Dolac Market is a delicious, must-see Zagreb highlight. It would be hard to miss for anyone spending a few days in the city. It’s a colorful “maze of open-air markets” behind Ban Josip Jelačić Square. Located in Gornji Grad – Medveščak (Upper Town), Dolac is the largest green market in Zagreb. A 90+ year tradition, the market officially opened in 1930. It’s distinguished by bright red umbrellas over rows of tables displaying local produce and other wares.
Dolac’s red umbrellas are known as Šestinski Kišobrans – they’re decorated in the style of the Šestine folk costume. To honor Dolac market, the Croatian Post Office printed a postage stamp featuring the colorful bumbershoots.
How It’s Going So Far
Each city I’ve visited during this trip has been unique and with its own set of challenges. It takes a few weeks to figure things out and “get with the local program” :). I’ve been in Zagreb for about a week now, and Dolac Market is a favorite spot. It’s an area where you can feel authentic, refreshing “local color”. The area has a different, more laid-back vibe than fancier “hip” shops, pubs, and cafés nearer the city center.
Croatian writer and journalist, Zvonimir Milčec, wrote: “Dolac is the prettiest monument to food that Zagreb has. This old market means the same to gourmands as a cathedral means to the believers”.
I’ve bought fresh fruit and vegetables and interreacted as much as possible with vendors and locals. Sadly, my “dobar don” (hello in Croatian) is a dead giveaway, and most locals smile back and respond with “Hi” … At one fruit stand, a vendor clearly didn’t speak English, so a little Croatian girl shopping with her mother stepped up to translate. She was cute! I will add that oddly enough, people stop me on the street to ask for directions. Of course, they’re in shock when I respond. Based purely on personal experiences, this strengthens my resolve to never ask locals for directions.
Splavnica Street Flowers and Underground Market
The flower market is on Splavnica Street, slightly above Ban Josip Jelačić Square, and just below a stairway leading to the main part of Dolac. Fragrant fresh flowers are “displayed in double rows on low stands for maximum viewing”. On an underground level, there’s a multitude of delights, including a fresh fish market (caught in the Adriatic every morning), butcheries, health food stands, honey, nuts, fresh pasta, bakeries, homemade cheese, eggs, dried fruit, souvenirs, and more!
Zagreb Cathedral and St. Mark’s Church
Dolac Market is open seven days a week, and it’s best to visit in the morning, although as you can tell by some of the photos, I didn’t arrive until afternoon, when product selection was dwindling. It’s near Saint Mark’s Church and adjacent to Zagreb Cathedral, where there’s a daily mass. The Cathedral is known as the “most eloquent of sacral architecture in Neo-Gothic style southeast of the Alps”. Although I’m not Catholic, I plan to attend mass to experience the cathedral’s special grandeur.
“Even though there are many farmers’ markets and supermarkets throughout Zagreb, people still go to Dolac to buy fresh food. There’s something about the ritual of buying from your favourite stands that makes visiting Dolac a special experience.” learncroatian.eu
Dolac is the first market in Zagreb “built according to European standards”. In 1918, “Croatia became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later Kingdom of Yugoslavia), which saw Zagreb become a financial, commercial, and cultural centre with a growing population. At that time, Zagreb had a market called Harmica on Ban Josip Jelačić Square. The rapid growth of the city called for a larger marketplace, and so the idea of Dolac was born”.
“You can feel the historic sentiment, because the history of Dolac Market is long and has shaped the life of Zagreb for decades.” Learncroatian.eu
Kumice and Dolac Market
The women selling goods at the market are known as “Kumice” (godmothers). If you want the best fruits and vegetables, it pays to be nice to them. A bronze statue of Kumica Barica is placed at the entrance to Dolac Market. The statue is “a symbol of the importance and appreciation of working women”.
“Kumice are central to the identity of Dolac Market. From the very beginning, everyone had their favourite kumica. People rushed to Dolac each morning to get first dibs on products from their kumica. Kumice would even collect laundry from people in Zagreb. After washing and ironing it, they brought the laundry back in exchange for extra money. Thanks to the whole concept of kumice, the marketplace has a unique and familiar atmosphere.”
Cafés and Pubs
The area around Dolac is thick with cafés and pubs for sitting and relaxing. Good or bad weather, outside tables are usually filled with people taking a break from shopping or just stopping to enjoy a coffee or beer and chat with friends.
I’m sure to return to Dolac Market often during this time in Zagreb, and smile when I think about it!