Short history of markets – Open-air markets
You can usually find ancient markets near churches or on riverbanks. The most logical location for selling goods was the place of unloading, thus the market took place on the spot, for example on the riverside. For instance, the Franz Joseph quay market was one of them, but the Kirakodó (Unloading) Square or Rakpiac (wharf-market) were more applicable names. According to contemporary descriptions, real milling crowds received passers-by on the Danube bank from the wharf-market to the Downtown Church.
As the squares besides churches also functioned as centres of settlements, they gave places to important events. The Hungarian word ‘piac’ also comes from the Italian word ‘piazza’ (square) and its original meaning shows that people could sell their goods on the main square of a town on certain days. The names of Hungarian towns, which came from a day of the week, like Csíkszereda (Wednesday) or Szombathely (Saturday) refer to that fact. One of the oldest markets can be found in Buda Castle on Dísz Square that functioned as a food market as of the Middle Ages and as a scaffold, but this can be charged on the account of its position. The old Tabán was significant similarly: the famous market of Rácváros was on Döbrentei Square. There were two churches here earlier, but the Serbian Orthodox Church does not stand anymore unfortunately, it was pulled down after the WWII. Later they specialized, thus thematic markets developed: fruit market on Petőfi Square, hay market on Kálvin Square, fish market on Hal Square that was demolished when the Elizabeth Bridge was built and the old city centre was transformed. It could be on the corner of today’s Irányi Street and Belgrád Quay. In the country, it was the paprika market of Szeged or the wheat market on Búza Square of Miskolc where crops markets were held. Talking street names can be found not only in Budapest, but also in Debrecen, where Piac (Market) Street was named after the market held in front of the Great Church. In Szolnok, today’s Kossuth Square was used to be called Piac Square as well
City planning – Roofed marketplaces
After the Compromise in 1867, Hungary went through an important economic, industrial and social development. After the birth of Budapest, new city districts were formed, bridges and cultural buildings were built and there were all the things that could contribute to the sparkling city life. In this indisputably fertile period, aldermen thought it was high time to provide the already packed downtown with markets that fitted into the transforming cityscape and satisfied inhabitants’ demands as well. That was the reason why they wanted to exchange uncontrolled outdoor markets to market halls. They invited tenders for building five market halls at once: on Fővám Square, Rákóczi Square, Klauzál Square, Hunyadi Square and in Hold Street. The constructions of the market halls were finished about the same time by 1897.
The legendary Central Market Hall
One of the largest investments – attached to the first mayor of Budapest Károly Kamermayer – was the construction of the Central Market Hall that is 120 year-old this year. It was considered a modern market not only in its period. The building was constructed on the basis of Samu Pecz’s plans, who was a teacher at the Budapest University of Technology and designed several famous buildings like the National Archives of Hungary, the Library of the Budapest University of Technology and the church on Szilágyi Dezső Square. The Market Hall is one of the most beautiful artworks of historicism in Hungary. The entrance stone gates have signs of neo-gothic style and the roof is covered with Zsolnay ceramics from the manufactory of Pécs. The ground-space of the building is about 10 thousand square metres, but do not forget about the huge steel roofing, which was made by Waagner and Schlick factories. Not surprisingly, one of the most important marketplaces of Pest developed here. Goods transported on the Danube were cleared through customs here and the square was named after the main custom-house that operated on the riverside. In the beginning, it had its own railway and an underground corridor linked it with the Danube quay, which was used for transporting garbage later. The Central Market Hall of Fővám Square is appropriate for both shopping and sightseeing. It is a popular touristic target, and even Lady Diana bought an inevitable souvenir here allegedly: a festoon of cloves of garlic.
There were markets on the places of the designated district halls earlier, the one in Hold Street certainly existed. All the halls still operate, but some of them had adventurous stories. The hall on Rákóczi Square burnt down in 1988 for unknown cause, but was restored later. Originally, the Theatre of István Square operated on the place of the Klauzál Square hall, and when it perished in 1874, the marketplace was built there. A curiosity was that even kosher food was available on a separated place in the hall. As time passed, the state of the building decayed, until it was renovated in 2015. The Hunyadi Square hall is not that lucky, as its reconstruction has not been started yet. Unfortunately, a lot of clumsy inserts were made during the socialism: brick towers and pavilions covered with aluminium corrugated sheets. On the other hand, the inner hall is still breathtaking.
COMECON, flea market and scavenging
The socialist city-planning also impacted markets. In several cities, they built market halls according to the contemporary trends, which were considered very modern buildings back then and some of them still have the same styles, like the Market Hall of Pécs. In the beginning, the market of Pécs was held first on the Fő Square – presently called Széchenyi Square –, but as the town was growing, demands were increasing too. That is why the Market Hall was built and it still works. This year, the fortune of the hall has reached a turning point, so hopefully it will be redecorated soon.
But do not forget about the emblematic product of this period, the so-called COMECON market that still exists in Nyíregyháza. Despite its name, not only the goods from the former socialist countries are available. It is interesting that it started booming when the COMECON ceased to exist in 1991. The rag-fair of Józsefváros or the former flea market of Pecsa (Petőfi Hall) are still well-known today. You can even organize a garage market if you want to get rid of your household gadgets, granny’s old mortar or the cards you treasured in your childhood. Anyone can find their favourite markets, either it is a market for primary producers, a cultural fair, an artisan or a bio-market.
Translated by Zita Aknai