The designated market, which runs along HaCarmel Street, is jam-packed with veggie stands. And that’s only half of it: a web of alleyways and side streets channel the market in all directions, meaning that restaurants and cafes abound with market-fresh ingredients at every turn.
Approaching the market’s main drag from Magen David Square gets you into the thick of the produce stands which flank HaCarmel Street.
Carmel Market isn’t just for produce: a handful of vendors sweeten the lot and sell candy of all shapes and stripes. Expect a colorful assortment of two-toned gummies, sour and striped ribbons, and mounds of brightly wrapped chews.
Whether it speaks to the country’s quotient for influential tech or its resourcefulness in desert terrain, a variety of modified fruits and vegetables are among Israel’s unique, homegrown flavors. One of the most notable is the tomato; Israel invented early modifications of the cherry tomato and most recently developed what inventors are calling the world’s smallest tomato.
Walking southwest through Carmel Market — past a lengthy stretch of miscellaneous riff-raff, like phone chargers and plastic trinkets — you’ll find a corner shop with a sign that simply reads: Coffee at the market. “If I start here, I’ll stop for an espresso,” says Solomon. On the walls, tubes dispense beans from around the world while various brewing equipment (like copper Turkish coffee pots) are up for grabs. It’s not third wave coffee, by any means, but it’ll give your first step a classic jolt.
“Most of the garlic people are buying in Israel is coming from China — it’s not very fresh,” says Solomon of the conventional produce found in nearby supermarkets (this isn’t a huge surprise, considering that the bulk of the world’s garlic comes from China). Throughout Carmel market, however, you’ll find that local garlic bulbs abound with vibrant, purple streaks and stems still attached.
Founded in 1935, making it one of the oldest vendors in Carmel Market, Amrami is a seasoned shop for dried fruits and spices. In order to score anything from fresh turmeric to cumin and paprika, Solomon recommends arriving on the weekends — the owner sources and grinds spices every Thursday or Friday, which means the weekend’s lineup is especially fresh.
Beneath exposed lightbulbs, layers of herbs pile atop market tables like a tapestry of leafy greens. Spot common Israeli ingredients like parsley, cilantro and dill alongside daily specials like hearty kale and purple basil.
What looks like frosted cakes without sprinkles are actually wheels of flavored halva, a typical Middle Eastern sweet made from sesame paste. Here, flavors range from coffee to chili-flavored halva.
With so much to eat, Carmel Market bursts with thirst quenchers, too. Most popular is an array of produce stands which press fresh pomegranates into a tart juice.
Filled with anything from pistachio to coconut and peanut, trays of baklava are among the market’s staple sweets — sticky, glistening traps for anyone hoping to resist dessert.
Kanafah stands out amongst the sweets. The Palestinian dessert is a cheesy, syrupy pastry topped with a bright red-orange surface that can’t be missed.
Spot heaps of tulumba, piped fried dough soaked in syrup, a popular street sweet by way of Turkey.
Cubes of Turkish delights, infused with anything from rose water to mango, round out the decadent spreads.
As for natural sweets, the bulk of apples are grown in northern Israel, namely the Golan Heights and Galilee, where cooler temperatures suit varieties like Golden Delicious and Granny Smith. “The pink lady is sweet and very fashionable to buy right now,” says Solomon.
Not without local flavor, the vendor sporting a red cap as well as the market’s best apples (according to Solomon) shouts the name of his shop to the deaf ears of tourists: “F--- the world,” he chants.
Right before the southern entrance, Carmella is one of the stands from which chef Solomon sources produce for CoffeeBar — it’s one of the more recognizable stands at Carmel Market.
At Carmella, Solomon particularly recommends the artichokes and miniature zucchini.
Here you’ll also spot kohlrabi, which Ohad likens to a radish, but with a “less strong, more subtle flavor.”
About a decade ago, the owners' sons launched a digital platform, now a phone app, which allows locals to order produce from Carmella and have it delivered straight to their door (slow food, but express delivery).
While travelers might not find much use picking through fresh produce, there are plenty of dried goods available at Carmel Market. Chief among them might be the plethora of dates, most of which are grown in desert groves planted more than half a century ago.
A smorgasbord of dried fruits, from strawberries to papaya and kiwis, make for another sweet and chewy takeaway.
Fresh olives, too, are easy enough to take with you, and they drive home the Mediterranean flavor peppered throughout Carmel Market.
Easy enough to bring home, spice blends made for home cooks span dried and ground chickpeas (for hummus), falafel mix, or seasoning for fish and meat.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper market in the Middle East without ample spices and herbs, which Carmel Market has in every color.
Israel’s relationship with seafood, namely shellfish, began to rise decades ago as non-kosher restaurants found a welcoming crowd in Tel Aviv. To that end, Solomon recommends the centrally located vendor, Raston, which sources all of its seafood from the Mediterranean.
“He works with a lot of restaurants and he brings a variety you can’t see a lot in Israel,” says Solomon, nodding to Raston’s selection. “I like the blue crabs, which are very small and sweet, and the crystal shrimps.”
Hugging Carmel Market’s central artery, a parallel street flanks produce stands with a meat market. Cutting to the chase, one of the worthiest names, Meatmarket, is as hip as a butcher gets along this block. Here, anything from roast beef to prime rib and dry-aged steak is displayed on black roasting pans.
Meatmarket’s owner, chef Yaron Kestenbaum, opened M25 a few years ago. The restaurant’s open kitchen stays close to the butcher shop’s heart — a literal 25-meter distance from the original shop. The cooks will prepare any fresh cut of your choice, from sirloin to prime rib.
Tiny eateries and hustling kiosks pepper the market, while larger restaurants (mostly svelte cafés with seats spilling onto the streets) pull fresh market flavors and young crowds.
A handful of staple joints cluster near the pedestrian intersection of HaCarmel and Rambam street. Tucked behind produce stands, what looks like a miniature synagogue is actually a front -- behind a sky-blue doorway, framed by windows embracing the Star of David, is Hummus HaCarmel, a restaurant which serves creamy, freshly made hummus that’s best eaten with a side of pickled veggie.
Nearby, Falafel Rambas almost always has a small crowd around its modest, metal counter. Following the tradition of his father, and using the same family recipe for decades, the owner’s tiny deep fryer cranks crunchy falafel.
In the same intersection, an outpost of BeerBazaar sits across from Falafel Rambam. While the bar has several locations throughout Tel Aviv (including a larger location just down the road), this open-air bar serves a taste of the small chain’s lineup: more than 100 local beers, some of which are house brews.
As for cheese, chef Solomon recommends Pinat Hagvinot Vehayain, a corner shop at the southern end of the market. “This is the best cheese in the market,” says Solomon of Pinat Hagvinot Vehayain. “Sixty percent is local, and the rest is imported mostly from Europe.”
At Pinat Hagvinot Vehayain, Solomon recommends getting a taste of the goat milk Labneh, a cheese with “the texture and richness of cream cheese” but with a sour cream tang, he says.
As for brands to consider, Solomon points to the sheep and goat milk cheese from Hameiri Tsfat Dairy — more than 170 years old, it’s considered to be the first dairy farm to have opened in Israeli.
If you’ve had your fill of farm fresh fare, Carmel Market is right in the middle of notable shopping streets — the best of which is just one block away.
From Carmel Market, head over one black to the cobbled Nahalat Binyamin Market where, on Tuesdays and Fridays, arts and crafts are on display up and down the street.
Here at Nahalat Binyamin Market, just around the corner from Carmel Market, all items besides replicas are handmade and sold by the artists themselves.