Machne Yehuda or ‘The Shuk’ is a must-see when visiting Israel. This market dates back to the 19th century and is still an icon of Jerusalem today. Learning its history takes you through the history of Israel itself, from its rickety beginnings in the Ottoman period to the attempts to fix poor infrastructure, during the time of the British mandate. The shuk is steeped in history; a story awaits you at every corner.
Today, whether you’re shopping for groceries or looking for a bite to eat, this is still the place to go. There is an overhang surrounding most of the market and dark stone tiles line the floors. A never-ending bustle of people and constant chatter comes from the regular patrons and the excited tourists. Many of the vendors have been there for years selling their meats, produce and spices, while the newer vendors put twists on old favorites. If you’re visiting the market, make sure to bring your shuk bag and head to some of the shuk’s best stalls. You can buy some granola at Pitzuchi Mizrahi, which sells nuts and dried fruits; it has a balanced combination of oats nuts and fruit and is not overly sweet. It’s the perfect durable yogurt topper or snack to take home. If you’re craving a sit-down meal, stop at Azura.
Although air conditioning might be what you’re searching for the first time you sit down, it’s the delicious food that will keep you coming back. Their red kubbeh soup warms your soul and satisfies your stomach. The shuk is a traditional place that is constantly developing. Over the decades, the market has maintained its values and still shares its famous food and more with the people of Jerusalem.
After a day filled with adventuring in ‘The Shuk’ and eating age-old favorites, head out with an empty stomach to the brand new Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. Although both specialize in food, these two markets are shockingly different. Sarona, which opened in July 2015, focuses on gourmet food. It is located at the edge of the beautifully restored Sarona Templar Colony. Unlike Machne Yehuda, Sarona Market is indoors. Situated at the bottom of a chic skyscraper, the market is marvelous.
Beneath the large skylight ceiling, it’s filled with gourmet coffee shops, grocery stores and places to eat. As you walk through the air-conditioned culinary paradise, notice the design of the modern tile floor, light brick walls and vivid white ceiling. The market boasts 91 stalls and restaurants, which hail from all over the world. Although you’ll find familiar favorites that migrated from Machne Yehuda like Basher Fromagerie and Halva Kingdom, you’ll also see famous French pastry shops like Fauchon.
Make sure to check out Max Brenner, a chocolate heaven of sorts, whose menu is adorned with any chocolate lover’s dreams. A good place to start is the heavenly chocolate pizza or any of their mouthwatering hot chocolates. For a post-chocolate refresher, go to Paletas, a stall that sells Mexican popsicles; these icy treats are made from fresh ingredients only. If you want a locally inspired flavor, try the banana-chocolate-halva popsicle, and if it’s adventure you seek, go for the slightly spiced Mexican chocolate!
Sarona and Machne Yehuda are the perfect example of Israel’s split culture. The country embraces both the beauty of the old and excitement of the new. Together, they exemplify Israel’s culinary and cultural spirit: full of history, technology and great food.
Machne Yehuda, Jerusalem, Israel, +972 55 664 6684 (for tours)
Sarona Market, 3 Kalman Magen St., Tel Aviv, Israel, +972 3 624 2424
Maya Konstantino is a student at the University of Michigan. Originally hailing from Haifa, Israel she now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. A world traveler who has explored places ranging from Singapore to France, she is excited to share her adventures and keep experiencing new worlds.