Prague's Old Town Market renovations are now underway, but will cost more than originally projected

The Old Town Market has fallen into disrepair but will reopen as center for cuisine and culture

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 20.01.2020 07:00:18 (updated on 20.01.2020) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Old Town Market, a hidden space on Rytířská Street near Old Town Square, is finally being rebuilt after years of neglect.

The neo-Renaissance style Old Town Market (Staroměstska tržnice) was built between 1894 and ’96, and the architect was Jindřich Fialka. It has a cast iron structure and glass ceiling, with mosaics and other decorative elements visible inside.

In recent years, it had been home to a supermarket, Asian restaurant and other businesses. Those closed in the fall of 2019 so the space could be renovated. “We calculated that the repair cost us about 300 million CZK but it is already clear that the actual price will be about 100 million CZK higher,” Prague City Councilor Jan Chabr (United Force for Prague) told business magazine Forbes.

The renovations should return the interior to its original look, and create a large open interior space.

Old Town Market
Visualization of the Old Town Market. via SGL Project

Starting work on the Old Town Market was one of the goals of the City Hall coalition government announced in October 2019. The plans were first announced in February 2019. “It might look a bit like Covent Garden in London or Chelsea Market in New York,” Chabr said in a City Hall press release at that time.

City Hall’s plan is to create a market of a European format inside a cultural monument that will be not only a center of good food and drink, but also a pleasant meeting place.

“It should not be just where you go to buy tomatoes and apples or pastries. We also want cultural and social events to take place here, and one has to take away a complex experience,” Chabr recently told Forbes.

old town market
Current interior of the Old Town Market. via CAMP / Jan Malý

After the renovations are finished in 2022, the city will rent the space to a tenant who should manage its use. The operator has not been chosen yet.

One person so far to express interest in operating the site is Ondřej Kobza, who was involved in projects for public pianos as well as opening up the roof of Lucerna to the public and revitalizing Vítězné náměstí and Krymská Street.

Kobza intents to work with Gabor Bindics. Together, they have experience with a similar market in Bratislava.

Aside from cuisine, they intend to have a tango dance space, a market for small book publishers, entertainment for children, and a twice-weekly farmers market.

Old Town Market
Old Town Market on Rytířská Street. via Raymond Johnston

Foreign investors have also expressed an interest.

The market has an obscure link to history. A plaque on the entrance says the market is on the site of the birthplace of Alois Senefelder, born in 1771. He was an actor, writer and lawyer who invented lithography as a way to save on printing costs.

The Old Town Market is a separate project from the planned Time Out Market that will open in the Savarin Palace complex, also currently under renovation next to Wenceslas Square. There are also plans to revitalize The Prague Market (Pražská tržnice) in Holešovice.

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