Nazareth

Travel Guide Middle East Israel Nazareth

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Introduction

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%).

Nazareth is best known as the home of Joseph and Mary and hence also Jesus, although the New Testament states that he was born in Bethlehem.

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.

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Sights and Activities

  • The Basilica of the Annunciation. M-Sa 08:30AM-23:45 & 14:00-17:50; Su and feasts 14:00-17:30. Winter, M-Sa 09:00-11:45 & 14:00-16:30; Su and feasts 14:00-16:30. built 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 Annunciation. Built 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 Church. Daily 09:00-11:45 & 14:00-17:30. next 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 Well. The 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.
  • El Mas-jad El Abiad (The White Mosque). The 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.

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Getting There

By Car

Nazareth is 102 km from Tel Aviv and 131km from Jerusalem.

By Bus

The supposedly Nazareth Bus Station 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.

From 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.

By Foot

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 Mount Tabor. 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.

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Getting Around

Prepare for some of the area's worst driving. Traffic is typically on the heavy side, roads are not well-signed nor well-maintained, and parking is rather haphazard. Beware of sharp switchbacks and small, winding roads with no exit—these are cramped, crazy streets. Driving in this town is doable, but for the brave of heart. GPS is a must, but not entirely trustworthy.

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.

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Eat

The city’s many restaurants provide a full gastronomic experience in all types of Arab cuisine. Any visit to Nazareth must allow time to enjoy to the full the renowned and delicious local tradition of welcoming diners. Note, Nazareth's kenafeh is by far not as good as in Nablus.

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Drink

Right behind Mary's Well is a restaurant/bar called Al Bayat "The House". You can find pretty much any kind of alcoholic drink you like there and an extensive menu of international fusion cuisine. Locals like the outdoor patio for a local Palestinian beer called Taybeh, "Tasty" with complimentary pretzels and peanuts. Local musicians also play some nights.

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Sleep

  • SimSim Backpackers/Guest House, 6132 Street, Old City, ☏ +972 77 551 72 75. Decent 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. Dorm bed from ₪72.
  • Fauzi Azar Inn, 6108 Street, Old City, ☏ +972 4-602-0469, ✉ Info@fauziazarinn.com. Another 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. Dorm bed from ₪84.
  • Galilee Hotel, ☏ +972 6-6571311, fax: +972 6-6556627, ✉ merywell@netvision.net.il. Paul 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.
  • Grand New Hotel, 5053/1 Har Hamutran, ☏ +972-4-6085400, fax: +972-4-6573020, ✉ info@tabarhotel.com. On 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.
  • The Rimonim Nazareth Hotel (Ha’Maayan), Paulus VI Road,, ☏ +972 4-6500000, fax: +972 4-67500055. (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.
  • Havaya Hotel Nazareth, 2 Hermon Street, ☏ +972 4-6028282. Overlooks the historical old city of Nazareth, and is close to Migdal Haemek Industrial park.
  • Golden Crown Hotel, 2015 Mt of the Precipice Street. The 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.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Israel is a technologically advanced society, and internet cafés are widely available in most cities and towns. The regular price for paid internet cafés is about 15 shekels per hour but you can get it for about 10 shekels in some of the more local places. Free Wi-Fi access is common in cafés (check individual articles). All branches of 'Aroma Espresso Bar', 'Arcaffe', 'Café Café', 'McDonalds' and 'Yellow' convenience stores have free Wi-Fi access, though in some you will have to approach the staff for a password.

Recently, the "Jerusalem Wi-Fi" project started. This government started project aims to cover the entire Jerusalem area with Wi-Fi although at the moment the only areas covered are in the city center. A similar project has started in Tel Aviv and in Karmiel in the north. Some other cities are following suit.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international country code for Israel is 972. Emergency numbers include 100 (police), 101 (ambulance) and 102 (fire). 112 is supported in mobile networks.

Currently Israel offers support for all the available networks including GSM/UMTS (Pelephone, Cellcom and Orange), CDMA (Pelephone) and iDen (Hot Mobile). In any case, you must check with your carrier about the roaming option and the compatibility of your device in advance. A valid suggestion otherwise is to turn off data services.

You can rent a cellphone for use in Israel either before your trip or once you arrive from several firms. You can also rent smartphones with sim cards included sometimes for lower than the cost of renting just a sim card. Vendors such as Israel Phone Rentalsoffer the advantages of a sim card rental without having to worry about bringing your own phone to Israel. If you have a GSM cellphone without a SIM-lock, you can buy a SIM-card. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Pelephone (Talk & Go), Cellcom (Talk Man) and Orange (Bigtalk) phone stores throughout Israel. Almost all shopping malls will have a Pelephone, Cellcom or Orange kiosk or store.

There are many public phones scattered around. Public phones can be always found at hotels, post offices, central bus stations and train stations. These phones use a Telecard, which, today, is a pre-paid calling card that works only with pay phones and can be purchased at post offices and some stores, as well as ordinary calling cards. Some phones also accept credit cards, usually those in hotels and post offices.

Post

The Israel Post is the national postal service of Israel and generally has fast, reliable and affordable services. Efficiency means that letters and postcards send by airmail just take about 3-7 days within Europe, a few days more to the USA and Australia. Express Mail Services (EMS) is available, with which you are guaranteed to have the postcard or letter delivered within 72 hours anywhere in the world. You can buy stamps at post offices, or newspaper stands/kiosks or some souvenir shops and hotels. The main post offices are usually open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Sunday to Thursday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Friday, though some might keep longer hours. Branch offices and post offices in smaller towns keep shorter hours, usually with a break from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and on Wednesday and Friday only during the morning. Parcels can be send by the regular post offices or with companies like TNT, UPS, FedEx and DHL.

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Accommodation in Nazareth

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This is version 10. Last edited at 13:14 on Jul 5, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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