The National Museum, otherwise known as the mat-haf, is one of the most underrated sites in Beirut. Ask any local and more often than not, they’ll tell you that they’ve never set foot in it. I think it’s well worth a visit: it has the world’s biggest collection of Phoenician sarcophagi in the basement level, displayed beautifully in a row with a mirror set behind them, so it looks like there are twice as many. Look out for the prehistoric items in the museum, including spears and flints, and the colourful Byzantine and Roman mosaics.
During the Civil War, the museum was on the frontline and you can still see bullet holes in the side walls. It was occupied by militiamen and snipers, and the surrounding area came to be known as one of the most dangerous in the city. The building suffered extensive damage. A lot of the artifacts were hidden away in basement rooms, and mosaics were covered with concrete. Despite the lack of local visitors, the museum is a national treasure which survived the war and managed to rise from its ashes.