The right to hold markets and fairs was once the privilege of lesser sovereigns. From the right of the lesser sovereign evolved the obligation to provide for the subjects. Markets grew up especially at crossroads and river crossings, protected by castles and friaries.
They were often a requirement for the creation of cities. Markets have always been a meeting point for farmers, retailers, travelling entertainers, and townspeople and moreover an important hub for goods and news. As it also was in Stuttgart.
For many centuries, viniculture and agriculture, skilled crafts and the trade with wine, salt, and wood formed the economic basis for the city of Stuttgart. It is therefore not surprising that in the middle of the 14th century, shortly after Stuttgart was declared a city, documents refer to a trading area, a “forum mercatorium”. From 1304, regular Tuesday and Saturday weekly markets took place here, in 1775 Thursday also became a market day.
As Stuttgart was declared the seat of power of the County of Wirttemberg in 1482, already more than 6,000 people were living in the city. Ulrich the well-loved, Count of Wirttemberg, placed the weekly and annual markets which took place regularly in spring, autumn, and at Christmas under his protection. During the reign of Count Ludwig I. in 1435, a manor house was built on the market square. There were stalls on the ground floor selling fruit, bread, and meat. On the upper floor, retailers and merchants offered their various products for sale.
In the spring of 1863, King Wilhelm I endowed the 1st Market Hall in Stuttgart for the wives and daughters of the Stuttgart winegrowers and gardeners to protect them from vagaries of the weather. Taking the example from “Les Halles” in Paris, the Renaissance-style Stuttgart Maket Hall was constructed in steel and glass. Due to the steadily growing population, the Market Hall was soon too small, so the Stuttgart city council decided to build a larger hall on the same location. The order was given to Martin Elsässer the younger, who created an aesthetically sophisticated building in art nouveau style. The new Market Hall was opened on 30th January 1914.
Industrialisation and the new century brought a larger selection of goods. Improved transport and refrigeration possibilities as well as free trade extended the offer of local growers with fruit and agricultural products from all over the world. The Market Hall and market square were soon too small for the continuously increasing number of wholesalers bringing their goods to Stuttgart. Therefore, in 1928 the Karlsplatz was added as a further market area. After WW2, the market took place at various locations in the inner city: Wholesalers and fruit growers offered their goods on the Karlsplatz, flower sellers were located on Schillerplatz and Dorotheenstrasse along the Alten Schloss, vegetable growers were situated on Eichstrasse and Ilgenplatz. Trade with foreign goods was carried out directly at the freight railyard. Early in the morning was the time for bulk buyers and retailers in the market. Private consumers were allowed to shop from 9am. This system soon proved to be problematic: The market action was not transparent and also unhygienic, deliveries were complicated and interminable resulting in difficulties in maintaining the market times. Suitable equipment and transfer systems for sensible wholesale activities were missing. Plans for the creation of a large market system were developed in 1934, but they could not be implemented until after WW2.
Following almost two years construction time, the Grossmarkt was opened on 1st April 1957. The modern Market Hall cost about 18 million Marks and forms the basis for the success of the Stuttgart Grossmarkt. The Grossmarkt is an easily accessed location with direct link to B10 / B14 (thus motorway access to A 8 and A 81) and German Rail (DB) therefore easing the congestion in the inner city.
Under the direction of the Ministry for Markets, the supply areas Weekly Markets, Stuttgart Markthalle, and Grossmarkt Stuttgart developed to their current importance, attractiveness, and performance. The public Ministry for Markets was changed to an owner-operated municipal enterprise (VMS) on 1.1.1994. The service company of the city of Stuttgart has been known as Märkte Stuttgart GmbH since 1st January 2010.
The Grossmarkt, especially as a supra-regional centre for groceries with emphasis on agricultural products, forms the core of an expanding „Stuttgart Freshness Centre“ together with numerous production and marketing companies in the food industry.