Visit Byblos – 8000 years of civilisation

Ruin of the crusader castle at the archeological site of Byblos

Byblos is one of the longest continuously inhabited cities of the world. 8000 years ago, the first people build their houses at the shore of the Mediterranean at this spot, and remains of all ages have been found in the ground. That’s the reason why the archeological site of Byblos has received UNESCO World Heritage status in 1984. Of course we had to visit Byblos on our Lebanon trip.

Archeological site of Byblos with blue sea in the background

An impressive crusader castle

The most eye-catching structure of the vast archaeological site is however the crusader castle built from 1104 onwards. The big stones at the base have been in place here since the crusades. Above, the more delicate arches built with smaller stones in the upper parts are later additions by the Mamluks, who conquered the town in 1289. The informative exhibition inside the castle is definitely worth the visit and from the top of the castle we have a stunning view over the site and the glistening blue sea behind it.

Roman theater at the archeological site in Byblos
Ruins of the Roman theater at the archeological site of Byblos

Tombs of Phoenician kings

From the crusaders’ castle we walk back in time along some defence ramps until we reach the Phoenicians, seafaring people who settled in Byblos around 1200 BC. Not much is left of the Phoenicians, except for several tombs of Phoenician kings. Those tombs are not more than a few unimpressive caverns in the ground but we have seen the beautiful Ahiram Sarcophagus at the National Museum in Beirut. Nearby are also the relics of a later Roman theatre. According to the panels, this was originally much larger than what the archaeologists reconstructed after their digging.

So-calles Obelisk tempel at the archeological site of Byblos

Besides the crusader castle, what we found the most impressive structure in Byblos was the so-called „Temple of the Obelisks“. And indeed there were a lot of obelisk-shaped stones grouped together in a courtyard. Archaeologists still don’t the exact function of these stones, the “betyl” or “baetylus stones”. Presumably they were used in religious ceremonies, but some of them had niches where small statues could be placed. We had also seen some of these statues in the National Museum in Beirut.

Amulets of the goddess Tanit found in Byblos
Amulets of the goddess Tanit found in Byblos

Byblos Background

We found the panels on site with information and pictures about the structures quite interesting. A small exhibition in the castle was also helpful to understand the history of the place. But even without reading much, the extensive area just next to the sea holds a very special atmosphere.

Market stalls selling clothes in Byblos

Should you visit Byblos?

Byblos is definitely worth the trip – besides the archaeological site there is a nice harbour front with restaurants and a bazaar where you can spend a few hours. History buffs should visit the National Museum in Beirut before, as many of the finds from Byblos are exhibited there.

How to visit Byblos

Byblos is easily reached on a day-trip from Beirut. As we were travelling around the country for almost 14 days we stayed one night at the Ocean Blue Hotel around 2 km from the historic town right at the beach. It was off-season and they offered a very good deal). On our way into town we chanced upon a small secluded surfer beach with a charming restaurant where we had coffee.

Note: Our trip to Lebanon and Byblos was not sponsored in any way and all the expenses were paid by ourselves.

15 Comments

  1. This sounds like a city with a treasure. I could imagine the ancients and their lives there. Am certainly going to dig into some research on what life was like then. Thank you for this inspiring post.

  2. A very nice post on the archaeological city of Bablos. A view of the bazaars, the ancient grounds speaks a lot of the historic significance of the place.

  3. I must admit that I can’t really fathom a civilization that has been around for 8000 years. Visiting spots like this always makes me realize how young North America is. I am sure the archaeological site at Byblos is an amazing treasure trove. The remains of temples, tombs and castles would be fascinating to see.

    1. To appreciate Byblos you will need at least three hours. The museum on site offers very good information about the different phases of settlement in Byblos.

  4. Byblos looks like a great place to visit! I haven’t heard much about it, but the ruins are something I would love to explore. Visiting the harbor, grabbing a bite to eat, and shopping at the Bazaar sounds like a great way to unwind after a long day of exploring!

  5. Although I had never heard of Byblos before, it looks like such a great place to be in. Visiting the ruins would be interesting. Love cities with a harbor and that is a great attraction. A bit of shopping at the Bazaar sounds good too.

  6. Wow so much history, no wonder Byblos is a UNESCO site. Honestly speaking I had never heard of Byblos before. Would love to see the archaeological sites. Also, the castles and the bazaar definitely add up in building the interest.

    1. A lot of tourist spent time only in Beirut, but Lebanon has really good sightseeing outside of Beirut. Especially if you are interested in history, Byblos is worth a visit.

  7. This is definitely one for history aficionados. It’s fascinating to know about a place like this where there is an amalgamation of the different architecture, rich history, and culture. It pays to visit UNESCO sites every so often. It’s humbling to us in the present generation.

  8. I hadn’t heard of Byblos before reading your post. The ancient ruins reminded me a lot of Ostia Antica outside of Rome — so fascinating to explore ruins and imagine the lives of those who lived and worked there! And what a beautiful place to be, right next to the sea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *