picturesque streets and alleys, great views, holy sites, and plenty of history, in the charming old city of Tzsfat, the Galilee’s capital.
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Tzfat: the historical city on the mountain.

A walk through the lovely old city of Tzfat, is a great opportunity to step back in time, and immerse yourself in the city’s fascinating ancient history. Featuring several holy sites, beautiful small alleys, and a unique, peaceful atmosphere, a visit to Tzfat is a delightful cultural experience for anyone.

Located in the mountainous Upper Galilee, towering over the Sea of Galilee, and nearby the renowned Mount Meron, is the historical city of Tzfat, also known as Safed. With a history that goes back more than 2,000 years, impressive architecture, and several interesting sites to see, Tzfat is definitely one of the best places to visit in the Galilee. Here, we have gathered everything you should know for your visit to the historical city.

The History of Tzfat

Tzfat is an ancient city with a long history – its existence has been known since about 200 BC. It is first mentioned in history books in the first century when it was one of the cities that defended the Galilee from the Roman forces during the Great Revolt of 66-73.  In 1141 the Crusaders conquered the Galilee, in addition to other parts, and built the well-known Tzfat citadel. In 1188, the city was conquered by Saladin, then in 1240 it fell again to the Crusaders.
In 1266 the Mamluks conquered the Galilee and made Tzfat the capital of the province.

After the conquest of the land of Israel by the Ottomans in 1516, the city began to flourish. The Ottomans encouraged the Jews to immigrate and settle in the Land of Israel, making Safed an economic center that attracted Jewish immigrants from Europe and North Africa. As a result, Tzfat became the largest and most important Jewish spiritual center in the world since 70 BC, as many kabbalists, impactful rabbis, and authors of well-known books resided here.

Since the beginning of the 18th century, troubles began to plague Tzfat, like epidemics, famine, earthquakes, and attacks from nearby Arabic villages. The big earthquake of 1837 destroyed a huge part of the city, including some of the historic and religious sites.

From the middle of the 19th century, a slow recovery of the city began and on the eve of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, about 12,000 people lived there, with only 2,000 of them being Jews. Today, Tzfat’s population is 28,000 people, with most of them being religious Jewish people. It is one of the only places in Israel in which some form of a Jewish community had been kept for thousands of years without being completely expelled.

Best places to visit in Tzfat

Tzfat Citadel

A great visit for History enthusiasts, requiring a climb up to the ancient Crusader citadel at the top of the hill, which is surrounded by a moat and walls, and in the center are the remains of a settlement from the Canaanite period and towers renovated by the Mamluks.

The citadel was severely damaged by the strong earthquake that shook Tzfat in 1837. Numerous archaeological excavations conducted in the citadel have found sections of walls, cisterns, and remains of a gate from the Crusader, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods, as well as Spherical cannon shells made of iron, pipes, pottery, and fine porcelain.

Today there is a large public garden on the top of the mountain, designed by garden architect Shlomo Oren Weinberg. In addition to the historical citadel, you can enjoy the spectacular views from here, as the garden overlooks the Meron Massif, the Sea of ​​Galilee, the Lower Galilee, and Mount Hermon. It also has a memorial for the 42 Jewish soldiers who fell in the battles of Tzfat in Israel’s War of Independence, and the remains of a citadel built by D’Ahr al-Omer on the ruins of the Crusader Tzfat Citadel.

Underground Tzfat Tunnels

An underground tour, going through the big tunnels that were built under Tzfat’s old city during the 16th century, and were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.

During the tour, which starts with a descent of 100 stairs, you’ll hear fascinating stories about life in the city back then, and see impressive architecture and displays of old waterholes, ovens, and more, that were found here during recent excavations. The Underground Tzfat Tunnels are a unique experience for history lovers, and a great adventure for kids as well.

Operating hours:

Weekdays: 14:00-15:30.

Closed on weekends.

Entrance Fee: 10 ILS

Tztfat’s Synagogues

In Tzfat, you can find some of the most beautiful and ancient synagogues in Israel. It was too hard to choose one, so here are some of the most impressive synagogues to visit.

Abuhav Synagogue – In Abuhava synagogue there is an ancient, special, and sacred Torah scroll, written by Rabbi Yitzhak Abuhav. The church is built like a dome, decorated entirely with blue wall paintings and ancient chandeliers hanging from its ceiling, making it one of the most impressive synagogues you can see.

Ha-ari Synagogue – one of the most ancient synagogues in Tzfat, known for its blue color, due to the cultural impact of the Moor rule in Spain. The synagogue was completely destroyed in the earthquake of 1837 and rebuilt 20 years later. The ark standing in the synagogue is carved from olive trees and rises to a great height, created and carved by Jewish artisans from Poland, in an Eastern European style. In the carving of it you can see the motif of the lion and lioness, who appear as human beings.

Yosef Karo Synagogue: The synagogue is attributed to Rabbi Yosef Karo, author of “Shulchan Aruch”, one of the most important and impactful books in the Jewish religion. The synagogue was destroyed in the earthquake of 1837 and rebuilt in 1847. Originally, it served as a house of learning, and only at the beginning of the 20th century it had turned into a synagogue.

Jerusalem street

Safed’s main street is Jerusalem Street where you will find various shopping options including clothing, food, fruits, spices, gifts, flowers, and convenience stores. walking here is a great opportunity to soak in the vibe of the city, and enjoy Tzfat’s great cuisine, including the beloved Tzfat Cheese, known as Tzfatit.

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