Safed may not be your first choice fo a vacation with children.but if has so much to offer for families with children: cool workshops, secret tunnels from the 16th century, picturesque alleyways and beautiful walking trails. I promise you that you will quickly discover that Safed is perfect for a magical family vacation.
Safed with kids: let’s get started!
While wandering through the narrow alleys of Safed, in the covered streets and between ancient houses, you feel the special atmosphere of the city very well. Here, on these very streets, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria (the holy Ari), Rabbi Yosef Karo (author of the Shulchan Aruch), Rabbi Yisrael Najara (author of the song “Lecha Dodi”), and many others walked.
Our Safed vacation took place during the Passover holiday, right after the lockdown period, which made it particularly sweet.
Recommended hotel in the city of Safed
The hotel we chose, The Way Inn, is a small boutique hotel located in the artisan quarter of Safed. In a stunning 300-year-old building, the owners, Roni and Gita, created ten suites, each of which bears the name of a Kabbalistic sphere designed in a special way. There is also a Turkish bath and a spectacular dining room.
We arrived with friends and slept in suites suitable for a family. Our suite, the “Yesod”, is on the ground floor and its advantage is that the master bedroom is separated from the room where we were our teenagers, which allowed for relative privacy. The room also had a kitchenette and a small dining table.
Those looking for peace and relaxation will find it on the hotel’s terrace, from which you can see the sun setting and painting the roofs of the city of Safed and the Meron mountain range in orange and gold.
We really liked the design of the hotel, which showed warmth and family atmosphere. The price we paid seemed a bit expensive to us, even considering that it was a holiday.
Here is perhaps the place to note that, during the Passover holiday, we found the city sleepy and some of the shops and restaurants (and even some of the synagogues) were closed. For those who like or love “action”, you might want to come back at another time…
Safed – a moment of history
Safed is considered one of the four “holy cities” in which Jewish people lived in the 19th century. Remains of ancient settlements and also Byzantine and Mamluk remains can be found here. In 1517 it was conquered by the Turks. This period is known as the “Golden Age of the Jews of Safed”: about 10,000 of the Jews expelled from Spain settled in the city, turning the city into a significant Jewish center. The inhabitants used their knowledge from Spain to establish a thriving industry of wool processing as well as engaged in trade. During this period, the greatest Kabbalists were active in the city, the most famous of which is the holy Ari.
In the 17th century, the inhabitants faced an economic crisis resulting from a decline in global demand for wool. Apart from an economic crisis, the city has also known many disasters, including two earthquakes, riots, looting by the Arab neighbors, severe epidemics, and more. During the British Mandate, there were severe riots in the city, and battles also took place during the War of Independence. In the old city you can see many houses with a sign stating the history of the house.
Safed with children » The Jewish Quarter
We love getting lost in the magical alleys and narrow streets painted in light blue. The old city of Safed is full of beautiful shops, synagogues and lovely corners.
Here are some places to visit in the Old City:
Let’s start with three well-known synagogues located in the heart of the Old City.
The Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue safed
Rabbi Yitzchak Luria “the holy Ari” is probably the figure most identified with the city of Safed. He developed a new stream in Kabbalah and concepts that he used were developed by his successors and students, who were called by the touching name -The lion cubs: “Gurei HaAri”. The synagogue stands where, according to tradition, the “Hakal Tapuhin Kadishin” (Field of Holy Apples) is located – the place where the Ari and his “cubs” would go to welcome the Sabbath in white clothes.
A beautiful synagogue with three holy arks containing ancient Torah scrolls as well as murals with Kabbalistic symbols.
Photo: Itamar Greenberg-Link
The Synagogue of Rabbi Yosef Karo
Rabbi Yosef Karo composed the “Shulchan Aruch” – one of the most important books in Judaism.
The synagogue was built in the 16th century and was destroyed twice, in two severe earthquakes that destroyed considerable parts of the city. The synagogue has an Underground part that, according to legend, is where Rabbi Yitzhak Karo was revealed to an angel in the image of the “Magid”.
