Nazareth (Arabic الناصرة an-Nāṣirah, Hebrew נצרת Nasarat) is a city in northern Israel. It is the largest Arab city in Israel proper, having a population of 60,000, a harmonious mix of Muslims (70%) and Christians (about 30%).
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 (and regarded by most historians to be his likely historical birthplace), Nazareth has for 2,000 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.
By busThe supposedly is not much of help, there are no English sign posts or any central information. Most buses go through here and along Paulus ha-Shishi Street. There is another central stop north, right next to Mary's Well.
From Tel Aviv, routes 823 or 826 from the New Central Bus Station go directly to Nazareth (does not operate on Sabbath or Jewish holidays). The journey takes about 2 hours.
From Haifa, the 331 or 332 bus (from station Merkaz Hashmona or HaMifrats) takes about an hour, and operate daily including the Sabbath and holidays.
From Jerusalem, there are two direct buses per day (excluding Sabbath and Jewish holidays), route number 955. Or take a bus to Afula and switch to a bus to Nazareth. Take care when coming from Afula, as Superbus 354 and 356 avoid the Nazareth city centre and head to Nazareth Illit. Ask the driver to drop you at the stop closest to the city centre. Bus 355 appears to go through the centre, but only runs a few times per day.
From Akko, take bus 353 or 343 (hourly).
From Tiberias, take bus 431 (hourly).
There is also a bus from/to Amman operated by Nazarene four times per week, departing Nazareth at 08:30, and costing ₪80. The same bus leaves Amman again at 14:00. Call +972 4 601 0458 to make sure it's operating and if there are free spots.
By carNazareth is 102 km from Tel Aviv and 131km from Jerusalem.
Nazareth is located on a sort of plateau overlooking the Jezreel Valley, and it can be fun to hike up the edge of this plateau via . Take the bus to Gazit Junction ("Tzomet Gazit"). From Afula you can take bus routes 30, 541, and 542 (25 min ride). From Tiberias you can take the 541 (35 min ride) or 30 (65 min). The climb up Mt Tabor takes an hour, and there you can see the (by its sheer size) impressive and beautiful Church of Transfiguration, as well as its surroundings and gardens. (Open 08:00-17:00, free entrance, entrance only from the carpark side.) The nearby monastery has a giant outdoor bell, but it might be closed - check with the tourist information. Afterwards hike down the mountain and back up into Nazareth (3-4 h). There are trail markers, but better have a map and/or GPS. Note that on rainy days and for 1-2 days afterwards, the track up and down the mount is quite slippery, and hiking here is not recommended.
From the West BankFrom Jenin (also applicable to Nablus and Ramallah): Take a shared taxi (sherut/serviis) or hitchhike to the border, and cross on foot. From the Israeli side of the border, taxis to Nazareth cost ₪150 and to Afula ₪40-50. Alternatively, you can take bus 52 from the roundabout after the border into Afula (₪7.40). And a bus from Afula to Nazareth is ₪10.90.
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.
Prominent Christian sites
The Basilica of the Annunciationbuilt 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.
Greek Orthodox Church of the AnnunciationBuilt 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 Orthodox Museum is closed. Those working at the church are temperamental, and have been known to arbitrarily shout at or remove pilgrims from the church.
St. Joseph’s Churchnext 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.
Mary’s WellThe 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.
Prominent Muslim sites
El Mas-jad El AbiadThe 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 per-arrangement. Notes: please dress modestly and speak softly. In carpeted areas please take off shoes.
Other prominent sites
Nazareth VillageIf you're having trouble imagining Jesus doing anything miraculous amid the bustle of modern Nazareth, then step back 2,000 years at Nazareth Village. Everyday life and commerce in a traditional Galilean village has been duly reconstructed with actors in period clothing leading tours of the working farm. Leave any nightmares of tacky old world historical theme parks at the door - it's well done and worth a stop.
El-Babour Spice Shopphone: +972 4 645 5596The Mill of the Galilee, middle of Bishara street. 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 Lajunphone: +972 4 646 9413address: Sibat El Kaawer Alley (6098 near the suk)Multicultural center for the Stage Arts. In a beautiful space rich with arches is Café-Theater Diwan El Lajun which houses cultural and multicultural 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, story telling shows and circus shows from Israel and abroad. Arab-Jews meetings of adults and adolescents are taking place as well. Workshops in theater, story telling, belly dancing circus and traditional crafts are being offered as well as well as Palestinian brocading. Performances are mainly during the weekend or on special order for groups.
The Ethnological MuseumAt the Saraya.
Old Ottoman Houses with Ornated CeilingsPossible to visit with tours only.
- 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 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 to Mt. Tabor, on top of which you will find the Church of Transfiguration, one the most famous Christian sites, and take a bus back.
- Hike the Jesus Trail (4 days, Nazareth to Capernaum)
Hike the Nativity TrailTrek along the path that took Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem
- Hike up Mount Precipice. Believed to be the place where people tried to push Jesus off, not accepting him as the messiah. It has some impressive viewpoints for the Jezreel Valley and Nazareth. There is also a large theater on the spot where Pope Benedict XVI gave a mass in 2009. Nowadays, this theater seems to be abandoned.
Abu Ashraf (Diwan Al Saraya)Katayef is Nazareth's own speciality, as much as kenafeh is for Nablus. Try this traditional pancake filled with nuts or goat cheese, and sweet sauce on top.
Falafel Abu Hani GabalyNazareth's oldest and famous falafel shop. The half pita is enough if you are not so hungry.
SimSim Backpackers/Guest Housephone: +972 77 551 72 75address: 6132 Street, Old CityDecent and clean place, centrally located. One of the few places in Israel that actually appreciates direct bookings, and consequently might give you a discount on the price published on the big hotel reservation websites if you ask. Member of ILH.
phone: +972 4-602-0469address: 6108 Street, Old CityAnother popular and decent choice. The Fauzi Azar Inn is also one of the best starting-off point for touring the Galilee & Nazareth. The Inn is a 200-year-old Arab Mansion at the heart of the market quarters of Nazareth, a short distance from the Central Bus Station and the Basilica of the Annunciation. Member of ILH.
phone: +972 6-6571311Paul 6th St. Nazareth (just north of the post office). The hotel is near the town center, a four-minute walk from the main tourist center, and can host 200 people, in 92 rooms, each having air-conditioning and private bathrooms.
phone: +972-4-6085400address: 5053/1 Har HamutranOn 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.
phone: +972 4-6500000address: Paulus VI Road,(In Israel phone 1-800-22-1202). The hotel is in the center of the old city of Nazareth, close to the Church of the Annunciation, Suk, restaurants and other tourist sites. The hotel’s 226 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.
phone: +972 4-6028282address: 2 Hermon StreetOverlooks the historical old city of Nazareth, and is close to Migdal Haemek Industrial park.
address: 2015 Mt of the Precipice StreetThe Golden Crown hotel is at the southern entrance to Nazareth, alongside the Mount of Precipice and overlooking the marvelous landscapes of the picturesque Jezreel Valley.
- Jezreel Valley south, Sea of Galilee east and Golan Heights northeast.
- Tiberias – A large Israeli town northeast and great starting point for Galilee and Golan.
- Jenin – Its name means The spring of gardens. Read above on how to accomplish the trip there.
- Nablus – One of the oldest cities in the world and famous for its kunafa/kenafeh. If you are on a tight schedule and planing to go to Ramallah, you might want to skip the latter for this more exciting Palestinian city.
- Haifa – The second-holiest city in the Bahai faith, including its great garden down the northern slope of the city.