Tripoli, the second-largest city in Lebanon, is a city steeped in history, with a rich cultural heritage and a vibrant atmosphere. For those considering things to do in Tripoli, exploring the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, a historic fortress offering panoramic views of the city, and wandering through the old souks, with their narrow alleyways and traditional shops, are top activities.
The city’s Mansouri Great Mosque, a stunning example of Mamluk architecture, and the Taynal Mosque, known for its impressive entrance and domed prayer hall, offer insights into Tripoli’s Islamic heritage. Nearby, the Palm Islands Nature Reserve, a group of small islands off the coast, provides a sanctuary for endangered loggerhead turtles and a variety of bird species.
Beyond its historical and cultural attractions, Tripoli is also renowned for its sweets, with numerous shops selling traditional Lebanese pastries such as baklava and ma’amoul. For those seeking the best places to visit in Lebanon, Tripoli’s blend of historical richness, cultural diversity, and culinary delights makes it a captivating destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Tripoli, Lebanon
1. The Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles
Also known as Qala’at Sanjil, this citadel is a significant historical site in Tripoli offering panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean. It stands as a testament to Tripoli’s medieval history and has been a fortress for various powers, including the Crusaders and the Mamluks.
Travel Tip: It’s a bit of a climb to reach the citadel, so wear comfortable shoes, and remember that the site closes early in the evening.
2. The Souks of Tripoli
Tripoli’s souks are among the best-preserved Ottoman-era markets in the world, offering an authentic experience of Middle Eastern trade and daily life. You can find everything from gold and silver works to traditional sweets and soap.
Travel Tip: The souks can be a maze, so consider hiring a local guide to show you around, and don’t miss trying some of the local sweets like baklava or halawet el jibn.
3. The Great Mosque of Tripoli
The Great Mosque, also known as Al-Mansouri Great Mosque, is an impressive architectural masterpiece that dates back to the Mamluk period. It was originally a Crusader church before being converted into a mosque.
Travel Tip: Non-Muslim visitors are typically welcome outside of prayer times, but remember to dress modestly out of respect for religious traditions.
4. The Taynal Mosque
Regarded as one of the most beautiful mosques in Tripoli, the Taynal Mosque is hidden within an orange orchard and is known for its splendid domes and minaret. The mosque is a reflection of Tripoli’s rich architectural history.
Travel Tip: As with most mosques, visit outside of prayer times, and women should bring a scarf to cover their hair.
5. The Palm Islands Nature Reserve
This group of small islands is a haven for endangered loggerhead turtles, rare monk seals, and migratory birds. The largest island, Rabbit Island, is open to visitors.
Travel Tip: The islands are a protected area, so make sure to follow all guidelines, such as no littering and no disturbing the wildlife, to preserve the delicate ecosystem.
6. The St. Gilles Castle
Although often confused with the Citadel, the St. Gilles Castle is a separate historical site with its own unique history. It offers more stunning views and has fewer tourists, making for a quieter visit.
Travel Tip: The area is not as well-maintained as other tourist sites, so be cautious when walking around the ruins.
7. The Clock Tower
The iconic Ottoman-style clock tower is located near the old city and the entrance to the souks, making it a perfect landmark to start or end a day of exploring.
Travel Tip: The area around the clock tower is a great spot to enjoy some local coffee and people-watch.
8. Tripoli’s Old City
The Old City of Tripoli is a living museum with its narrow alleyways, Mamluk architecture, and ancient buildings.
Travel Tip: The Old City is best explored on foot, so wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to wander and discover hidden gems.
9. The Rachid Karami International Fair
Designed by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, this international fairground is an architectural marvel, though it remains unfinished.
Travel Tip: The site is not always open to the public, so check in advance if you can enter and explore the grounds.
10. Al-Mina Port
The port district, known as Al-Mina, is less touristy and offers a chance to see the daily life of fishermen and locals.
Travel Tip: Try to visit during the early morning to see the fishermen return with their catch, which you can enjoy later at one of the local seafood restaurants.
11. The Burtasiya Mosque and Madrasa
This complex is a stunning example of Mamluk architecture with a mosque, madrasa (Islamic school), and mausoleum.
Travel Tip: Be respectful of any educational activities that may be taking place when you visit.
12. The Tripoli Railway Station
Though no longer in use, the old railway station is a historical site that offers a glimpse into the golden age of rail travel in Lebanon.
Travel Tip: The area isn’t a major tourist site, so it’s a good idea to go with a local or a guide who can tell you about its history.
FAQ About Things to Do in Tripoli, Lebanon
What historical sites can I visit in Tripoli, Lebanon?
Tripoli is rich with historical sites such as the Citadel of Raymond de Saint-Gilles, also known as Qala’at Sanjil, which offers panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea. Other must-visit sites include the old Mamluk city with its mosques, madrasas, and hammams, as well as the vibrant Tripoli souks, where you can experience the city’s ancient market culture.
Is there a place to enjoy the beach in Tripoli?
Absolutely! Tripoli boasts lovely beaches such as Al Mina, which is perfect for a day of relaxation, sunbathing, and enjoying the Mediterranean waters. You can also visit the Palm Islands Nature Reserve, which offers pristine beaches and is a haven for wildlife, including endangered turtles.
Can I explore any cultural museums in Tripoli?
Yes, Tripoli is home to several museums that showcase the city’s rich cultural heritage. The Taha Car Museum, for example, displays a collection of vintage cars, and the Oriental Museum of Tripoli is dedicated to Middle Eastern arts and crafts.
What local cuisines should I try in Tripoli, and where?
Tripoli is famous for its traditional Lebanese sweets, especially the renowned ‘Halawet el Jibn’ and ‘Baklava’. The best place to try these is at the famous sweet shops in the city, such as Hallab 1881 or Abdul Rahman Hallab & Sons. Don’t miss out on the city’s street food as well, including ‘Foul’ and ‘Ta’meya’ at the bustling souks.
Are there any guided tours available in Tripoli?
Guided tours in Tripoli can be an excellent way to discover the city’s history and culture. You can find guided walking tours that explore the old city’s architecture, souks, and historical monuments. These tours often provide a deep dive into the city’s past and present, with insights from knowledgeable local guides.
What are some family-friendly activities in Tripoli?
Families can enjoy a visit to the Rashid Karami International Fairground, designed by the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, which offers open spaces and cultural events. The Tripoli Railway Station is another interesting site where you can learn about the history of the Lebanese railways. Additionally, the Al-Mina port area is great for a family stroll and dining by the seaside.
Can I visit any religious sites in Tripoli?
Yes, Tripoli houses several significant religious sites that reflect its historical diversity. The Taynal Mosque, with its beautiful Mamluk architecture, is a must-see. The Saint Gilles Castle also offers insights into the city’s Crusader past, and the Mansouri Great Mosque is another notable Islamic landmark.
What outdoor activities can I enjoy in Tripoli?
Outdoor enthusiasts can visit the Al Baddawi river for a picnic or a leisurely walk. The surrounding area of Tripoli is also ideal for hiking and exploring the natural beauty of the Lebanese mountains. Additionally, the Palm Islands Nature Reserve offers opportunities for bird watching and snorkeling during certain times of the year.