Jerusalem is a vibrant city and home to some of the most important sites for three of the world’s major religions. It has tons of history and cultural activities to offer — but it also has one of the biggest and best markets in Israel with some amazing food. Every city in the country has at least one outdoor market where locals buy produce, bread, spices, nuts, and more. But Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda Market is a giant maze that also includes incredible food stalls and even sit-down restaurants and bars. Here is my guide to eating your way through this culinary haven.
This little stall serves up some of the best Yemenite food in less than five minutes. If you don’t know Yemenite food, it’s basically different types of delicious bread. The stall’s namesake, jachnun, is a flaky dough, similar to the filo-dough, that is rolled up into a log and slow cooked overnight. It’s served with a hard-boiled egg, crushed tomato sauce, and spicy sauce. The stall’s other option is malawach, which is made of the same flakey dough but in a pancake form.
At Jachnun Bar, they cook it up made to order and you can choose from multiple toppings to roll up inside it like hummus, olives, onions, pickles, crushed tomatoes, spicy sauce, egg, and cheeses. It’s basically like a Middle Eastern filo dough pancake burrito and is incredible. You can also get a malawach pizza!
The name is a nod to the market, Machaneh Yehuda, where all of the ingredients for the menu are bought. Their offerings change daily according to what the chef is feeling and what is fresh in the market.
Machneyuda is not the cheapest place to eat, but it lives up to the hype of being one of the best restaurants in the city. The cuisine reflects the local culture — with fresh salads, fish, and meat options with Arab and Israeli influence. They also have a tasting menu that includes a bit of everything, including the polenta, their most famous dish.
Azura is a household name in Jerusalem, having been opened since 1952. It’s a family owned and run restaurant located in the Iraqi part of the shuk (Machane Yehuda Market) that serves a flavorful mix of Iraqi, Kurdish, and Sephardic (Moroccan/Spanish Jewish) food.
Their most well-known dish is the kubbeh soup. Kubbeh are like croquettes stuffed with meat, nuts, and spices, and they float in this flavorful soup. They also serve classics like shakshuka (poached egg in tomato sauce), amazing hummus, majadra (lentils and rice), or meatballs.
It has a great neighborhood atmosphere with outdoor seating and the service is fast and friendly.
Craving something healthy or a refreshing drink to cool down while exploring the market? Uzi Eli’s stand is the place to go. He offers freshly squeezed, colorful juices in unique varieties — everything from classic pomegranate and orange to gat, sugarcane, and quince.
He’s a great salesman, and will even take the time to tell you the health benefits of his different juices.
Of course, a food tour of Jerusalem wouldn’t be complete without some classic Jerusalem mixed grill — a mix of chicken organs like hearts, liver, breast, and spleen cooked on a flat grill, seasoned with a mix of spices and onions, and served in a pita.
Hatzot is the original and has been serving up this sandwich since the 1970s. You can also start your meal with an assortment of fresh salads, dips, and mezzes, and then finish with dessert. It’s a true Israeli dining experience that will leave you full and satisfied.
If you still have room for dessert after eating your way through the Machane Yehuda Market, Marzipan Bakery has some of the most famous pastries in Israel, specifically rugalach. Rugalach is a traditional Jewish dessert that comes from Europe and is sold almost everywhere in Israel, but marzipan takes it to a whole new level.
Similar to a croissant, rugalach is a triangular piece of dough that is rolled up, usually around a filling of chocolate, but sometimes cinnamon and nuts. Marzipan’s chocolate rugalach — especially when eaten fresh — are rich, buttery, soft, and practically melt in your mouth. They’re so good that you can even freeze and reheat them and they’ll still have the same taste and texture.
After you wake up from your food coma, you can head back to Machane Yehuda Market at night for an entirely different experience. All of the vendors except a few bars and restaurants are closed, and the entire market turns into a bit of an after-hours hipster hangout.
Sometimes different bars host parties, but no matter what is happening on a given night, Beer Bazaar is a solid choice. It’s one of the only places in Israel to offer a variety of craft beers, including local Israeli brews and foreign ones. They have a typical offering of bar food and a good atmosphere to sit with friends for a few drinks.
Author’s Favorite Travel Gear
Chaco Sandals (Zx/2 Classic): This sandal is a necessity for traveling in warm places where you’ll be hiking, walking a lot, or walking through bodies of water. I’ve tried other similar brands, and these are by far the best. Unlike other outdoor sandals, the toe strap on this one really helps keep your foot in place and prevent slipping.
Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment: This stuff works wonders for your skin. It can be used as chapstick, to moisturize dry hands or other parts of the body. It’s also particularly useful to rehydrate your skin on long plane rides.
Sea to Summit Silk Stretch Travel Liner: A sleeping bag liner has a number of uses, no matter what type of trip you’re on. If you’re staying in hostels, it provides extra bed-bug protection or can be used instead of sheets if the hostel doesn’t provide them. It can also be used like a sleeping bag to keep warm while traveling between destinations on any form of transportation.