New Orleans hosts a number of tourist attractions and a visit to the historic French Market will make every tour complete. It is a place where different ethnic nationalities unite, making it one of the most exotic marketplaces during the 19th century, where Native Indians, Creoles, African Americans and European immigrants dominated the stalls selling goods.
For more than two hundred years now, the French Market has evolved to cater to the many tourists, as well as the locals that frequent the market. Each new decade, beginning from 1791, and every leader that governed the city of New Orleans has placed its mark on the market?s dramatic changes. These changes draw more people to the market which became a cultural, commercial and entertainment gem the Crescent City boasts off.
The French Market is America?s oldest public market and has been a lasting icon for pride and progress for the people of New Orleans. Existing on the same site since 1791, the Market started as a Native American trading place on the borders of the Mississippi River, chosen by the French during their colonization. The Market has played a major role in the growth of the local economy with the millions of dollars of revenues it has provided.
Extending to three blocks from Jackson Square to Ursulines Street by the side of Decatur and North Peters Street, the French Market is composed of various market halls that each has its own special stories to offer. The oldest market hall here is the Halle des Boucheries or Butcher?s Market, which was built in 1813 and was renovated in 1975. It has housed several coffee shops since the 1860s, including the French Market?s oldest tenant Caf? du Monde, which is now 100 years old. Here, visitors can sit and relax while enjoying live Jazz music.
Later on, the Bazaar and the Cuisine Markets were built. In 1870, the Wells and Company leased a site in the French Market and put up the Bazaar Market. However, the Bazaar Market that stands today is a 1930 PWA (Public Works Administration) initiative, since the original Bazaar was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915. From a market for retail sale of produce, retail shops and boutiques now dominate the Bazaar Market.
Constructed in the 1970s, the Cuisine Market was added during the renovation on the wholesale Seafood Market section to accommodate major restaurant ventures. Today, the National Park Services and French Market Visitor Centers are situated here.
Then there?s the Farmers? Market and the Flea Market. These two blocks of covered markets are situated further downriver. Aside from fresh produce, herbs, seafood and meat, some delightful delicacies are available in the Farmers? Market. Visitors can also enjoy Creole food here. Souvenirs like clothes, jewelry and Mardi Gras masks are just some of the items visitors can buy in the Flea Market.
During the term of Mayor Ernest N. ?Dutch? Morial, huge improvements were initiated in the French Market, including the Performance Tent adjacent to St. Philip Street, floodwall gates along Dumaine and St. Philip Streets and remarkable displays and sculptures, providing easy access to the Mississippi River and offering more new attractions to visitors. These improvements brought to existence the world famous Dutch Alley, a pedestrian plaza where commerce and entertainment are perceptively utilized.
What make the visit to the Market worthwhile are the festivals and community events that are truly amazing. International food and culture festivals are held here and the most popular of these are the Tomato Festival, the Latin American Food Festival, the Lighting of the Christmas Tree and the Pumpkin Art, each attracting thousands of visitors every year.