandering around among them, taking in the seaside views and imagining antiquity.
Allocate roughly an hour to see these Tyre Roman ruins.
Entrance fee: 6.000 LL (4$).
Location: The Roman Ruins of Tyre are not very known by the locals. If you’re on a self-drive tour, I’d say leave the car at the Tyre Necropolis and take a service taxi downtown. It is a 15-minute drive and the ruins are located near the University. Use the coordinates: 33°16’09.1″N 35°11’45.8″E. Or book a tour to include Tyre and Saida. Find your options here.
Baalbek Roman Ruins
Last but definitely not least, the Baalbek Roman Ruins. Plural. Because in Baalbek you’ll find so many amazing temples, ruins, columns, and Roman history, Baalbek can have its own top 10 all by itself.
Baalbek is situated in the Bekaa Valley, 85 km (53 miles) from Beirut. Although Western Authorities label the Bekaa Valley with restrictive travel advice, Baalbek is excluded from that label and a major tourist attraction in Lebanon. It is righteously, one of Lebanon’s Unesco Heritage Sites. Driving through the Bekaa Valley and walking the streets alone as a solo female traveler felt absolutely safe.
There is a parking place near the Baalbek ruins, but the road towards the entrance is paved with pushy salesmen and teenagers, trying to make a few bucks on souvenirs. I was quite in a rush to see the ruins. My only window to visit was from 4pm. Officially the site would close at 6pm but I was kicked out at 5.30pm. I rushed through the site in 1.5 hours but I could have easily spent 4 to 6 hours there.
Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek
The Temple of Jupiter is actually built on top an ancient Phoenician altarpiece as Baalbek dates back to 9,000 BCE. The Greeks called the site Heliopolis, after the sun, and the temple was erected by the Romans in favor of the sun god: Jupiter.
When you enter the ceremonial staircase, you’ll find the hexagonal court behind it. Continuing, you’ll find yourself in the great court surrounded by porticos, remaining columns, and the central altar. Going up even higher, you’ll find the actual temple of Jupiter.
Situated high on a platform, you can find the remaining 6 (out of 54) columns of the temple measuring 19 meters tall (62.34 ft) with Corinthian capitals. Sadly, during my visit, the columns were carefully wrapped for restoration works.
Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek
The Temple of Bacchus however, is in near-mint condition. At least, what can be considered mint condition for a building that is 1900 years old. Built roughly in 190 ACE, the temple withstood the test of time, earthquakes and modern civilization that needed building materials. I’ve seen a lot of Roman ruins and some temples, but to date, the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek Lebanon is the best preserved and largest Roman temple I’ve ever seen.
42 columns, measuring 20 meters in height (66 ft.) surround the temple (15-8-15-8). Walking around the temple with definitely hurt your neck but it is worth it. The best thing about the Temple of Bacchus is, you can enter it and see the detailed decorations in the limestone of the columns, the ceiling, and the interior up close. Inside the temple, you can enter the nave and the sanctuary of the temple. As this would be the holiest of the holiest in ancient Roman time, it feels really humble to enter it as a mear modern mortal.
Temple of Venus and the Temple of Muses
Through a small tunnel underneath the road, you can access a different part of the Baalbek archaeological site with the remains and rubble of two more temples: the Temple of Muses and the Temple of Venus. Sadly, they already closed the gate and I could only see it from the pavement outside the excavation.
The Temple of Venus is unique in her building style as it is erected on a horse-shoe shaped platform and doesn’t have a single straight wall. Remains of depictions of doves and seashells in the 5 niches of the temple, support the idea that the temple was dedicated to Venus.
Entrance fee: 15.000 LL (10$). For 25$ you can hire a guide (1 hour) at the entrance.
Location: Located 85 km (53 miles) northeast from Beirut, Baalbek can be reached via the Beirut-Damascus highway then taking the Zahlé-Baalbek highway. You can park at a public parking place 5 minutes from the Baalbek Roman ruins entrance. Use the following coordinates for your navigation: 34°00’15.2″N 36°12’03.3″E.
Most people visit Baalbek on a guided tour from Beirut. This includes a certified guide and most likely a visit to nearly Aanjar too. Check the different tours here.
Top 10 with the best Roman Ruins in Lebanon
As you can see from the countdown of the 10 best Roman ruins in Lebanon, I saved the best for last. And that is for a very good reason. Baalbek offers some of the best-preserved, biggest and most beautiful Roman ruins in modern times. Seeing them on your first days in Lebanon will spoil it for the rest of the list. I loved seeing the small temple complexes in the mountains of Lebanon first and then marvel at the grandeur and splendidness of the Baalbek ruins.
Tips for visiting the Roman Ruins in Lebanon
A lot of these sites can be visited by just walking around town or taking a tour of the Roman Ruins. However, the truly remarkable and deserted temples and ruins of ancient Rome, lay further away in Lebanon. Here are my best tips for visiting them on your own:
- Hire a car and explore the mountains and ruins of Lebanon. This gives you the freedom to visit remote places and stay as long as you wish. Find the best car rental deals here.
- Compare the best day trips and tours. The best tour is not always the cheapest. A knowledgable guide cannot be valued with money. Find the best tours here.
- If you do travel on your own, go early mornings or late in the afternoon. This way, you avoid the tour groups. School classes can ruin your pictures early morning but they usually vanish (or lose interest) in 45 minutes.
- Always bring enough protection against the sun and nature’s elements as historic sites and ruins are often without shade and windswept. Use suncream, wear a hat and or scarf and try to avoid the hottest hours of the day.
- Bring enough water and drink plenty.
- Capture the best moments with your camera. Upgrade your phone pictures with this super lightweight, light-sensitive powerful Canon camera for the best pictures (it’s what I use!).
Not all the sites and ruins in this top 10 list, warrants a full-day trip from Beirut. However, if you love Roman Ruins and archaeological sites as much as I do, they are worth the detour or to include them on your Lebanon itinerary.
Have you been to Lebanon? Or are you planning your trip to Lebanon? Which of these Roman ruins surprises you the most? Have you been to Baalbek? What did you think?