With biblical history at its core, a visit to Nazareth in Israel’s Lower Galilee transports you back to ancient times. Speckled between the magnificent churches, Mary’s Well and the Basilica of the Annunciation are other attractions, a thriving culinary scene just one of them, that draw people from far and wide to this enchanting corner of earth.
History in a Snapshot
First, a quick glance at its history depicts, as per the New Testament, the boyhood home of Jesus Christ. It’s no wonder Nazareth captivates a wide audience of Christian pilgrims. As the largest city in Israel’s Northern Galilee—also known as the Arab capital of the country—this special region is home to a sprawl of sites deeply rooted in biblical history.
Although Nazareth was home to a Jewish population during Jesus’ time, it later grew its Christian roots during the time of the Roman Empire back. Fast forward to the Ottoman Turk period and Christians were banished from Nazareth, returning some time later. Today, this city is distinctive for its Christian heritage of which around 60 percent of residents are Muslim and the remainder Arab Christian.
Nazareth’s dozens of churches are the major draw of the city, yet there are other attractions to add to your list:
Church of Annunciation
Also known as the Basilica of the Annunciation, this Catholic church is said to be where angel Gabriel appeared to Virgin Mary and declared that she would give birth to Jesus.
St Joseph’s Church
Built in 1914 over the Crusader church remains, this site is said to be where Jesus’ father Joseph housed his carpentry workshop.
In biblical times, this well, also known as the Fountain of the Virgin, served as a source of running water. According to the Greek Orthodox church, this is where angel Gabriel announced to Mary she would carry the son of God.
The Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation
Many believe the cave in which the church was built was the home of Mary. Originally built in the 12th century, it was destroyed and restructured during the Ottoman Era. This holy church is the sacred site in Nazareth for the Greek Orthodox community.
Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent
Known also as the Salesian church, this magnificent site, presenting stunning views across Nazareth, was designed by French architect Lucia Gauthier sometime in the early 1900s.
This Christian church in the center of Nazareth lends its name due to its location, said to be where the village synagogue in which Jesus prayed and studied once stood.
Megiddo National Park
Around 30 minutes from Nazareth, this UNESCO World Heritage Site lays the remains of century-old palaces and temples from the Canaanite period.
Transformed from an ancient agricultural farm, this open-air museum houses the area’s last remaining wine press from the first century. Original building methods and materials are behind the recreated site, which includes a synagogue, watchtowers, olive presses and replicas of first-century houses.
The Galilee Mill
The renowned spice shop El Babour is home to a 100 year old mill. See for yourself the grinding machines and ancient tools among the aromas of hundreds of spices and herbs.
With a colorful past and present, Nazareth’s gastronomy scene is a blend of old and new. Melding traditional Arabic delights with modern influences, an irresistible palette of cuisine is up for grabs. The best place to start is the Old Market, showcasing the charm of the city to a tee. Although around since the 17th century, the bazaar really came into its own in the 19th century. Today this flourishing, outdoor market, is a distinctive melange of fresh vegetables, juicy fruits, baked goods for those into savory and desserts to satisfy a sweet tooth, home cooked food, homeware and nick-nacks, and all types of tradesmen for every need. All of this among winding streets and ancient alleyways.
Here you will find a feast for the senses – aromatically inviting spices and a great amount of cookery tips to enhance and develop your skills. Take home many undiscovered ideas of how to blend spices to give that extra delicious tastiness to an array of dishes—created by your very own hands! You’ll also enjoy the vegetarian meal you have helped to prepare in the beautiful restaurant surroundings.
Wine enthusiasts have ample opportunities to explore the magnificent vineyards further afield in the stunning Galilee area, with various tours available. Within these short journeys you will also have the chance to take in stunning scenery and visit further historical places of interest such as the Capernaum and the Church of Multiplication. You can also discover the Yardenit Baptismal Site—one of the probable places of Jesus’ baptism.
Festivals and Events
In recognition of its proud cultural heritage, Nazareth hosts several festivals throughout the year, in memory of its various traditions and history. Two high-profile food festivals are the Christmas Market and The Fattoush Festival (a celebration of local foods, Arabic delicacies and fusion of foods with a modern twist).
Nazareth additionally celebrates further events each year, highlighting individual religious or traditional customs. The Feast of the Annunciation is in March. This is a key Christian remembrance honoring the revelation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan. This is an important Muslim enjoyment, welcoming the Nazareth community to indulge in a celebration of food, fun and festive delights.
The Jesus Trail
As the starting point for the iconic Jesus Trail, an epic 65-kilometer hiking adventure, leading you along in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Nazareth attracts thousands of visitors who embark on this monumental trek through history. The trail was co-founded in 2009 by one of the intrepid founders of Abraham Hostel, in part with the intention of providing an economic stimulus to local communities through grassroots ecotourism.
Whether it’s religion that piques your interest or simply stepping outside of the city bustle and into nature, this trail is an inspiring adventure for all types of travelers. In fact, this epic hike leads you through forests, ancient olive groves, resilient cliffs and the glistening waters of the Sea of Galilee.