Nazareth (Arabic الناصرة an-Nāṣirah, Hebrew נצרת Nasarat, ) is a city in northern Israel. With a population of 60,000, it is the largest Arab city in Israel proper with a mixed but quite harmonious Christian and Muslim population.
Nazareth is best known as the home of Joseph and Mary and hence also Jesus, although he was born in Bethlehem.
A number of Christian holy places in Nazareth are associated with the Annunciation, the childhood and the early ministry of Jesus. In addition to the imposing Basilica of the Annunciation, these sites include the Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangel Gabriel (built over the freshwater spring known as "Mary’s Well"), the Greek Catholic "Synagogue Church" (assumed site of the synagogue where the young Jesus was taught, and where he later read from Isaiah), and the Franciscan Church of St. Joseph (built over a cave identified since the 17th century as the "workshop" of Joseph).
As the place where Jesus may have grown up, studied and lived most of his life, Nazareth has for two thousand years been closely identified with Christianity and has attracted hundreds of millions of pilgrims from around the world. Nazareth is also Israel’s largest Arab city and as such serves as a major cultural center. Over the past decade the historical Old City has been extensively renovated, preserving and restoring the architectural beauty and unique character of its narrow lanes and alleys. The combination of these three elements – history, culture and architecture – assures the Old City of Nazareth a place among the most beautiful historical destinations in the world.
Nazareth is 102 km from Tel Aviv and 131 from Jerusalem. Take a bus number 823 or 826 from Tel Aviv New Central Bus Station directly to Nazareth (does not operate on Sabbath or Jewish holidays). The journey takes about 2 hours, or about an hour from Haifa (bus 331 from station Merkaz Hashmona - operates daily including the Sabbath and holidays).
From Jerusalem, there are two direct buses per day - excluding Sabbath and Jewish holidays (bus number 955) or take a bus to Afula and switch to a bus to Nazareth. There is also a daily bus during the summer (less frequent during the winter) from/to Amman operated by Nazarene 04-6010458
Central Nazareth can be easily covered on foot. There is also public transport, which also operates on Saturdays, however the buses tend to get stuck in the traffic.
The Basilica of the Annunciation is built above the sunken grotto which according to the Roman Catholic faith was the home of the Virgin Mary and the place where she received the Annunciation (the announcement of the imminent birth of Jesus). The large and impressive modern-day church is built above the remains of churches dating back to Crusader and Byzantine times, still visible on the lower level. The church boasts dozens of pictures donated by Christian communities around the world. The Largest Church in the Middle East and one of Christianity’s Holiest shrines, its imposing dome dominates the Nazareth skyline and is an ideal landmark and starting point for visiting Other churches. It marks the spot where the Archangel Gabriel Informed the Virgin Mary that God had chosen her to bear his son; there is also a tradition that Mary lived in a house on this site. The complex of the modern Basilica is built on two levels. The lower one,Making the traditional Roman Catholic site of the Annunciation, contains ancient remains of churches from the Byzantiane and Crusader eras. During archaeological excavations, relics were found dating back to the Canaanite settlement of Nazareth, Though the most interesting find was of a typical Nazarene house, hewn out of the rock, from the Roman Period. The upper level, built between 1959 and 1969 on the site of an 18th-century church, is in strikingly modern architectural style. With its stained- glass windows highlighted against bare stone.A garden and courtyard connect the Basilica to St. Joseph’s Church and Workshop. Admission to the Basilica is free. Hours: M-Sa 8:30AM-11:45AM & 2PM-5:50PM; Sun. and feasts 2PM-5:30PM. Winter, M-Sa 9AM-11:45AM & 2PM-4:30PM; Su and feasts 2PM-4:30PM.
Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is built above a spring believed to be the source of a well where Mary drew water each day. This is the site where the Greek Orthodox tradition maintains that the Angel Gabriel revealed to Mary knowledge of the impending birth of Jesus. The church houses many interesting icons and wall paintings, as well as the holy spring. The church is open daily from 8AM-12PM and from 1PM-6PM. Shorts are not allowed. Contributions are expected. The Orthodox Museum is adjacent to the church. Entrance is currently free and the collection though small is quite spectacular. Those working at the church are temperamental, and have been known to arbitrarily shout at or remove pilgrims from the church.
