In the difficult times, the markets of Krakow were the most important spots that supplied residents with all the necessary products. They joined the cities and villages in a natural way and, in the 1980s – the times of “empty shelves” – became a rich source of the then rare delicacies. (Does anybody remember the women tightly muffled up in winter coats whispering the words “veal, veal” or “spirits, spirits”?) These days, markets provide us with eco products and a meeting space where we can eat tasty food and drink finest liquors. The oldest market in Krakow – Stary Kleparz – is more that 650 years old, while the youngest one – Parsley Market – is as young as 3. In this article, they are playing the main roles.
The Main Square – the progenitor
The most bewildering thought for a contemporary resident of Krakow is the thought that, in fact, the Main Square used to be an enormous market. Today, it is difficult to imagine that this elegant square surrounded by cafés and luxury stores was once a place where they sold poultry, fish, eggs, crayfish or barrels, and fiercely haggled over prices. The truth is that the largest square in Krakow and, at the same time, the largest square of the type in Medieval Europe, was established to provide locals and traveling merchants with enough space to sell their products. The Cloth Hall [Polish: Sukiennice] is what’s left of the former, numerous market stalls. From the beginning of the 14th century to the end of the 18th century, the square was divided into sections whose names indicated the type of trade carried on. Hence, we had the “Poultry market”, “Salty market” (first references to it date back to 1343), “Coal market”, “Lead square”, “Fish market”, “Bread market”, “Cooper market”, and the “Crayfish market”. Located in between the small Church of St. Wojciech and Sienna street – vis-à-vis the Grey House [Polish: Szara Kamienica] – was the “Jewish market”. The place of fishwives, known as “wreathmakers” in the 14th century, has been taken over by flower sellers standing under yellow umbrellas who, once a year, during Kupala Night, compete in making the most beautiful wreath.
Stary Kleparz, in the prime of life
Kleparski Market Square, also known as Stary Kleparz, is the oldest operating market square in Krakow, most probably marked out during the foundation of the town of Kleparz in 1366. In the beginning, the square covered an enormous area – similar to that of the Main Market Square – including the present day Jan Matejko square. There was a brick-built town hall and buildings for merchants in the center of the square which, in itself, was divided into several sections – the “Horse market” and “Grain market” among others. The square was where the so-called “Royal Route” began, leading from St. Florian’s Church (back then in the corner of the square) next to Barbican and St. Florian’s Gate towards Wawel. By the end of the 17th century, after Kleparz had become the part of Krakow, the greater part of the square was built over. The state of the market deteriorated, even though its horse fair kept it famous in Galicia. In 1880, the western part of the square was officially named “Rynek Kleparski”, retaining the character of this popular outdoor market. In the 20th century, they planned to get rid of Stary Kleparz after they’d opened Nowy Kleparz a few streets away. The former was supposed to turn into a park and a representative square. Nevertheless, a centuries-old tradition won. The market square has survived to our times.
What can we get there today? On a regular day, you can get basically everything you want. The “1000 and one little things” stalls offer pots, tablecloths, kitchen utensils, cosmetics, quilts and slippers. Right next to these, landladies from villages near Krakow sell bundz (sheep milk cheese), oscypek (smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk), eggs from happy hens, Polish sausage, smoked meat, as well as chicken and even quail carcasses. Recently, the already well-known sellers were joined by the new ones, who bring specialties from across the sea. There are various olives brought to you by Oliwki etc.; Holland Cheese Supply sold by a friendly Polish-Dutch duo; Italian ham, salami, pecorino, taleggio, artichokes in olive oil at Massimo’s in Che Bontà, Hungarian smoked pork fat, dried spicy pepper sausage, and pickled apple pepper stuffed with cabbage you can get at Węgierskie Specjaly. These, on the other hand, have been joined by a bunch of young, local producers selling exquisite lunch meats (Gugulski), smoked carp and trout (Gospodarstwo Rybackie Dolina Będkowska – an eco-farm near Krakow), a variety of cheese (Serowarni "Magdalenka") and Polish lavender. Here, everybody knows one another, people have “their sellers” and favorite stalls. There’s even a stall (Kaboom) with sandwiches, nettle lemonades, and delicious hot coffee. The culinary life has been thriving around Kleparz. The neighboring streets are full of tiny eateries – Korean Oriental Spoon and Mandu, Pies Pianista serving tasty French pancakes and galettes, Red Beef Burger known for its unusual hamburger toppings – and oriental stores – a Turkish Mahir Market, an Arabic Dubai Food, and Pigi famous for its exquisitely tasty ready-made food.
