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, coffee shops, 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 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.
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.
2. 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 hummus 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).
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
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.
9. 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.
10. 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.