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The bustling Carmel Market / Image: Getty Images

If you really want to get to grips with Israel’s second city, its markets should be your first port of call – these sprawling bazaars are where pals meet over heaped plates of hummus, bargain hunters linger over chintzy souvenirs and vintage gems, and locals of all stripes expertly haggle down hardened stall-owners. But if you go in totally blind, you may get lost in the throng of confused tourists trying to buy a torah scroll keychain for an absurd sum of shekels. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back – follow our tried-and-tested tips and you’ll dominate the markets without problem.

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Which Market Should You Visit?

Which Market Should You Visit?
Chomp a sabich sandwich at Carmel / Image: courtesy of Delicious Israel’s Levinsky tasting tour

Shuk HaCarmel (Carmel Market)
The biggest and baddest of all of Tel Aviv’s shuks, Carmel is, in many ways, the city’s epicentre. The market is divided into two main bits: the northern part – which is where you’ll find stands overflowing with clothing, children’s toys, and a mind-scrabbling mix of obscure knick-knacks – and the southern part, which is where the food stalls live. The whole thing is a beautifully chaotic mess, packed full of shoving shoppers and bellowing stall-owners hawking their wares. We recommend shoving your gob with as much delicious halva as you can find, and getting out of there before the pre-Shabbat mob hits on a Friday afternoon.

Insider tips
For the absolute best fried chickpea balls, don’t skip Falafel Rambam, smack in the middle of the market. You’ll recognise it for the group of stall-owners permanently hanging around, happily chowing down on their wraps. And just next door, on HaCarmel St, is where you’ll find the Burika Center – another popular stall serving a different pitta dish, here stuffed with crispy dough filled with potatoes or eggs. And if you’re after hummus, make a beeline for the Kerem (Yemenite Quarter) just outside the market – specifically Hummus Masabacha, where giant bowls of the stuff come piled on with fresh herbs, eggs and pools of olive oil. At the end of your shuk crawl, grab a table at The Minzar on Allenby St, a buzzy bar that serves cheap booze and home-cooked dishes made from that day’s market produce.


Sarona Market
This covered food hall – housed inside a restored German Templar Colony – is a bit more upscale than the other markets on this list, which makes it a worthy spot for long lunches, casual dinners, and evening drinks. The choices are endless: New York-style carbs from Carmeli’s Bagels, slurpy ramen from Hiro or gigantic Bavarian sausages from Bayern, just to name a few. And don’t forget to pick up some goodies for later while you’re there – there’s gorgeous cheeses from Basher Fromagerie and delicate French desserts at Fauchon.

Insider tips
If eyeing up all that delicious food has you hankering for a proper sit-down meal, head to Claro just outside the market – this chic dining room in a Templar-style building serves knockout seasonal Israeli dishes made with ingredients from local farms. Or, if you’re up for sticking around the market, look out for live music in the eves and other seasonal events – workshops, screenings, and more

Levinsky Market's spice stalls are a fragrant rainbow / Image: Adobe Stock

Levinsky Spice Market 
Located in Florentin – ground zero for Tel Aviv hipsterdom – this is the traditional trading market of the Mizrahi Iranian and Iraqi Jews. As such, you’ll find technicolour stalls selling mountains of fragrant spices all spilling out of giant canvas bags. It’s a fascinating spot to stroll around for its old-world atmosphere, relatively unchanged since the market opened in the 1950s. It’s also where you’ll find some of the city’s best eats, if you know where to look – crispy, flaky spinach pastries from Bourekas Penso and heavenly vegan malabi (rosewater-scented puddling) from Rachamim are two highlights. Stick around at the end of the day: the surrounding streets spill over with party-ready punters taking advantage of all the cheap drinking holes in the neighbourhood.

Insider tips
Quench your thirst with a refreshing glass of gazoz – this delicious fizzy drink is sold from a dinky truck in the middle of the market, and is infused with seasonal fruits and herbs. You’ll visit this spot and other gems on Delicious Israel’s Levinsky tasting tour, which is the easiest way of sampling the tastiest morsels from the market.


Find all the tat you need at Jaffa Market / Image: 123rf

Shuk Hapishpishim (Jaffa Flea Market)
Tel Aviv’s historic Jaffa port neighbourhood has a long, proud market culture, and this much-loved shuk has been around in its current iteration for 70 years. You’ll find all manner of tat here – from kaleidoscopic Persian rugs to obscure musical instruments and lovingly spun pottery. This is a place to bring your haggling A-game and linger into the eve – there’s live music and entertainment on summer nights.

Insider tips
Come in the morning to beat the rush. When the tourist mobs begin to descend, head to the nearby Greek Market – located at the edge of Old Jaffa and named after the Greek Orthodox monastery that oversaw its foundation in the 19th century, this outdoor market sells similar stuff to the main Flea Market, only without the crowds. And once you’ve thoroughly filled your bags, reward yourself at Jaffa Beach – it’s only a five-minute walk away.


Now Learn How to Haggle

Now Learn How to Haggle
Haggle to your heart's content at Carmel

In Israel’s markets, bargaining is king – but if you don’t get it right, you may be shooed away or saddled with a knick-knack that costs more than a night in your hotel room. The art of running down the price tag is just that – a delicate artform that bold, bellicose Israelis have expertly mastered. 

A quick note: though it’s generally acceptable to haggle at most shuks, you wouldn’t want to open a negotiation at more formal markets like Sarona. Levinsky, Jaffa, and Carmel are all fair game, though, so dicker to your heart’s content. 

Now here’s how to bag yourself a bargain: once you’ve identified your desired item, it’s all about feeling out your opponent (the stall-owner). Ask for a price, then counter with a lower number – but don’t go too low, or you’ll lose your cred immediately (a good rule of thumb is to offer half the original figure). If the seller comes back with a different price, then you’re off to the races. Stay steely but maintain a friendly tone, and don’t be afraid to walk away – often turning on your heels will be the clincher for getting your desired price. And always remember to ask if the price is in shekels, not dollars, as you could be arguing for way more than you’re actually willing to pay. Finally, don’t mess about – if the seller says the price is final, take them at their word. 

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