Israel's main markets are found in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. As for bargaining (not done at produce stalls)—sure, give it a go, but these days it's a hard drive, so decide if you want to have fun playing the game, or not. The difference in price is likely to be less than you think.
The Machaneh Yehuda Market offers produce that’s as flavorful as it is colorful. Recent additions to this collection of alleys running off the main market street include a sprinkling of boutique cafés, unusual restaurants, and small stores selling souvenirs, jewelry, and clothes from India. The market, quite a bit cheaper than the supermarket, is a great place to grab some goodies while on the go or for the hotel room later. You can go global––Italian pasta or Indian flavors––but you’ll do best with local specialties: kubeh soup at Ima’s, fresh bourekas or falafel, wonderful fruit and baked goods, and a chunk of sweet sesame halva.
Weaving through the Old City market (the souk) takes you back in time. Lavish rugs and fabrics, oriental ceramics, blown-glass items, not-so-antique antiques, beads, embroidered kaftans, and leather-thong sandals line the stone alleyways. Be cautious about buying items with an intrinsic value: gold, silver, precious stones, and antiquities may not be as advertised. Almost all the salespeople here speak some English, but a polite quip or two thrown at them in Arabic––check the nuances first!––may bring a wonderful smile, and perhaps a little discount. There's hummus and pickles, Arabic coffee, and honey-dripping pastries to buy. A word of caution about having expensive purchases (like olive-wood carvings) shipped by vendors in the market: some have been known to arrive damaged or not arrive at all. Stick to establishment stores. And beware of pickpockets (your passport is best left in the hotel safe).
The Carmel Market, or Shuk Hacarmel, begins at its top end (Allenby Road), with stalls of cheap clothes and housewares, and then becomes the city's primary produce market, extending almost down to the sea. The scents are sensational—fresh greens (mint, parsley, basil), lemons and other citrus fruit, salty herring, and more. It can get packed—hold onto your belongings, though pickpocketing isn’t usually a problem here. The shuk borders the Yemenite Quarter, with a host of small eateries offering local dishes.
You'll find some true artisans at the Nahalat Binyamin Pedestrian Mall, which becomes a crafts market (along with the unsung peddlers of imported goods) on Tuesdays and Fridays. It's a great place to pick up original and reasonably priced gifts. The pedestrian street converges with the Carmel Market at its Allenby Street end. It's lively, with street performers sharing space with shoppers and strollers, and especially crowded on Fridays and as holidays approach.
The Jaffa Flea Market has been reinvented. You’ll still find the warren of small streets with stands or holes-in-the-wall selling rugs, finjan coffee sets, clothes from India, jewelry, retro lamps, and other junk mixed with bargains; however, the city has cleaned up and brought some order to the old chaos. There's a definite appeal to the new good-quality stores offering furnishings, fashion items, jewelry, and crafts. Some great and/or funky eateries and cafés complete the transformation.Updated: 11-2013
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