"What a hubbub and what a variety. There is a linguistic confusion in the square. People are buying and selling in all the possible dialects."- noted that, in 1888, Pierre Bauron - a Parisian travel writer.
Pierre Bauron Zadar market gravure 1888. (photo: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
From time immemorial, the Zadar Market has been a gathering place for the locals and their guests who, when visiting the market to buy the necessary groceries and enjoy the hustle and bustle, rich colours and bargaining with local vendors, become a part of this millennial city. Everything that is sold here comes from the surroundings of Zadar, fruitful Ravni kotari and Zadar islands - fruits, vegetables, olive oils, cheeses, honey, flowers, seedlings, and the best fish and seafood caught the night before in the Adriatic.
Piazza dell'Erbe around 1900 (photo: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
Located on the Zadar peninsula, under the historic Zadar ramparts which are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Market, together with the Fish Market, has long been part of Zadar's urban identity. With roots that go all the way back to Liburnian Iadera, this is a place where fresh produce is offered daily, as well as the place where the latest information is collected and transmitted. Through direct communication with relevant sources on both sides of the spectrum, the Zadar Market thus forms the collective memory of Zadar, becoming (and remaining) a trendsetter.
The urban beauty of trade and existence
During the Venetian rule over Zadar, the city markets were located in four places. Goods from Ravni kotari - grain, hay, firewood, leather, butter, and cheese, were sold on the site of today's Narodni trg (People’s square). After a new Pile lodge was built in Varoš, the market moved there. Merchandise was also sold in front of St. Christogonus and the church of St. John.
Pile market around 1900 (photo: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
The central market was situated in the former Roman Forum, the Kampo - a medieval square with a Renaissance cistern, later named the Square of the greens (Piazza dell’erbe). There were bakers (fonarius /panicocullus / panificule), grocers (venderigola, revenderix), fishermen (piscator) and butchers (beccarius), but also retailers for wheat, lentils, bread, wine, meat, cheese, oil, spices, cotton, wool, linen, and cloth. In 1903, the fish market moved from Kampo to the west side of Nova obala.
Fish Market on the west side of Nova obala in the year 1903 (photo: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
At that time, Zadar was widely known for the abundance of Mediterranean fruits, vegetables, and other foods. The products were brought for sale by peasants from the islands and the hinterland, dressed in picturesque costumes that contrasted with civic-aristocratic clothing, which was given special attention to. Trading was conducted in numerous languages and dialects, and the market was open every day except Sunday.
Piazza dell'Erbe in 1908 (photo: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
Piazza dell'Erbe in 1911 (photo: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
Colourful palaces, labyrinths of romantic passages and the main entrance from the Nova obala pier across Laurana Square, made this space uniquely charming. The square was surrounded by a series of buildings that had shops and inns on their ground floors that, between the 19th and 20th century, became one of the city's open-air salons as well as a cult meeting place for the inhabitants of Zadar. The popular promenade attracted many citizens who enjoyed gathering around the fountain and the popular Loyd bar. Furthermore, all kinds of events and concerts were held there.
Piazza dell'Erbe in 1939 (photo: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
The devastating Allied bombing of Zadar from November 1943 to October 1944 proved catastrophic because it razed to the ground this urban splendour, took away all the liveliness that adorned it and destroyed all the buildings around the romantic square. The place was ploughed, and the excavation of the Roman Forum began. Today, Piazza dell'Erbe only exists on the old postcards and faded photographs.
Zadar in 1945 (photo collage: Zvonimir Barbarić/Zadarski.hr)
After World War II, the market temporarily moved to Pet bunara (Five Wells) Square, which was built in 1574 during the siege of the Ottoman army, when a medieval defensive moat was covered on the west side of the bastion, excavated in the Middle Ages.
In 1952, architect Josip Budak managed to arrange the modest urban space of today's Market from a pile of ruins, the spirit of which is protected by the significant remains of Zadar's civic life. Respecting the monumental properties of the city and showing sensitivity to the importance of space and its crucial architectural determinants, Budak surrounded the Market by the remains of the church of St. Mary the Great, demolished in 1570, the chapel of St. Rocco, the facades of the unfinished church of St. Simon from 1600, and, on the other side, the fence wall with the crown of the Romanesque palace of Pasini.
The revived art of trading at the Zadar Market was recorded from 1953 to 1981 by Ante Brkan - a great Zadar and world master of photography and one of the pillars of Zadar's civic identity. Some of his photos were presented to the public in 2008 at the exhibition "Ante Brkan - At the Market", while several photographs that testify to the liveliness of the Market from that time are in a permanent exhibition of photographs on the newly renovated city walls - just above the Market.
Ante Brkan - Zadar market in 70's (photo collage: Facebook group/Old postcards and photos of Zadar)
Zadar Market is still one of the most picturesque and colourful markets in Dalmatia, and in terms of the richness of its offer, one of the largest in Croatia. Zadar is thus supplied daily with goods from the rich hinterland of Ravni kotari, fertile areas around Vrana Lake, as well as the islands of Ugljan and Pašman. Zadar Fish Market is one of the most interesting and the most picturesque places in the city.
Here you will find an endless wealth of fish, molluscs, and shellfish, fished directly from the clear sea by the fishing boats crammed into the city port and close to the Fish Market and customers who recognize fresh fish from afar. Every day, and especially on Fridays, there are shrimp, sea bream, sardines, cuttlefish, squid, anchovies, octopuses, and widely appreciated Adriatic tuna.
video: Zadar Tourist Board
At the crack of dawn, the people of Zadar will pick up a stalk of parsley from Mrs Anka from Debeljak, then stop at Ante from Raštane for potatoes, buy some olive oil from Kate from Preko and then go to young Mate from Obrovac to get his organic apples. When they pick up the sardines or a grouper to complete their lunch, they will sit down for coffee with friends they meet here almost every day, counting the locals and foreigners. A ritual that, over the hundreds of years that the Zadar market has been alive, changed only slightly.
All the colours of Zadar Market (photo: Stipe Surać Zadar Tourist Board)
Almayer Art & Heritage Hotel serves its guests groceries delivered from the Zadar Market. We choose the best and the freshest products from proven producers and small farms. You can also walk through the Market yourself and start your own ritual of ease of existence in the synergy of nature and a living city to which you will want to return again and again.