ISRAEL21c guides you to the top places for buying everything from fresh produce to flea-market treasures, with lots of places to snack along the way
By: Jessica Halfin
The shuk –– an open-air market where stalls are filled with sumptuous and vibrant seasonal Israeli produce, spices, fresh fish, dry foodstuffs, housewares, and even trendy eateries — is the lifeline of every Israeli.
Cookbooks are inspired by it, as is the healthy Israeli lifestyle. Fresh fruits and vegetables make up the base of a colorful diet, and lugging home kilos of said vegetables provides daily exercise.
The traditional produce stands have been joined by restaurants, cafes and bars, so the shuk has also become a meeting ground for friends and a center of culinary evolution from which Israeli cuisine continues to expand.
Farm-to-table enterprises, homegrown breweries, coffeeshops, and craft cocktail bars are the new shuk norm in Israel’s major cities. In the same way, Israeli art and flea markets have followed suit, transforming into must-visit stops for genuine souvenirs handcrafted in Israel.
These are 10 of Israel’s top markets, and the some of the best treasures we found in them.
- MACHANE YEHUDA, Jerusalem
The king of all Israeli open-air markets thriving on a rich history and a modern cultural renaissance, Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem sets the bar for all others.
Its well-kept and lighted passageways are filled with ready-made culinary treats, bakeries, dried fruit and food stores, and of course fresh produce. It is also a hub of busy trending shops, restaurants, bars, mom-and-pop homestyle food joints, and coffee shops. You name it and this shuk has it.
It’s also, as you might expect, a popular nightlife scene come Thursday evening, and a 24/7 street art museum when closed up tight.
What’s more, the alleyways surrounding the shuk are not only among the city’s most vibrant up-and-coming neighborhoods, but also the center for some of its best new restaurants, serving up the fresh products that the market provides and catering to the young demographic of the area.
Hatch Brewery, 28 HaEgoz Street (inside the covered shuk): Craft beer, homemade sausages and gourmet bar snacks.
Crave, 1 HaShikma Street (behind the Old Iraqi shuk): Kosher versions of non-kosher crave-worthy dishes (a kosher bacon mecca) in a high-energy atmosphere.
Marzipan Bakery, 44 Agripas Street (just outside the covered shuk): Making the city’s most addictive rugelach pastries for over 40 years.
- CARMEL MARKET, Tel Aviv
The inspiration for Adeena Sussman’s Sababa and Einat Admony and Janna Gur’s Shuk — two Israeli cookbooks out in 2019 — Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market is where the city’s chefs and locals hang out, dine, shop and soak up the Israeli culinary scene.
There you’ll find fresh produce, but not only. You’ll also pass by cheap clothing stalls, fast-food spots, including the original Beer Bazaar, and this hummusia that looks like a synagogue.
If you’re diligent, behind the market’s main food stalls you can find shops selling home goods, kitchen tools, meats and Asian specialty products.
As with Machane Yehuda, the area surrounding Carmel Market is also a great place to grab a meal or drink at many trendy restaurants and bars. In the adjacent Yemenite Quarter (Kerem HaTeimanim) you can buy a filling plate of authentic Yemenite food at establishments such as the famous Shimon Melech HaMarakim (Simon King of Soups).
The Druze pita and Arabic sweets stand towards the back of the main shuk passageway
Meat Market M25, 30 Simtat HaCarmel: A butcher shop and deli where you can buy fine aged steaks or take a seat for a perfectly grilled kebab and craft beer.
Davka Gourmet cheese shop: There is an extensive selection and knowledgeable staff.
Julie Ochel, 29 Yom Tov Street: Where locals go to get a comforting lunch of homemade Egyptian food and a warm reception. Open every day 12-4; 03-516-9334.
- LEVINSKY MARKET, Tel Aviv
An up-and-coming market in South Tel Aviv that’s been buzzed about by Israeli foodies in recent years, you’ll find things in Levinsky Market that you won’t find in the more mainstream Israeli shuks. Home to Balkan and Persian specialty products, it’s also known for its delis, bakeries and restaurants, many of which have lined the market walkways for decades.
