Bratislava Markets

Location of Bratislava at the ford of the Danube River and close to the big centres of the then Monarchy predestined Bratislava to become an important business centre. The situation ameliorated even more when King Andrew III of Hungary in the late of the 13th Century granted Bratislava the privilege of free trade and freed it from paying taxes. But it wasn´t only the “big” business that was evolving here, but also the local markets serving the residents of the city and its surroundings. At the medieval times we could find these markets mostly in the area near St. Martin´s Cathedral and the Main Square. 

And what could you buy at these markets? Things of everyday use like bread and bakery products, fish, fabrics and if you wanted to buy meat you had to went further behind Town Hall. The city centre wasn´t, off course, the only place for markets to be held – from the practical reasons, the specialized markets took place in the then peripheral parts of the city. For example, the livestock market was located near the Trnavské Mýto, the market selling hay was in the Hodža Square and if you were looking for grain you could buy it at nowadays SNP Square. Markets were usually hold on Wednesdays but during important holidays they could last for several days. There were three exceptional holidays in the 15th Century – at St. Michael´s Day, St. Laurinc´s Day and Lent market. 

Who was Selling There?

 If you would expect only Slovak or Hungarian language, you would be surprised – Bratislava was multi-ethnic ever since Middle Age. Sellers were usually specialized for a particular articles and therefor you could meet the Slovak woman in traditional clothes, Bulgarian seller of vegetables, Hungarian butcher, or representants of German, Jewish or Croatian minority. Often you could meet women called “kofa” who represented a very important supporting point at every market. Now is this word used as an unflattering denomination for women. 

As the city slowly modernized, it was necessary to do something with these markets. The main problem was the mess left behind, expanding building activities, and weather fluctuations. For this reason, the city representatives decided for a construction of roofed and regulated market. But this didn´t mean an end for the open air old markets and so there came a situation that you could find stands in the building of the “Old Market” (finished in 1910) as well as you could find stands spread at the square in front of the building. Even today you can find many Bratislava habitants at the markets – either at the well-known Miletička, at the Old Market or at the special events like Good Market. 

Christmas Market 

As an indirect predecessor of the Christmas Market can be considered, with a bit of exaggeration, the markets from the year 1950. The sellers were national enterprises and it used mostly as the propaganda of socialism and five-year plans, which were still a new concept that wanted to came to like among people. Stands were accompanied with the socialist and political mottos and banners and the grand opening was in the similar look with the portrait of Stalin in the background. An effort to show the growing standard of living was strongly visible – according to the old photos were stands really full of food, fabrics, alcohol or Christmas cookware.

Similar market took place also in 1953 when they were called The Winter Market of Jack Frost (in Slovak, Dedo Mráz) and its decoration was significantly more Christmas -like, with Christmas trees and pictures of good old Grandpa bringing people abundance and gifts. On the contrary to the modern markets, these markets really served for buying thing you need for Christmas – nowadays you visit Christmas market to relax with a hot punch and some good food. These modern Christmas or Winter markets were inspired by other big European cities and their tradition started right after the establishment of Slovak Republic in 1993.