Older than the City itself
Just off Masarykova street, the main road in Brno’s city centre, you will find Zelný trh; the city’s vegetable market. This fixture of the city has stood as a market place since before the city’s formal establishment. The market and the square it occupies date to the 13th century, the square itself is one of the oldest public squares in the country.
Initially named Horní trh (Upper market), a variety of goods were sold here in its early days. Pottery, metal goods, wooden items and meat among others. The current name, Zelný trh (Cabbage market), was adopted in the 15th century. Today, local residents often refer to it as “Zelňák”.
An integral part of the city’s history, the market has seen every step of the city’s history and there’s really no reason to miss it if you’re passing through the centre.
The market is open for business on weekdays and Saturday mornings through the spring, summer and early autumn and is usually quite an active place frequented by people from all around the city.
Zelňák is popular not simply out of tradition; much of what is on sale at the market is locally grown and comes at a much more agreeable price than is typical in a supermarket. The chances of finding organically grown produce here, or at least cleaner produce, is much better than in supermarkets.
As one might expect of a produce market open for so much of the year, the selection varies with the seasons. Locally grown asparagus is a staple at the market in early spring while juicy strawberries and apricots are a prominent sight in summer. As autumn comes, pumpkins and squash make their appearance.
Beyond the vegetables, a changing variety of fruits and berries can be had depending on the season. Herbs and flowers, both freshly cut and as live plants can also be bought.
While the vegetable market itself does not operate in winter, the market square does play host to part of Brno’s annual Christmas market. As such, it is fair to say that there is year round activity here.
Enough Looking, Let’s Buy Something!
While the bulk of the merchants at the market will likely not be able to speak anything other than Czech, language is not so much a barrier here as you might think.
If you have a good Czech phrase book with basic phrases for shopping and basic numbers, you’ll certainly have a start to making a purchase here. However, all is not lost if you don’t as a few basic and near universal hand signals may be all it takes to get your transaction completed.
Items are usually priced by weight in kilograms or per piece and this will usually be made clear by signage on the particular product.
If you see a sign that has “1kg/kč” or similar on it somewhere, then it’s being sold by weight. Conversely, products sold per piece will have “ks” either in front of or after the price.
Market stalls which sell items by weight usually have a bunch of plastic baskets available for customers to put their purchases in. Once you’ve taken how much you want of something, take your basket to the stall scale for weighing and final price.
As all merchants use modern digital scales for weighing, take a moment to look at the scale readings. Most of them have a display screen with “kč” after it, this is the total price of your purchase. Taking that moment to look at the scales can save you and the merchant a bit of time and frustration as far as language barriers are concerned.
Traditional, but Trendy
Since 2015, some significant changes have come to the look and feel of Zelný trh and the immediate surroundings.
The entire square underwent a year long renovation during 2015 which saw the paving stones leveled and refreshed for a smoother walking surface as well as the Baroque fountain at the centre of the square cleaned and freshened among other things.
Since the reopening of the market in 2016, a certain feeling of trendiness has come to mingle with the traditional air of the place. New fixtures to the market include a popular mobile ice cream vendor and a vintage Citroen van serving as a stand for frappe type drinks and waffles.
The changes don’t stop there. 2017 saw the completion of a protracted and painstaking restoration of a Functionalist style building on the north-west corner, where Starobrňenská street joins the square.
The restored building, known as Trznice Brno, is intended as an indoor extension of the market to allow market patrons to buy products which can’t be sold in the open air section, such as meat. Additionally, the indoor market section will have a restaurant function where full meals can be purchased. The meals will be prepared from produce the chefs buy directly from the farmers.
The market square is quite easy to locate in the centre as several roads lead into it. The market’s signature stalls with colourful umbrellas sheltering them and the large fountain in the centre will let you know that you’re in the right place.
Follow this link for a map of the area around the market:
This is a link to the market’s official internet page. While it is only in Czech, it will let you know when there is an upcoming special event at the market: