Israelis love to bargain, and there’s no better place to do it than the bustling alleyways of an open-air market. Just about every major city in Israel has a shuk at its center, from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to Ramle, Acre, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, Haifa, Beersheba and more. Every market has its own unique flavor, depending on the makeup of the city and the needs of its residents. But just about all of them will offer you an array of the freshest possible produce, piping-hot handmade bread, nuts and dried fruit in massive quantities and falafel or shwarma stuffed in a pita and topped with hummus, salad and tehina.
Some things in life are predictable, but what you might discover at any market in Israel is hard to imagine.
It’s worth checking out some of the best markets Israel has to offer, and exploring all their hidden gems. Plus, once you’ve perfected arguing with a stall owner in Hebrew, you’ll know you’re ready for anything the country can throw your way.
Most of these markets are open during daylight hours, from early in the morning till dusk – but individual stalls may stay open later or close earlier, so take the opening hours as a guideline only. Some also turn into nightlife spots during the evenings, and it’s worth stopping by to check out the local scene and enjoy a pint.
Mahaneh Yehuda, Jerusalem
Perhaps the most famed and celebrated of Israel’s markets, Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda is arguably the beating heart of Israel’s capital. Ostensibly it’s the best place to get the widest and freshest variety of fruits and vegetables – plus spices, eggs, poultry, beef and just about everything needed to stock your kitchen. But over the past decade it has become so much more.
Packed in its little nooks and crannies are stores selling Judaica and jewelry, restaurants offering sushi, homemade pasta and freshly fried fish and chips, and shops offering shoes, clothing and housewares. Inside the even narrower alleyways of the Iraqi shuk are the best prices and most bountiful produce in the market. After dark the shuk transforms into a hub of Jerusalem nightlife, with bars, live music, dancing and a feel-good atmosphere.
Don’t miss: Mousseline: The icecream store where you can sample every flavor from wasabi to masala, pomegranate, saffron and basil; Halva Kingdom: A now-famed establishment that offers more than 100 varieties such as pistachio, almond, coffee, chocolate and more; The Wisdom of Burekas from Haifa: This tiny storefront serves up the flakiest pastries in the city, including the classics – potato, cheese and mushroom – and more adventurous – tuna, eggplant and spinach.
Mahaneh Yehuda Street between Jaffa and Agrippas streets, Jerusalem Open Sunday to Friday from dawn to sundown
Sarona Market, Tel Aviv
The newest market on this list, the Sarona complex opened earlier this year, an 8,700-sq.m. culinary center in the heart of Tel Aviv. Housed on the 140-year-old site of a former Templer colony, this indoor space is the upmarket, stylized version of the Middle Eastern market. Instead of vendors hawking produce and cheeses, you’ll be greeted to a variety of quiet cafés, high-end restaurants and an assortment of specialty shops. You can still pick up your fruits and veggies, plus your specialty coffee, a box of French macarons, a bouquet of freshly picked flowers and coffee and a pastry – before a sit-down dinner. At the Cookiss bakery you can take a class in cookie decoration, at the Beer Market you can create your own customized six-pack and at Water & Coffee, sample Mei Eden bottled water, Lavazza coffee and everything in between. And with more than a dozen restaurants – including of famous Israeli chefs Israel Aharoni and Segev Moshe – you won’t be going hungry anytime soon.
Don’t miss: Tasting Room Wine Bar: You can slide right in and sample any of 40 varieties from an automated pouring system with the use of a smart card – turning happy hour hi-tech; Fauchon Paris: This famed, century-old French pâtisserie has its very first venture in Israel at Sarona Market, selling croissants, éclairs and of course, macarons. Paletas: Spanish-inspired ice pops are all the rage, and this little spot serves up fresh, seasonal, handmade fruit varietals – some with cream and some without. Flavors range from classics – mango, berry, passion fruit – to more exotic – Vietnamese coffee, Mexican chocolate and banana peanut butter.
3 Kalman Magen Street, Tel Aviv Open Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Carmel Market, Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market perfectly spans the upscale to the rank and file, from designer clothes to freshly ground spices, handmade bread and piping-hot coffee. Don’t forget the bootleg DVDs, questionable iPhones and jewelry for every piercing imaginable.
Of course the heart of this oldest and largest outdoor market in Tel Aviv is still the food. From towers of gummy worms to piles of fresh fish and hard-to-find produce like plantains, rhubarb and tomatillos, the Carmel Market is a foodie’s heaven.
But, true to Tel Aviv’s adventurous nature, it’s morphed into a hub of international flavors of late, offering cuisine sourced from Mexico all the way to India – allowing well-traveled Israelis to find both the ingredients and cuisine they’re hunting for.
Don’t miss: East and West: This store serves foreign workers from Asia and Israelis yearning for a taste of their backpacking trip – from curry powder to seaweed, soy bean curd and wasabi-coated peanuts, they’ve got you covered. Arepas: Venezuelan street food in the heart of Tel Aviv? Why not. A thick corn patty stuffed with meat, cheese and guacamole is their signature dish – or mix and match all the filling options. Bunny Chow: The latest eatery to take Tel Aviv by storm, this spot mixes the flavors of India and South Africa – offering curries based on veggies, beef or chicken.
Enter at the junction of Allenby and King George streets.
Open 8 a.m. to evenings Sunday to Friday (closes at sundown Friday)
Slightly off the beaten tourist track in this central, mixed Arab-Jewish city lies an unexpected treat: A wellstocked, bustling, vibrant outdoor market. Here you can buy just about anything your heart desires, from sneakers to pita bread, a laundry basket and a pineapple (just my shopping list? Never mind then) – and all at excellent prices. Here you can find just about every type of burekas imaginable, fresh fruit and vegetables as far as the eye can see, and some of the tastiest and most authentic street food around. Plus there’s tons of nearby parking, so you can stock up without having to shlep.
Don’t miss: Carmel’s Pickles: One of the most famous stops in the Ramle shuk, this place offers just about everything you can imagine pickled, from cucumbers to olives, cabbage, beets, lemons and more – plus salads, smoked fish, homemade cheeses and their most famous offering: amba (pickled mango sauce). Naji’s: A decidedly working-class, classic Iraqi diner, Naji’s serves up kubbeh soup, kebabs, rice and beans and more. Come for the food, stay for the homey feel they’ve perfected over 40 years in operation.
Jabotinsky Street between Herzl and Pasteur streets Sunday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference
, a prestigious forum where some 400 ambassadors, ambassadorial spokespeople and military attachés from around the world will convene, takes place at the Waldorf, Astoria Hotel in Jerusalem on Wednesday, November 18. The conference, featuring an array of speeches from Israeli newsmakers, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will be broadcast live on Jpost.com.