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Seated along the Mississippi River banks since 1791 is the French Market, a six-block commercial strip framed by authentic New Orleans restaurants, music venues, handmade crafts and specialty shopping. With over three centuries of history, this historic public space, known as the United States oldest public market, has gone from being a Native American trading post to playing a lead roll in the city’s local economy. Follow us as we guide you through the French Market, and explore why it’s a must-see for anyone visiting NOLA.
For over 200 years, buyers and traders from all over the world have transformed New Orleans’ French Market into a hub for culture, commerce and entertainment. As French and Spanish settlers opened up this French Quarter landmark to incoming trading ships, Caribbean, African and European immigrants marked their establishment in the Port City by setting up their own shops and selling idiosyncratic goods.
Today, sitting under the same structure that Joseph Abeilard (one of the first African American architects in the country) designed during the late 19th century, the French Market not only stands as a pivotal financial component for New Orleans, but also as a place that fosters multicultural traditions, lifestyles and beliefs.
Built in 1978 by previous New Orleans Mayor Ernest N. ‘Dutch’ Morial, Dutch Alley is a pedestrian plaza located in the heart of the French Market. Following rebuilding and renovations, this under-utilized square transformed into one of the Market’s main attractions, featuring everything from a performing tent and historic statues to the alley’s Artists’ Co-op and the New Orleans Jazz National Park visitor center. While touristing around the French Quarter, visitors can stop by Dutch Alley to find detailed information about the French Market, as well as special jazz events taking place around the city.
Full of local produce and specialty foods, the Farmer’s Market is a 1924 pavilion built by the Public Blest Commission at Ursuline’s and North Peters Streets. This culinary landmark, known as America’s oldest continuously operated open-air market, is open daily and offers clients full service eateries for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as authentic New Orleans sweets, snacks and drinks specials. The Market also hosts two weekly events: Wednesday Crescent City Farmers Market and French Market’s Artisan Saturday Market, where customers can purchase fresh local produce, seafood, homegrown spices, specialty food, delicacies, sweets and snacks.
Blending together merchandise from all over the world, the French Market’s Flea Market is an al fresco dealership open every day from until 6 p.m. Driven by diversity and a community of culture, chief items at this French Quarter marketplace include clothing, antiques, art, handmade jewelry, accessories, photographs, candles and crafts. If you’re looking for an authentic New Orleans souvenir to take back home, you’ll find it at the Flea Market.
The French Market also features a daily rotating group of over 50 local and worldly artists and craftsmen at their N. Peters Street location. On any day, visitors will be able to find kiosks showcasing creative displays of pottery, painting, printmaking, scrubs and locations, all representing the unique culture of New Orleans.
Being that the French Market is one of the Quarter’s most visited attractions, it comes as no surprise that it houses some of the best food concoctions in New Orleans. Amid the food stand variety, diners will find an array of restaurants and outdoor eateries where they’ll be able to enjoy snacks, large meals, and souvenired package goods. Must eat dishes at the French Market include po’boys, oysters, pralines, gumbo, jambalaya, and of course, beignets and cafe au lait at the famous Café du Monde.
Located right off Jackson Square, The French Market is within walking distance of any French Quarter location – however, if you are coming from New Orleans’ Uptown neighborhood, you can hop on the St. Charles Streetcar; and, if traveling from the Mid-City district, you have the option of taking the Canal St. streetcar.
For more information about this unique French Quarter treasure, be sure to visit the French Market’s website.