The Great Market Hall of Budapest is something every foreigner would like to see when they visit the Hungarian capital. Its neogothic building rules the Pest bank of the Danube near the Szabadság híd. And you can buy almost everything in it from fish to traditional Hungarian food, from wine to clothes. Here is the short story of the Great Market Hall.
According to travelo.hu, the building celebrated its 125th anniversary on February 15. Múlt-kor, a Hungarian History website, says that the leadership of Budapest started to build markets all around the city after the Millenium celebrations of 1896. Buda, Pest and Óbude united into Budapest in 1873, and the city’s population grew quick. Therefore, the old markets could not support the people’s needs.
In open-air markets like the Klauzál square, authorities could not implement hygiene rules. Neither sellers nor buyers were safe because the markets were big and anarchic. Therefore, Budapest’s council called for plans to build a market hall downtown in 1891. The central and four additional market halls were opened in 1897. The next two opened in 1902 and 1903. The following market halls were built: Batthyányi square (2nd district), Hold street (5th district), Hunyadi square (6th district), Klauzál square (7th district), Rákóczi square (8th district), Vámház boulevard (9th district). Finally, the Great Market Hall was built to substitute the market halls of the 5th and 9th districts.
But what does ‘great’ mean in its name?
The inner space was divided into two areas. On one side worked the retailers, while on the other side, there were the wholesalers. There was a 120 metres long tunnel leading to the Danube wharves. To develop the quality of the space, architects placed huge windows and worked with ethereal pillars inside.
Today, we can buy hungaricums and fish in the basement level. On the ground floor, we can buy fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products. On the first floor, we can find gift shops and catering establishments. Provided there was no epidemic, no one could move there because of the tourists.
In the beginning, there were stores in the basement together with the three steam boilers and machines providing electricity. Interestingly, before the opening, it burned down. However, the rebuilt roof became much safer due to additional safety elements.
The first director of the Great Market Hall was Nándor Ziegler.
He introduced Spartan rules.
For example, he forbade shouting, swearing, hooting and even wrapping products into newspapers. Furthermore, goods could be delivered into the market hall only during the night. Meanwhile, it stood open between 5-12 am and 4-7 pm. They even had an official market hall gazette containing all the information buyers and sellers needed.
During WWI, all hell broke loose: violence and theft became regular because of the skyrocketing prices. Therefore, sellers created a market guard. In WWII, the building was partly destroyed. Moreover, the Communists focused on swiftness instead of beauty during the reconstruction. Though authorities reopened it in the 1960s, the building became life-threatening by 1991. As a result, it was closed.
Restoration finished by 1994, which marked a new era in the hall’s history. Original covering elements of the Zsolnay manufacture were restored, a new tunnel was built, and the area was increased to 24 thousand m². Machinery was also renewed together with the two facade clocks. They play Kodály’s famous “Én elmentem a vásárba…” song (“I went to the market”).
Many Historic people visited the Great Market Hall, including German emperor William II, Sigmund Freud, Austrian-Hungarian emperor Franz Joseph I or British PM Margaret Thatcher. CNN Travel chose it the most beautiful market in Europe in 2013. In 2014, The Guardian said it was among the ten most famous markets of the old continent.
Here is a 4K video about the market hall:
Source: travelo.hu, fortepan.hu