If it’s Christmas time, it must be Nazareth

Nazareth is city full of contrasts; it is home to both mosques broadcasting prayers five times a day from the muezzin and church bells ringing out the hour every hour.

THE NAZARETH GOLDEN Crown Hotel is a great starting off point to enjoy all the Christmas offerings in the city.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE NAZARETH GOLDEN Crown Hotel is a great starting off point to enjoy all the Christmas offerings in the city.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
December has finally arrived and with it come the joyous winter holidays of Hanukkah and Christmas, which bring lots of joy and light. Before my husband and I had kids, we used to take a trip every winter to places with lots of snow where we could gaze up at the tall, sparkly Christmas trees and the store windows with the special holiday designs. We would wander through the outdoor holiday markets, buy fancy chocolates, and then find somewhere to sit and sip some galant wine. Oh, those were the days…
Now that we have kids, we prefer to find holiday destinations closer to home, and preferably within a two-hour drive or less. We were so excited recently when we found the perfect place – a hotel just like the ones we used to stay in during our trips overseas, but right here in Israel in the northern city of Nazareth.
Nazareth is city full of contrasts; it is home to both mosques broadcasting prayers five times a day from the muezzin and church bells ringing out the hour every hour. Every December, Nazareth turns into a mini-Europe Christmas destination with an authentic Middle-Eastern twist. The charming Old City is a wonderful place for tourists to walk around; it’s fun to wander through the narrow streets of the shuk and see how building styles changed over the centuries. One alleyway has shops run only by women, and another stalls run by churches that sell only Christmas items. There are also pubs, shwarma restaurants, old-style taverns and sweets shops where you can purchase local treats such as kanafeh, rahat lokum and halva.
We were guests of the Nazareth Golden Crown Hotel, located on a hill with a gorgeous view overlooking the Jezreel Valley and with plenty of room for the kids to run around. The hotel boasts 269 guest rooms and an event center with 12 halls of varying sizes. It has a health center, a gym, and of course, a spa. The lobby is gigantic, with lots of comfortable seats overlooking the view of the valley. The bar is well-stocked with an assortment of liquor, coffee, tea, soft drinks, and wines. There are a number of shops in the lobby area, including a hairdresser. The hotel’s kosher restaurant serves excellent food and the service is great.
Although it’s not open in the wintertime, the large pool also overlooks the beautiful Jezreel Valley. The management of the hotel is always looking for ways to improve the hotel, and this year, they’ve decided to open a Christmas shuk on the hotel’s premises.
Twenty-six of the hotel rooms have been ungraded recently, as has the modern, trendy-looking lobby. The spa is currently being upgraded and the grand reopening will take place any day now. In addition to the six halls and six smaller rooms in the event complex, the Golden Crown also welcomes guests to make use of their large terrace during events and conferences.
The Golden Crown chain boasts two other hotels, as well: one in Nazareth’s Old City, and another in Haifa. The Nazareth Old City Hotel, which is located next to the Holy Spring (aka Mary’s Well), offers 100 new hotel guest rooms, high-standard cuisine and is close to many attractions in the Old City. The Haifa Golden Crown is located in the city’s German Colony, which is home to many tourist attractions and great restaurants and cafés. It overlooks the Haifa Bay on one side and the Baha’i Gardens on the other.
A tip for anyone coming to Nazareth: When you see an available parking spot, take it and then begin your walking tour from there. Everywhere you go is interesting to see. And don’t miss out on buying some special halva at the Nazareth Factory or baklava at Mamtakei Hayedidut.
Other sites that are worthwhile visiting in Nazareth include Mary’s Well, located next to a 200-year-old fichus tree; an ancient public bathhouse built by the Greeks that was discovered in 1993 by Elias and Martina when they started renovations for a new shop; numerous churches with diverse architectural styles; and courtyards where you’ll find locals relaxing while they drink tea with nuts and play backgammon.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Nazareth Golden Crown Hotel
2015 St. Nazareth
Tel: 04-650-8000
www.goldencrown.co.il