While the most famous market in Israel is in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv still has its fair share of markets and they are certainly worth a visit. One of these is the Levinsky Market, which some have described as a Pandora’s box of immigrant stories dating back to the end of the nineteenth century. It also happens to be one of the central streets in Florentin where we are based. Our office is in fact right next to the market.
All of Israel’s markets are colourful places and full of life and the Levinsky Market, which is famous for its spices, is no exception. While on your gap year in Tel Aviv you will soon find that it is a bustling place with a fantastic vibe and a great place to meet locals and enjoy some delicious food.
The Levinsky Market used to be the main market in Tel Aviv and it is situated in what was then considered to be Tel Aviv’s centre. It is located on Levinsky Street in the south of the city and is open every day but busiest on Fridays when you’ll see people come to stock up on their favourite spices, ground coffee and nuts before the weekend.
The market was first run by Greek Jews who arrived from Thessaloniki before World War II to help and build the Jaffa port. However, the nature of the market began to change in the 1950s when immigrants began to arrive from Iran and brought their spices to Israel. It was this that led to the market becoming the spice heaven of Tel Aviv and it has retained this characteristic to this day.
Despite its reputation as a spice market, the Levinsky Market offers almost every type of food you can think of so be sure to explore it. For instance there is a fairly new and amazingly popular hummus place called Garger Ha Zahav (which means Golden Seed), which is directly opposite from our office and classrooms and it is certainly worth sampling their food.
If you are a fan of fish then you can pop next door to Victor’s which specialises in fresh and salted fish. The shop was opened by Victor’s grandfather 84 years ago when he immigrated to Israel from Argentina and the shop has barely changed to this day.
Two of the most famous delis in the market are Haim Rafael and Yom Tov founded in 1958 and 1947 respectively. Haim Rafael was founded by a holocaust survivor from Thessaloniki and the Yom Tov family came to Israel from Turkey.
Those that enjoy pastries and sweet things should visit Bourekas Penso. The shop was founded 70 years ago by a Turkish immigrant and has seen four generations of storeowners since then. The shop is particularly famous for its spinach and feta cheese bourekas.
There are of course plenty of spice shops to visit. However, if you want to stop for a coffee while spice shopping try the Café Atlas. It is a spice and coffee shop run by a Georgian couple who have been there for the last 40 years. The shop is famous for its unprocessed coffee as well as a fresh chai masala tea blend.
If you’re living in Tel Aviv during your gap year or semester with Aardvark, you’ll have plenty of time to be able to pop into these places in between classes or on your way to your internship. Many of our students strike up relationships with the store-owners along the Levinsky market as they pass it every day. You can also find stores that you love and perhaps find out the story behind its owners. It’s sure to be interesting!