Tzfat also known as Safed, is located in the northern part of Israel, and is a mythical holy city that plenty of tourists flock to. Located near the lush emerald mountains and winding roads of the Upper Galilee, it’s a city that’s steeped in history and mysticism. Tzfat is also known as the ‘City of Kabbalah’ and achieved its fame and reputation in the 16th century when rabbis, Kabbalistic scholars and other Jews were fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition.
As you wander through the streets of Tzfat’s ancient city, you’ll be entranced by this mystical city that’s also the center of art and Jewish culture. From cobbled streets to ancient sites with panoramic views, Israeli art galleries, and hearty homemade food, there’s bound to be something that’ll capture your attention.
Here, we’ll give you a snippet of a walk through Tzfat’s old city, from synagogues to heritage sites, and specialized shops, you’ll get a glimpse into this magical city that’s sure to leave a lasting impression, and ignite your wanderlust.
Tzfat Tourist Information Center
As you begin your walk through Tzfat, head to the tourist information center that’s located at 17 Alkabetz Street for some handy information that’ll help you get around the city. Either than featuring a historical exhibition, you’ll also be able to pick up some maps and guidebooks.
At the tourist information center, you can even get a snapshot of the city’s history by watching a 10-minute presentation on the history of Safed, taking a look at some 16th-century excavations, and walking up to an observation deck to take in a breathtaking view of Northern Israel.
International Center of Tzfat Kabbalah
After getting all the information you need at the tourist information center, head to the Tzfat Kabbalah Centre to visit the primary location of Kabbalah, spirituality, as well as Jewish Studies. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the world of Kabbala by participating in workshops, courses, and activities. The staff members also conduct classes and tours to share how Kabbalah developed in 16th-century Tzfat.
The aim of the Kabbalah Centre is to make Kabbalah more widely known to individuals while still being authentic. If you only have time to pop by for a short while, the center also offers a 15-minute presentation to provide you with a short overview of what Kabbalah is all about.
After you’ve had your fill on Kabbalah information, visit the Great Stairs that were originally constructed by the British, but run through the mountain of which Tzfat is built. The stairs divide the Old City along with the Artist Quarter and provide a scenic view of Tzfat.
There are several stairs that you’d need to ascend before reaching the top. On the way up, however, you’ll also encounter the old watchtower that the British used as a form of defense. Since these Great Stairs have quite a bit of history behind it, it’s perfect for individuals that want to know more about the history of Tzfat.
After climbing up the great stairs, you can take a break by heading to the Ascend Institute. Similar to the Tzfat Kabbalah Center, the Ascend Institute also features daily classes for individuals to expand their knowledge. These classes focus on different aspects of Kabbalah, traditional Judaism, and Hassidic thought.
At the Ascend Institute, hostel accommodations are also available for Jewish travelers that are looking for a place to stay while learning more about their heritage. The Ascend Institute even has a library with a staff rabbi to answer any questions about Judaism that any passing traveler might have.
There are quite a few Synagogues in Tzfat, and one of the most well-known ones is the Abuhav Synagogue. It houses the oldest Torah scroll in Safed – one that’s associated with countless traditions as well as legends. It’s so sacred, that the scroll is only used during special Jewish religious events such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. The synagogue was built in the 16th century with a design that stems from Kabbalistic principles.
As you explore the synagogue, you’ll be in awe of its majestic sight. The interior dome of the synagogue even has musical instruments that were used in the Temple in Jerusalem depicted on it. It also has Israel’s tribe symbols and four crowns that are symbolic.
The Kahal National Heritage Site
At Tzfat, you might past through the Kahal National Heritage Site. It’s been declared a National Heritage Site of Israel as excavations have revealed an entire 16th-century Jewish neighborhood. Eventually, this excavation site will be developed into an educational village that will comprise of information as well as interactive exhibits that depict Jewish life during Tzfat’s golden age.
A sample of the excavation is housed in the Tzfat Tourist Information Centre, and this site is sure to be a popular tourist attraction in the future.
HaMeiri Cheese Shop
While Tzfat has plenty of history, very few know that the HaMeiri Tzfat Dairy was actually the first dairy in Israel, and produces cheeses of exceptional quality from the best sheep milk and goat milk since the 1840s. The shop sits on a mountain, and visitors can get to know more about the stories of Tzfat along with the HaMeiri family.
You’ll also get to learn about cheese production during the tour, and get to sample some of the creamiest and finest creations in HaMeiri. Even though the tour is only offered in Hebrew, being able to taste the cheeses is certainly a highlight of the tour.
Tzfat Candle Factory
The Tzfat Candle Factory is a must-see as you wander through Tzfat as it produces a wide variety of hand-dipped, woven candles that are used for Jewish rituals. Either than brightly colored paraffin and beeswax candles, there are even artistic pieces that are created from beeswax.
These pieces include wax sculptures of Biblical events, Jewish caricatures, religious ceremonies, Jewish stars and more. If you’re lucky, you may even to get a glimpse of one of the artist’s sculpting a twisting a candle from scratch.
If you’d like to know about the livelihood of the Jewish community in Tzfat over the past 200 years or so, look no further than Beit Hameiri. While the building is over 400 years old, you’ll be able to explore this historical museum that has a different part of the Jewish community’s life on each of the floors.
You’ll also be able to take a look at some valuable artifacts such as a 16th-century mikyeh, religious objects, documents, utensils and tools, paintings, and more. This is definitely not a place you’d want to miss if you’d like to know about the liberation of Tzfat and its history.
Here, we’re just skimming the surface of what Tzfat has to offer. Whether you’re keener on the food that Tzfat has to offer, taking a look at the different synagogues, or learning more about Jewish history and religion, there’s plenty more for you to explore and discover in the magical city of Tzfat. Want more tips and guides on travel? Check out Trip101, your one-stop media for travel and accommodations.
I find myself in a new stage of life. For many years, I was super busy, doing content writing for an Internet site and administrative work for a company that works out of Jerusalem, doing online Jewish education.
There's less work in both places now but I don't really want to search for anything new since I'm building 2 new guestrooms in my yard and anticipate being busy running 3 units.
But I need something to keep me occupied during the "down" times -- and something to do when I want to simply sit and work quietly at the computer.
Last night, as I was mulling over my options, i started to consider an idea that I've been playing with for many years -- writing a book. My idea stems from my observations about the people who come to Tzfat.....to visit, to study, to live......they have such interesting stories and journeys. I'd like to collate the best of the stories. Basically, I think that the book could write itself. My job would be to interview the people and then let the stories tell themselves.
My other idea for a development project involves creating an eBay store for Tzfat art. Creative input on my part would be about zero. Mulling........