A First Timer's Guide to Tel Aviv's Carmel Market
So you've survived the killer 10 hour flight, aye? Congrats. Now on to the fun stuff.
If you're not doing a tour of any sort and are planning to just chill around Tel Aviv, chances are your senior crew members have suggested going to Carmel Market. And you should. A trip to Carmel Market, also known as Shuk HaCarmel, is the perfect introduction to Tel Aviv's lively and robust culture.
I love open-air marketplaces because you really get a feel for a city that's otherwise unfamiliar. The art of haggling, shopping alongside locals, and exploring the spices & produce native to the land is exciting and something one should definitely experience while in a foreign country. Trips to TLV are few and wide in between, but each time I always find myself at the market first thing in the morning. I wanted to share some of my favorite places to visit inside Carmel in hopes that you'll love them as much as I do.
Also, If you're heading to the market alone, don't be intimidated! The people are super welcoming, everyone speaks English (that shouldn't deter you from learning some common phrases in Hebrew before you go, though!), and it's really easy to navigate.
Leon’s shop is just a few stalls down on the right hand side when you first enter the market. There’s not really a visible sign, so just look for the man who's resembles the Israeli Andrew Zimmern.
But it’s not food he’s selling. More like soaps, creams, mud masks, bath salts and other products made from Dead Sea minerals. Although Leon’s isn’t the only stall in the market that carries skincare items, his larger-than-life personality is why you should shop with him. The dude is a character and ALWAYS throws in freebies! Every flight attendant knows Leon, and Leon pretends like he knows every flight attendant.
Oh and just a little tip: you can't exchange shekel coins once back in the US, and unless you're a speaker, chances are you aren't flying to TLV often. I like to visit Leon's at the end of my trip when I want to get rid of the change I have in my purse. Even if you don't find something you like or would use, I'm sure someone back home would appreciate a little something something! :)
Bar Ochel is an adorable little restaurant and my absolute fave place to get lunch at. Sit at the bar to interact with the cooks, bartenders, and other diners and also because it has the perf view to people watch everyone wander through the market. The place is super chill but also has a really fun vibe. For examps, whenever someone decides to ring the bell hanging in the center of the kitchen, a waitress hands out free shots to everyone around the bar while yelling out "L'chaim!" (cheers!). My kinda restaurant.
You really can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. The cocktails are refreshing, the kebabs are delicious, but you really, really need to try the shakshuka. I had shakshuka for the first time ever here, and even though I’ve had it at other places since, nothing compares.
A small, unassuming stand that only has about 8 stools, BeerBazaar is where you go for good beer and good conversation. Their is motto “to spread love and beer, the Israeli way”.
BeerBazaar carries dozens of craft beers from all over Israel and the bartenders love to strike up a convo. If you’re looking for a local’s recommendation on where to eat or party, ask these guys, as they consider themselves the “unofficial information desk” of the area. Although there are a few scattered throughout Tel Aviv, the first one that started it all is right there at Carmel Market.
Falafel Rambam is another place you might miss if you’re not looking. And you do not wanna miss this place, do you hear me?!
It's literally across from BeerBazaar. It’s just a guy and a cart, making fresh falafel nonstop. Just walk up and tell him you want one, and in a few minutes you’ll have a mouth-watering pita stuffed with falafel and veggies. There’s also a ton of sauces on the cart so you can adjust the spice level. The best part is that it will only set you back 12 shekels, so if you’re ballin on a budget on your layover this is where to go for a cheap but filling meal.
One thing to keep in mind is that Tel Aviv is a fairly expensive city. Of course you can bargain when it comes to handicrafts, jewelry, etc., but as far as food & drink goes, expect to pay the same as you would here in the $tates.
If you do end up going to any of these places (or have before), I wanna hear about your experience! Did you love it? Did you hate it? What did Leon try to sell you? Also, what other gems have you discovered at Carmel?? Share the love and tell me your favorite things to and buy from the market in the comments, & maybe I'll try something new next time ;)