This paper looks at the evolution of the open‐air marketplace in Hungary in terms of the theory of path‐dependent development. The current post‐communist open‐air market has its origins in the economic peculiarities of the former communist distribution and production system and still bears many of these characteristics. The paper traces the distinctive ways in which this shaped open‐air trading in Hungary. Drawing upon historical and anthropological evidence, the paper also shows how open‐air markets had their roots in an even earlier pre‐communist period which shaped the path of development which they subsequently took. The second half of the paper draws upon a unique empirical study of four markets in four towns in Hungary in the post‐communist period to look in more detail at what are the characteristics of these open‐air markets. The paper considers to what extent open‐air markets have characteristics which can be found anywhere in the world and to what extent they are specific to the post‐communist situation.