Market squares have always played a vital role in the everyday life of Krakow. You went there not only to do your daily errands, but also to meet your friends, gossip and share news. The present-day Stary Kleparz draws on this tradition by being open to local culinary and social initiatives. For example, Art and Food Bazar – where local craftsmanship meets tasty food served by Krakow’s restaurants – has been organized here with success. The “potato” edition of a famous culinary festival Najedzeni Fest! has become iconic. Each year, on hearing the phrase “Go get potatoes!” (Polish: Po ziemniaki!), thousands of residents of Krakow go to Kleparski Market to taste meals based on our most popular vegetable. There’s plenty of good wine, craft cider and beer. The market feels the way it should – it’s joyful, lively and colorful!
Stary Kleparz is located in the Old Town District – a five minute walk from the Main Square and a twenty minute walk from Wawel So, it’s within a stone’s throw! Programme and all the informations you can find here: Plac Targowy Stary Kleparz
Parsley Market, the youngster
Summer in Krakow brings to mind tourists visiting historical buildings, a crowded Main Square and noisy Kazimierz. As it turns out, it suffices to go to the other side of the Vistula to experience a completely different view. 7 a.m., Podgorze District, Pod Korona square. A crowd of Krakow’s residents laden with eco shopping bags and wicker baskets storm tiny white market stalls. And what do these stalls have to offer? Only the good stuff brought from tiny farms near Krakow, mountain villages, and local, small-scale producers. All right. But the market? Here? How?
Ecological and natural products - harvested, grown and produced no farther than 150 km from Krakow – sold by producers themselves. This sentence encompasses the philosophy of Parsley Market [Polish: Targ Pietruszkowy].
"Parsley Market was born out of the need to have an outdoor market in Podgorze. A group of enthusiasts from podgorze.pl met and decided to set up this kind of enterprise. Still, it was not supposed to be a traditional market similar to those we had in other districts of the city. This one was supposed to be one-of-a-kind, ecological, with top-quality products sold by producers themselves. The idea turned out a success! That’s the only market of this kind in Krakow"
– said Artur Kinasz from the Podgorze.pl Association.
Everything started in 2013, when Fundacja Partnerstwo Dla Środowiska, as part of a Swiss-Polish Cooperation Program, announced a competition for a project “Produkt Lokalny Małopolska” [Lesser Poland – the Local Product] that would popularize local products and producers. The Podgorze.pl Association won the competition – they came up with the idea of a market that would help them support local farmers who had ecological certificates, or the owners of small farms (up to 15ha), where products are grown or made organically, without popular chemical additives. A risky yet tempting challenge. For, how do you convince people to start visiting Parsley Market instead of Stary Kleparz? How do you convince the doubters that a higher price is not just a farmer’s whim but a price of real food and healthy products without chemicals? The news about the existence of an extraordinary market quickly spread throughout the city. Rumor about sweet, organic strawberries, aromatic “real” tomatoes and multiple types of pumpkin turned out to be true. True is also the fact that all the products are sold by those who grow, cultivate and produce them. Those who used to do shopping at Kleparski Market are now cycling, tram-riding, and walking to the right bank of the Vistula river.
Parsley Market offers mainly seasonal vegetables and fruit (something new, isn’t it?). Besides, you can get young beef and lamb (Oikos) here, lunch meats (Gawor), cheese from the Podhale sold by Stanislaw Bobak from Zęb, zatorski carp, grain products and flour from Ecorab, pressed juices (Pawłowscy), raspberry and chokeberry juices (Henryk Bienkiewicz), bread (Zakwas, Mąka, Woda) and goat cheese (Kozie Frykasy), peppers and pumpkins (JeDynie), pierogi (Fantazje Pierogów), smoked trout (Pstrąg Ojcowski), royal cheesecake from Ryczów, soused carp from Spytkowice, prazonki polanskie and Polish kishka with cabbage. Since recently you can buy wines from a local vineyard (Garlicki Lamus) and Smykan craft ciders from Marcin and Jakub Lorek. Regularly on the market appears eco-enthusiast Brodataty with bunches of edible weeds from his field, home-made bread and extremely delicious kale pesto. Have you already prepared baskets to go on a market adventure?
In the spring-summer season, Parsley Market operates at Niepodleglosci square next to the Korona tram stop. In winter, the market moves to the underground area of the Korona sports club. Follow the link to find information about producers and products available on a given day, the maps of the square and the underground area as well as the pictures from the farms, households, fields and orchards where the products grow and are produced. Go to www.targpietruszkowy.pl to find out more about product suppliers.
Socio-cultural animators, traders, farmers and small-scale producers have created lively markets that once and for all entered the tradition and everyday life of Krakow. Thanks to them the city remains colorful, open to others… and delicious!
*Photos of Parsley Market comes from dania kontra ania blog, the author of the blog for 5 years writes reviews of restaurants in Krakow, shares tasty memories from her trips and reports interesting events in Malopolska.