Despite many efforts (mostly from religious parties), Jerusalem is slowly becoming more modern, up to date with the world. It’s a prolonged process, but the historic streets inhabit more malls and bars, more hotels, and renovated homes than ever before. In stark contrast to these changes stands Machane Yehuda Market – A symbol to the classic Jerusalem, preserved as it was hundreds of years ago. The signs are a bit more friendly, and we doubt you could find so much candy there a hundred years ago, but you get the idea.
You can get to the market (or in Hebrew: Shuk) by navigating to Aggripas Street. The market is stretched from Aggripas to Jaffa street and is made of wide streets that branch into smaller alleyways, all dotted with vendors and shops. This market excels at fresh food: fish, vegetables, huge pyramids of amazing smelling spices – they all contribute to the one-of-a-kind look and smell of this colorful market; it’s so beautiful and special that you won’t feel so out of place – many Israelis visit Jerusalem as tourists to walk around the shuk, take photos and get a few local bagels (do that too, get those bagels!).
The market is open every day (except for Saturdays) from very early in the morning to the early evening. It’s bustling on Thursdays and Friday mornings, as people from all over come to get ingredients for Shabbat Dinner. If you’re not planning to buy a whole lot, or if you’ve seen this market before, it can actually be very nice to come on a Friday morning and see all the hassle of old grandmas with piles of fresh food, haggling for that extra bag of Cumin.
Fear not – the fact that you’re tourists in the holiest of cities has not escaped the merchants’ attention. There are plenty of souvenirs to buy and Judaica (if you’re into that). You can find paintings, shirts, camel dolls, stars of David, bottles of holy water. Anything to prove you stepped on the holy ground of Jerusalem. We think a picture would be enough, but hey, it’s your trip.
Machane Yehuda (or as it’s called here – Hashuk) is so big and varied; it’s possible to get lost in all the streets and signs with squiggly lines on them. If you’re really interested in getting to know this historic place, we recommend getting a private tour. They’re usually very cheap, and show you all the hidden corners of the market. You might want to go on a tour as part of a cooking class in this specific market. These tours will take you across the market, from shop to shop, to gather ingredients for the following local cooking class. We highly recommend this as a way to familiarize yourself with the city through its tastes.