Nazareth is described by some as ‘the Forgotten Son’ of Israeli tourism. Nazareth, located in Israel’s Galilee region has over a dozen important Christian sites. As Israel’s largest Arab city, it has some fascinating cultural sites and experiences to savor. Thanks to a visit from the Pope in 2009, Nazareth was put back onto Israel’s tourism map. Considering its importance as the childhood home of Jesus, the largest Arab city in Israel, and its stunning location right in the middle of the Lower Galilee (about 15 miles west of the Sea of Galilee), it’s well deserving of this status.
What is there to do in Nazareth?
Nazareth’s Old City is most famous for its shuk (outdoor market) which attracts Israelis from across the country looking for traditional Arabic produce. This in itself is an experience, and a great contrast to the air-conditioned malls dotted around the country. For those interested in Christianity, the Old City and surrounds are filled with important Christian sites, including the Church of the Annunciation.
Nazareth’s Old City is home to two off-the-beaten-track cultural sites. The first is The Nazareth Nuns’ Convent, located not far from the Church of Annunciation. It’s a totally unexpected, but very impressive archaeology site. The nuns, who arrived in Nazareth from France in 1855, purchased stores in the market and started establishing the convent, and they uncovered many archeological findings during building process. Included in the findings were a large hall with a big arch above it, catacombs, water cisterns, mosaics, an ancient church’s altar, and a Jewish burial site believed to be from before the Second Temple period. The sisters also have a small museum exhibiting old coins and pottery.
Important Christian History
The Synagogue Church, is according to Christian tradition, where Jesus studied and prayed. According to the Bible, this is where he gave his famous sermon, declaring himself as the Messiah to his Jewish village members. This sermon infuriated the congregants, who allegedly dragged him to Mount Precipice planning to push him downhill until he jumped and disappeared. Today, the Synagogue Church belongs to the Greek-Catholic community. According to historians, this synagogue became attributed as the one where Jesus was praying after the Byzantine period. During this time all early Jewish holy sites were destroyed by the Romans at the end of the Second Temple period. Most ancient Galilee synagogues are from the third to sixth century.
If you’re interested to delve deeper into the Christian history of Nazareth, join this Galilee day tour.
Nazareth has some impressive architecture. An abundance of Ottoman-era homes still stand, which have stunning frescoes – painted plaster walls and ceilings.
Exploring the wider area, there are many places to visit in the Lower Galilee and Sea of Galilee regions. Tthe Gospel Trail is a site of particular interest. This is a recently opened walking route which traces the footsteps of Jesus from Nazareth to Capernaum on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is designed to take a few days to hike, although you can also do short stages. Whether or not you are interested in the religious meaning, this trail is an amazing experience, offering fantastic scenery and newly made footpaths.