Arguably the most well-known Galilean city. For 500 years Tiberias was the focal point of Jewish life in the Holy Land. Jews forbidden to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem even substituted it for the holy city. When the city was built by Herods and named after the Roman emperor Tiberius, the Jews were loath to settle here at first. The Jewish population feared that the presence of a cemetery would render the city impure. However, Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai cleansed the city, and it became a national spiritual center. The Hebrew alphabet was formulated here, as were diacritical marks. The Jewish Presidency convened in Tiberias, and the Jerusalemite Talmud was completed and signed here; it has long been known as one of the four holy cities of Israel. The Crusaders paid much attention to the city and constructed a fortress, the towers of which can still be seen today. Today Tiberias is a touristic pearl, and is an ideal base for touring the environs of the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights.
The Archaeological Garden:
The Archaeological Garden lies in the heart of the city. The site contains the remnants of the ancient Jewish and a Sixth-Century Synagogue. This charming spot is ideal for a short rest while exploring the city.
The Southern Walls and the Fortress of Tiberias:
The fortress was built in 1745 by the local governor. The black ashlar structure quickly became the strong point of the city's fortifications. In 1837 Tiberias suffered a major earthquake that left it in ruins. The city walls collapsed; the fortress was damaged yet survived, and was restored shortly afterwards. Its impressive remains are visible to this day.
St. Peter's Church:
Located by the promenade is St. Peter's Church, built around 1100. The apse features a beautiful mosaic depicting Peter in his fishing boat. The Franciscan Order had the church restored in modern times. In 1945 a memorial commemorating the soldiers of the Free Polish Army, who fought nearby during WWII, was erected in the churchyard. The remains of a Medieval abbey were discovered on this site.
Dona Gracia Street:
This street runs along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. Dona Gracia was a marrano (a crypto Jewess) who had escaped Portugal, fleeing across Europe until reaching safety in Constantinople. She became a favorite of the Sultan who - in exchange for a tidy sum – granted her a franchise to colonize the city. She restored the walls, hoping to make Tiberias a haven for Jews from across the world. Sadly, she never visited the city before passing away. She is commemorated in Casa Dona Gracia, a unique museum-hotel depicting Renaissance life during the 16th Century. The hotel is a careful period recreation, complete with Renaissance furniture, paintings, curtains, and music.
The tomb of Maimonides is the most visited among the many tombs of Jewish sages in Tiberias. Born in Cordoba, Maimonides was a great scholar, adjudicator, scientist, and physician. He moved from Spain to Morocco before finally settling in Egypt. On his deathbed he is said to have instructed his son to bury him in the Holy Land. His son obeyed his last wish and carried the body on camelback. According to the legend, the camel rested only upon reaching Tiberias. The magnificent tomb is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. Nearby are the tombs of many 2nd and 3rd-Century sages, such the Ramhal.
Tomb of Rabbi Meir the Miracle Worker:
The tomb of Rabbi Meir is located in southern Tiberias, near the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The burial site features a large synagogue, used by both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, where colorful feasts are held on Second Passover.
The Tiberias Hot Springs:
One of the most impressive local attractions is the Tiberias Hot Springs, a collection of 17 thermal springs on the outskirts of town. For hundreds of years the water here has been celebrated for its therapeutic qualities and extraordinary mineral content. The thermal water are particularly helpful in alleviating muscle and joint conditions; the site also contains Jacuzzi baths and natural mud pits.
The ancient city of Hamat was named after the thermal springs (Hamat in Hebrew is Heat), known since Antiquity for their healing qualities. Hamat was first mentioned in the Bible as part of the territory of the Naphtali tribe. During the Early Arab Period (7th-10th Centuries) Hamat and Tiberias grew in size, and were ultimately united. The foremost attraction on this site is the ancient synagogue, built in the 1st Century and worshipped in up to the 8th Century. The bygone opulence of this structure is evident by its spectacular mosaic floor, which depicts the zodiac and Helios, the god of the sun. This is one of the most splendid mosaic floors in Israel, and is thought to have been laid out in the 3rd Century. A 16th-Century Ottoman hamam was discovered in the northern section of the site.
The Tiberias Promenade is one of the most pleasant spots in the Galilee. Strolling along the restaurants and market stalls is an ideal way to spend the early evening hours. The promenade begins at the city center, goes down right to the water, and continues to the northern edge of the city. Along the shore are aquatic sports centers where boats and jet skis can be hired.
The Scottish Center:
In 1855 a young Doctor named David Torrens arrived in Tiberias, and for many years served the local population. In the late 19th Century he established the first hospital in the city. Torrens was succeeded by his son, who carried out the practice until 1953. The building later became the maternity ward of the modern municipal hospital. It has served as a Scottish Hotel since 1960.
Make sure to find time for a marvelous cruise on board one of the tourist boats departing from the new dock. To conclude the day, go out for a breath of fresh air along the recently-constructed boardwalk, which spans the city's beaches before running down south. Afterwards you will easily find accommodations for the night – anything from luxury hotels to simple guesthouses is at your reach.