St. Joseph’s Church, next to the Basilica of the Annunciation. Also known as Church of the Nutrition and Joseph’s Workshop, because it is believed that the cavern in the basement was Joseph’s carpentry shop, Built in 1914, on the foundations of a Crusader church, with Romanesque influences. Hours: Daily 9AM-11:45AM & 2PM-5:30PM.
Mary’s Well and the Ancient Bath House. The structure surrounding Mary’s Well (known as el-Sabil in Arabic) was recently renovated and restored to its original form. Mary’s Well is the symbol of Nazareth Municipality. Next to Mary’s Well is a pleasant souvenir shop named Cactus, belonging to Elias and Martina Shama. After buying the shop in the 1990s, the Shamas discovered that beneath it was concealed one of the most exciting and important discoveries in Nazareth in recent history: a network of beautifully preserved ancient stones arches that once supported a giant bath house. It is believed the exposed remains beneath the shop may date back to the ancient Roman era – that is, to the time of Jesus – and have been fed by the same water that supplied Mary’s Well. There is an entrance fee to the site, but no advance reservation is necessary and guided explanations and hot and cold drinks are available to visitors.
El-Babour – The Mill of the Galilee, middle of Bishara street tel.# 04 645 5596. Go in through a little door on the right of the street following the aromas to a large shop that opened more than a hundred years ago as a flour mill and which today offers an array of fresh oils and spices which are a celebration to the eye the ear and the nose.
Diwan El Lajun Multi cultural center for the Stage Arts, Tel. #04.646 9413. In a beautiful space rich with arches is Café-Theater Diwan El Lajun which houses cultural and multi cultural activities in the stage arts and the traditional artisan work. Diwan El Lajun produces shows in Arabic, English, Hebrew and bi-lingual shows, folklore music concerts, literature, poetry and dance evenings, storey telling shows and circus shows from Israel and abroad. Arab-Jews meetings of adults and adolescents are taking place as well. Workshops in theater, storey telling, belly dancing circus and traditional crafts are being offered as well as well as Palestinian brocading. Location Sibat El Kaawer Alley (6098 near the suk)
Opening hours: M-Sa 9AM-3PM. Performances are mainly during the weekend or on special order for groups.
El Mas-jad El Abiad – the white mosque. The white mosque, the first mosque in the city was built by Abdalla El Nini, two hundred years ago. El Nini was a well respected judge and the first of the El Fahum tribe (El Fahum means the wisest of man). He set forth a policy that preaches for love and respect. In order to make sure his policy will continue after his death, he wrote in his will that the responsibility on the mosque will be given to the wisest of his sons or daughters or to the Ka-a-bee in Mecca so that the mosque will not be governed under any rule. Till today, the person responsible for the mosque (Ateph El Fahum reads all the sermons before they are preached to make sure they are fit and in honor of holidays of other religions sermons are being addressed in their honor. Opening hours: All light hours except praying hours and without pre arrangement.
Notes: please dress modestly and speak softly. In carpeted areas please take off shoes.
Walking Tour of the Old City (duration 3 hours)
The route begins at the Mary’s Well Square (ample parking nearby). Visit the recently renovated well area (el-Sabil). Opposite is the ancient bath house, also well worth a visit (entrance fee payable), including the pleasant souvenir shop Cactus and a guided tour followed by hot and cold drinks. The remains discovered beneath the shop are believed to date back to the early Roman era – the time of Jesus. From here continue to the nearby square to visit the famous Greek Orthodox St. Gabriel’s Church. This is the site at which, according to Greek Orthodox belief, Mary received the Annunciation from the Angel Gabriel. On exiting the church, walk along the Pilgrim’s Path towards the Municipality and the Mascobia building – an impressive project built in 1904 as a hospice for Russian pilgrims. Further along the Pilgrim’s Path, on Street 6098 (most of Nazareth’s streets are known by numbers rather than names), you reach Bishop’s Square. On the right is the Greek Orthodox Bishopric, a white building in the Greek style, faced on the opposite side by picturesque houses reminiscent of Venetian palazzos, which have recently been preserved and renovated. The house on the left is Authors’ House, an art institute. Continue along Street 6098 to an alley named Sebat Qa’war until you reach Folklore House (Beit al-Sebat), the home of Tanous Qa’war, Nazareth’s first mayor in 1875. From Folklore House turn left to Street 6132 going towards the vegetable market, then left again to Street 6089. Here you can visit Casa Palestina, a beautiful building that from 1810 was used to store barley, where the owners will tell you the history of the place. There is a cafי bar here, where you can take a break with Arabic coffee or a cold beer, as well as enjoying a free exhibition of handicrafts. Leaving Casa Palestina, pass through a vault leading to the Saraya building, the center of Ottoman rule from 1735 onwards. This attractive building is currently undergoing preservation work in preparation for conversion to a municipal museum.
