Jerusalem's open-air market, Mahane Yehuda, has in recent years grown to be a bona fide mainstream tourist destination among Israelis and international arrivals alike. Conveniently located minutes away from the city center, it is a microcosm of everything Jerusalem has to offer. Known to Jerusalemites as simply the shuk (market) or "Machne" (an amorous slurring and truncating of the proper title), Mahane Yehuda is Israel's most sprawling and buzzing network of alleys and vending stalls. Today, Mahane Yehuda is more accessible and more thoroughly documented than ever before, as the recently launched comprehensive Machne.co.il website's interactive maps, interviews with vendors and bookable themed tours attest. Last week marked the launch of Machne's English-language launch, increasing the market's reach many times over.
The allure here is the intoxicating mix of Jerusalem colors and flavors, where 80-year-old Kurdish immigrants peddle Kenyan coffee beans by the kilo to South American Hasidim, and tank-top-clad Colorado-bred hippies squeeze almond juice to order for Armenian monks.
Only at Mahane Yehuda do espresso bars, photography galleries and fashion boutiques vie for space with butchers, percolator repairmen and okra vendors, and it's this buzz-inducing brew that draws camera-toting crowds.
It’s easy to match tastes and budgets with an unforgettable few hours in the shuk. Whether you fancy trying imported cheeses, marbled halva, folk tonics, boutique olive oils, handcrafted breads, sweets, organic wines and spirits, or want to combine a guided shopping trip in the shuk with a chef-led cooking workshop, Machne’s website allows users to arrange it. One of the most compelling Machne offerings is Shuk Bites, a self-guided tour of some of the best tastes of the market. Online customers can already buy the Shuk Bites punch-card with an easy-to-follow map and a list of ten stalls which offer tantalizing morsels of food or drink plus colorful stories. Purchasers of the Shuk Bites tour mosey through the market at their own pace and in any order they wish, enjoying several hundred shekels' worth of merchandise, and entertainment, for a highly affordable price tag of NIS 99.
Special events and festivals take place at Mahane Yehuda throughout the year. The Balabasta festival on Monday nights throughout the summer is definitely one of the annual highlights. The festival brings the Shuk to life after hours, transforming it into a lively carnival, with special events and attractions including live music, workshops and performances, food contests and giveaways, dancers, DJs, video art, origami exhibits and more. In addition the market stalls, cafes and pubs extend their opening hours late into the night.