One of the highlights of my recent trip to Tel Aviv to visit my daughter was a sojourn to the bustling Sarona Market in the heart of the city.
The market is both a homage to the hip international nature of modern Tel Aviv, and a monument to the German Templer colony that occupied the site in pre-state Israel.
The Templers, a sect of devout Christians, established the Sarona colony on the site in 1871, in the hopes of establishing a Christian kingdom in the Holy Land. Specializing in agriculture, the colony initially flourished, becoming home to hundreds of people by the turn of the century.
But when the British invaded in 1917, they expelled most of the Templers and turned the site into a field hospital. Many returned a few years later to find the colony in ruins, but were able to rebuild in short order.
Following the rise of Nazism in Germany, however, Sarona became one of the first international sites to serve as home to a Nazi party chapter. During the war, the British turned it into a camp and expelled most of its German residents.
More recently, in the 1990s, plans were being pushed to redevelop the site, but the Society for the Preservation of Historic Sites successfully lobbied to protect it.
In 2014, the Sarona Market opened, featuring 36 restored houses that are now home to restaurants and stores, along with a park and open-air market. The history of Sarona is detailed inside one of the former residences, which now acts as a museum; while the eclectic mix of shops and eateries show off the modern character of this vibrant city.
Comprising over 8,700 square metres, the market features over 90 food stalls and restaurants. Some of the more notable restaurants include the Segev Concept, an open food stand featuring Asian, Italian and kids meals in large black bowls, with a few tables and bar stools situated around the kitchen area. Nona, which is part of Segev Concept but across the path from it, has less expensive Japanese, Thai, Israeli and other types of bowls. Other well-known eateries include Fiori, a fresh pasta bar, and Hiro Freestyle Ramen Bar, which serves salads, ramen, gyoza, buns and stir fries.
The food stalls include the Hot Top, which sells baked potatoes with your choice of 14 toppings, La Fromageries, one of two cheese stores, and a Druze food cart. One of the most attractive stores is the Gelato Factory, which features 19 varieties of ice cream and tracks on the ceiling that carry ice cream containers around the ceiling. There are three other ice cream, frozen yogurt and smoothie shops in the market, offering ample opportunities to cool down with a sweet treat.
Likewise, La Farina bakery, one of 10 pastry shops, sells breads, croissants, rugelach, cookies and cakes.
There’s also a whole host of stores that sell quality groceries, along with four liquor stores that offer a wide selection of wines, spirits and beers. Von Fass, for example, sells 21 types of vinegars and 17 varieties of cooking oils, as well as spirits and liqueurs. Sasi has a huge selection of olives, artichoke hearts, olive oils and condiments. And Munches has a wide assortment of dried fruits, nuts, halva and spices.
There are also a number of tea and coffee shops where visitors can unwind. Buna Coffee Boutique has 12 kinds of coffee beans, coffee accessories and six brews from which to order, and Palais des Thes sells over 100 teas from all over the world and tea accessories.
Other shops include stores selling cooking utensils, cookware and kitchen equipment. Lavender sells olive oil soaps and creams. Perfuniq has perfumes.
Le Boucher has kosher meat, while Fishop serves fish dishes and operates a separate market that sells raw fish.
Sarona Market’s atmosphere is invigorating and energizing. Not only is it a fun experience, it can also be an educational one, connecting the area’s storied past with its lively present and bright future.
Sarona Market is located at Kalman Magen 3 Street in Tel Aviv.