The Historic French Market
The New Orleans French Market is a most historic place, having its roots going all the way back to the native Louisiana Choctaw who used it as a trading post. Since 1779, it's been the French Market, a place where farmers, fishermen, crabbers, shrimpers and oystermen come to sell their fresh offerings to the people of New Orleans. We still use it today as a place to get great fresh produce. Some of my favorite things to get in the French Market are Creole Tomatoes and Satsumas, grown in the fertile soil down river from New Orleans.
The Market Today
Today the French Market is so much more than just a farmer's market, it's a six block area of shopping, dining, shops, and a flea market. The French Market District runs along the Mississippi River in the French Quarter, from Dumaine Street to Barracks. The French Market District is also the site of lots of fun, free entertainment. There are several festivals held there every year including the Creole Tomato festival, You can take a tour of the French Market District on Mondays from 11 am to 1 pm. But, I think it's fun just to walk through the area and wonder through the Flea Market to shop, listen to some free music, then eat.
The French Market in Summer
There are always fun things to do in summer in the French Market District and it's all free to the public. Concerts are a mainstay of the French Market Distict. These concerts are usually held in Dutch Alley on Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 pm. It's hot, but there are misting stations and indoor childrens' activities at Jazz Park.
Often on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at about 4pm there are opera performances. On Saturdays at noon there's Bluegrass, Folk or Traditional Jazz. Also on Sunday afternoons there are usually cooking demonstrations and conversations about New Orleans cuisine hosted by the Southern Food and Beverage Museum.
The Jazz Park
The New Orleans Jazz Historic Park, which is near the French Market and actual in what is commonly considered the French Market District also has some great free fun in Summer. There's a series of concerts, usually on Saturdays that features local young musicians and shcool groups performing at a professional level. Music is so important in New Orleans and it's such a part of our culture that schools, local musicians and non-profits strive to make certain that the culture of New Orleans music is handed down to the next generation. So, don't be surprised when you hear the level of competence and talent you'll hear at one of these student concerts.
Where to Eat
Of course, at some point you will get hungry and there are some great restaurants in the French Market District. Some of my favorites are the Italian Barrel, a small Northern Italian Bistro that has some of the best cold plates of Italian meats and cheeses you'll find anywhere. I also love El Cato Negro with it's authentic Mexican cuisine.
All the Information You Need
The French Market and Flea Market are open seven days a week from 10 am to 6 pm. The shops along the edges of the French Market usually keep the same hours. There's parking on the river, over the levee at Jackson Square. (turn right at S. Peters from Decatur). For more information, go to the French Market District's website.