Right in the heart of Tel Aviv beats the pulse of bustling shoppers, market stall owners shouting out their sales pitch to attract customers, loud-speakers blasting out Middle Eastern rhythms, and the constant chatter of people going to and fro. Some shoppers are there to browse slowly between stalls, others have a shopping list to fill and just want to get home and others have come to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy an ice-cold glass of pomegranate juice.
The delicious aromas fill the air of fresh baked goods, fruit and vegetables straight from the farms, pickles, pungent cheeses, fish straight from the sea, and that to-die-for aroma of freshly ground coffee. The colors come at you from all sides; vibrant red, orange, and pink clothing hanging from the awnings; the fruit of every color; shades of brown and green spices piled high and the people in the market also provide a dynamic mix of colors. In other words Carmel Market is alive! It is a dynamic, vibrant attraction that no tourist in Tel Aviv should miss. If you take a walk through the market you will see a slice of “real” life in Israel, from all echelons of society.
But the real draw to this one-of-a-kind market is the glimpse into the “real” Israeli character. The market vendors are vibrant characters each with their own banter as they call out to passersby. Locals doing their shopping in the market add another aspect of authenticity to HaCarmel.
The main street of the market, HaCarmel Street has a gentle downhill slope from Magen David Square on Allenby Street to a large parking lot near the sea. The market stalls are packed along HaCarmel Street and across nearby streets. The side streets veering off of HaCarmel hold more stalls and hole-in-the-wall eateries.
History of Shuk HaCarmel
In the 1920s the Tel Aviv neighborhood “Kerem HaTeimanim” (vineyard of the Yemenites) set up a make-shift marketplace called “HaKerem” (the Vineyard) on the site we now know a Shuk HaCarmel. Arthur Rupin, a Polish Zionist and one of the founders of Tel Aviv then helped a group of Russian immigrants to turn the market into a commercial hub. The fledgling municipal council saw the potential and encouraged the growth of the market area.
They officially made it a permanent market changing the name to Carmel Market after the main market street. In the 60s and 70s attempts were made to relocate the market but its authentic charm and local color had already earned a permanent place in the hearts of the people of Tel Aviv. The market has been renovated and improved several times over the years and is scheduled for another facelift in the coming years.
The Trendy New Carmel
In recent years Shuk HaCarmel has become a trendy spot for foodies seeking local delicacies, down-to-earth ethnic food, and gourmet food products. Among the market eateries you’ll find boutique coffee bars; freshly squeezed juice bars; chef-owned food stalls and traditional ethnic foods from around the world.
What to eat at Shuk HaCarmel
Apart from picking up ingredients from the produce stalls, there are many eateries in the market catering to all tastes. Among the stalls are simple, authentic eateries specializing in one or two local favorites prepared on the spot and eaten on the go. For example, there are grilled meats served in a baguette at Sasson; traditional Middle Eastern dishes at Savtot Mevshlot; Hummus HaCarmel serving homemade hummus and even Bunny Chow, a South African curry restaurant. Try one of the “barakas” a fried filed pastry sold by a recent contestant on the Israeli MKR cooking reality program.
What you can buy at Carmel Market
If you want to buy the ingredients for a picnic lunch or just browse the fresh produce you will find every kind of delicacy at Carmel Market. Food products on offer include spices, nuts, dried fruits, boutique cheeses, fish, meat, coffee ground on the spot, freshly baked goods, and halva. You can also see stalls selling plants, nargilas (hubbly bubbly), sweets, and delicatessen products. Among the other market stalls, there are vintage records, clothing, accessories, electronics, toys, household goods, shoes, jewelry, and beauty products.
Visiting Shuk HaCarmel
Shuk HaCarmel is centrally located and easy to access from the junction of Allenby, King George, and Sheinkin Streets. It is open from Sunday to Friday with Friday being the busiest day. Open hours are generally 8 am to sundown with early closing on Fridays. While here why not visit the adjacent arts and crafts market on Nahalat Binyamin Street or the nearby old Yemenite neighborhood where the market began.