A Long Tradition
Many producers and artisans from the Québec City area sell their fresh and processed products at a market in Québec City’s Old Port: Marché du Vieux-Port. Fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, wine and cheese, maple syrup and pâtisseries are all to be had. There are also several shopkeepers. The market is lively no matter the season, although it is never more popular or plentiful than in the fall and in the weeks running up to Christmas. But did you know it is the latest in a long line of markets on this site?
The markets of yesteryear
Until the early 20th century, people bought their milk, eggs, meat, fruit, and vegetables at markets where local producers set up stalls. In the days of New France, some townsfolk rented cows to always have access to fresh milk, while others kept pigs or chickens in their yards. But these practices disappeared in the 19th century, and markets selling fresh produce became indispensable.
Down by the water
Back then most consumers products arrived in town by boat, which is why public markets were often found along the St. Lawrence. The hay market on rue Saint-Paul used to stand not far from where the current market is today, on the banks of Rivière Saint-Charles.
The hay market opened in 1829 so that the other markets in town no longer had to trade in bulky goods like hay, wood, and livestock. It was very popular because hay was used to feed the horses, which drove every means of transport in the city—carriages for passengers and carts for merchandise. But as the riverbanks were filled in to make room for the railway tracks and station, the market had to close in 1883.
The real ancestor to the market in the Old Port was the market opened in Saint-Roch’s Place Jacques-Cartier in the mid-19th century. It had to leave this central location when the market building was destroyed by fire in 1910. The Saint-Roch Market was then relocated to the banks of Rivière Saint-Charles, near the Drouin Bridge, where it remained until 1977. It then found a new home behind the Gare du Palais railway station, followed by Parc Victoria, before moving to its present-day site in 1987.
Neighbourhood stores like grocery stores and butchers replaced most public markets in the 20th century. The downtown Saint-Roch Market was the only one that remained.
Public markets now have on a very different role. Most people stock up on groceries at supermarkets, while traditional markets appeal more to customers looking for fresh produce and foodstuffs and who enjoy being in direct contact with the farmers and artisans.
A feast for the senses
Marché du Vieux-Port has capitalized on the popularity of buying fresh, local products and getting to meet the people who produce them. It is more and more bustling and is a friendly, authentic place to shop. Its popular Christmas Market draws big crowds in search of local gourmet gifts, all in colourful festive surroundings.