Washington DC Fish Market

Maine Avenue SE
Washington, DC

Submitted by: Michael Adler

A public fish market on the DC waterfront.


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Why It Works

A bustling seafood and fish market on Washington's waterfront. Crabs, lobsters and fish are sold from floating barges. This place is popular with locals, and not at all a tourist trap. Devoid of the usual consumer mall culture, it's an authentic example of urban commerce at the street level. Ironically, it flourishes just beyond revitalized portions of the DC waterfront, which are cold and empty modernist concrete places, totally devoid of people.

What Makes Washington DC Fish Market a Great Place?

The fish market is one of the few areas that offer authentic access to the DC waterfront. The market is located directly on the river, beneath a mammoth highway overpass and adjacent to a yacht basin. There is little convenient pedestrian access from the rest of the city. Visitors are advised to consult a map before setting out. The area is accessible via the Waterfront or L'Enfant Plaza stops of the DC Metro.

This is an informal outdoor place in a city that is dominated by formalism. It is not especially clean or dirty. It looks like a place in use. It feels safe at nearly all times when it is open because of the presence of people. It is not a safe place to visit at night. Vehicles can access the site freely but they do not overwhelm the pedestrian character of the market.

The space is a bustling arena of commerce. Under normal circumstances it is filled with small groups and families. Visitors to the fish market vary. A visitor may encounter a group of day laborers enjoying a lunch break, still covered in paint or spackle. At the same time, one might find a group of video camera-equipped tourists seeking to catch some local flavor for a vacation video.

This is a place to conduct commerce and to people-watch. It is not a place for light recreation. This is one of the places where the residents of the city congregate. These are not the diplomats and politicians of official Washington. These are the working people of the city, of various ethnicities and backgrounds.

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