Unlike the United States, which has a penchant for supermarkets the size of small shopping malls, Croatia still clings to a "shop small" mentality. This means most towns and villages set up a daily market at which residents can purchase fresh ingredients and even textiles or home goods in tiny batches, rather than stock up en masse at a super-sized supermarket.
Strolling through these town markets, typically held outdoors in a central square, gives visitors an unparalleled glimpse into the day-to-day life of locals. Whether you're there to ogle the veggies, fruits, meats and cheeses, or to purchase a handmade basket or tablecloth, you'll be delighted to explore our 5 favorite Croatian markets.
The early bird is sure to catch the worm at Zagreb's Dolac Market, which opens at 5 a.m. It's at this early hour that vendors at Zagreb's main market unfurl their wares, including fruits, vegetables and a gamut of home goods, all to be sold to the tourists and locals who crowd the market each day. The market has both indoor and outdoor areas, though you'll be hard-pressed to beat the charm of the red umbrellas shading the outdoor section's tables of nuts, cheeses, flowers and honey.
Plan your visit keeping in mind that the outdoor-level vendors sell veggies, textiles and plants, while the indoor vendors hawk meat, fish, cheese, herbs and olives. Keep an eye peeled for the folks selling sir i vrhinje, a cheese and cream combo that's so gooey, you'll need a spoon to devour it.
Hungry? Thirsty? Short on cooking supplies? Need a new pair of imitation Crocs? Nearly anything you could need or wish for can be found amidst the stalls of Split's daily Pazar Market, also known as Green Market. Located in the town's center, the market runs along Hrvojeva Street from the east wall of Diocletian's Palace to the town's Silver Gate. Thanks to its central location near the palace and gate, the market makes for a good pit stop while enjoying Split's attractions, and is a perfect spot to pick up the fixings for a fresh picnic lunch.
The market's produce vendors will be selling whatever's in season, from wild asparagus and strawberries in spring and summer, to pomegranates and potatoes in fall and winter, but you'll also be able to buy flowers, clothes, toys and even kitchen utensils. The market opens around 7 a.m. and closes by 2 p.m., but plan to head there late-morning when it's possible to bargain for slightly lower prices with the vendors.
Wedged into Croatia's northeast, the town of Bjelovar lays claim to one of Croatia's most vibrant daily markets. The partially covered market lies in the heart of Croatia's agricultural belt, and locals boast that this is why the market's offerings are so diverse and of such high quality. Travelers wandering through the rows of vendors will encounter all manner of goods, including vegetables, fruits, meats, sausages, cheeses, pastries and even plants and household items.
Dairy lovers should make a special trip to seek out homemade prgica, fresh or smoked pyramid-shaped blocks of cheese, which are a delicacy in the region. To see the greatest variety and market bustle, plan to visit the market on a Thursday or Saturday. Vendors from other regions proffer their goods alongside local sellers, a tradition that began centuries ago when farmers from around the country brought their livestock to the market on those 2 days.
Plan to forgo your hotel or hostel's continental breakfast one morning while in Dubrovnik, and hightail it to the Gundulićeva Poljana, or Gundulić Square, one of Dubrovnik's most bustling squares and home to the town's popular daily morning market. Set in the middle of Dubrovnik's charming Old Town in the shadows of the Dubrovnik Cathedral, the market is a veritable hub of produce and other sundries, which can be bought for a pittance and become the makings of a tasty -- and fresh -- breakfast.
Spend time meandering through the many stands, scoping out whatever fruits and veggies are in season and admiring the fish vendors, though you'll also find folks hawking nuts, olive oils, homemade wine and fruit brandy, as well as non-edible goods like hand-sewn tablecloths. While the boisterous market is one of the most popular events to occur in the square, Gundulićeva is also a scenic spot to stop for an afternoon coffee and a venue for evening concerts in warm weather.
oranges and lemons, flickr
Join the Zagreb locals in whiling away your Sunday at the Britanski Trg antiques market, commonly known as Britanac. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each Sunday, Britanski Trg, one of the town's main squares, transforms into a bustling enclave of booths and stalls and provides an outlet for antiques dealers peddling all manner of bric-a-brac, such as jewelry, books, paintings and religious icons. Though it's likely you'll find yourself rubbing elbows with serious antiques collectors, the market also attracts anyone with an interest in old marketplaces or those hoping to glimpse the city's culture while strolling the square on a lazy Sunday.
Souvenir seekers may think they've hit the proverbial jackpot, bringing home with them one of the unique wares being proffered. Think your parents might need an antique doorknob? You're in luck! For reasons unbeknownst to us, doorknobs aplenty fill a number of the stalls, though you'll also find more traditional keepsakes, like old postcards from around the globe.