The Original Meat Market
That is not a typo. While today you will find many people at the markets, only three decades ago they were used as a slaughter yard. Originally built in 1895, the vast complex kept Prague supplied with sausages, schnitzels and svíčková for nearly a century.
This original purpose also accounts for the market’s location. It was built downwind so that the residents of Prague were spared the gruesome smell, at least until residential blocks started going up. The slaughter yards ceased operations in 1983.
Soon after, they were converted into markets. Given the lack of other shopping options, the markets became very popular, providing people with an experience they couldn’t find elsewhere. With the fall of communism and the rapid development of shopping malls, the markets went into something of a decline. The current owners are trying to reverse this trend.
The assortment and price of goods at Holešovice Markets are already popular with many tourists. Don’t be surprised when you go to hear more Danish and Dutch being spoken than Czech. Holešovice Marketplace is one of the attractions for north-western Europeans who come to haggle over the already-low prices, so using English here is not a problem.
Locals are more attracted to the fresh produce market located in hall 22 (see the map on the market’s web-page). Inside, you will find the largest array of fresh fruit and vegetables in Prague under one roof, as well as potted herbs and garden plants.
The stalls are run both by farmers and sellers. If you want to buy directly from a farmer, look out for the signs that say ‘pěstitlel’ (grower). This means you’re buying from the person who grew the vegetables.
Other attractions within hall 22 are the coffee stall, which is famous for selling good quality beans, and a ‘mlíkomat’, which sells unpasteurized milk. Beside the machine is a one which dispenses bottles. Be warned, unpasteurized milk can be hard on the stomach, so it’s recommended to boil the milk first.
For market purists, there is a farmer’s market every second Saturday in the open area beside hall 22. Here you will be able to meet and buy from other farmers from around the Czech Republic.
The markets aren´t only about bargain goods and farm produce. A few chain stores have outlets there too. Mountfield the gardening specialists are located in hall 12. They provide all your gardening needs from tractors to gardening tools. Alza, the computer and electronic store, can be found in halls 8 and 9.
Tucked away in the markets is one of Prague’s best kept secrets. At the end of a row of stalls is a Vietnamese restaurant which sells very good pho (noodle soup) and what have to be among the best spring rolls in the city – crispy flaky skin, tasty filling and not too greasy. The unassuming eatery is found on the alley Branická, which runs off Dejvická. Again check the map.
A high-end and more well-known restaurant for Asian cuisine is SaSaZu, found within the market complex. This restaurant was recently voted the best in Prague. It offers modern Asian fusion in surroundings which reflect the same spirit of east-meets-west. SaSaZu also has a club with a number of events if food isn’t your thing.
If you already frequent Holešovice Market for the food, you’ll be happy to know about some of the changes which are taking place.
Changing to Stay the Same – Only Better
One of the recent attempts at revamping was when the markets were renamed River Town. According to Jan Štíhel, marketing manager for Delta Center, the name never caught on. People knew the place as Holešovická tržnice or Pražská třžnice. The latter is even the name of tram stop near the markets.
The name might stay as it was, but the plans are still going ahead to renovate the site to create what Mr. Štíhel described as an experience for the whole family. “For everybody there will be something,” he explained.
While intentions are to attract more of Prague’s residents to the markets, there is no intention to chase away the tourists. The bargain-price markets will stay, albeit concentrated in one section called the Asian Markets. The current stalls will then be replaced with modern boutiques, housing designer shops.
For foodies, the current produce market will be expanded, so that along with fruit and vegetables, there will be stalls selling cheese and smoked goods both from local producers and other European countries.
The large square which is currently underused will have a series of cafes, so people can sit outside, relax, and enjoy the atmosphere of the markets over a latte. Mr. Štíhel believes the wide range of fresh Czech produce and high quality goods will only become more of a draw-card for travelers and expats. While the changes will certainly spruce up the markets, there is no intention to touch any of the heritage-listed buildings.
Along with the face-lift, the markets will host more culinary and cultural events. Some of these have already taken place, such as an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, organized by Roberto Trevisa, who runs Prague’s Škola Kávy.
A ‘zabíjačka’ was also carried out twice. The event was really a demonstration of how all parts of the animal are prepared. Afterwards, people could buy goods made beforehand by the butcher.
At Christmastime, the markets held a presentation on how to prepare carp run by Chef Parade, the Prague Cooking School. Apart from showing people other recipes, the skilled chefs also showed people how to cut the carp to ensure there were fewer bones. Chef Parade also have a shop in hall 36.
Mr. Štíhel said that people of Prague can expect more of these type of events at the markets.
One event that is coming up soon is the Expats.cz Car Boot Sale on June 18th 2011. This is the third market, and like the first two it promises to be a chance to snap up some bargains or just browse for some treasures. More information is at the link.
Later in the year, Holešovice will stage a food festival to showcase all the treats and goodies available, and then some. The festival will take place in Hall 22 and promises to be both exciting and accessible.
As we’ve mentioned before, Holešovice is becoming quite the trendy district, central but still sort of tucked away. The renovation of these markets will fit perfectly with the new spirit of this up-and-coming locality.
Monday to Saturday: 7am to 8pm
Red line to Vltavská Metro Station
Trams 1, 3, 5 and 25 to stop Pražská tržnice