Although the structure is recent, it’s market location goes back 500 years to the early days of the city. Produce had been sold along this region since the 1500s.
It stands out from its surroundings because it looks so much unlike it. Whereas Riga Old Town is a historic and art nouveau centre, this place is neoclassic and art deco style.
The Riga Central Market is Europes largest bazaar and market square at 72000 square meters and with 3000 stalls. Comprising outdoor and indoor stalls, this is a market place that you can get lost in and spend a whole morning exploring. The unique market today did not begin this way. First begun in the 1500s, the market region remained an important and frequented but unsavoury one because of the stench and safety related problems.
It was decided only in 1922 to move the market to a safer and more hygienic location. An open tender was called and the winning design came from architects architect Pāvils Dreijmanis and engineer S. Žitkovs. They used the top of 5 abandoned German Zepplin hangers located in southern Latvia to create the art deco building design.
Stall holders outside the sheltered area sell a mixture of fruits, honeys and fashion whereas goods that are high on the perishable scale are found in the sheltered area.
The majority of the stalls are housed neatly in sections shelterd by former German Zepplin hangers. The small owners open their stores daily and hawk their wares are much cheaper prices.
When it first opened in 1930, the Riga market was the a huge tourist draw. British and German tourist would come all the way to purchase butter and bacon and the fish specific pavillion had some of the most beautiful aquariums in the world. It became a tourist draw on its own. This is a market for the masses, the exact opposite of what the Ostermalm Saluhall is in Stockholm – a food hall that serves high class food mostly to those who can afford it.
A strong draw despite the convenience of supermarkets that have mushroomed all over Riga. The 5 Zepplin hangers are the majority of 9 remaining Zeppllin hangers left worldwide and the market, together with the old town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
If the old town was Riga as it was, the market is Riga as it is.
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