The city of Nazareth, which lies on the southern edge of the Lower Galilee, is popularly known as the childhood home of Jesus Christ and revered as the site of the Annunciation. It is also the largest Arab city in Israel; thus, it is known as the “Arab capital of Israel.” It is the largest city in Israel’s Northern District.
With both a Muslim and Christian population, Nazareth is a center of Christian pilgrimage, with several sites commemorating biblical events.
For devout Christians and church-spotters, Nazareth is quite a paradise. And for those who are not that quite religious, they may view Nazareth as projecting a somber and solemn image – it may be even more conservative than Israel’s most famous holy city, Jerusalem. Citing its Arab and Christian population, Nazareth may be devoid of any hedonistic pleasure (such as night bars and pubs serving alcohol, although there’s a Christian-owned brewery here). But it offers its own kind of fun that will surprise and delight even the most jaded tourist.
Beyond the abundance of Christian shrines and sites that Nazareth is mainly famous for – the Basilica of the Annunciation, St. Joseph’s Church, Mary’s Well, and the popular “Jesus Trail” – there are other cool things you’d find in this charming hilly city. If you try to look hard enough, you will be rewarded with new, surprising, and fun discoveries.
Nazareth is a historical and biblical city that’s also fun to explore. It has charming cobblestone streets, cute coffee shops, unique stores and boutiques, and a wide variety of street food options. With many things to see and do in Nazareth, a day or two is not enough to see everything from this cute and charming town. Plus, anywhere you look here is Instagram-worthy – take as many photos as you like as souvenirs.
Whether it will be your first time to visit Nazareth or you have visited it before; check out the following attractions you want to see or may have missed on your prior visits.
Stay at a 200-year-old (well, almost) Arab inn
If you want to feel what it’s like living in a 19th-century inn, you’ll find the answers right here at Fauzi Azar Inn by Abraham Hostels. It is located right on the famous path of the Jesus Trail.
This beautifully decorated mansion, opened in 1830, has its share of famous guests (including UK former Prime Minister Tony Blair). In 2014, Fauzi Azar Inn was ranked number seven best hostel in the world by Lonely Planet. In 2021, it was included in the “World’s 30 Coolest and Most Unusual Hostels You Definitely Need to Visit” by Lifehack.com. It receives tons of compliments for its old-world vibes and architecture while offering modern-day amenities, comforts, and perks, such as Wi-Fi and a complimentary cake (how awesome is that?). It also offers free tours.
If you happen to be in Nazareth or planning to have a pilgrimage or a regular tour here, booking a stay here at Fauzi Azar is highly recommended.
Visit the oldest coffee shop in Israel
Coffee culture in Israel, despite relatively recent, is as robust as a freshly brewed cup of joe. Israelis sure know their coffee. They are proud of their own brews that you won’t even find a single Starbucks store here, believe it or not!
However, locals and tourists often overlook this quaint coffee shop called Café Abu Salem. It was opened in 1914 by owner Andrew Abu Salem at the tender age of 14. It’s purely a family business – since 2007, the café has been managed by Andrew Abu Salem’s grandson, Wissam.
Café Abu Salem consists primarily of all-male clientele playing backgammon with their hot mugs of the café’s unique beverage, called inar, a traditional drink consisting of nuts and cinnamon. And, of course, it serves authentic Arabic coffee and traditional teas. As a rule of thumb, the one who loses the backgammon will pay for the drinks. Just watching these elderly gentlemen carrying this tradition for many decades (some of them have been fixtures of this place for more than 50 years now) is pretty amazing and cool.
Visit a massive spice store in the heart of the city
If spices are your bias, you shouldn’t miss Elbabour, situated just down the road from Mary’s Well. This 120-year-old, family-run establishment is quite massive, selling thousands of delightful spices. Go for some aromatic and tasty herbs and fragrant oils for savory dishes, sweet bakes, and beverages. They make excellent Israeli souvenirs for your family and friends back home, so don’t forget to include Elbabour to your Nazareth itinerary!
Take a freekeh cooking class
Freekeh (or farik) is a well-known dish throughout Israel, and you may have even known or eaten it yourself. It is a cereal-based dish consisting of green durum wheat that’s roasted first and then rubbed to create its characteristic texture and rich, smoky flavor.
You can book an Arab cooking class at Fauzi Azar, where you will learn the traditional preparation and cooking of freekeh that has been preserved throughout the centuries. It’s great to learn this tradition yourself and spend a relaxing (and even therapeutic) time chatting with the locals while preparing and cooking the dish. You’ve unlocked the achievement of hands-on learning about Nazarene cuisine!
Visit a brewery, take a swig, and enjoy panoramic views of the city
You’re convinced that any type of libation is non-existent in Nazareth, an Arab city and a center of Christian pilgrimage. However, you’ll be surprised (and relieved) to find a boutique brewery here. Simply called Nazareth Beer, this microbrewery makes the first Arab-Israeli brown ale. Owned and operated by two former tech employees in Haifa who are both Christians, Nazareth Beer started its operations in 2016. Three years later, the brewery moved to Nazareth, between the two prominent basilicas – the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent and the Basilica of the Annunciation. Aside from brown ale, Nazareth Beer also brews American wheat beer.
The ambiance of this small and modest brewery is quite welcoming, and the brewers-owners are gracious hosts, serving guests and taking them a tour around the establishment. The lunch goes perfectly with their beers. Plus, Nazareth Beer provides a stunning view of the city.