The piyyut (Jewish poetry) “Lecha Dodi”, composed by Rabbi Shlomo Elkabetz in Safed, was part of the Sabbath reception ceremony in the 16th century and remains a part of the ceremony to this day
Safed with children » Ancient Tunnels Tour
With all due respect to the beautiful synagogues of Safed, a trip with children is not complete without challenges that suit the young guys. An interesting place for children is the ” To Build and Be Built” center, which contains a system of underground tunnels built during the “Golden Age of the Jews of Safed”.
Going down to the depths of the earth always excites children and the entrance fee is not expensive (ask for a family price). However, the explanations are not clear, each station has a sign written in dense letters and the information is accessible in a very outdated way.
At the site you can see the remains of an ancient mikveh, a weapons room with a display of rifles used by Palmach members in the area, water cisterns, a stone oven for baking bread and more.
At the end of the tour you reach a site called “Beit Hakahal”. The place was part of a 16th-century Jewish neighborhood that over the years was buried in a mound of ashes and ruins. At the time of our visits, there was a festival of ancient crafts such as pottery, wool spinning, herbs and music. The stations touched the hearts of the children and they had a really good time there so I highly recommend the place, especially during holiday periods when there are activities in the place.
The address: 17 Alkabetz Alley.
Safed with children » Candle factory
Not far from the Ari Ashkenazi synagogue, there is the “Safed Candles” factory. It is not easy to find because the address indicated in Google Maps is unfortunately incorrect. In the showroom there is a demonstration of making wax candles as well as a display of wax products and sculptures depicting biblical scenes such as Noah’s Ark.
In 2008, a renovation was carried out at the factory, in which an older building was discovered located just below the factory. During the renovation, a short circuit was created that caused a large fire that broke out. Because of the amount of wax that was burning in the place, the damage from the fire was severe and all the sculptures in the place were burned. After the fire was extinguished, the renovation continued and the factory worked from inside the ancient underground structure that was discovered.
Safed with children » The Artists’ Quarter
After 1948 many artisans settled in the lower city (in the remains of the Mamluk neighborhood). The mystical atmosphere of Safed, its narrow streets and its special charm, attracted statues, painters and bohemians to the city.
The Artists’ Quarter knew it would flourish and flourish until the 70s. Over the years, Safed has become increasingly ultra-Orthodox so many artists left the city and the artists’ quarter gradually changed its face.
Despite the change, it is still pleasant to walk around the area and wander through the galleries and workshops there.
The Dormant Spring Square
Until 1948, there was a spring in the center of the square that was known as the “Dormant Spring”. The name was probably given because it is a “pulsating” type of spring – whose waters emerge and hide in a cyclical way. (I wrote about the pulsating spring “Ein Pu’ar” in a post here). The spring water was used by the residents of Safed for laundry and the square was an important social center.
After the establishment of the State of Israel, the waters of the spring dried up. Artists who settled in the quarter used to come to it with painting pedestals and Draw in front of passers-by Today, the place serves as a community center.
The General Exhibition in Safed
After the fierce battles that took place in the city during the War of Independence, the remaining Arab residents fled/were expelled and their homes remained deserted. The empty houses housed many artisans who established their place of residence in Safed. Inside the market building and the mosque, an exhibition complex called “The General Exhibition” was built, where works by artists who lived in Safed are sold.
In 1996, MK Abdelmalek Dahamsheh (of the United Arab List) submitted a query to the Knesset on the use of the mosque (known in Arabic as the Al-Shuq Mosque) as a venue for the exhibition and the use of the nearby Al-Ahmar Mosque as an event hall.
Photo of the Al-Souk Mosque. “Israel is visible” album by Dr. Weinstein. Source: Here
In the old mosque building there is also a hall dedicated to the small puppet museum of Mila Rosenfeld. Mila immigrated to Israel from Siberia with her two daughters, Ella and Larissa. Ella loved dolls very much and had a large collection, but in the process of immigrating to Israel, she lost her doll collection, which broke her heart.