HaHalban (The Milkman), 48 Levinsky Street: Specialty cheeses and all the fixings for a killer antipasti plate, since 1958.
Café Levinsky, 41 Levinsky Street. Where kombucha meets an artisanal soda shop and cafe, the likes of which you’ve never experienced.
Burekas Penso, 43 Levinsky Street: A Tel Aviv landmark for delicious bourekas and Balkan desserts.
- ARAB SHUK, Old City Jerusalem
Continue straight after you enter Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, and you will find yourself in the slippery stone alleyways of the Arab shuk — a combination of three markets.
Selling all kinds of souvenirs including Arab-style coffee pots, jewelry, t-shirts, art, clothing, and Armenian (Hevron) pottery, it is an experience even if you don’t end up buying anything. You’ll be enticed by the aromas of incense, spices, coffee, and cooked foods.
Note: It’s safest to stay on the main path within the tourist section of the market. Turn back when you start seeing products such as meat and produce sold to the local population. This is a sensitive area, so be aware that a wrong turn down an alleyway could lead to places where the general public is forbidden to enter.
Jaffar Sweets, Khan al Zeit Street: Home to some of the city’s most flavorful knafeh and mutabbaq (warm cheese-filled phyllo pastry that eats like fried dough).
Fresh juice and Jerusalem bagel carts next to Jaffa Gate
Armenian pottery store in the Armenian Quarter, where ceramics are painted on site; Hadaya jewelry workshop on 91 Hayehudim Street in the Jewish Quarter, where metal jewelry is inscribed to order with Hebrew sayings to make personal mementos; and Levantine Gallery at 16 Christian Quarter Road, a collective gallery where you can buy the artwork of local Arab artists.
- SHUK TALPIOT, Haifa
A bit rougher around the edges than Tel Aviv and Jerusalem’s markets, Shuk Talpiot is the underdog you’ll want to get to know.
A microcosm of the city’s mixed population and cultures, here you’ll find Russian babushkas buying from Arab vendors and religious Jews alike, and vice versa. You can find fresh shrimp and crab, Russian specialty candies, baked goods, and mounds of the season’s best produce at good prices.
Shuk Talpiot is also home to a small culinary scene on Sirkin Street led by local residents determined to attract more visitors to this underrated market.
Cap: Talpiot Restaurant in Shuk Talpiot, Haifa. Photo by Jessica Halfin
Talpiot Restaurant, 28 Sirkin Street: A leisurely meal here paired with some ouzo and a chat with the passionate proprietor, Ilan Ferron Lahat, will show you how the goodies of the market are best turned into gourmet, yet accessible, dishes.
Pizzeria Talpiot, 30 Sirkin Street: A small pizzeria with delicious handmade craft pizza, fresh pasta dishes and awesome desserts, made with love before your eyes in an open kitchen.
Robin Food, 24 Sirkin Street: A local café that uses the market’s leftovers to make its fresh café dishes.
Historical Market Building, down the steps toward the back of the open shuk. In this old covered market building, you’ll find the best deals on fruits, vegetables and legumes.
- SARONA MARKET, Tel Aviv
A historical German Templer site dating back to 1871, Sarona Complex sat nearly empty, taking up precious space in Tel Aviv’s limited urban landscape until Sarona Market opened in 2015.
Not just an indoor gourmet culinary market comprised of food stands and shops, the greater complex at Sarona features garden-like grounds with water features, fruit trees, clothing stores, and sit-down restaurants. Spending the day in this quiet oasis is a nice break from the loud city streets, even if it won’t be as easy on your wallet.
Fishop: Buy a beautiful piece of well-butchered fish (or even imported oysters!), or sit at the bar and enjoy a gourmet seafood dish made fresh to order from their own supply. Inside the market building.
La Farina: Superbly authentic French pastries, in all their buttery glory. Inside the market building.
