I have been to Jerusalem many times, but never heard about this place. Ever since I got to experience the markets of Mahane Yehuda, I’ve been longing to go back. With its huge variety and vibrant atmosphere, you get an authentic and satisfying taste of the Israeli “Shuk”.
Fish, organic veggies, freshly made juice, bakeries with the grandest pastries, donuts bar, Italian ice-cream, pizza, sushi, nuts and pies. The air is filled with all kinds of strong spices, and the spirit of the Israeli culture dances through the alleys. This market is the real deal.
A local market
Mahane Yehuda is a market that spreads over several streets between Jaffa St. and Agrippa St., just a kilometer from The Old City. It was established at the end of the 18th century and has kept developing ever since. It was known as the Iraqi market, because of the Iraqi Jews who owned many of the shops. Today the market is mixed with all the different cultures you can find in Jerusalem. Not only will you find the traditional market shops, but also a number of funky and lively pubs and restaurants, adding a “hippie-telavivian” feel to the atmosphere.
You know you are close, when you hear salesmen shouting. It might be a little intimidating at first, but it is a part of the experience. This market is full of life, and clearly a popular place!
I liked the fact that the streets weren’t stuffed with tourists. Most of the people we were surrounded by were locals, doing some grocery shopping. At one corner, two men were bargaining about the price of a box of dates. Further down the alley, two old ladies enjoyed their coffee, while chatting about the people they saw walking by. An Orthodox family father just bought 5 big Challa bread, that probably will be enjoyed together with all of his relatives on Shabbat evening. At a restaurant, a group of young soldiers was waiting for their pizza, while talking about the challenging week they had.
After walking through stand after stand with all kinds of local products, we came to a part full of restaurants and cafes. It suddenly felt like being in the middle of Tel Aviv. Some of the cafes had outdoor seating places towards the street, while others hid in cozy sideways. Most parts of the market had a roof construction, that would shield in case of rain – in our case it just enhanced the intimate and lovely atmosphere.
When we ate Aricha Sabich, we were blown away. Sabich basically is a sandwich or pita, stuffed with fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs. But at Aricha Sabich, they turn this simple concept into something magical. You don’t need to be an experienced falafel eater to understand how good this Sabich is.
They stuff a big pita bread with fresh vegetables, medium fried eggs, and spiced eggplant. Drizzled with tahini (dressing made with sesame seeds), you get your 17 NIS steaming hot pita, and the first bite takes you by surprise! It’s just delicious.
After the heavenly Sabich, we walked over to Gelato Aldo. Their ice cream is excellent, and their portions are huge. Two scoops will make your belly satisfied. We had the passionfruit and banana flavor, and they were super tasty!
To finish off our visit, we went over to the coffee shop, Roasters. They are located at a corner, and they have sitting places alongside the small sideways. Their coffee is excellent, and we recommend enjoying it together with pastry from one of the nearby shops. Try for example Knaffe, which is a very popular Arabic nut snack.
If you are planning to visit Mahane Yehuda, make sure you have plenty of time to explore, cash in your pockets and an empty stomach. We spent one evening walking through the market, we could have spent days!