Returning to the direction of the vegetable market and the courtyard of the White Mosque with its pencil-shaped minaret, walk along Street 6133 into the well-preserved and restored market. Stroll through lanes and alleys leading off to the right and left and investigate the shops with their great variety of goods. Among these alleys you will find the Synagogue Church. Eventually you will emerge opposite the Basilica of the Annunciation, an essential highlight of any tour of the city.
Hike the Jesus Trail (4 days - Nazareth to Capernaum)
Beginning at the Basilica of the Annunciation, the route winds through the Old City up to the Salesian Church and continues on to Zippori National Park, Mash'had and Cana for the first day. The trail is blazed with white/orange/white painted stripes, and more information can be found on the trail's official website .
A souq (Arab market) extends up the hill from the Church of the Annunciation.
The city’s many restaurants provide a full gastronomic experience in all types of Arab cuisine. Any visit to Nazareth must allow time to enjoy to the full the renowned and delicious local tradition of welcoming diners.
Right behind Mary's Well is a restaurant/bar called Al Bayat "The House". You can find pretty much any kind of alcoholic drink you like there and an extensive menu of international fusion cuisine. Locals like the outdoor patio for a local Palestinian beer called Taybeh, "Tasty" with complimentary pretzels and peanuts. Local musicians also play some nights.
Fauzi Azar Inn, Old City. Tel:04-6020469 (e-mail: Info@fauziazarinn.com), . The Fauzi Azar Inn is the best starting-off point for touring the Galilee & Nazareth. The Inn is a 200 years Arab Mansion located at the heart of the market quarters of Nazareth, a short distance from the Central Bus Station and the Basilica of the Annunciation
Galilee Hotel, Paul 6th St. Nazareth (just north of the post office), Tel:06-6571311 Fax: 06-6556627, e-mail: email@example.com, . The hotel is situated near the town center,is a four minute walk from the main tourist center and can host 200 people, in 92 rooms, each having air-conditioning and private bathrooms.
Grand New Hotel, 5053/1 Har Hamutran, Tel: +972-4-6085400, Fax 972-4-6573020, email- firstname.lastname@example.org. Situated on one of the highest slope in Nazareth, The Hamutran Hill, in a quiet residential area. The hotel consists of 90 rooms overlooking the city of Nazareth, the Basilica of the Annunciation and the landscapes of the Jezreel Valley.
Nazareth Gardens Hotel, Tel: 972-4-6026666, (Fax: 972-4-6026676), . The hotel was designed to blend into the pastoral landscapes and to compliment the awe-inspiring beauty of its natural surroundings. Temporarily closed as of March 2006.
Nazareth. Paulus VI St. (next to intersection with Haifa Rd.), tel: +972 (0)6 577 777.
The Rimonim Nazareth Hotel (Ha’Maayan), Paulus VI Road, P.O.Box 2767, Nazareth 16000, Phone: +972-4-6500000 (In Israel 1-800-22-1202), (Fax: +972-4-67500055). The hotel is located in the center of the old city of Nazareth, close to the Church of the Annunciation, Suk, restaurants and other quaint tourist sites. The Hotel’s 226 comfortable rooms include air condition, cable TV, radio, in-room-safe and fax-modem connection. Business travelers are offered secretarial services, business lounge, meeting rooms and conference halls. The hotel has a covered parking garage.
Nazareth Plaza Hotel, 2 Hermon Street, Phone: +972-4-6028200, (Fax: +972-4-6028222, E-mail: email@example.com). The Nazareth Plaza Hotel overlooks the historical old city of Nazareth, and is close to Migdal Haemek Industrial park. It is conveniently located for excursions to Galilee religious sites and well situated as a center for trips to the north of Israel.
Golden Crown Hotel Nazareth, 2015 Mt of the Precipice Street. The Golden Crown hotel is situated at the southern entrance to Nazareth, alongside the Mount of Precipice and overlooking the marvelous landscapes of the picturesque Jezreel Valley.