Similar to some European markets, this historically charming open-air market features shopping, dining, music and local tradition that is uniquely New Orleans. From Café du Monde near Jackson Square to the flea market at the end of Esplanade Avenue, the French Market includes five blocks of local produce, specialty art, handmade crafts, retail shopping and more.
A Historically Popular Shopping Area
In 1791, the French Market originated as a Native American trading post along the Mississippi River. From there it continued to evolve into a cultural and commercial hub for New Orleans, as French and Spanish colonists opened the market up to ships and traders from all over the world. Over the next three centuries, immigrants from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean began to open their own venues at this French Quarter market, offering everything from Italian butcheries to African coffee and Choctaw spices.
In the late 19th century, the Market was given its modern day, bizarre-like structure, designed by Joseph Abeilard, one of America’s first African American Architects. With its new permanent home, the French Market continued to grow and add more commercial products, fresh produce and unique commodities that cannot be found anywhere else.
One of the most historically famous components of the French Market is called Dutch Alley, a charming pedestrian plaza at Dumaine and St. Phillip Streets. Dutch Alley was commenced by previous New Orleans Mayor, Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial, in 1978. Mayor Morial gave the French Market an extra touch of pizzaz with the Dutch Alley, as it includes a performance tent, historic statues, the Dutch Alley Artists’ Co-op and the visitor center for the one and only New Orleans Jazz National Park. Here you can find programs and information about special events at the French Market and all things Jazz in the city.
Today the French Market has become one of the most popular destinations in the city. It’s large variety of food stands, restaurants and outdoor dining spaces draw in hungry visitors for anything from small snacks to large meals and even packaged goods to take home as souvenirs.
One of the most popular destinations is the famous Café Du Monde. Located just off of Jackson Square, this monumental outdoor café serves the iconic beignets and café au lait that locals and visitors just can’t resist. And there is always a musician playing the guitar or saxophone nearby. Other iconic New Orleans dishes are available at multiple venues throughout the market, including Po-boys, oysters and exotic beverages (both alcoholic and non).
One of the most popular attractions at the Market is the fresh and delicious Farmers Market Pavilion. Visitors come from near and far come to visit this pavilion, full of local produce and specialty foods with worldly inspiration. The Pavilion is open daily and includes full service eateries for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as unique drink, sweets and snack options.
In addition to the daily offerings at the pavilion, the Farmers Market also hosts special fresh food markets on Wednesdays and Sundays, bringing in the finest vendors in region with everything from seasonal vegetables to homegrown spices. So whether you’re looking for an exotic fruit or some famous New Orleans pralines to take back home, you’ll find it at the Farmers Market.
The Farmers Market even hosts a special festival every year for the spring harvest of the Creole tomato. The Creole Tomato Festival is free and open to the public to enjoy an endless amount of fresh picked tomatoes and tomato based dishes that are unique to the New Orleans area.
Amidst the kiosks and endless strands of fresh food concoctions, the French Market showcases over fifty local artists and craftsmen. From printmaking to scrubs and lotions, the Market has a unique array of both local and worldly artists who sell their carefully crafted works that each represent the unique and authentic culture of New Orleans. And not only will these artists share their creations, but they love to share their stories and experiences in the city.
In addition to the multitude of crafts, boutiques and specialty shops along the French Market, the Flea Market hosts merchants from all over the world. This endless strip of open-air vendors presents everything from t-shirts, to handmade jewelry, accessories and photography, representing a diverse community of New Orleans tradition and new creativity.
Located just parallel to the Mississippi River and right off Jackson Square, the French Market is within walking distance of any location in the French Quarter. You can take the St. Charles streetcar from Uptown, or the Canal St. streetcar from Mid-City and get off at Canal and Carondelet Street to walk a few blocks down to the river. There are also plenty of paid parking lot spaces along S Peters Street within block of Jackson Square.