The market in Old City Jerusalem.

The market in Old City Jerusalem. Photo © IsraelTourism, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Shopping in the Old City can be a fun or intimidating experience. In many cases, aggressive shop owners won’t allow you more than two seconds to glance at their products before pushing you to buy. It is also a notoriously expensive place for English-speaking customers, particularly Americans.

One of the great advantages to shopping in this area is that almost everything is open on the weekend.Be prepared in advance to do the dance of bargaining if you plan to buy something, which might include literally walking away to get the best price. You can bargain if you are confident, but the best bet for avoiding some serious unplanned spending is to decide in advance on your limit.

There are seemingly endless streets of shops and cavernous stalls that are open seven days a week, mostly selling very similar items. They fall mainly into the categories of jewelry, religious items, souvenirs, clothing, antiques, and food. Most visitors enter the Old City area from Jaffa Gate and turn down HaNotsrim Street, a narrow pedestrian street in the Christian Quarter.

A good approach to shopping in this area is to walk past vendors and stores, and only slow down if you are seriously interested in buying something. Otherwise you will spend a great deal of time extricating yourself from aggressive negotiations with shop owners.

Shops selling antiques and artifacts, including Roman-glass inlaid jewelry and other locally handmade items, can be found mainly in the Christian and Jewish Quarters, although such stores are scattered throughout all four quarters. Be very cautious when purchasing antiques. You will need the appropriate legal certificate to take the item out of the country, largely due to problems with grave robbers and antique theft from archaeological sites. Check with the information center about the proper documentation necessary or visit the Israeli Antiquities Authority website.

Most vendors are more than willing to take American dollars, and you can find nice scarves, sweets, and cute trinkets. One of the great advantages to shopping in this area is that almost everything is open on the weekend.

Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Jerusalem & the Holy Land.