Nazareth Travel Guide: One Day Itinerary & Top Historical Sites
First stop after Tel Aviv on my journey through some of the most metaphysically historical sites in the world was Nazareth, Israel. Besides several important Christian sites, Nazareth is home to Israel’s largest Arab population and often deemed as the “Forgotten Son” in Israeli tourism.
According to Christians, Nazareth, located in the Galilee region of Israel, is hometown to the Holy Family. It’s where the angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary and announced that she would give birth to the Son of God, known as the Annunciation.
Although I don’t consider myself religious, I’ve always been fascinated by tales from holy text and witnessing firsthand the places these ancient books referenced has been nothing short of amazing. Israel plays home to home to some of the revered locations in the three main religions that have shaped the outcome of humanity. Heavy stuff, am I right?
So what is there to do where Jesus is said to have grown up? Check out these top historical sites around Nazareth!
Top Historical Sites & Things to Do in Nazareth
Walk the Jesus Trail
This 65km (40 mile) trail takes hikers and pilgrims from Nazareth to Capernaum, connecting some of the most important biblical sites of Jesus’ life in the Galilee region of Israel.
The full route takes around 4 days to complete but sections of the trail can be enjoyed throughout Nazareth, marked by orange circles and paint along the way.
Basilica of the Annunciation
Modern in its design, this Franciscan-run Roman Catholic basilica built in 1969 lays in the heart of Old Town, domineering over Nazareth’s skyline. Christians believe the site of the church is where Mary, the Virgin Mother of Jesus, lived along with her husband Joseph. This is also where most Christian churches believe the Annunciation took place – or when Mary was told she was going to have the son of God.
The grotto on the lowest level of the church reveals the Grotto of the Annunciation, the traditional site of Mary’s house as well as the ruins of Byzantine and Crusader churches that once stood there. During my visit to the church a somber and reflective prayer ceremony and chants could be heard.
Donated by various Catholic congregations around the world, a series of mosaic panels depicting their take of Mother and Child (Mary and Jesus) decorate the courtyard and walls of the basicallas interior.
Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
This was my favorite historical site in Nazareth. While Catholics and many other Christian churches believe the Annunciation took place in Mary’s home, the Greek Orthodox Church believe this occured when Mary was fetching water from the local spring.
This beautifully decorated and colorful church lays over the site of the spring that was Nazareth’s only year-round spring. The atmosphere here was lively and jovial, with large groups of Greek pilgrims in colorful head scarves singing melodic hymns led by accompanied priests – a stark contrast to the in the Basilica above.
Got myself some holy water ->
St. Joseph’s Church
Built in 1914, St. Joseph’s Church is believed to have been the location of Joseph’s carpentry workshop.
Church of “Mensa Christi”
Meaning “The Table of Christ” in Latin, Church of Mensa Christi is thought to be the site where Jesus ate on a stone inside the church along with his disciples when he came back and visited his hometown.
Although Nazareth is a predominantly Arab city with mostly historical Christian sites, the modest construction of the White Mosque started in 1785 and was completed in 1808. Positioned in the center of Old Town, the name is an ode to the main messages of the mosque – purity, transparency and simplicity – and has been attributed to promoting peace between the faiths in Nazareth.
Old City Market
A locals hub in the center of the Old City where one could find anything from spices and kitchen cutlery to pajamas and childrens toys.
Located in a square next to a row of restaurants and shops on the outskirts of the Old Town, Mary’s Well was an important source of running water throughout ancient times. Positioned over a natural underground spring, the current structure is a non-functional reconstruction of what was once there during biblical times.
Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent
Although a peaceful trek, the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent is up a steep 2km climb along the Jesus Trail to the outskirts of Nazareth. Construction finished in 1923 on this neo-Gothic church, offering sweeping views of the city below. The church is within a school compound run by a Catholic religious order and although the church was closed when I was there on a Sunday, the views from the top were worth the trek.
Where to Eat in Nazareth
Like the rest of Israel, Nazareth is expensive. I treated myself to a dinner at Rose Mary, serving French and Italian dishes using fresh ingredients from the Galilean region. The white cream based pasta I ordered was deliciously savory and a complete surprise coming from an Arab city in the middle of Israel. Bonus points for sitting outside and taking in the sites of the busy Mary Well’s square.
Traditional Qatayef at Abu Ashraf
While walking around the Old Town be sure to stop by this quaint corner shop for a traditional qatayef – a pancake with cheese in the middle and covered in a sweet sugar syrup.
Falafel & Shawarma at Jabaly
Being on a backpackers budget, I frequented this falafel and shawarma shop more than once – 3 times to be exact. But with a prime location in Mary’s Square, welcoming employees, cheaper prices and delicious fast Middle Eastern food, I was more than okay with this.
Where to Stay in Nazareth
Fauzi Azar Inn
By far one of the most beautiful hostels I’ve ever stayed in, Fauzi Azar Inn is situated in a quiet alley of Old Town and along the Jesus Trail. The two-century old former Arab mansion, was converted to a guesthouse in 2005 with both private and dorm styled rooms.
They also offered free breakfast for guests and had delicious cake up for grabs sitting in the kitchen throughout the day.
Have I convinced you to make the trek up to northern Israel to check out the historical sites of Nazareth? As always, if you have any questions about my travel guide to Nazareth, drop them in the comments below!
Nazareth Travel Guide & Itinerary
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