The city of...
One of the most popular city in the christian religion. But, in ancient times, Nazareth was a quiet Jewish village. It was later known throughout Christendom as the hometown of Jesus. Today, this vibrant and ancient city steeped in history is a great example for Jewish, Christian, and Muslim coexistence. Narrow passageways shelter historical and religious sites.
The crisp mountain air carries wonderful scents of exotic spices, and the stalls in the old Middle-Eastern market
are laden with special foods and sweets.
Modern day Nazareth is nestled in the Galilee Mountains. It is about 25 km (16 mi) from the Sea of Galilee and about 40 km (25 mi) from Haifa. Like much of Israel, it enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate, but its location in the mountains means cool summers and colder winters.
Five Great Reasons to Visit Nazareth:
• The Old City of Nazareth, with its remarkable Arab-style architecture, is a site to be savored.
Stroll through its beautiful stone alleys and among its picturesque houses. And what's more, the Old City harbors dozens of monasteries and churches: the Basilica of the Annunciation, the largest church in the Middle East; St Joseph's Church, where according to tradition, was the site of carpentry workshop of Joseph, father of Jesus.
It also includes The Sisters of Nazareth Convent and the Synagogue Church, where Jesus is believed to have studied and prayed; and many more.
• No visit to Nazareth would be complete without a stopover at its authentic Old Market. It offers a wide variety of stores and merchandise, and the buildings date from the Ottoman era. In the past, the market was divided into themes - the Brides' Market, Vegetable Market, Tinsmith's Market and Carpenters' Market.
Today, the market offers fruit, vegetables, traditional sweets, house wares, embroidered clothing and crafts, so you can browse here all day long.
• Christmas in Nazareth is a magical time. Don't count on snow, but the city's large Christian population celebrates along with thousands of tourists. The streets are decorated and the city celebrates the birth of Jesus with festivals, church services and parties. On Christmas Eve there's a big colorful procession through the Old City.
• Nazareth Village is a unique tourist attraction. The village opened after much research, and recreates Old Nazareth at the time of the Roman Empire. A visit here is like going back in time to the days of Jesus.
• The unique history of the city of Nazareth and its location makes it a great base for visiting other historical sites in northern Israel, from Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee to Haifa.
Just 2 km (1 mi) southeast of the city is - Mount Precipice ("Mount of the Leap")
According to the New Testament, angry Jews drove Jesus away from a synagogue, and tried to throw him of these cliffs, but Jesus disappeared before their eyes. The spot provides breathtaking panoramic views of Israel's northern mountains.
And while you're here, it's worth taking a short hike down the western slopes of the mountain until you reach
The Cave of the Leap - an archeological discovery of worldwide importance with evidence from the Stone Age, dating back over 50,000 years.
Zippori National Park - Zippori, just 5 km outside of Nazareth, is famous for its slew of majestic mosaics.
To some Christians, Zippori is the ancestral home of Mary, while to Jews it was a cultural and religious center where much of the Mishnah (Oral Law) was written.
Because Zippori did not participate in the revolt in 66 AD, the Romans did not destroy it, and hence, much has been preserved - including many beautiful mosaics for which it is now famous. Other highlights include a water reservoir, a Roman theater and a small Crusader fortress.
Mount Tabor - The hill rises 500 m (1640 ft) above the Jezreel Valley, just 14 km (9 mi) from Nazareth. It has been an important fortress since ancient times, due to its strategic location. According to Christian tradition, this is the place of the Transfiguration of Jesus. A church by that name was built here in 1924, on the site of earlier Crusader and Byzantine churches. If you have the stamina, you can reach the hilltop by walking up 4,300 steps built in the 4th century CE for Christian pilgrims.
Nazareth is packed with restaurants, for all tastes and budgets.For a real treat, don't miss a visit to:
Diana Restaurant, one of the city's oldest and finest establishments. It offers an enormous variety of authentic Eastern cuisines.The restaurant is designed in a simple and pleasant style, and the food is always fresh and appealing.
Omar Elkayam is a Lebanese-style restaurant serving delicious home-cooked food. It enjoys an ideal location, with impressive views of the area .
El-Reda sits in a restored 120-year old Ottoman mansion, and serves tasty Middle Eastern and Mediterranean fare in a friendly atmosphere.
Andrin Restaurant is a quaint little place, known for its fusion kitchen, which blends the French and Latin cuisines with authentic Arab traditions. Labane and homemade cheeses, fresh vegetables from the nearby market and quality meats combine into wonderful dishes .
You can spend a whole day at the Oriental Market, but here is a little sample of some specialty shops in the city:
The Galilee Mill, or El Babour, located at the edge of the Old City, combines an interesting history with a spice shop, where you can choose from over a thousand varieties of spices and herbs.
Sibat al Sheikh Gallery, in a historic building in one of the Old City's alleyways, is a
treasure trove of paintings, sculptures and antiques, and there is also a small café.
Iskandar Matar Sons is a family business, near Grand New Hotel, producing coffeepots, trays, lamps and other copper products.
And while visiting Nazareth, you simply have to buy some of the mouth-watering pistachio baklava and coarse or fine knaffeh that are sold in countless bakeries around the Old City, such as Al Mochtar Sweets.
Tips and trips
• The Jesus Trail is a special hiking trail in the Galilee region.
It opened in 2009, just before the Pope's visit to Nazareth. It is 60 km (40 mi) long, following in the footsteps of Jesus.
From Nazareth, his hometown, the trail winds its way through beautiful scenery and quaint little towns, and ends in Capernaum, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
• When visiting churches and monasteries, dress modestly and speak softly.
• For more information on Nazareth, its attractions, restaurants, galleries and accommodation, visit the Magical Nazareth website.