If you really want to experience the Middle Eastern atmosphere; the hustle and bustle of daily life in Jerusalem and feel like you have stepped back in time then visit Jerusalem’s Old City market. The “suk” (Arabic for market) consists of a network of narrow ancient lanes in Jerusalem’s Old City. The stone streets and stone buildings flanking the narrow pedestrian streets are a thrilling place to people-watch and do some shopping for authentic mementos. One of the best ways of discovering the Old City suk is to join a Jerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock tour.
Jerusalem’s Old City market has been around in some form or another for hundreds of years. You’ll find the suk sprawled along the streets of the Old City’s Christian and Muslim Quarters. You can access the Christian Quarter section of the suk from Jaffa Gate or the Muslim Quarter suk from Damascus Gate. The markets in the Old City are open daily except for early closing on Fridays and closure on religious holidays.
If you hear about the “Three Markets” it refers to the Butchers’ Market; Spice Market and Goldsmiths’ Market that run above the Cardo in the Muslim Quarter. The three streets run parallel and are connected by narrow alleyways. Here you’ll find a mix of items on sale including electric goods; fresh produce, meat, household items, jewelry, fabric, and clothing. The “Arab Shuk” runs along David Street in close proximity to Jaffa Gate.
The “Muristan Market and Avtimus Market” are in the Christian Quarter near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Along this stretch, you can find many eateries, regular shops, and churches. David Street is to the south; the Butchers’ Market to the east and the Christian Quarter Road to the west. This area is where the Roman forum once stood and under the Crusader Knights Hospitallers, a hospital was established here.
The present-day Muristan market is named after the Crusader hospital (Muristan is a corruption of the Arabic word, “Bimaristan” meaning hospital). Many years later in 1903 when the Greek Orthodox Church owned the land, a market was established here by the Patriarchate Archimandrite Avtimus (now known as the Avtimus Market after the Patriarchate). At the center of Avtimus Market is an Ottoman Era fountain built in honor of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid the Second.
The items on sale in the shuk cover a wide range from kitschy tourist souvenirs and authentic locally made textiles to exquisite glassware and ordinary household items that the locals might need. You will also find religious items (Christian, Jewish, and Muslim); ceramics; jewelry; textiles; clothing; hookahs; statues; pots and pans; loofahs; copper and brass goods; luggage; musical instruments; hats; artwork; leather goods and much more.
This is a great place to come to sample the local street food. Get a fruit juice freshly squeezed as you wait; sample the local falafel and hummus or try the shawarma. Most importantly remember to haggle over the prices; ask permission before taking photos of locals; respect local norms and customs plus, as with any market, watch your bags.