Spring has hit Prague, evidenced by longer days, rapidly blossoming trees, and another, newer cue – farmers´ markets. In mid-March, rows of booths began appearing regularly in some of the capital´s large public spaces, signalling the start of the 2011 farmers´ market season.
Elsewhere in Europe, consumers have had the opportunity to purchase locally-sourced food and drink from farmers´ markets for many years. But in the Czech Republic, the concept of buying sausages, cheese or vegetables directly from the farmer rather than from a shop or supermarket took off only very recently; the first market was held on 20 March 2010 in Dejvice, Prague 6. Around 15,000 people visited the market, highlighting the great demand in the capital for a farmers´ market.
The success of the Prague 6 market greatly encouraged the organizers and reflected growing demands for quality products from customers who appreciate the strong environmentally-friendly ethos of farmers´ markets. The success also reflected the customers´ desire to support small, local producers.
As a result, markets opened up in other large public spaces in the capital and indeed throughout the country. Although they are quite new in the Czech Republic, farmers´ markets (known in Czech as farmářské trhy) are likely to become a firmly established tradition, as much part of the seasonal calendar as carp tubs in December.
In Prague, the 2011 season started in mid-March and will run until the end of autumn. Inevitably, the markets close before the colder weather sets in, although the farmers´ market at Holešovice Markets continues, indoors, in the winter months, and hybrid farmers´/Christmas markets are held in the advent period.
The Prague 6 market was initially held every second Saturday in the season but now takes place almost every Saturday, such is the popularity of farmers‘ markets. In some cases, markets are held on weekdays too. Opening hours are generally from 8.00 or 9.00 until the early afternoon on Saturdays, and longer on weekdays. In the larger markets you´ll also find a handful of non-produce stallholders, such as charities, and other attractions such as a pet´s corner for children.
Shoppers can purchase all sorts of local produce, much of it organic (“bio” in Czech), and all complying with certain qualify standards from the Czech Republic, and stallholders sometimes offer small free samples. Products on sale include fruit and vegetables, local cheeses, fish from South Bohemia, sausages, bakery products and organic honey. One of the biggest attractions of farmers´ markets is the chance to pick up items from small, traditional farms and producers. Such products are seldom found in supermarkets but are authentic, and emphasis is placed on traditional production methods. Markets are also a good place if you´re looking for fair trade products or something unusual such as ice cream made from goats milk, or even ostrich pâté. At some farmers´ markets you can also order product-filled baskets, which can also be delivered to your home for a fee.
The main farmers´ markets in Prague are listed below. Bear in mind that they are also referred to by the colloquial names of the squares in which they are held. The colloquial forms are shown in brackets.
The following market is one of a number run by the Farmářské trhy company. (www.farmarske-trhy.cz, in Czech only).
Vítězně náměstí (Kulaťák), Prague 6
Prague´s first farmers´ market was held in the park at the corner of Evropská and Jugoslavských partýzánů, beside Dejvická metro station. The market is held almost every Saturday during the season, from 8.00 until 14.00, and has around 60 stalls. The market is easily accessible by public transport, from Dejvická metro station, by tram numbers 2, 8, 20 and 26, and temporary tram number 36.
The following farmers markets are operated by the Archetyp civic organization under the name Farmářské tržiště (www.farmarsketrziste.cz).
Kubánské Námestí (Kubáň), Prague 10
Located in the eastern suburb of Vršovice, the Kubánské Námestí farmers´ market is held every Tuesday and Thursday from 8.00 to 17.00 and on Saturday from 8.00 until 14.00. There are around 40 stalls. Although the market is relatively far from the center, Kubánské námestí is on a main thoroughfare and has excellent tram connections. Tram numbers 7 and 22 pass through the square, and numbers 6 and 24 terminate there.
Náměstí Jiřího z Poděbrad (Jiřák), Prague 3
The Jiřího z Poděbrad market is held in the heart of Vinohrady and is the smallest of the Farmářské tržiště markets, with around 30 stalls. It takes place every Wednesday from 8.00 to 18.00 and every Saturday from 8.00 until 14.00. The market is very conveniently located beside the metro station of the same name, on line “A”, and tram number 11 stops just beside the metro station.
Naplavka, Prague 2
The most central of the markets operated by Farmářské tržiště, Naplavka is situated on the riverbank, below Paláckého náměstí and Paláckého most bridge. The farmers´ market is held on Saturday from 8.00 until 14.00, and around 40 stallholders trade there. The market is close to Karlovo náměstí metro station, on line “B”, and tram numbers 3, 4, 7, 10, 16, 17 and 21 pass through the two Paláckého náměstí tram stops adjacent to the metro station.
Unlike other markets, the farmers´ market in the vast, sprawling Holešovice Markets (Holešovická tržnice) complex (see Holešovice – Part II article) is indoors, enabling it to operate throughout the year. The market hall (Hála 22) is large, accommodating 65 stalls, making it one of the largest farmers markets in Prague in terms of size. The market takes place on Saturday from 8.00 to 14.00 every second Saturday (www.holesovickytrh.cz). Tram numbers 1, 3, 5 and 25 call at the Holešovická tržnice stop, adjacent to the entrance to the complex.
Elsewhere in Prague
Another large market is held over the river in Karlín (see Karlín – Part II article), although at the time of writing no details were confirmed. It´s expected that the market will again take place on Karlínské náměstí, which is accessible by tram numbers 8 and 24. There are markets at Pankrác and Budějovická. Other farmers´ markets in Prague include Radotín in Prague 5, and Klnovice and Dolní Počernice in Prague 9 (www.ceskyfarmarskytrh.cz).