The French Quarter: it’s what everyone thinks of when they think of New Orleans.
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Whether you’re looking for a party town, a beautiful historic city, or a foodie haven, you can find it in New Orleans. A friend and I recently headed down to The Big Easy for a girls’ weekend and loved every minute of it!
The appeal of New Orleans – and the French Quarter in particular – is that it’s so beautiful. There are tons of things to do, but you can happily spend hours exploring the side streets, seeing all the beautiful buildings. It feels like a mash-up of old European beauty with a splash of color.
Today, I’m sharing a few things you must do in the French Quarter on your trip!
What to See in the French Quarter
Walk Down Bourbon Street
This one’s obvious. Even if you’re not into that scene, it’s worth walking down the street for the people watching. To get in the spirit, grab a beverage of choice at any of the bars along the street – as long as it’s not in glass, you can carry drinks outside!
We took Bourbon Street to get anywhere we walked; it gave us a chance to see it at a bunch of different times throughout the day. Definitely plan to see it in
One tip: don’t walk it in the morning. It’s not yet cleaned up from the night before.
While you’re there, check out Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. It’s one of the oldest voodoo shops, and while they don’t allow photos inside, it’s worth sticking your head in to see all manner of unusual things, from the kitschy to the occult.
Another place to stick your head in is Preservation Hall. Located right off Bourbon Street on St. Peter, famous for nightly jazz since the 1960’s.
Explore Jackson Square
In addition to being beautiful, Jackson Square is a great location because it’s a jumping off point for so many other things to see: the Mississippi River is right there, offering one of the only places with a breeze to combat the constant humidity. You can do a Natchez Steamboat ride that leaves from close to this spot, but if you do, skip the meal. There’s way better food elsewhere in the city.
Cafe du Monde is here, and while it’s certainly an institution, I don’t know that it’s worth waiting in line for. We stopped in for a midafternoon beignet bite and grabbed a table with no waiting. I’ll be honest: you’re going to find better beignets elsewhere – they’re trading on their reputation more than anything else. But the frozen chicory coffee is delicious and worth the visit!
On the opposite side of the square sits St. Louis Cathedral. It’s beautiful and peaceful inside, offering a moment of quiet reverence in a raucous city. Even if churches aren’t your deal, it’s beautiful inside and has A/C, so may be worth poking your head in.
The square is surrounded by an ornate fence, and local artists hang their creations from it. There’s every style under the sun available, from impressionist and photography to voodoo and erotic. My favorite may have been the photographer who transferred his images on wood, then coated in a layer of beeswax, creating an ethereal effect. It was beautiful and a bit haunting for its subtlety.
Interspersed with the paintings are musicians, the kind you come to expect in New Orleans. Most are incredibly talented and some set up in groups of 7 or 8 next to the
Eat Great Food
No trip to New Orleans would be complete without fantastic food! As we walked around the city, we kept noticing restaurants we wanted to try – far more spots than we had meals! Here are a few of my favorites we tried as well as what’s on my list for next time:
- Cafe Fleur de Lis – definitely hit this spot up for breakfast. There were a bunch of locals there when we visited, which is always a vote of confidence. Delicious brunch items reasonably priced, and don’t miss the chocolate iced coffee. The beans are roasted to add the chocolate flavor, so no sugary syrup here!
- Cafe Envie – If you need a jolt of caffeine to walk around with, go here. It’s a local chain and there are a few around the French Quarter, including one next door to our hotel. After days of walking past the lovely smells, we had to go and loved it.
- Brennan’s – This is the spot to go if you want a relaxing boozy brunch. We didn’t get in here because it fills up fast, but check it out!
- Coop’s Place – On the east side of the French Quarter, close to neighboring Marigny. The fried chicken is delicious and I’ve heard they serve some of the best jambalaya in New Orleans!
- Sucre – Fancy French patisserie. We ordered a bunch of macarons to share and loved every single favor! These also make a great souvenir to take home (or eat in the car on the drive).
- Cochon – Again and again, this place came up as a fantastic meal in the quarter. We didn’t get to go (quick trip problems, right?), but it’s worth planning ahead and making a reservation.
- Acme Oyster House – In a city known for its oysters, this is the best place to have them. Multiple locals mentioned it when I asked for recommendations.
- Sylvain – Go for cocktails. They also serve elegant food (as well as brunch), but their cocktails are where it’s at.
Ride the Carousel at Hotel Monteleone
I loved this so much it gets its own category!
One of the older hotels in the area installed an
Explore the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
New Orleans is also famous for its cemeteries, mostly above ground crypts that generations of family members would share. They’re still in use and you can tour several cemeteries throughout the city. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest in the French Quarter and is notable for two things: voodoo shrines at some of the crypts, and Nicholas Cage’s weird pyramid tomb he’s had built here.
Unfortunately, you can’t enter without a guide, with is $20 per person. If you’re not ready to shell that much out, you can explore Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the nearby Garden District for free.
Ride the Trolley
Another classic New Orleans tradition is riding the streetcar. They run every 5-10 minutes, meaning you never wait long for the next car. It’s $1.25 one way or $3 for a day pass, making it the cheapest way to see other parts of the city.
It’s the simplest way to get to the Garden District, so I recommend you hop on the St. Charles line and head over! I shared more about what you should see (and more importantly, EAT) over here!
You can happily spend a weekend in New Orleans without ever leaving the French Quarter. What do you think of when you picture New Orleans??