An excellent overview of Lebanon's history and the civilizations that had an impact on this crossroads of cultures is provided by the National Museum, an exquisitely exhibited collection of archaeological artifacts.
Highlights include a series of human-faced Phoenician sarcophagi and a frescoed Roman tomb, the latter of which is in the outstanding basement and was reopened in 2016. Other notable items include the well-known, frequently photographed Phoenician gilded bronze figurines discovered buried near the Obelisk Temple at Byblos.
Leave your passport at the front desk when you arrive and take one of the museum's free iPads to use to scan the labels of important objects in the collection to hear an explanation of each. If you can, bring your headphones.
You might also want to see the 12-minute documentary that is shown every hour on hour between 9 am and 4 pm in the multimedia area off the foyer. This describes how museum curators protected the collection throughout the Civil War and then brought it back to its former splendor.
Starting on the upper floor will offer you the best perspective of Lebanese history and allow you to distinguish between Seleucids and Phoenicians, so take the right steps to move chronologically onward.
The Bronze Age artifacts in this collection are of exceptionally high quality. In addition to the Byblos figures, enjoy the obsidian-and-gold coffer, Egyptian gold pectorals, and magnificent ivory make-up cases from Saida, which were also discovered in the same royal necropolis. Other notable items include a remarkable Attic drinking jar in the form of a pig's head, a Roman-era Bacchus head made of marble, and an outstanding collection of Phoenician glass.
Two magnificently carved sarcophagi from Tyre, dating from the second century AD, are also interesting on the ground floor. One of them shows inebriated cupids, while the other shows the legend of Achilles.
Aristocrats from Saida commissioned these beloved Phoenician statues of infant boys as ex-votos to Echmoun, the Phoenician god of healing, in gratitude for rescuing their children.
While three movingly mummified bodies and immaculately preserved clothing tell a heartbreaking 13th-century story, much older Chalcolithic pot burials are as intriguing. They may have been escaping the Crusader Wars when they perished in a cave in the Qadisha Valley while still holding the title deeds to their land, anticipating a tale that is still told in refugee camps today throughout Lebanon.
The spooky collection of human-faced sarcophagi from Saida, as well as an amazing replica of a 2nd-century AD collective tomb from Tyre, with murals representing legendary scenarios, are both found in the atmospheric and exquisitely exhibited basement, which stands out.