Lists! > Ten Market Squares
10 Market Squares
Market squares are a staple of the European lifestyle. Most of them are built near the town hall or the city cathedral, marked with a gorgeous fountain, and surrounded by the city's prettiest, most colorful buildings. The market squares are routinely filled on Saturdays or Sundays with tents and vans selling fresh produce and meats, antiques, arts, etc. Invariably, they are flooded with people.
I have enjoyed almost every such market that I've encountered, but some of them stand out due to their sheer beauty or because they have something unique. Here's my list of Top Ten Market Squares:
This market holds a special sentimental value with me because it was the first regular market I visited in a former Communist country. This market square snaked around the Ljubljanica River, covering a couple blocks, and even on a cold, snowy November day still brought in thousands of people to buy groceries. Surrounded by architecture from several European civilizations, it was a fascinating place to visit.
The first Austrian entry in this list is quite an impressive one. Centered by the imposing Holy Trinity Column and surrounded by a host of colorful and stately buildings, the Hauptplatz is wonderful to look at. It's Saturday market is great for antiques.
I wanted to ensure at least one small town was included in this list -- and the hands-down choice was this charming little town about an hour train ride NE of Bratislava. Trencin actually has two marketplaces, the main square directly beneath the Trenciansky Hrad, loaded with classic Austro-Hungarian style architecture, and the outer marketplace pictured here with an animated fountain. The cafés behind me were overflowing with people and I was able to get a quality pint of beer for 35 cents and creamy Slovak ice cream at four cents a scoop. And the people in Trencin were among the friendliest I've ever met.
Erfurt was one of the great surprises as I acquainted myself with the former East German provinces. Erfurt has two marketsquares that are each impressive in their own right, but together they make Erfurt a must-go location. The Fischmarkt is my favorite of the two -- with the gorgeous Rathaus, the colorful and decorated storefronts, and the great outdoor cafés.
#6. Hauptmarkt, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany
Rothenberg is the most-visited travelogue on my website, and it's not hard to understand why. Among small German towns, Rothenberg has become the country's premier festival town, famous for its annual Wittmontag celebration, but it hosts seasonal festivals almost year-round. I gave it the nod over Erfurt because of the constant activity in Rothenberg -- it is one of the best places in Germany to go on a Sunday.
For a sheer study in flambouyant architecture, you will not beat Brussels' Grote Markt. Lavishly columned buildings, colorfully decorated, I spent my whole time there holding both my camera and my jaw. It was like being in a fantasy-land.
On a clear day, the Alps provide a picturesque backdrop to this glorious city, whose marketsquare is graced by the Goldenes Dachl, shown in this photo. The Stadtturm (City Tower) stands above the square and is definitely worth the Euro for a climb. One of the most beautiful downtowns in Europe.
The Old Town Square in Tallinn was a real treat, especially during the weekend that the Estonians hosted the EuroVision 2002 Song Contest. The Square was crammed full of locals in medieval costume selling antique and traditional wares. Although I suspect this was a special treat because of the importance of the Contest, these markets are routine, and several of the surrounding restaurants cater to the old world flavor year round.
With Poland having its independence restored, its history is on full display in its capital. The old city is rapidly being refurbished, especially the highly colorful and densely packed square, marked with a fountain of the sword-and-shield bearing Warsaw Mermaid. Great cafés and restaurants there.
This one wins almost hands down. A picturesque market in a gorgeous city that caters to everyone. The colors and shape of the taverns on the northern side are shown in this photograph, the Stadthuis on the east well is impressive, and the Belfry on the southern side is extraordinary. I gave this one the nod over Brussels because it had more of the small-town cheer.
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(c) 2002 Tom Galvin