Join us as we visit epic sites in Israel that are a little off the beaten path!
We begin this journey at Jerusalem’s outdoor Mahane Yehuda fruit and vegetable market. During the day it is Israel’s largest open air market with vendors selling all manner of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables as well as a dizzying variety of breads, exotic spices, cheeses, meats and more. The “Shuk,” as it is known by locals, is patronized by Israelis from all walks of life looking for bargains while enjoying a cup of coffee, a kube soup or a falafel, especially on Thursdays and Fridays when Jerusalemites do their last minute shopping in anticipation of the Sabbath.
Founded in 1887, today everyone knows about the Shuk, and it is on most tourists’ itineraries when visiting Jerusalem. However, unlike most outdoor produce markets around the world – Mahane Yehuda does not shut down at night. Rather, it transforms into Jerusalem’s premiere dining, drinking and entertainment hub.
That’s right – as the sun sets, the produce stalls give way to seating for any number of bars, and the yells of merchants hawking their wares is replaced by DJ driven beats, live music, and restaurants that offer an eclectic variety of dining options. You have the traditional grilled meat emporiums that have been a mainstay of the Shuk for decades – the best of which is Morris, run by Morris Bitton who has been grilling meat at the Shuk for over 30 years.
Thanks to increased gentrification in the neighborhood, the traditional eateries have been joined by a cosmopolitan mix of restos selling Latin street food, Mexican Burritos, Asian Noodles, Fish and Chips, fresh pasta, sushi, Lebanese food, ice cream, fancy pastries, waffles and more! You may want to check out the new kid on the block, Crave!, a restaurant that specializes in Street Food and Deli. Helmed by Chef Todd Aarons, a former Chef at Tierra Sur, the upscale restaurant at Herzog Wineries in Oxnard California, Crave’s specialties include their delicious Reubens sandwich and authentic Mexican Fish Tacos.
You can also sate your thirst and enjoy the lively bar scene at the Shuk – from the hipster enclave that is Casino de Paris, to the beer lovers paradise at Beer Bazaar – the pub scene is constantly evolving. Take a walk around at night – you can walk from one end to the other in under 5 minutes – and find your favorite spot!
As the evening progresses, the drinking often combines with dancing and during holidays like Purim and Israel Independence Day, the Shuk becomes a veritable open air rave with thousands of Jerusalem’s party people joining a giant celebration that has to be seen to be believed – you’d be hard pressed to find anything like this anywhere else in the world – and most visitors to Israel miss this because they think the Shuk is just for produce and Jerusalem is just for prayer.
The Shuk is ever evolving. Just a few years ago there was only one cafe and two family-style restaurants on the site. Who knows what the next years will bring. But until the next big shift, make it a point to enjoy the wild cornucopia of sights and sounds that is Machane Yehuda at night!
Visit www.israel.travel for more info on travel in Israel