When Ella was killed in a terrorist attack on Dizengoff Street, only four years after she immigrated, Mila established the museum in her memory. She handmade each and every doll and demonstrates the craft to visitors in the showroom.
Demonstration of glass blowing
Next to the general exhibition house, in an old house surrounded by a garden that is lined with blue glass sculptures, is the workshop of the artist Sheva Haya. Sheva demonstrates to the guests her unique creative process and tells her personal story – from her childhood in Denver to the present day.
The gallery is located at 7 Tet vav Street and is open every day except Saturday.
Tour of Hameiri Dairy
In the past’ The city used to be known for its cheese. Safed cheese is loved all over the country and today, despite its name, is produced all over the country. In the Old City of Safed you can take a tour of the Hameiri dairy, established in 1850 by the Arzoni family, whose family name was changed to Hameiri. (My last name “Erez” also moves from “Erzoni” but I couldn’t find any kinship with my partner…).
Upon immigrating to Israel, the father of the family decided that the dairy would pass through each generation, only to one son. In each generation, the dairy will pass to a continuing son who bears one of two names: “Shlomi” or “Meir”.
Until about a decade ago, the dairy belonged to a member of the family, Meir Hameiri, but since his son, Shlomi, could not continue working at the dairy, the family factory was about to close. The situation was saved by the youngest son, Yossi, an accountant, who decided to leave Tel Aviv and return with his family to manage the family dairy.
Organized tours take place on Fridays at 12:00.
The Treasure of the Setam (Torah scribes) Safed
Unfortunately I was not able to visit this attraction, although I had heard good news about it. The visitors center, which is dedicated to the ancient tradition of the scribes of the Setam,( Torah scribe) has various activities as well as a three-dimensional film dedicated to the subject.
Safed City Center
The Sarria Building
The Sarria building is located in Independence Square. The name comes from the Turkish language and its meaning – palace.
The building was built in the 18th century, by the governor of the Galilee, Dahar al-Amar, and since then it has undergone various incarnations, was partially destroyed by an earthquake and was renovated during the Ottoman rule. During the 1929 riots, the Arab residents slaughtered their Jewish neighbors, who had found refuge in the Sariya building. In the riots, 18 Jews were murdered, many others were wounded, and Jewish homes were looted and destroyed.
Jerusalem Street safed
The main street in the city of Safed. In the past, it was divided into two parts – a Jewish side and an Arab side. The area of the city center is quite neglected today, in the future renovations and urban renewal are expected on the street.Along the street there are shops and places to eat as well as a beautiful observation deck.
Safed with children » More recommended sites for families
In preparation for the vacation in Safed, I gathered a few more attractions and sites suitable for families. I did not have time to visit them, and attach them for the benefit of those interested:
Activities in the style of the “Race for a Million” on the streets of Safed – a self-operated navigation kit that passes between different stations in the city. Cost per family – 150 NIS. Details on the website
The puzzle room in Safed – an escape room on the subject of Safed. Website
Safed Winery – Safed Winery is located in the Old City and you can participate in a tour and wine tasting. Safed Winery website
Abuhav Winery is located in the Old City. The winery also offers tours to the city of Safed, for 10 people or more. Abuhav Winery website
The market in Safed – the new part of Safed is one of the ugliest. A jumble of concrete structures and slums that unfortunately we did not find grace or beauty in.Those who visit the city on Wednesday can pop into the city market that sells vegetables, fruits, clothing and more.
The Citadel Garden – Right in the heart of the city of Safed is the Citadel Garden. Archaeological remains were found there, mainly from the Crusader and Mamluk periods. The garden is at the top of a high hill and offers great views of the area.
The Old Cemetery
A cemetery is not exactly a tourist site but the ancient cemetery in Safed, located at the bottom of Ha’Ari Street, overlooks a beautiful landscape and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a year. At the entrance to the cemetery is Mikveh Ha’Ari. In the cemetery are buried rabbis such as the holy Ari, Rabbi Yosef Karo, as well as figures from the Jewish tradition such as Hannah and her seven sons, the “Yanuka” (a child prodigy from the village of Sakhnin who, according to tradition, had miraculous powers) and more.
