If the French Quarter is the heart of New Orleans, then the French Market is the heart of the Quarter.
The site of the French Market was formerly a trading post for the native Louisiana Choctaw. The "French" Market was actually established around 1779, after the Spanish took control of New Orleans. Moved to its present site in 1791, this is the oldest farmer's market in the country. The Market has survived several changes of nationality, when Louisiana reverted to French control, and then ultimately sold to the United States in 1803. The open-air center was designed by architect Joseph Abeilard, one of the first African-American architects, in 1870, but was destroyed in a hurricane. Throughout its history, people of color, (both slave and free), Creoles, Native Americans, U.S. citizens, Sicilians, (and basically everybody) sold wares and/or shopped at this location. Many immigrants from many countries took stalls there, and the shoppers had to learn to communicate in French, Spanish, Italian, German, Creole "patois," and more. In addition to staples such as fish and other seafood, meat (at the Halle des Boucheries), cheese, vegetables (at the Halle des Légumes), and fruit, you might buy pralines or file' powder or a po-boy.
The Market Today:
The Market was improved and partially reconstructed beginning in the 1970's, and is protected, along with the rest of the Quarter, by a floodwall. In addition to greens and other food items, there is a large community flea market. The French Market Visitor Center, near Decatur and Dumaine, has information on current events, shopping, tourist attractions, etc. In upscale shops you can buy toys, Harley-Davidson merchandise, local art, pet gifts, and many other beautiful items. Some of the more well-known destinations include the Cafe du Monde and Aunt Sally's Praline Shop. There is an African Crafts Bazaar, a Latin handcraft shop and a shop featuring handmade silver jewelry.
More Going On:
Popular events centered here include the Creole Tomato Festival, the Latin American Food Festival, and the Lighting of the Christmas Tree. There are also weekend concerts at certain times of the year, such as during the Christmas season, and special summer events for the whole family. For all the events and news go to the French Market's official website.