Best things to do in Nazareth
Find out more about those top places in Nazareth
Few cities in the world have as much history as Nazareth. The biblical-era city’s main draw is the Basilica of the Annunciation, a vast modernist church that shelters the Grotto of the Annunciation, which some believe was the site of Mary’s house and where Angel Gabriel informed her she would give birth to the Son of God. What is more, the cavernous underground Synagogue-Church is believed to be where Jesus studied and revealed himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy. However, Nazareth is not all about history. It is Israel’s largest Arab city where Palestinian culture still thrives while the myriad of hillside cobbled lanes and Ottoman houses that comprise the old town are being reinvented as an upscale culinary destination.
Rising out of Nazareth’s crumbling Ottoman era old town is a building like no other – the modernist Basilica of the Annunciation. Constructed between 1960 and 1969, the church has a stark concrete façade and a soaring dome that could only have been built thanks to the revolutionary architectural techniques of the 20th century. The mammoth church is believed to stand on the site of the Virgin Mary’s former home, which is where the Catholic Church believes the Annunciation took place.
If you are struggling to envision what Nazareth looked like in Jesus’ time, then head to the Nazareth Village – a fantastic recreation of day-to-day life around the turn of the 1st century AD. The outdoor museum consists of authentically ancient wine presses, quarries and vineyard terraces and replicas of carpenter’s workshops, burial caves and olive presses. Tours are available with the guides taking part in millennia old activities.
The impressively frescoed Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is built atop Mary’s Well, which is where adherents of Orthodoxy believe the Annunciation took place. The church’s crypt dates from the 4th century AD and serves to shelter the spring where Mary drew water. Notably, the doorways in the church are etched with graffiti dating back hundreds of years with the odd piece going even further back.
By far the best day tour from Nazareth is to the majestic Sea of Galilee, where Jesus is said to have spent most of his ministry and performed his most remarkable miracles, including walking on water. Tours leave regularly and take you to the ancient synagogue of Capernaum and the city of Tiberias, where you can visit the location of the baptism on the River Jordan.
Constructed in the 18th century by Sheikh Abdullah Al Fahum (whose tomb is enclosed within), the White Mosque is Nazareth’s oldest extant Islamic place of worship. The mosque is popular with the local community for fostering inter-faith dialogue and is remarkable inside with its juxtaposition of old and modern elements.
Tucked away down an alleyway near the souq is the Synagogue-Church. While the structure itself is plain, its history is striking: the present day Crusader era church is built atop an ancient synagogue where Jesus is thought to have shown himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. For the best experience, head to this attraction as part of a walking tour, as the guide will be able to explain its rich and complex history.
When two Belgian residents of Nazareth began renovating their humble shop in the 1990s they uncovered one of the world’s most remarkable archaeological discoveries: the perfectly preserved remains of a Roman bathhouse. Short guided tours of this unexpected find reveal its rich history and the thrilling story of its rediscovery.