Almost 3000 years’ worth of biblical history is rolled into one city - Nazareth - the largest Arab city of Israel, which also happens to be Jesus’ home town. All the famous stories, from the pages of the holy book of Bible, come alive the moment you step into the northern part of the country: the domed Basilica of the Annunciation is where angel Gabriel is said to have told Mary that she would bear a child; St. Joseph’s Church is believed to be Joseph’s carpentry workshop; and the Nazareth Village reflects way of life during Jesus’ era. While the city may have its drawbacks in terms of heavy traffic jams and crowded streets, you will never find so many historical landmarks in a single place, each with a story more fascinating than the other. It is after all, the Messiah’s home turf.
Here are our top picks of must-see things that may help you streamline your itinerary.
1. The Church of the Annunciation
The most prominent structure dominating the old town’s skyline is the cupola of this modernist structure, which holds immense significance for devout Christians. The dimly-it lower church shelters the grotto, the traditional site of Mary’s home, where the angel Gabriel descended from heaven to give her the news about her future son. The son, of course, was none other than Jesus Christ. Designed by the renowned architect Giovanni Muzio, the structure showcases intricate artwork of stunning murals and gorgeous mosaics. The most fascinating part is that the murals show the Holy pair as they would be seen through the eyes of different ethnic races.
The Church of the Annunciation
Address: Casa Nova Street, Nazareth, Israel
Website: The Basilica of the Annunciation
2. St. Joseph Church
Built across the courtyard from the Basilica’s upper level, St. Joseph Church is believed to be established on the site that was Joseph’s carpentry workshop. The neo-Romanesque Franciscan building has been reconstructed many times over, and the church that now stands before us is a reflection of what was built in 1914. While the upper part houses unique pieces of art, the lower part descends into the grottoes where Joseph would have taught Jesus the nuances of the family trade.
St. Joseph Church
Address: Adjacent and north to the Basilica of Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel
Website: St. Joseph Church
3. Nazareth Village
A charming farmstead recreated to depict the accurate details of 1st century Galilean life, Nazareth Village is where Old Testament tales come alive. With costume-donned actors brilliantly enacting their parts, it’s where you can witness the the way of life at Nazareth in the time of Jesus and how the villagers practiced the traditional crafts and chores. The vineyard terraces and the wine press at the attraction are authentic enough, but everything else - the burial cave, the threshing floor, the carpenter and weaver studios, the olive press - has been meticulously recreated to reflect the Nazareth that Jesus knew. This entertaining and interactive village is simply a must-visit.
Address: 5079 St, Nazareth, Israel
Website: Nazareth Village
4. Chapel of Fright
If you’re familiar with the tale of how Jesus was hurled off a cliff by enraged villagers because he had declared himself to be the Messiah, you’d appreciate this little historical, albeit a little run-down, spot. The aptly named chapel apparently sits on the spot from where Mary witnessed this horrific event. Tread down the unbeaten Nazareth paths, towards the south of the town center, and you’ll stumble upon this lesser-known hidden gem located on a picturesque hill, which also doubles up as a gorgeous view point.
Chapel of Fright
Address: North to Mount Precipice, on the south-east side of Nazareth, Israel
Website: Chapel of Fright on Mount Precipice
5. Mary’s Well
Located in the pretty town square, the well, also known as the Virgin Fountain, is said to have miraculous healing powers. The site holds an alternate belief of the annunciation, as the Eastern Orthodox Church considers this to be the spot where Gabriel broke the news to Mary about her future son. Lined by many cafes and restaurants, this local attraction is pretty popular with the tourists, and gets even more crowded during Christmas as the annual festivities are celebrated here with great gusto.
