Something Old, Something New: The French Market

The French Market
New Orleans, LA

Since 1812 the French Market in New Orleans has functioned not only as a place for trading, but for many different types of people to gather and meet. This remains true today. From residents to tourists, everybody can find something at this open-air market. Since colonial times the area has been used for trade. It was not until under Spanish rule that the area was consolidated, creating a much more efficient and clean shopping experience. Due to the variety of meat being sold at the time it was called the meat market. Not until the 1850’s did the name French Market come into use. Currently there are no more meat vendors due to health reasons. Today the market does not extend as far as it did 100 years ago and is currently under construction. Half the space has been rendered unusable for at least the next few months. After Katrina I can recall only a few fruit vendors, which was once a bountiful section of the French Market. Currently there are none, nor will there be any returning according to other vendors. However, the famous Cajun and Creole spices and food are still for sale; truly for the adventurous, not for a vegetarian like myself.

Most of the vendors sell souvenirs, t-shirts, and crafts. There are still many good places for knickknacks and strange New Orleans memorabilia though. There are even a few music booths carrying classic and modern Zydeco and jazz music. Maybe you won’t find many historical items for sale, shopping where many have done the same for generations is a timeless experience. The varieties of people that have shopped and traded here include the Cajun on the bayou to the free person of color. The French Market is not just a regular flea market, but also a true New Orleans experience. Also it gives one the rare experience of bargaining prices. The vendors are often full of stories and different crafts to peruse. Spending an hour or two in the market is sure to add to one’s historical experience of New Orleans.