Farmers’ markets have become an inescapable phenomenon for anyone interested in the culinary opportunities on offer in Prague. I’ve discovered that the markets in Anděl, Jiřího z Poděbrad, Holešovice, and Náplavka – on the banks of the Vltava – are somewhat akin to a traveling circus. On one day here, the next there. Familiar faces, familiar stalls, moving from one location to the next.
Photo: Halley Crane
The markets offer a mix of fresh local produce from across the Czech Republic, delicacies such as “real” sauerkraut, and also foreign treats covering everything from Balkan cheeses or hamburgers, to English and Middle Eastern pies. As an American student living in Prague, such markets have become a regular destination for me. Favorite items so far cover everything from a simple beer (nothing remarkable in that, for sure) to Hungarian-style pickled vegetables, goulash, and also fruit and vegetables, which the sellers proudly declare as superior to supermarket fare. I’ve been visiting farmers markets back in the States since I was young. But there’s a charm about these Prague farmers’ markets unlike those that I frequent back home. The pace is slower and more relaxed. I’ve noticed that Czechs appear to enjoy quizzing the sellers on where those freshly laid eggs came from, or what the differences are between the various types of apples on offer. It’s more than shopping, it’s socializing.
Anděl market is a Friday grab-and-go venue comprised of a miniature village of wooden stalls erected in front of a bustling metro station, and just around the corner from a huge shopping centre. On my first visit, I sampled several varieties before choosing a bottle of wine from Moravia to take back home. The market boasts typical Czech specialties like trdelnik and klobasa, and also has countless crafts and cosmetics vendors who sell items including homemade lavender soaps, wooden kitchen tools, and other trinkets.
Photo: archive of Radio Prague
From Wednesday to Saturday the Jiřího z Poděbrad market lines a row of vendors in the park right below Prague’s historic Church of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord. Fresh fish, cheeses, meats, beer, wine, pastries, and produce are all available. There’s also a crepe stand that exudes a sweet smell, which wafts tantalizingly throughout the square. I tried, and thoroughly enjoyed, a Nutella crepe. This market’s unique location allows shoppers to stop by for lunch, and dine while sitting on the green grass or a nearby bench.
On Saturdays, Naplavka offers me the chance to sit by the edge of the river Vltava and watch the boats go by as I munch on some of the unique foods including Indian, Hungarian, Czech, Slovenian, and Italian specialties like samosas, goulash, grilled calamari, and fresh pasta. This has become my favorite market since moving to Prague. Over 50 stalls line the edge of the river as hungry locals and tourists shuffle in between the two rows. As visitor volumes increase, I must admit its charm has been weakened a little for me. I’m offered a sample of Delikatesy’s goose liver pate and even though I am apprehensive about tasting liver, I give it a go. I’m rendered powerless and instantly buy a large jar of the buttery spread all for myself. Along with a baguette purchased from a nearby baker, I find a spot on the edge of the river and indulge in the divine spread.
Pho, photo: Halley Crane
Unlike the others I’ve mentioned, Holešovická Tržnice (or Market) offers fresh produce 6 days a week and a traditional open air farmers market every other Saturday. Holešovice is in the location of what was Prague’s largest slaughterhouse but now houses a huge amount of fresh produce from stalls that are run by both farmers and sellers. The stalls displaying signs saying “pěstitel” (grower) mean that the person there is the one who grew the crops themselves. The produce is found in Hall 22, which houses produce, flowers, dairy, and some meat vendors, but perhaps the best kept secret of this market is found at the end of an alley called Branická. Here lies a small Vietnamese shop that sells pho and spring rolls. As a fan of Vietnamese food, these alone made my trip here worthwhile.