. Nazareth or Nasrath is the largest city in the North District of Israel.Nazareth is known as the Arab capital of Israel the population is made up predominantly of Arab citizens of Israel, almost all of whom are either Muslim (69percent) or Christian (30.9percent).In the New Testament, the city is described as the childhood home of Jesus, and as such is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with many shrines commemorating biblical events.Nazareth is not mentioned in pre Christian texts and appears in many different Greek forms in the New Testament.There is no consensus regarding the origin of the name.One conjecture holds that Nazareth is derived from one of the Hebrew words for branch, namely and alludes to the prophetic, messianic words in Book of Isaiah 11 1, from (Jesses) roots a Branch (netzer) will bear fruit.One view suggests this toponym might be an example of a tribal name used by resettling groups on their return from exile.
Church of the Annunciation
. Regarded as one of the most important churches of modern times in Israel, the present Church of the Annunciation was built in 1969, but archaeological evidence shows that a church has sat on this site since at least the 3rd century AD.During the 4th century, the Empress Helena (mother to Constantine the Great, who ruled over the Byzantine world from his capital in modern day Istanbul) had a second church constructed here, which was destroyed by the Persians in 614 AD.The Crusaders later built a three aisled basilica.It was again razed, this time by Sultan Baibars.The site then lay empty until 1730 when the Franciscans gained permission to build a new church, which was pulled down in the 1950s to make way for the church you see today, designed by Italian architect Giovanni Muzio.
St Joseph Church
. Next door to the Church of the Annunciation is St.Joseph Church, built in 1914.The site it stands on is traditionally held by believers to be where Joseph once had his workshop.The church contains the remains of a cistern and storage pits, which date from the early 1st century AD when Christ was thought to have lived.
Salesian Monastery and Church of Jesus the Adolescent
. Just north of the town center, a path zigzags up to this commandingly situated monastery and school run by the Catholic Salesian order.The Church of Jesus the Adolescent, built in 1918, is within the grounds.Even if youre feeling a little churched out from all the basilica finery on display in Nazareth, its worth coming up here for the views alone.Inside the church, over the high altar, is a figure of young Jesus.
. Snuggled away in Nazareths market district is the Synagogue Church, which belongs to the Greek Catholic Melkite community.To the left of the doorway is a door leading down into the synagogue, which Jesus is said to have attended as an adolescent.Despite this traditional belief, archaeological evidence points to the synagogue probably dating from the 6th century AD, at the earliest.The church itself was built in 1887 and has a rather grand dome sided by two bell towers.
St Gabriel Church and Mary Well
. St.Gabriel Church (also known as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation) is one of the two sites in Nazareth claimed to be where the Annunciation took place.It was built over the village spring where, in Greek Orthodox tradition, the Archangel Gabriel first appeared to Mary.In the crypt below the church, the spring still flows.The upper church itself has some superb frescoes that are well worth visiting.If you want to visit the other contender for the title of Marys well, head south across Church Square to the aptly named Marys Well Square, which followers of the Eastern Orthodox church believe to be the true site.
Mensa Christi Church
. The Franciscan Mensa Christi (Table of Christ) Church contains a slab of stone 3.6 m long and 3 m wide that the risen Christ is believed to have eaten at with his disciples The church is usually kept locked, but the guardian is normally around and you can gain entry by asking for the key.
. Cana is one of two sites (the other is in southern Lebanon) that contend for the title of being the place where Jesus performed his first miracle the changing of water into wine.Its an attractive town for a half day trip from Nazareth, with three churches that commemorate the miracle that may or may not have occurred here.In Cana town center is a Franciscan church consecrated in 1883.Local tradition holds that the church is built over the site where the miracle happened.Visitors can usually see an old jar here that is claimed to be one of the six pots in which the water was changed.Opposite the Franciscan church is the rather dilapidated Greek Orthodox Church, built in 1556 over the site of an earlier mosque.Here, too.
. The remains of ancient Zippori (Sepphoris) are an excellent day trip from Nazareth.Excavations here, by American archaeologists, have brought to light findings from the Roman period when the town was known as Diocaesarea, through to the era of the Crusades.The Crusaders built a castle and church dedicated to St.Anne (mother of the Virgin Mary) here and the Crusading army assembled at Zippori on July 2, 1187 before their march to Hittim, where they suffered an annihilating defeat at the hands of Saladin.Walking through the site, you get a real feel for the layers of settlement here with the Byzantine church, a Roman theater, and the remains of the Crusader castle the top attractions.
Basilica of the Annunciation
. One of the most famous scenes in the Bible occurs when the angel Gabriel descends from Heaven to inform the Virgin Mary of her pregnancy.The child in her womb was, of course, Jesus.The Basilica of the Annunciation is said to rest on the exact site where Mary received her message from God and is thus of immense significance to Christians.Even if you are not a Christian, you will find plenty to appreciate about the imposing and unusual architecture of the Basilica, meticulously designed by Giovanni Muzio.
. If you need to brush up on your Biblical history or would simply like to see the Biblical tales recounted to you in your youth enacted in real life, Nazareth Village is the place to be.This charming village faithfully recreates every detail of ancient Galilean life, complete with talented and enthusiastic actors decked out in historically accurate costumes.you will be able to observe the customs and daily rituals practiced by the Galileans in the time of Jesus and gain a deeper understanding of the stories recounted in the New Testament.
Chapel of Fright
. Are you familiar with the famous incident in Luke 4 29 30 when Jesus was nearly hurled from a cliff by the people of Nazareth.Well, the Chapel of Fright stands on the spot where Mary witnessed this climactic event.This gorgeous little chapel (if a little rundown) boasts stunning views of the surrounding scenery.Not easy to find on the south eastern side of Nazareth, look for the signposted gate in the wall on Paul VI St, opposite the Hotel Galilee, south of the town center it can also be accessed from the big new shopping center nearby.