Where to eat in Safed
At the time of our visits to Safed, during the Passover holiday, many of the restaurants in the city were closed. Where did we eat anyway?
Here are some culinary ideas in the city:
🍽 A bite by the way
Recommended restaurants in Safed
Aharleh restaurant – a mehadrin kosher meat restaurant. Because of the holiday it was packed to capacity. At our request we sat outside, facing the beautiful view. The food was simple, the taste reasonable and the price not cheap.
The Ari 8 – the place was recommended to us by the owners of the hotel where we stayed but when we called to make a reservation, we were told that this was not possible on Chol Hamoed and that we had to just arrive. When we arrived at night, the hostess told us that due to an unusual load, all the food in the restaurant had run out. Happens… We went back the next night. We were then told there was no room in the restaurant nor would there be. We went out to discuss with friends at the foot of the restaurant, when we noticed that an ultra-Orthodox family that came after us, was accepted and led to the table. We did not hold ourselves back and returned to the hostess to express our displeasure. She did apologize very much, but all the conduct raises questions.
Cafe Monitin – A friendly café with courteous service located in the city center on Jerusalem Street. Because of the holiday all the food was kosher for Passover and in relation to the circumstances it was delicious.
Another famous restaurant in the city (we didn’t get to eat there, unfortunately) is “Esther and Yehonatan” –that’s of course managed by Esther and Yehonatan, MKR winners. Whoever comes to the city can try and tell us how it was. To the restaurant’s website
Dining in paradise – a kosher Italian restaurant on the side of Mount Canaan.To the restaurant’s Facebook page: Dining in Paradise
The house at the edge of the view – a Galilean dairy restaurant in the Birya forest near Safed. To the restaurant’s Facebook page
Bat ya’ar– A pastoral forest-farm restaurant located a few minutes drive from Safed. The restaurant is not cheap but it’s recommended to combine it with riding. To the Bat Ya’ar restaurant website
Route 90 – A burger restaurant located at Mahanayim junction and open 7 days a week. To the restaurant’s website
A more remote place, but recommended as a stop on the way is a ” beautiful place for coffee” in Kahel, with a wide terrace overlooking the Sea of Galilee. To the Facebook page: A beautiful place for coffee
Safed with children » Where to explore the area?
Although the visit to Safed itself is busy and there is quite a lot to do in the city, here are some ideas for families who want to get out of the city a bit and explore the area:
A spring located on a hill on the outskirts of the city of Safed. The spring emerges from the rock and pours into a small pond. The place was renovated by the family of the late Lior Dahan, who was a travel enthusiast and died in his youth. Near the spring are several tables that are wonderful to sit next to for a picnic. The place is inaccessible and involves climbing about 50 steps.
Blue Valley Park
Beautiful valley with walking paths, springs and a live park. At the time of our visit, there was a festival going on with activities for children.
Miron mountain nature Reserve-
A reserve that is about 100,000 dunams in size and contains Mediterranean woodland. The reserve has many trails, at different levels of difficulty, that can be suitable for families. In the spring months, the peony of the woodland blooms in the reserve.
Amud River Reserve-
A reserve in which a solid stream flows that you can enter its waters. The reserve has trails of various difficulty levels. Because of the possibility of entering the water, the reserve is especially busy during holidays and spring time.
The beautiful village of Rosh Pina is near Safed, overlooking Israel‘s Hula Valley. It is possible to hike in the center of the colony (“The First Colony”), reach the Nimrod lookout, from which a wonderful view of the valley is reflected, or take a walk in the Rosh Pina stream.
Recommended websites for planning a trip to Safed
Safed 24 – Everything that happens in Safed
Safed Municipality – Tourism in the city.
This is where our magical trip to Safed and the region ends. We wandered between narrow streets, ancient synagogues and houses painted in light blue. I would be happy for illuminations or comments: the comments corner is below. I also invite you to stay in touch and register here so that I can update you once every few months what is new in “On the Road”.
Thank you for joining me today for a trip to Safed.
See you- By the way