Nazareth is one of the best known towns in the world, and today a significant focus of Israeli tourism. Home to the Basilica of the Annunciation, the site is said to have been Mary and Joseph’s home. The largest church in the Middle East, the Basilica stands over the remains of previous Byzantine Churches. Many Christians believe that it marks the spot where the Virgin Mary was brought the news by the Angel Gabriel, that God had chosen her to bear his son. This scene is depicted within the Basilica in the form of a series of murals, each originating from a different part of the world.
The 17th century Church of St Gabriel is another church in Nazareth, which, in contrast with the Basilica is a small and simple shrine. Within the church is an old spring that feeds St Mary’s well, a well that has existed since Biblical times. This well, now home to a 19th century structure, is believed to be the place where Mary and young Jesus drew water when they lived in Nazareth.
The Church of St Joseph is where, according to tradition, Joseph had his carpentry shop. The Old City also features several important buildings from the Ottoman period including the Saraya or Government House. This was built by the governor of the Galilee in the 18th century. The White Mosque, today used as a house of prayer and education center, is also home to a museum documenting Nazareth’s history.
In the Old City, the local market is a focus of attraction for visitors for its authentic wares including fabrics, foods and spices. The Nabi Sain promenade offers spectacular views over the Galilee, while the ancient Turkish bath house and Ottoman manor house features fascinating displays of riches and frescoes.