Centrally located on the north-south axis in Tel Aviv is the neighborhood of Sarona. German Lutherans under the Ottoman Empire first established Sarona 140 years ago. The settlement declined over time, and the buildings were all but in ruins. Then, in the mid-2000’s, a project began to restore the old suburb entirely. Today, Sarona is a thriving and highly sought after piece of real-estate with many great activities for families.
The Shopping Area
Not more than ten minutes by car from the beach and Azrieli Mall, this shopping venue was an excellent place to spend the afternoon. Surrounded by restored buildings of yesteryear, we saw plenty of family-friendly eateries, clothing, and toy stores.
In front of the entrance to the luxurious food market, there was a shaded playground with equipment geared for all ages and abilities. The area featured climbing walls, gyroscopes, twirling roundabouts, and other accessories that are perfect for children, especially those with sensory issues. Also, the whole playground was constructed on rubberized soft-play flooring under shading. While children played with little supervision needed, adults could keep an eye on them while resting.
The Food Market
The Sarona Market, which opened in August 2015, is the largest indoor food market in Israel. It is open every day of the week including the Sabbath which adds to its uniqueness.
There were almost 100 different stalls and stores in the vast space, a feast for eyes and taste buds! Visitors could enjoy purchases on the premises, buy food to take home or eat at a picnic spot nearby. The market covered an area of nearly 30,000 square feet and was a sea of colors, fragrances, and aromas.
Meats, Pastas, and Lunch Items
We toured the market on a Friday afternoon soon after it opened. We saw many new vendors and excited crowds enjoying the culinary delights offered. Many vendors, like the popular falafel stall staff, handed out free samples.
As we walked around, we saw specialty artisan pasta, pastries, jams, spreads, and sauces. We counted at least two delis where visitors could build their own sandwiches while enjoying freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. We even tried a tarragon soda!
There were long lunchtime lines with shoppers, some with their dogs on leashes, ordering sandwiches and other delicious treats. We noted Tapas, German sausages and pretzels, and a station for Druze cuisine from which to choose.
Next, we stopped to gawk at the fish and seafood bar. We also saw the kosher butchery, which displayed beautifully presented meat, and the shop selling family recipe stuffed vegetables.
For Coffee lovers seeking libations, there were plenty of options offering specialty cappuccinos and lattes.
Wine, Cheeses, and Sweets
We enjoyed the wine shop with a unique tasting room which worked on a swipe-card method. The venue featured soft cups that looked like glass but were made out of plastic so they couldn’t break.
The sight of many colored olives in different marinades and cheeses such as white, yellow, soft, hard, smelly, imported and local grabbed our attention while we passed by the store. Nearby we noticed a stall selling kitchen supplies, olive oils, and whiskeys where buyers could even mix their own liqueurs.
The massive selection of pick and mix sweets, candies, chocolates, and dried fruit available in the market could cause patrons to mull over options for hours. The market offered a fantastic selection of desserts from which to choose. These included natural fruit sorbets, ice-creams, a fill-your-bucket with cookies option and our son’s personal favorite – the crêperie offering several fillings for crêpes.
Noteworthy was the Halva Kingdom, featuring an incredible variety of the sesame treat in custom flavors like banana, cashew, pecan, and dates produced right on the premises. The store offered unlimited tastings of the treats that had our son with autism wishing he could move in and live there.
Overall we found the market complex was a fantastic ending to our brief Tel Aviv visit and we highly recommend it for families. With something for everyone’s taste and palate, what’s not to love?
Autism Travel Tips:
- For children who are noise-sensitive, this needs to be a significant consideration. There is no time in the market when it is less noisy or less crowded so parents should make sure they have secured a quiet retreat to allow their child to decompress if necessary.
- With the crowds, it can be difficult to move freely, and if there are long lines, patience will be required. Parents should prepare their child in advance.
- The market is well ventilated and temperature controlled. However, parents wishing to visit in the hotter months should bring a handheld fan if their child is temperature-sensitive.
- Security guards patrol the market, and one can feel safe and secure while shopping.
- The market as well as the neighborhood caters to wheelchairs and strollers.
- Public toilets are provided and well serviced.
- The market is very visual and interactive and a beautiful place to explore. Anyone could spend as little or as short a time as they would like. Parents should take care to monitor how their child is enjoying it or if it is overwhelming.
- Parents should prepare their child by planning in advance what everyone would like to see, taste and experience. There is a list on the Market’s website.