Whisky Bar and Museum: A cave-like restaurant from which you will emerge both tipsy and more knowledgeable about whisky and the wonderful ways it can be paired with food. The restaurant sits on the edge of the complex along the main road.
- JAFFA FLEA MARKET, Tel Aviv-Yafo
Tel Avivians are drawn to Jaffa’s flea market (shuk hapishpishim) just as much as tourists these days and it’s not hard to see why. The oceanfront gives way to streets filled with cafes, furniture and home goods stores, and antique shops, all of which hold treasures worth exploring.
What’s more, the once less than impressive site has had new life breathed into it over the past several years, as young millennials have moved into the area, opening up new restaurants and bars which make the area into a lively night spot as well.
Sofi, 3 Rabbi Yochanan Street: A modern store offering whimsical and imaginative homeware and children’s items.
Abulafia Bakery, 7 Yefet Street: A functioning bakery since 1879, Abulafia is good for treats like savory sambusak pastries made in a brick oven, and Turkish delight.
Faruk Bashuk, 6 Rabi Nachman Street: Seafood-heavy modern Israeli cuisine including mezze that’s fresh and healthful, with vegan and vegetarian options. Outside seating means you can feel the vibe of the market while you dine.
8 OLD CITY MARKET, Akko
Enter the old city of Acre (Akko) and you will instantly feel a sense of history. The beautiful port city is known for its ancient Crusader sites and the mark left on it by attempted conquests, including that of Napoleon himself.
Enter the marketplace, though, and you are in another world altogether. Sea air gives way to an orchestra of scents and sounds — zaatar, black coffee, rose water, and fresh fish, to name a few.
Shop for fresh produce and specialty herbs, Arabic spices, authentic Arabic cooking tools, musical instruments, souvenirs, and more. You can also enjoy a snack (or two or three) of prepared food like freshly made knafeh and malabi pudding, or hummus and piping hot pita.
Inside the Market: Café Bader stall for coffee and spices; Sahlav Abu Imad for malabi pudding in summer, and warm sahlav drink in winter; Mamtakei Kashash (Kashash Sweets) stall for baklava and knafeh.
In the Turkish Bazaar: Maadali restaurant offers a fish-heavy local cuisine made bistro style, in a casual yet picturesque atmosphere.
- NACHALAT BINYAMIN ART FAIR, Tel Aviv
The first of its kind, operating since 1988 on Tuesdays and Fridays from mid-morning until the late afternoon hours, Tel Aviv’s weekly open-air arts and crafts fair is the place to lunch in a café after finding a unique present for loved ones made with care, in Israel.
Just a stone’s throw from Shuk HaCarmel, you can find anything here from framed photographs of Israeli scenery to jewelry, ceramics, Judaica, little trinkets and keepsakes in a crowded yet pleasant atmosphere.
Must visits nearby:
Aria Restaurant, 66 Nachalat Binyamin Street: A gourmet chef restaurant and bar with irresistible nibbles and decadent meals.
Independence Trail: A self-guided walking tour of some of the city’s most significant historical sites that cuts through Nachalat Binyamin in two spots.
Beit HaAmudim, 14 Rambam Street: A jazz club with a roster of talented musicians and loyal patrons.
- HAIFA FLEA MARKET
Open each day from 9-3 (except for Saturdays when early birds can get there at 5am), Haifa’s flea market on Kibbutz Galuyot Street — not far from the city’s hip downtown — has seen a significant upgrade in recent years.
Junk stores, antiques and modern furniture and design shops are nestled between a few long-standing well-known eateries. Go fishing for finds for as long as you like, then get yourself a well-deserved Turkish coffee and Haifa hummus.
Aby Marun Hummus–8 Kibbutz Galuyiot Street: This long standing hummus joint is known for its flavorful French fries.
A short walk away are the cafes and shops of Haifa’s Turkish Market. Catch the Metronit bus to the beach, or the Carmelit subway from Paris Square to the upper city for a spectacular view of the bay.