Smell the freshly baked bread, picked herbs, and spices; listen to the chatter of hundreds as they zigzag through the alleys; see Jerusalem come alive in the largest outdoor market in the city. Machane Yehuda Market is the perfect place for locals and tourists to experience everyday life of local Israelis while getting some great bargains on local produce.
The market is located between Agripas and Jaffa Street and is accessible via bus or light rail. If you are unable to find the market, ask where the "shuk" is located, which is the Hebrew word for market. It is busy every day, but especially on Fridays or the day before a holiday and is open from the early morning until the evening.
With approximately 250 vendors, it can be a challenge to learn where the best prices are or which vendor has the best produce. There is a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, baked goods, dairy and restaurants that are sure to satisfy any palette.
Although prices vary according to season and vendor, many of the fruits and vegetables available in the market are significantly cheaper than produce in the United States. For example, when I go to the market to buy red peppers, I usually pay about 5 NIS, or $1.35, for a kilogram! Also, when I buy avocados, I pay around 8 NIS, or $2.00, for a kilogram! This is not the case for meat and dairy products, which often are more expensive than in the States.
It is important to know that going to the market takes time and being in a hurry only makes the market appear more overwhelming. I have prepared a list of must-sees and tips to help any visitor get a better grasp on the market.
Must-Sees and Must-haves:
Marzipan: It is a famous bakery in the city located on Agripas Street right before the first entrance to the market. The shining star at the bakery is its chocolate rugelach and it only takes one glimpse into the bakery on a Friday to understand there is something different about this tasty treat. Flocks of people herd their way into the small bakery, scooping up dozens of rugelach. Marzipan has been highly recommended to me from multiple people, and as a loyal patron of this amazing bakery, I highly recommend it to anyone who visits the market. Besides rugelach, Marzipan has challah, cinnamon rolls and other pastries that are equally delicious.
The Iraqi Market: This is where I buy the majority of my produce because it is better quality and generally cheaper. Walking in the uncovered part of the market with Jaffa Street to your back, the Iraqi market is the first right. There is a hug variety of produce available, and much cheaper. The vendors are generally very friendly and will take time to say hello and ask how you are.
Halva: This is a favorite snack for many Israelis and is made from ground up sesame tahini combined with sugar and other flavors like honey, chocolate and vanilla. There are a few shops in the market that specialize in halva, and there are free samples handed out by the workers. I personally do not like halva because the first time I tried it I thought it was cheese before I ate it. I was shocked that it was not cheese and have not been able to get over that experience. However, there are tons of people who absolutely love halva and I recommend you at least try it, and don't make the same mistake I did.
Every time I visit the market, I learn something new and improve the way I shop there. It is a fantastic place to spend the morning or afternoon, tasting new foods and watching locals interact and I hope these tips will help you the next time you visit the market.