In recent years, the word has spread about Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market turning into a center of nightlife, with a unique collection of bars and pubs. Even long after the last produce stalls have closed, the market is filled with people out for food, drink or dancing. One of the best ways to truly experience this special atmosphere is to embark on Yalla Basta’s weekly Thursday evening tour of the market’s bars. “You really get a behind-the-scenes story that you would not otherwise know,” explains Noa Shilman, manager of tours at Yalla Basta, a company focusing on culinary experiences in Israel.
“You meet bar-owners and hear stories about the history of the shuk, and discover small places that are not so well-known.” Beginning at 8:30 p.m. each Thursday, a local tour guide leads whoever signs up for this adventure through the alleyways of the market, from one bar to another, stopping frequently to taste alcoholic drinks, including beer and cocktails, as well as food. “Even people from Jerusalem don’t know all the bars we visit,” Shilman says. Highlights include Beer Bazaar, one of the first large craft beer bars in Israel; Tap N’ Tail, which makes craft cocktails with ingredients found in the market; and Jimmy’s Parliament, one of the oldest bars in the market, which also often hosts live music. There are also often stops for knafeh, a sweet Middle Eastern cheese pastry and coffee.
“The guide talks about history, food, drinks and other things, but drinking is also a big part of the tour,” Shiman says. “So at a certain point, after the participants have a few drinks, the guide gives less information and it just becomes about the experience.” When the tours end around 10:30 p.m., there is still plenty of time to continue exploring or to return for a longer visit to one of the places on the tour.
In addition, we recommend sitting down in HaShchena, which, true to its name, has a neighborhood feel. Pull up a stool to the large wooden bar, or settle into one of the tables on the terrace overlooking the bustling Beit Yaakov Street, one of the most lively areas of the market’s nightlife. Choose a unique cocktail, or a bottle of Israeli beer, enjoyed with simple snacks like popcorn or pickles, or more substantial dishes like pizza or salad. Next door, Yudale, a wine bar is also well-worth checking out not only for its drinks, but also for its creative Mediterranean-style food, prepared with fresh-from-the-market ingredients by the same chefs behind the gourmet Machneyuda restaurant. Yalla Basta also offers other organized market culinary tours, and private tours, along with independent audio-guided tasting tours, and digital tours. For more information, contact Yalla Basta with this form, call 076-5398000, or email: email@example.com.