Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanza are celebrated around the time of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. At this holiday season, I am pleased to announce the opening of my new online store, Designed in Israel, where you can buy products (like calendars and notecards) that include images of my photographs and artwork. As far as I know I am the only Israel guide that has an online store [update, as of 2017 the store no longer exists].
Mahane Yehuda, also just called the Shuk, is an outdoor, covered market (so you can visit even on one of those cold and rainy Jerusalem winter days) that sells fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, spices, halva, baklava, bread, pastries, chocolate, cheeses, salads, fish, meat, housewares, clothes, flowers – almost any food you could think of.
When walking around Mahane Yehuda you stimulate all your senses: sight – check out the arrangements and colors of the fresh fruit and vegetables, sound – listen to the vendors hawking their wares, Middle Eastern music on CDs, davvening/prayers, smell – fresh breads and pastry, taste – free tastes of halva, often new fruit in season, you can always ask if you can have a taste and touch.
The busiest times are late Thursday and on Friday when many people are buying things for Shabbat but if you don’t mind the bustle you’ll have a great experience. Invited to dinner, the shuk (market) is a great place to pick up something to show your appreciation to your hosts.
The Shuk is bounded by Jaffa Road on the north and Agrippas Street to the south; the 2 main streets of the Shuk are Mahane Yehuda Street and Etz Hayyim Street, with a number of smaller cross streets, named after fruits: Tapuah=Apple, Afarsek=Peach, Agas=Pear, Shezif=Plum, Shaked=Almond, Tut=Berry. If you agree to receive an email with my latest blog post I’m happy to email you my *FREE* map of Mahane Yehuda to help you navigate the market. If you’re interested in learning about the history of the market, discovering and experiencing its specialness rather than exploring on your own then contact me to guide you.
Wine, beer and liquor, both local and imported, are available at a number of stores, the drinking age in Israel is 18 – imbibe responsibly. Israel now produces many fine wines – besides the Golan and Yarden brands, there are smaller boutique wineries all over the country (Galil, Dalton, Yatir, Etzion, Tabor to name just a few) and the prices are a fraction of what you would pay back home. Another great idea is to visit a winery while you are touring Israel and are in the area.
If you’re going to pick up some Israeli wine then why not cheese and make it a party. When I lived in Cambridge MA the corner store we walked to was a Whole Foods and if you’ve ever been to one you know that their cheese department is incredible – it was one of the things that I knew I was really going to miss about living in Jerusalem. And then one day, while walking through Mahane Yehuda I discovered Basher’s, cheeses imported from all over the world (many are kosher, exercise due diligence) plus some fine Israeli cheeses; just for your information they also carry an assortment of artisan breads, fine wines and chocolates. Be careful as it’s easy to spend more money than you budgeted.
If you begin to feel a little hungry, there are a lot of restaurants and cafes where you can sit down and enjoy a meal from hummus and felafel to a full, multi-course meal. Two of my favorites are Topolino, a small, family-run restaurant at 62 Agrippas that serves pasta, pizza and fish dishes (kosher) and Ichikadana, an Indian vegetarian restaurant (kosher) at 4 HaEshkol Street – the cook and owner is originally from India (in either case, please tell them that Shmuel recommended them).
Mahane Yehuda is no longer just a fruit and vegetable market but has gentrified – today there are some fine restaurants and cafes, designer clothes, gift shops.
Teller now has a stall in the shuk in addition to the bakery on Agrippas which now is also a cafe.
HaEshkol Street has some unique eateries: Alfonso, a cafe with some organic items; Bistro Mimi run by a chef from France; Mousseline which may be the best ice cream in Israel and HaKhachapuriya, a cafe with Georgian specialties.
Another artisan bakery at 2 HaDekel, they also have a stall in the market.
Basher has opened a Wine & Cheese Bar at 21 Agrippas Street.
You can tell a lot about a city by whether it has an outdoor market and Jerusalem has a great market. In 1982 for a book called “Israel Sprouts: A Vegetarian Guidebook (to Israel)” I drew a map of Mahane Yehuda to help people find their way around. I scanned that map and added a lot of new information so that it better reflects Mahane Yehuda today – it’s not just a fruit and vegetable market with shops selling dried goods. It has gentrified and there are restaurants and cafes, designer clothes shops, health food stores, artisan bakeries, shops that sell imported cheeses, fine wines, chocolates, halva.
In the 5 years that the map has been on my website, it has been viewed more than 6,000 times. The map is © Shmuel Browns, you are free to use it for personal, non-commercial use as long as you do not modify it. If you have corrections or suggestions please contact me by email.
To help organize the information I’ve separated the information into 3 maps and color coded them, one for restaurants, one for gifts and one for food shopping. To get your FREE copy of the latest maps I’d appreciate it if you would subscribe by entering your email address in the right hand column under FOLLOW BLOG – then just send an email to mahane.yehuda.map at gmail dot com. With these maps in hand you’re ready to head out to explore the shuk on your own or contact me for an insider’s guided tour of Mahane Yehuda. Have fun exploring the shuq.
Some ideas about things to do with the help of this map:
- Mid-morning and you went out without breakfast – check out the health food stores on Agrippas Street, buy some fresh fruit, like pineapple, star fruit, kiwis, mangos; try a bureka, a filo pastry with cheese and/or spinach.
- Want organic? There is organic produce and products at TevaNet on Agrippas and an organic restaurant on #1 Agas Street, note that Agas is called Banai at Mahane Yehuda Street.
- Picnic? Head for one of the stores like Basher or Zedkiyahu and pick up an assortment of cheeses & salads. Get artisan breads at Teller. Wine? Fruit for desert. Walk down Agrippas Street (west, away from town) to the park, Gan Sacher.
- Snack – felafel (in our family, the favorite is the brothers Levi on the corner of Mahane Yehuda and Agrippas Street). For hummus try Rachmo, Agas 1 or Azura.
- Feel like eating something else – Ichikadana is a vegetarian Indian restaurant on HaEshkol Street, Topolino is a cozy, Italian restaurant, both are family run.
- Looking for a present for loved ones back home – check out handicrafts at Roza, pottery at Pri HaAdama, Moroccan crafts at Rika.