Nazareth cannot boast of an excitingly interesting history. In Old Testament times, it was a small settlement for about 20 families who were engaged in agriculture and winemaking, and, in fact, nothing else happened here. However, for Christians, this is one of the three holiest cities in the world along with Jerusalem and Bethlehem, since, according to the Bible, Jesus Christ spent his childhood here.
According to citypopulationreview.com, modern Nazareth is the most Christian and at the same time the most Arab city in Israel: about 70% of the population are Muslims, and the remaining 30% are Christian Arabs. It is the only city in the country where the day off is Sunday instead of Saturday.
In the Nazareth Church of Mensa Christi, an important Christian shrine is kept – a stone slab, which, according to the Gospel, served Jesus as a table for a meal after his resurrection.
How to get to Nazareth
Nazareth does not have its own airport, so most travelers get to the city from Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Jerusalem. Guests usually arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, but there are no direct public transport connections from there to Nazareth. It is convenient to travel by train to Haifa: tickets can be bought in advance at the office. Israel Railways website, and there, right at the railway station, transfer to a bus to Nazareth. The total travel time is about 3 hours.
The easiest way to get from the airport to Nazareth is by taxi or transfer, such a trip will cost about 1200 ILS.
From the center of Haifa, buses run regularly, the journey takes 40 minutes, and the journey costs about 39 ILS. Direct buses from Tel Aviv also run frequently, you will have to pay about 33.5 ILS for a ticket and spend 1.5-2 hours in transport. Buses travel from Jerusalem for two hours, the ticket price is 36.5 ILS. There are different carriers on the market, one of the most popular is Egged, more detailed information about routes, schedules and tickets can be obtained at the office. company website. The prices on the page are for June 2022.
Most of the attractions of Nazareth are located in the Old City, between them you can walk, so some tourists do not use public transport at all. For those who plan to travel, it is more convenient to travel by bus. There are several private companies in the city, you can buy a ticket from the driver. Some stops can be identified by the glass pavilion, others are marked with only a small sign.
Another option is a taxi, however, you need to prepare for traffic jams and chaotic traffic in the narrow streets of the Arab quarters.
Many travelers are willing to rent bicycles. This is a relatively inexpensive and convenient way to travel. You can rent a bike in advance by ordering it on the Internet, or right on the spot. As a rule, only a passport and a deposit are required. You can take an “iron horse” for a day for about 25 ILS, although prices can vary greatly in different rental services.
The Abductors of Nazareth
There are not many hotels in Nazareth, so it is worth booking accommodation in advance. There are several hostels in the city, guest houses are very popular, almost all of them are decorated in oriental style, since Nazareth is considered an Arab city. There are also truly luxurious large hotels with swimming pools and gardens, but there are only a few of them, as well as solid complexes corresponding to the level of 4 “stars”. A double room in a guesthouse costs from 250 ILS, and a double room in a decent “three rubles” will cost 500-600 ILS per day. The most expensive hotels charge around ILS 1050 per night.
Almost everywhere they offer breakfast and free Wi-Fi. Occasionally there are parking spaces.
Nazareth cannot be called the capital of Israeli shopping, but there are several shopping centers with branded items. Prices are slightly lower than in Tel Aviv, all promotions start after the holidays. Since the population is 70% Muslim Arabs, the biggest sales start at the end of Ramadan, in June. Traditional Israeli Boxing days are also held in this city.
Local bazaars are much more interesting than the same type of shopping centers. You can buy magnificent jewelry, spices and oriental souvenirs on them. For dishes decorated in the traditional Arabic style, you should go to pottery shops or bazaars.
As gifts, Christians most often bring from Nazareth various products with a religious meaning: consecrated olive oil, icons, church texts, etc. Such products are sold near places of worship.
Almost none of the tourists manage to leave the city without spices. They are sold in souvenir shops, markets, and specialized stores. An excellent gift for a sweet tooth will be dates – plain or stuffed with nuts. They are here at every turn.
Cuisine and restaurants of Nazareth
Nazareth is full of cafes and restaurants, and the cuisine is truly diverse! Some establishments serve Middle Eastern dishes, others Mediterranean, and Jewish cuisine is also easy to find.
