(Originally published on The Culture Trip)
Entering any of Israel’s many markets can be a bewildering experience, a bombardment of unfamiliar products sold amidst the noise of the trademark half-spoken, half-sung patter of the vendors and lightning fast bargaining. However, the best markets reveal the real heart of the city. Here are 10 of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s finest markets.
Tel Aviv Carmel Market
Beginning at a six-way intersection and continuing almost to the sea, Carmel Market is Tel Aviv’s largest fruit and vegetable market. However, the market offers a far more varied experience than the average trip for groceries, with a highlight being its much-feted borekas (filled salty pastries originating from Turkey but adopted long ago by Israel), called with some authority the best borekas in the capital. Worth exploring both for its atmosphere and for its food, goods and restaurants, which are supplied by the market and serve cuisines varying from sushi to the intriguing fusion of Swedish and Iraqi cuisines at Gedera 26.
Carmel Market, HaCarmel St 11, Tel Aviv, Israel,+97 250 8624635
Nahalat Binyamin Arts and Crafts Market
Adjacent to the Carmel Market, the Nahalat Binyamin Street market is testament to creativity in all its forms, featuring a vibrant combination of original handmade products and street performance. Open every Tuesday and Friday, artist-exhibitors in the market must all be approved by a public committee, allowing this market to maintain the high quality of its goods. This fair is perfect for a unique gift or souvenir, with products ranging from paintings to painted gourds to glasswork to almost any other art or craft imaginable, all sold amidst an array of circus performers and musicians. An experience as unique as the items sold within.
Tel Aviv Port Market
Central to the redevelopment of Tel Aviv’s docks into a cultural capital, the port’s food market has quickly become a real centre for Israeli food in the few years it has been open. Offering the best of the country’s cuisine, it also offers in-market cooking tutorials from some of Israel’s finest chefs, all set against a backdrop of remarkable sea views. If you would rather be cooked for, however, the Port Market also offers a number of tasting sessions, as well as restaurants offering some of the best kosher charcuterie (although this is admittedly a rather niche category) you will find anywhere.
Antique Market at Dizengoff Square
Close to Dizengoff Square’s kinetic, colourful ‘Fire and Water’ fountain, this twice-weekly antiques-cum-flea market is an essential visit for fans of all things vintage. Catering for everyone from the purest antiques aesthete to the biggest connoisseur of kitsch, it really is a market that rewards perseverance, with beauty and bargains hidden amongst the standard antiques. It is also a great combination of the old and the new, with second-hand pieces of all kinds rich with stories jostling with bright young designers at the beginning of their careers creating the highly collectible items of tomorrow.
Previously famous for its all-you-can-eat falafel stalls, Bezalel Market has become a bargain hunting paradise, and the place to go for anything from swimwear to small appliances. Although arguably a far less reputable market than some of Tel Aviv’s other offerings (it is said that its motto is the worrying ‘ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies’), it is perfect for the cost-conscious shopper. It has also gained a reputation recently for occasionally selling outrageously low priced designer clothes (again, ask no questions…) which are well worth hunting down in this tightly packed market.
Jaffa Flea Market
Spotting the genuinely valuable amongst the lookalikes and commercial copies here is a challenge in itself, but a rewarding one if you are savvy enough to bargain your way to good prices on any number of quality items. Jaffa Flea Market, after all, is the spiritual home of haggling and bartering in Israel, those quintessential skills of markets everywhere. Enter with a good eye for detail and a determination to get the best price and there are fascinating and genuinely rare items to be had here, from brass lamps to gemstone-laded jewellery to intricately decorated Persian tiles, all available at reasonable prices to the astute customer.
Jaffa Flea Market, Yefet Street, Tel Aviv, Israel, +97 235 272691
Jerusalem Mahane Yehuda
The Mahane Yehuda Market, often called ‘The Shuk’ (or ‘Machne’ if you want to appear like a local) has been cleaned up in the last decade and been ridded of many of its rougher elements, but is still by and large a boisterous affair. Although more likely now to contain craft beers than dirty barrels of spices, it is still an incredibly popular tourist spot, made internationally famous by Anthony Bourdain’s ecstatic visit in his television show with Israel-born chef Yottam Ottolenghi. For the uninitiated, there are daily tours and a number of schemes to eat really fantastic foods at really reasonable prices.
Bezalel Arts Fair
Symbolically placed next to the old home of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, the national art school housed in Jerusalem, this art and craft fair is now in its fifth year, finding popularity with tourists and local visitors alike. This success is due in a large part to the market offering a far more relaxed ambience than most of Israel’s more raucous markets. It is famed for being both friendly and absolutely full of beautiful craft pieces, cosmetics and jewellery in every price range. Think of it as the less frantic cousin of Tel Aviv’s Nahalat Binyamin market.
The Farmers’ and Artists’ Market
Found in the city’s German Colony, perhaps one of the most beautiful areas of Jerusalem, the Farmers’ and Artists’ Market offers what can initially seem like a bewildering array of varied items, from artisan cheese to hand puppets. Get used to these strange juxtapositions, however, and there are many great things to find in this hidden treasure of a market within Israel’s Anglo community. Many if not most of the products sold are handmade, meaning this is a great place to go to find unique gifts and foodstuffs made with care and dedication, including preserves, ceramics and any number of seasonal treats.
The Old City Souk
On first sight, The Old City Souk is often viewed as overly touristy, due to its roaring trade in souvenirs and its location within the old walled city of Jerusalem. However, behind its array of postcards of the Wailing Wall and the Dome of the Rock can be found a number of hidden treasures, with its fabric stalls coming highly recommended by those intrepid enough to brave the tourists and the tightly packed, narrow stone alleyways. It is actually made up of a number of different markets that sprawl together, meaning that, like the city itself, something new can be discovered at every turn.