A city of jazz, voodoo, unreal food and excessive parties, New Orleans should be on everyone’s must-visit travel itinerary. This is a wonderful and weird city, with an extraordinary history and rich, deep and diverse culture, that really understands the value of a good time and is always happy to share.
As a travel destination, New Orleans is like no other. The historic French Quarter and the Garden District are architecturally stunning and historically fascinating, the Joie de Vivre on display on Frenchmen Street and throughout the city, day or night, is incredible, the food is truly to die for, and the vast, lazy Mississippi shapes and defines the city.
The Big Easy is a feast for the senses, and there’s so much to see, smell, taste and hear in this unique city that it can be hard to take it all in if you’ve only got a weekend. If you are heading off on a cruise from New Orleans, or on a road trip through Louisiana, you’ll want to ensure you get the most out of your weekend. So read on, and take a look at our hints, tips, and advice for getting the most out of just a few days in the most soulful city in the USA.
NOLA’s most famous and infamous district, the French Quarter is the beating heart of the city, particularly when it comes to visitors from out of town, many of whom make it their base. The French Quarter has the best parties, the most beautiful architecture and some of the most fascinating experiences you can have in the city.
The main draw for tourists is, of course, the notorious Bourbon Street. A monument to excess and good times, this stretch of bars, clubs, and restaurants might be a little overwhelming and over-the-top, but it nevertheless is a must-see.
The architecture of the French Quarter is the best preserved in the city, and it is the best place to see the original Spanish influences that defined its foundation (despite its name!) An afternoon just wandering around, looking up at wrought iron balustrades and glorious wood-framed buildings is an afternoon well spent.
A fantastic way to experience the best the French Quarter has to offer is to sign up for one of the many guided ghost or cemetery tours. They might sound cheesy, but they offer an amazing insight into the history, traditions, culture, and lifestyle of the city, as well as a fantastic tour of the area.
Whatever you do in the French Quarter, don’t miss the food. Whether it’s beignets at Cafe du Monde, a shrimp po’boy at Johnny’s, or oysters at Acme, the best of New Orleans cuisine is on show right here.
Hop on the legendary St Charles Streetcar, which takes you through some of the most beautiful and historic areas of New Orleans, passing stunning antebellum mansions and Loyola and Tulane universities, and jumping off in the beautiful, leafy Garden District. Here you can explore very different, 19th-century architecture, the best-preserved collection of historic mansions in the southern United States, as well as the moody, atmospheric Lafayette Cemetery No 1.
The Garden District is also home to some of NOLA’s best (and fanciest) bars and restaurants. Lunch at Coquette’s is an unmissable experience, a combination of traditional down-home N’Awlins cooking in the form of fried chicken and shrimp and grits, and more eclectic twists on Southern classics, like smoked catfish dip with satsumas and black sesame. Set in a gorgeous 19th-century house, this is the perfect place to while away a long lunch, perhaps accompanied by a few mouth-watering bourbon cocktails. It is also worth checking out the Hot Tin rooftop bar at the Pontchartrain Hotel, which offers delightful views and a thrilling cocktail menu.
Marigny and Bywater
While many tourists spend most of their time in the French Quarter, the slightly more alternative district of Marigny and its riverfront neighbor Bywater are more charming, less crowded and more authentic. Frenchmen Street is a lively, vibrant and seriously cool alternative to Bourbon Street, packed with tiny jazz clubs and dive bars. This is without a doubt the best place in the city to come for live music, and all you need to do is stroll down the street and follow your ears. The Spotted Cat is one of the best live music venues in the city, but in truth, there are extraordinary musicians in even the tiniest, grimiest looking bars, so be adventurous!
Bywater is an alternative, hipster and eclectic, with an even more serious and intense attitude to heavy jazz, and a buzzing, hedonistic contemporary arts scene as well. Discover seriously out-there visual arts productions at the Music Box Village or Castillo Blanco Art Studios,