All of them are divided into kosher or non-kosher. Moreover, there are quite a lot of the latter: both Arabic, and European, and even Russian, however, dishes of all countries of the former USSR are often called Russian here: Caucasian, Uzbek, etc. Cafes are popular: you can have a snack with pastries with coffee for 50-100 ILS.
You should definitely visit “hummus” – these are places where they offer hummus and “ful” – bean stew, salads are often on the menu. Each of these small eateries usually has its own hummus recipe.
Muslim restaurants and cafes do not sell alcohol. Also, it is usually not found in hummus and falafel.
On the street you can have a bite of falafel – this is the world-famous Israeli fast food. Spiced hummus balls are fried in boiling oil and served either on a plate with vegetables or wrapped in a tortilla. Very often in falafel there are sets that include food and drink.
Entertainment and attractions
By the 2000th anniversary of Christianity, Nazareth was changed almost beyond recognition, especially its historical center: they removed car traffic, made the streets pedestrian, and developed walking routes for pilgrims and tourists. But the most important project was the Nazareth Village – a reconstructed settlement of the 1st century AD. e. This is an open-air museum where you can see life in Nazareth as it was in the time of Jesus Christ: residential buildings, terraces, living trees, wine presses, as well as actors in historical costumes.
Nazareth is a center of pilgrimage, so the sights here are mostly religious.
The most important religious building is the Basilica of the Annunciation. It was built in 1769 on the site of the grotto, where, according to the Bible, the Virgin Mary lived – moreover, the grotto has been preserved and is located on the lower level of the temple. Inside the basilica is very beautiful: ceramic bas-reliefs, frescoes and mosaics of almost jewelry work.
Another interesting attraction is Mount Tabor (9 km southeast of Nazareth). The Gospel says that it was at its top that the Transfiguration of the Lord took place and it was from here that they wanted to throw off the first time preaching Jesus Christ. For non-religious visitors, this place is interesting for its beautiful landscapes, the perfectly round shape of the mountain, as well as two monasteries erected on the site of a temple destroyed in the Middle Ages.
The most famous Catholic church in Nazareth is the Church of St. Joseph (Terra Sancta, Kaza Nova Str., POB 23), which was built here during the reign of the Byzantines. Since then, it has been repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, the last time in 1914, in a Romanesque style with bizarre frescoes and colored stained glass windows.
There are also Muslim sights in Nazareth, such as the White Mosque, the oldest of the three operating in the city. This building is an example of the classic Ottoman style, and the inside is decorated with luxurious handmade carpets.
Archaeological and natural monuments
In the vicinity of Nazareth, it is worth visiting the historical area of Sepphoris, where the ruins of the ancient city were discovered and archaeological excavations are still underway. It existed around the 1st century, was repeatedly destroyed first by earthquakes, and then by the Crusaders. Only the ruins of the fortress wall and palaces remained.
In the Sepphoris National Park, the remains of Roman water tanks have been preserved, in which, according to biblical traditions, Jesus turned water into wine.
Now on the territory of the national park you can see the Hellenistic residential quarters, a Roman villa with amazingly preserved mosaics, an ancient Roman theater, a synagogue of the 6th century and the richest “House of the Nile”, the floors in all 20 rooms of which are lined with mosaics.
The ancient mill El Babur
The El Babur steam mill is located at 6101 Al-Bishara Street. It was built in the 19th century and has been used to produce spices ever since. Many tourists come here just “for the smell” – such aromas hover around.
Nazareth is located in the north of Israel, it is characterized by a tropical climate with two seasons – summer and winter, while the warm weather lasts a very long time: from early spring to late autumn. March and April are a great time to travel: it is already warm, there is almost no rainfall, the sun is shining. Similar weather is observed in the second half of autumn.
In the period from May to September it is very hot here, there is no rain at all, and in June and July the air is so hot that it is almost impossible to be outside at noon. Winter is also not particularly suitable for a trip, in December and January the winds blow and it rains. Despite this, many pilgrims visit Nazareth during Christmas.