Historically, before its Liberation (1878) Sofia was a typical city within the Ottoman Empire, consisting of quarters/communities, most often gravitating around a mosque, synagogue, church. The establishment of the Bulgarian Christian quarters was also helped by a special decree, issued in 1663 by Sultan Mehmed ІV, expressly prohibiting Turks and Jews to settle in the “Bulgarian part” of Sofia, the so-called Varosh.
Based on the oriental model, the bazaar was situated in the central part of the city, where the arriving passengers usually gathered. Just before the Liberation, this “bazaar” actually formed a whole market quarter, which has become a centre of manufacturing, trade, as well as active social activities and public performances; one of the most famous researches of this area – V. Aleksandrov wrote that “in the open-air and indoor markets in Sofia it was possible to find and buy the most extraordinary merchandise: from witch-doctor medicines of dubious medical value, to expensive foreign jewellery”.
The market quarter was in fact a complex of different quarters or bazaars, separated by trade and/or ethnic signs – Jewish, Butcher’s and the neighbouring Shoemakers (Emishchiyska, Kavafska or Papukchiyska), Goldsmith’s quarters etc. To the east of the latter was the Painter’s and Canvas quarter, between the Zhezhki Bunar (Hot Well) (the Mineral Public Baths) and what is now Dondukov Boulevard, one could find the so-called Sheytan (Devil’s) quarter.
The current Court of Justice was then the Clerk’s quarter; there were also the fur-dressers’ and Tailors’ quarters. In most cases these craftsmen quarters also served as marketplaces for the and products of the respective craftsmen – e.g. Painters’ Market, mentioned in the Life of St. Nikola of Sofia, the Coppersmiths’ market, situated near the St. Spas church, Salt Bazaar, Bal Bazaar, where honey and wax were sold, Zhenski Pazar Market near the large Banya Bashi Mosque (near the Mineral Public Baths).
And here is some background on the market, which used to be known as the Kirkov Market, during the socialist period. This market was established around the time of Bulgaria’s liberation from Ottoman rule and its name at that time was the “Wheat Market” and “Horses Market”.
It was established, to let the residents of the capital city buy fresh agricultural products, and the farmers from the nearby villages – sell their produce. At that time this area was at the outskirts of the city, but it is now within the administrative borders of the perfect centre of Sofia (it borders the boulevards Patriarch Evtimiy, Hristo Botev, Slivnitsa and Vasil Levski).
Few people know that the market lies on the Stefan Stambolov boulevard, of the existence of which most Sofians do not even suspect. Close by are the Saints Cyril and Methodius Chirch, the Synagogue, the Central Market Hall, the western wall of the antique Serdika and many other sites, which can rightfully be referred to as “tourist attractions“.
*Sources: Georgiev G., 1983: 45; Tahov G., 1987: 249, 19