Despite the advent of supermarkets, malls and Internet shopping, outdoor markets are still very much a part of the urban fabric of Israel.
The “mother” of all Tel Aviv markets, the Carmel Market, in south Tel Aviv, running from Allenby St. to the sea, offers an amazing assortment of goods - fresh food primarily, including fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs, meat and fish, bakery items and much, much more, but also knock-off perfumes, handbags, T shirts, etc. Quantities are enormous and the prices are usually low.
Rub shoulders with a cross-section of Israel in this market’s crowded and bustling streets and lanes; enjoy the stall vendors as they pitch their wares. You may not understand the language, but there’s no escaping the exuberance. It is the essence of Tel Aviv’s Eastern character and is also the place to find excellent bargains.
Savor the noise, smell and excitement. The vendors are friendly characters that patter in Hebrew and sing the praises of their goods, but they will also enjoy babbling in English and other languages if they notice a visitor.
The market also is dotted with open-air food stalls and mostly “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants serving local fast food - fresh hummus, kebobs and the like - and it has become home in recent years, to newer, more stylized dining establishments that have opened, particular at its periphery.
The adjoining Yemenite Quarter (Kerem HaTeimanim) offers an excellent choice of Middle East-style restaurants.
Not far away, the veteran Levinsky Market, with its cornucopia of aromas and flavors - exotic spices, herbs, nuts, dried fruits, processed fish, and more from around the world (though especially from the Balkans and surrounding area), complemented by a variety of small, primarily ethnic restaurants and bakeries - is also an experience any gourmet or gourmand will not want to miss.
Guided tasting tours in these markets are easy to arrange, either as a stand-alone activity or as the opening act of a half-day program culminating in a private dinner prepared by a chef with the markets’ raw materials, or at a local restaurant or other venue.
Other food markets have opened in Tel Aviv in recent years, in the city’s growing number of lifestyle and leisure-time tourist centers. The markets in the Tel Aviv and Jaffa port areas, both renovated and gentrified in recent times, feature fresh produce, imported treats and artisan products and are worth a stop when touring the compounds. The 7800m² Sarona Market, which was inaugurated in summer of 2015, a part of the renovated Sarona Complex with its Templar theme, comprises 85 food enterprises housed in 15 separate areas, each with its own focus - fruits & vegetables, meat, fish, delicatessen etc. Most of the merchants are involved in retail trade, while the remainder, including a relatively large number of chef’s kiosks, operated by some of Israel’s prominent restaurant chefs, offer a broad range of food and beverages options.