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Basilica of Announciation in Nazareth © Shutterstock

Exploring Nazareth: the cradle of Christianity

Visit the place where supposedly Mary was told that she would conceive and Jesus spent his childhood

By Jennifer Greenberg
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Israel has many ancient landmarks that bear significance to many different religions. While there are some stunning churches in and around Jerusalem, the ancient town of Nazareth boasts a heavy hand of captivating Christian sites. From religious attractions like St. Gabriel's Church and the International Center Mary of Nazareth to the intricate weave of stalls in the Old Market, Nazareth promises an enlightening day of activities. Nazareth is especially known for its Christmas Market and an incredibly popular destination around Christmas time. Come visit the city of religion and faith, of spirituality and holiness, but also a city enrobed in contemporary culture and Middle Eastern magic.

Five top attractions in Nazareth

International Center Mary of Nazareth
International Center Mary of Nazareth
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1. Mary of Nazareth International Center

Museums History Galilee

Located next to the Church of Annunciation, the Mary of Nazareth Center is a special place where visitors can learn the story of Mary. It offers an audio-visual journey, terraced biblical gardens, and a chapel on the roof. The center has a wonderful view overlooking Nazareth, a cafeteria, and a gift shop. Perfect for anyone interested in learning more about Christianity, or for history lovers. The center also speaks of Mary as a Jewish woman and her place in the Qur’an, making it a unique learning experience for members of all faiths. It is located in a renovated building from the Ottoman era, and is believed to come from Mary and Jesus’ time.

St. Gabriel's Church
St. Gabriel's Church
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2. St. Gabriel's Church

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Galilee

Also called the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation, St. Gabriel’s is located in the center of downtown Nazareth. It is the largest Christian church in the Middle East, colorfully decorated in a modern architectural style. According to Greek Orthodox tradition, it is said to be the site Mary learned she would become pregnant with Jesus. Inside, visitors will find impressive murals and stain-glass windows, among other works from around the world. Mass on Sunday starts at 8:30. It is requested that guests dress modestly. A historical, stunning site for travelers of all faiths.

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Holy Caves of Nazareth
Holy Caves of Nazareth
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3. Holy Caves of Nazareth

Attractions Galilee

The Holy Caves are at the center of ancient Nazareth, built over centuries by Jews and early Christians trying to escape Roman persecution. The caves are the gateway to the underground city, yet to be excavated. Enjoy a free guided tour in the portions of the caves that are accessible. Get transported back in time, seeing the place where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus lived. Guests are able to gaze upon what could possibly be the world’s first Christian alter. For those interested in history and religion, the Holy Caves of Nazareth won’t want to be missed.

Basilica of the Annunciation
Basilica of the Annunciation
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4. Basilica of the Annunciation

Attractions Historic buildings and sites Galilee

The Basilica is the largest Catholic church in the Middle East and was built in 1969 over the remains of previous Byzantine and Crusader churches. Before entering, take your time admiring the fascinating mosaics of Mary and Jesus in the portico. Donated by Catholic communities from all corners of the world, they are a moving testament to the poignancy of the mother and child across many cultural divides. After viewing the lower church, walk up a spiral staircase to the upper church to see the building’s most celebrated feature – the dome.

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Old Market in Nazareth
Old Market in Nazareth
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5. Old Market in Nazareth

Shopping Markets and fairs Galilee

The Nazareth Market is a great place to rub shoulders with locals and experience the unique Middle Eastern market culture. Smell the spices, taste local cuisine, and shop for the perfect piece of exotic clothing or souvenir. Just a minute away from the Church of Annunciation, the market is a perfect spot to stop for lunch while touring Nazareth. Explore the various alleys and see what each stall has to offer. You never know what treasures you’ll find!

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