Address: Al-Bishara St 55, Nazareth, Israel
Website: Mary’s Well
6. The Ancient Bathhouse
The ancient bath house in NazarethPosted by Arseny Gurevich Photography on Saturday, 22 December 2012
This serendipitous discovery of 1993 happened during a store renovation when the owners came across the almost-intact Roman bathhouse with its network of over 2000-year old clay pipes, believed to be fed by Mary’s Well. Housing a caldarium or hot room, hypocaust or heating tunnels, a furnace, and cool rooms, these baths are said to be used during or before the time of Jesus. A 30-minute tour takes you through this amazing piece of architecture, ending in refreshments at the cavern that would have stored wood and ashes in the olden days.
The Ancient Bathhouse
Address: Mary’s Well Square, Nazareth, 16470, Israel
Website: The Ancient Bathhouse
7. Elbabour Spice Mill
Elbabour - Galilee Mill Nazareth Elbabour Art of SpicesPosted by Elbabour - Galilee Mill on Wednesday, 25 February 2015
For a taste of the Middle East, there’s no better place than this family-run spice emporium dating back four generations. The tantalizing fragrance of the spices come from shelves and bottles and sacks of over 2,500 products of exotic spice mixtures, including some whose recipes are family trade secrets, handed down the generations. Take a tour of the 250-year old historic site with a hidden garden, stone-walled rooms, and their antique equipment. The spice-makers also sell organic perfumes and herbs, along with the famous spices.
Elbabour Spice Mill
Address: Al-Bishara St 6101, Nazareth, Israel
Website: Elbabour Spice Mill
8. Meggido National Park
With a fascinating history that dates back to the Neolithic Period (7000 BC), this fortified hilltop is a treasure trove of old ruins, well-preserved walls, water cisterns and stables. Located between Egypt and Mesopotamia, an important trade route of that time, Meggido National Park offers beautiful views of green vistas. While this historical site is an open-air location that calls for a fair bit of walking in the sun, it does have an air-conditioned museum, a small gift shop and a cafe. This place is best enjoyed early in the mornings when the air is crisp and the sun mild.
Meggido National Park
Address: Megiddo, Nazareth 18230, Israel
Website: Meggido National Park
9. Mary of Nazareth International Center
A Nazareth, l'ange Gabriel vient visiter Marie.Posted by Centre International Marie de Nazareth on Sunday, 22 March 2015
A recent development, Mary of Nazareth International Center takes you through a 55-minute audiovisual journey, commemorating Mary’s role in the Scripture where she agreed to become the mother of the Son of God. Following the riveting presentation, you can wander through the historical exhibition, offer your prayers at the Chapel of Unity, and stroll along the Biblical Garden, the archaeological site, and the roof gardens - all of which make history come to life. The terrace at the center is also a great spot to enjoy the panoramic view of the city.
Mary of Nazareth International Center
Address: Al-Bishara St 15A, Nazareth, 16161, Israel
10. Dewan al-Saraya Restaurant by Abu Ashraf
7. Pancakes at Dewan al-Saraya, Nazareth Aside from the awe-inspiring Basilica of the Annunciation, another place that...Posted by TripZilla on Thursday, 2 February 2017
If you need to take a break from your hectic dose of sightseeing and enjoy a quiet meal or a cup of coffee, head to Abu Ashraf’s Dewan al-Saraya, the old hummus joint and coffee shop, where the robust beans are roasted within the premises. The shop is famous for its signature dish - katayef - which is basically goat-cheese or cinnamon-walnut pancakes doused in sweet geranium syrup. It also excels in making healthy yet delicious vegetable salads. Savoring the local delights while listening to the owner’s interesting stories might just be the kind of break you were looking for from the busy schedule.
Dewan al-Saraya Restaurant
Address: 6134 St 2, Nazareth, Israel
Visit Nazareth - where history comes to life
A land where legend meets reality, Nazareth is like watching Biblical tales unfold before your eyes. The bustling city promises a glorious trip down the road of faith, if nothing else, as this part of Israel is not exactly an idyllic vacation spot. However, what it lacks in logistics and infrastructure, the city more than makes up with its unmatched rustic old-world charm and rich historical heritage. Paradise for devout followers of the faith, curious historians, and lovers of art, Nazareth - the land of Jesus - is almost magic.
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