. On your way out of St Gabriel Church, pose for a picture at Mary Well (also known as the Virgin Fountain) whose waters are said to possess miraculous healing powers.This area has also become very popular with locals over the last few years, and there are some great little restaurants and cafes in the square at the Well.This square is also the main spot for the Christmas festivities that happen in Nazareth during the week of Christmas (Christmas in Israel includes a now annual Nazareth Christmas Market).
. Elbabour is a must see for a genuine slice of the Middle East.Located at the Galilee mill just down the road from Mary Well, this massive spice store has thousands of delightful spices.Pick up some fragrant and tasty herbs for cooking and some perfumed oils, they will make great souvenirs for your friends and family back home.
Salesian Church of Jesus the Adolescent
. There are many churches in Nazareth,but none more beautiful than this Gothic styled church with its magnificent spires and intimidating bulk.If you fancy a good workout, the climb (250 steps!) to the top of the church takes a few minutes and offers a peerless view of Nazareth.
Mount of the Precipice
. On the southern edge of Nazareth, this prominent peak affords tremendous views both of the city and of the landscape around it.To the south, the Jezreel Valley and Mt.Moreh hold countless sites of biblical and historical importance, including the sites of some pivotal battles.Further south, the mountains of biblical Samaria (the north of the modern day West Bank) are visible on a clear day, as is Jenin, the northernmost Palestinian city.To the east, Mt.Tabor distinctive round shape is visible across the valley, and past it the mountains of biblical Gilead, today part of Jordan.Looking west, one can see the Carmel mountain ridge on the coast and the city of Haifa on its northern slopes.Traditionally, the mountain is the cliff off which Jesus was to be thrown by an angry mob although the location is not a likely one for such an event, the mountain is well worth a visit for its views of the landscape and of so many historically significant locales.
Paulus the Sixth Street
. Named for the Pope who visited to consecrate the Basilica, this main street is devoid of tourist attractions but packed to the gills with locals frequenting its many businesses.An array of restaurants and falafel orshawarma delis, plus a gelato store and several sweet shops, all tempt the palate.Al Mokhtar Sweets is legendary for one of the best knaffeh recipes on earth if you do not know what knaffeh is, do not leave Nazareth without a slice.Further down the road, several sweet shops called Mahroum are known for having the town best baklava.At the roundabout just below the Basilica, a tiny deli called Falafel Shawarma 99 is almost always closed, but when it open it invariably surrounded by a crowd of locals, due to its reputation for the best shawarma in Nazareth.
. One of many businesses owned by the Fahoum clan, this shop offers numerous blends of the distinctive coffee that is so characteristic of Arab hospitality.Grounds from Kenya, Colombia, Costa Rica and other distant lands are available, or can be mixed with each other and with spices to create unique flavors.In the back room, watch the process of roasting and grinding beans, and taste a sample cup of an extremely strong blend that will make even the seasoned coffee drinker eyes water.
. In the center of the market is Nazareth oldest mosque, built by the Fahoum family, one of the wealthiest in Nazareth.It was built over 200 years ago, and has been expanded several times over the years to include more prayer space.Visitors are welcome any time except during prayers.The mosque d
Abu Salem Coffee Shop
. A small doorway leads to a favorite haunt of Nazareth elderly gentlemen, who like to enjoy coffee and backgammon.Tourists come to drink owner Wessam delicious cinnamon drink, found nowhere else on earth.The hot beverage can be enjoyed anytime, but is especially nice on a cold winter day.
Fauzi Azar Inn
. The Old City first guest house was opened in partnership by a Jewish Israeli and the Azar family, whose beautiful nineteenth century mansion provides a perfect setting for an overnight stay in Nazareth.The courtyard of soaring limestone arches and the stately main hall with its famed hand painted ceiling draw groups of visitors who come just to see the house, and for good reason.The Inn always welcomes visitors to enjoy free hot drinks and cake, even if they are not staying the night.
. Al Atabeh is a recently opened hostel, bar and cultural center, the only spot for nightlife in the Old City proper.Films and sports matches are often shown here, and concerts are scheduled regularly, especially during summer.Even when there are no events going on, the building another once abandoned mansion with a large airy courtyard makes a perfect place to relax in the evening, and is sure to be of interest for those with an eye for Old City architecture.
Al Mutran Guest House
. This 200 year old mansion has been converted into a guest house by local entrepreneurs, and is well suited for large groups, such as the many Israelis who have family gatherings here.The building offers an elegant taste of Arabic architecture and a panoramic view of the city from its rooftop.It was built by the Kattouf family, famous for their jewelry and crafts of gold, gems and diamonds.Their wealth enabled them to build one of Nazareth many Old City mansions, now a valuable part of the city architectural and cultural heritage.
The Ancient Bathhouse and Cactus Gallery
. Look for the entrance just behind Mary Well, to find the ruins of the largest Roman bathhouse in the region.The owners of the gift shop discovered the ruins while renovating, and originally mistook them for a run of the mill Ottoman era bath, before archaeologists confirmed it to be of Roman construction.Tours of the bathhouse can be arranged ahead of time, and provide a fascinating glimpse into Nazareth archaeological history.
El Babour the Galilee Mill
. Duck into a tiny white door in a plain cement wall, following the aromas into a 200 year old mill and spice shop, where an immense range of spices, herbs and dry goods tempt shoppers and chefs, and traditional mill machinery provides a glimpse into the past.The helpful and friendly owners and staff are always glad to explain any of the mysterious baskets of herbs for curious visitors.