Havelska Street Market
This is an old market but it has changed a lot over the years. I’ve included a Google Map below but you’ll just stumble across the Havelska Street Market as you walk between the Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.
It may seem ridiculous today but in the 13th Century a town could be designated by the king even if it was an area not much bigger than a football stadium is today. That’s what happened here in 1230 as the king basically said “this bit is yours” to a powerful German man called Eberhard (later he was in charge of minting money in Prague but in historical context the kings of the time were asking Germans to come and settle in Bohemia to create taxable business so Havel Town was just an extension of that). 1230 pre-dates the Old Town fortified wall so it would then have been fairly open with fields and small hamlets. This area was considered to be the German Quarter at the time and the Germans largely from Bavaria immediately began developing the area of the market and at the same time building the church. The Church would be called ST Havel (a Bavarian saint) and the area around it would be known as Havelsky Mesto), Havel Town.
The signs at both ends of the market show the year 1232. That’s correct but it wasn’t just for this street and it wasn’t called the Havelska Street Market either. So when you look at the map above the green part is today’s Havelska Street Market and the red part is the entire area that the market used to cover from Uhelny Trh (Coal Market in the west right over to the Ovocny Trh (Fruit Market) in the east. Remember that the market pre-dates even the Charles University and there was not even an “Old Town” until just over 100 years later. This was not a market that you just visited. The German community built quite grand buildings to live in, there were large animal pens, feed stores and as a sign of wealth the Havelska Street Market was paved.
Back when it first started it was called the New Market Square and it’s probably no accident that this was the last area included for protection by the fortified wall. Street names came later. In Czech the word “Havelska” means the way to Havel and you’ll see that many street names in the area reflect a church that is or was in the road. It’s actually been called Havelska only since 1870.
Why Is It Now So Small?
In what I call the “late Victorian era” (so British people can relate to it i.e. 1870-1900) the bulk of the New Town city fortified walls were demolished, large animal markets moved outside the city and inside the city there was a move away from open markets to covered markets some of which can still be seen today. These two factors of no more walls and covered markets was really the end of the New Market Square. It was replaced with a block system of apartment buildings (the only place in the Old Town you will see regular “blocks”). What you see now is Circa 1895.
Why Visit Havelska Street Market?
You’ll come here for three reasons. The first is the fresh fruit (and veg) but primarily it’s to buy fruit to carry with you or back to your apartment (there are water fountains to wash the produce). The second reason is the craft part of the market. I’m not saying everything is made locally but a lot is and you can haggle with the trader if you are buying volume. Lastly you’ll find odd shops, restaurants and cafes on both sides of the market. One side the street is covered by arches so a good place to get out of extreme weather.
Two Warnings: 1) Havelska Street Market is a pickpocket hotspot. 2) The fruit stalls operate a pay by weight system so the price you see is per/100g so your pot of fruit may turn out to cost 4 times what you thought.
Where is the Havelska StReet Market?
Here are a few more pictures of the Havelska Street Market: