Markale - Sarajevo

In Sarajevo, everything has its own charm, and the same is true for the Gradska Tržnica (City Market). In writing about this true architectural gem, historian, Hamdija Kreševljaković, describes how the building’s exterior reminds one more of a theater than of a marketplace!

Built in the Neo-renaissance style, Markale Tržnica is situated right in the center of town and is surrounded by Ferhadija St., Mula Mustafe Bašeskije St. and Gajev Trg. This year marks 120 years of its existence.

City train station

The story of Sarajevo’s tržnica goes back to 1894, when construction on the city train station began where Trg Oslobođenja is today. Many shops selling meat and produce opened up on nearby streets, and this led city authorities to set up an area that could be used for selling daily goods. It was called Sajmište and was initially an outdoor marketplace, but then ten years later construction got underway to make it an indoor market.

A ceremony was held on November 1, 1895 when Sarajevo’s market “temple” finally opened for business. It was called Markale, after the German, Markthalle, which literally means “the place for selling”, and was an enormous place, with vaulted ceilings reaching eight meters in height. It was a real covered market and the façade with three arches gave it the look of a building from the ancient world. Stands were set up along the interior hall, with all kinds of milk, cheeses, dried meats, eggs… on offer. There is also a clock on one wall that dates from that period which is in the Secession style.

The massive roof also makes it an interesting building, as this was the first time that steel was used in a construction project in Sarajevo. While the project designs were not signed, some prominent art historians submit that the creative mind behind Markale was the famous Josip Vancaš, whose architectural ideas have contributed to Sarajevo’s appearance. Others attribute the ideas to August Butsch, whose signature is on the designs for the working details.

National Monument of BiH

Over the decades, the market changed, right up until the XIV Winter Olympic Games, when its original look was restored. Markale is now on the list of National Monuments of BiH.

The history of Sarajevo’s tržnica doesn’t only include pleasant things, for this place has a connection to some of the most tragic events in Sarajevo’s recent history. During the last war, the word “Markale” was known in the international media as the place where several grenade attacks led to the death of a large number of Sarajevans.

The last massacre on Markale occurred on August 28, 1995, with 43 killed and 84 injured. A commemorative plaque was placed on the northern side of Markale, coming from Mula Mustafe Bašeskije St., to honor those Sarajevans who were killed and injured.

Nonetheless, it is undeniable that there is a pervasive charm at Markale – it can be found in the courteous gestures of the kind vendors, who will let you have a free sampling of their domestic milk and meat products.

There is also the charm reflected in the many colors found at Markale Green Market (a few dozen meters from Tržnica), where you can always find fresh fruits and vegetables or a bouquet of freshly-picked flowers.