Right in the heart of Tel Aviv beats the pulse of bustling shoppers, market stall owners shouting out their sales pitch to attract customers, loud-speakers blasting out Middle Eastern rhythms and the constant chatter of people going to and fro. Some shoppers are there to browse slowly between stalls, others have a shopping list to fill and just want to get home and others have come to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy an ice cold glass of pomegranate juice. The delicious aromas fill the air of fresh baked goods, fruit and vegetables straight from the farms, pickles, pungent cheeses, fish straight from the sea and that to-die-for aroma of freshly ground coffee. The colors come at you from all sides; vibrant red, orange and pink clothing hanging from the awnings; fruit of every color; shades of brown and green spices piled high and the people in the market also provide a dynamic mix of colors. In other words Carmel Market is alive! It is a dynamic, vibrant attraction which no tourist in Tel Aviv should miss. If you take a walk through the market you will see a slice of “real” life in Israel, from all echelons of society.
Carmel Market began as a small neighborhood “shuk” (market) in the nearby Kerem HaTeimanim (Vineyard of the Yemenites). The market was then called “HaKerem.” With the addition of Russian immigrants the market grew and the range of goods expanded. The thriving commerce caught the eye of Tel Aviv mayor Meir Disengoff who encouraged the market to grow and become a permanent fixture. The market was renamed Shuk HaCarmel and the street became HaCarmel Street. In the 1920s-1930s a competing market was set up nearby by local Arab farmers and tension grew between the two markets. There were the occasional outbreaks of violence. At one point Arab snipers even took shots at shoppers in Carmel Market from the Hassan Bey Mosque. You can still see the picturesque mosque at the bottom of the market between the market and the seafront. During the early years of the State of Israel in the 1950s food was scarce at times and the market became a vital source of food for locals.
Today the market is at its best, the public are now more aware of the value of locally sourced ingredients, “buying blue” (Israeli made goods) and enjoying the outdoor shopping experience. Now shopping in Shuk HaCarmel is not only a necessary household duty for local housewives it is also a trendy activity, a source of entertainment and a pleasant outing which usually ends with a good cup of coffee in one of the nearby cafes.
Carmel Market runs the length of HaCarmel Street from Megen David Square on Alenby Street downhill along one pedestrian-only street to Hakovshim Garden. The market has goods ranging from the lowest quality to boutique-style goods. You can find delicacies like French pastries, cured meats and hand-made traditional ethnic dishes. In addition to the market stalls there are a number of restaurants and cafes in the market. There is Sasson, selling grilled meat in a pita or baguette; Savtot Mevshlot serving traditional Middle Eastern dishes; Café B’Shuk; Coffee Lab; La Café; Mae Café; Hummus HaCarmel serving delicious hummus made on the premises and HaKitzonet (The Little Meatball) serving hearty home-style Middle Eastern meals. Of course you can always buy the fresh ingredients to eat as they are or take home to prepare a meal. There are large blocks of halva in various flavors, row apron row of candy, Carmel Delicatessen selling Israeli-made cheeses; freshly squeezed juices and roasted nuts of every kind. Carmel Market is a great place for buying cheap clothing, low-cost toys, electronics and even plants for your garden.
Nachalat Benyamin runs parallel to the Carmel Market, the section starting from Alenby Street is pedestrian-only and is a popular area for sidewalk cafes, unique eateries, specialty stores and many fabric stores. This stretch of the street is lined on both sides with Tel Aviv’s famous Bauhaus buildings characterized by ornate wrought iron balconies.
Nachlat Benyamin Arts and Crafts Fair
The street comes to life on Tuesdays and Fridays when it hosts an outdoor arts and craft market. The fair was established in 1988 and is the oldest and largest market of this kind in Israel. With over 200 artists presenting their creations at the market there is a committee which approves each artist in order to maintain the high standard of work. Another of the committee’s criteria for acceptance is that the artists must have made the product themselves and the artist must be the person selling the goods behind the stall during the fair. The items include crafted jewelry, ornaments, trinkets, hand-made dolls and toys, ceramics, handbags, photographs, wire crafts, art made from recycled items, silver items, glassware, wood carvings, home-made soap, embroidery, paper sculptures, stained glass, dried flowers, leather work, paintings, artistically designed household items and much more. The market attracts visitors with street performers and live musical performances.
- The Nachalat Benyamin Arts and Crafts Fair operates in June on Tuesdays, 10am to 6pm and Fridays 10am-5pm; in September it stays open on Tuesdays until 5pm and in the winter until 5pm on Tuesdays and Friday until 4:30pm.
- There is plenty of parking close to Carmel Market and Nachalat Benyamin if you approach from the bottom end of the market closest to the sea. There is a large public car park where you pay by the hour at Ahuzat HaHof Carmel-Kalisher Street, corner of HaCarmel Street. Alternatively there are buses which stop at the top of the market along Alenby Street.
- The nearest ATM machines are at Alenby Street 65 (Bank HaPoalim) and Alenby 76 (Bank Discount).
- Public toilets can be found at the upper end of the market on Alenby Street in the pedestrian underpass.
- Carmel Market operates from 8am until sundown daily except Fridays when the market closes early in the afternoon and Saturdays when the market is closed all day.