One of Lebanon’s greatest Phoenician cities historically, Tyr (Sour) still carries the remnants of a glorious past, through the vestiges and traces of the many civilizations and eras it has witnessed. The city is directly associated to the invention of purple dye and the exploration of the seas leading to founding prosperous trading centers and Mediterranean colonies once.
Despite its historical decline, it is still, for many, the most charming of Lebanon’s Southern cities. A weekend getaway in Tyr offers the best of the Mediterranean, from its turquoise waters to its Phoenician history, its influence of passing civilizations, its cozy coastal vibe, its warm hospitality, and its great cuisine.
Whether you’re a local or a tourist looking to explore the hidden gems of Tyr, here’s a mini guide to the city that will help you make the best of your weekend getaway.
Visit Les Ateliers de Tyr
Located in Abbasiyeh, 2km before Tyr, Les Ateliers de Tyr is a sustainable village that strives to promote and encourage traditional crafts like pottery and glass blowing. Revolving around the theme of the Phoenician statue, symbol of Lebanon’s heritage, the project is a non-profit initiative that aims at preserving Lebanese traditions by hosting live crafts workshops that visitors can watch or participate in. The premises are colorful and warm, and include a Mediterranean cuisine restaurant that serves delicious vegan and meat dishes! I personally loved my experience there. Les Atelies de Tyr also organizes day activities like orange picking. To keep an eye on their events, follow them on their facebook or instagram pages.
Explore the World Heritage Sites
Tyr is home to two of Lebanon’s World Heritage Sites, Al Mina and Al Bass, both displaying ruins from the Roman period. Al Mina preserves the vestiges of a Venetian cathedral and the walls of a Crusader Castle, while Al Bass Necropolis, a triumphal arch and a hippodrome.
Entrance Fee: 6,000 LBP
Hours: 8.30 am – 30 minutes before sunset
Experience the Bustling Old Souk
The souk opens between 9:30 and 10am. It’s definitely the best way to dive into the soul of the city, witnessing how the market animates with merchandise, vegetables, food, and spices stands, in all shapes and colors. Some old cafes and small snacks bustle with locals and tourists who enjoy, in a charming authentic setting, typical Lebanese dishes like foul, hummus, and Saj (Lebanese pita with thyme or cheese). If you head early, you will catch the freshest fish deals of the day!
Take a Stroll in The Colorful Christian District
Known as the “Christian district”, this rather small and cozy alley is probably the most instagrammable one in Tyr. Its color-painted walls, doors, and shuttered windows, hanging flower baskets, and narrow cobblestone streets will take you straight to Italy, romance guaranteed!
Enjoy the Fishing Harbour (Al Mina)
You can’t miss the fishing harbour of Tyr dotted with boats. Is is located right before the entrance to the Christian district, facing some cafes and bars. The area is quite lively most of the day, unless you head there early in the morning, like I did, to soak in the port view serenely and, if you’re lucky enough, witness the fishermen returning from their dawn fishing trip. A priceless moment!
Visit the Lebanese National Theatre
One of the many cinemas closed across the country due to the civil war, the National Lebanese Theater or Rivoli Theater opened its doors again in 2014. The brave initiative of renovating and reopening the cinema is owed to the actor, director, and cinema passionate Kassem Istanbouli, who dedicates himself, through his non-profit theater company, to save Lebanon’s theaters. From the brief words we exchanged with him, his noble mission was clear: bring to a war-torn and politicized city a cultural space where youth is initiated to arts and cinema. Besides conducting theatre workshops, Rivoli offers free access to movies to encourage Tyr’s citizens to choose culture over other frivolous or aimless preoccupations. For more info, read here about the Lebanese man trying to reopen cinemas closed by war.
Get Lost in Tyr’s Old Streets
You will be guaranteed a show of colors with endless graffiti walls!
Chill at Al Fanar
Al Fanar is a hotel, restaurant, and cafe-bar sitting right on the water. It’s a good address to enjoy a beer “pieds dans l’eau”, especially at sunset where you can probably catch the best sunset view of Tyr.
Sleep or Eat at Dar Alma
Dar Alma is a must-stop in Tyr, whether for the night or a day lunch at the guesthouse’s terrace. Overlooking the sea and one of the many forts you can find in Tyre, this place is easily one of the most charming guesthouse destinations in Lebanon.
Eat & Drink
Le Phoenician: for the best seafood (located on the harbour).
Tavolino Pub in the Christian district: for great pizza, drinks, and a very friendly atmosphere.
Al Jawad: for the best shawarma ever!
Where to Sleep
Mesmerizing as all the renovated traditional Lebanese houses, this one has a little extra: the Mediterranean sea right at its feet. Dar Alma guesthouse combines the authenticity of Lebanese stone houses with the modernity of an interior that decorates 10 rooms overall, including double rooms and two rooftop suites. A favorite for me that I recommend for everyone looking to spend an unforgettable weekend getaway in Tyr.
Contact: 07 740082.
From the same owner of Dar Alma, Dar Camelia offers the same charming guesthouse experience in the heart of Tyr’s old town. The bed & breakfast offers a beautiful escape that blends between the authenticity of Lebanese and Moroccan styles.
Contact: 07 740082
Located in the Christian district, Asamina offers pleasant hotel rooms with a refreshing interior.
Contact: 07 344999
Les Jardins de Tyr
Beautifully located amidst hectares of banana plantations, Les Jardins de Tyr offers 10 meticulously designed room with a garden and a pool. An exclusive experience in the heart of Tyr, perfect for a relaxing intimate retreat. For more info, read my full article about Jardins de Tyr here.