The moment you step into this energetic Southern city, it becomes clear that it’s not like any other place in world. In New Orleans, there’s something for everyone, no matter your interest. Read on for more about its diverse culture, plus where to go for your fill of history, delicious food and drinks, live music and more.
Situated along the Mississippi River, New Orleans has been an important port city for several centuries. Before becoming part of the U.S. during the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, it was colonized by the French, then the Spanish for a period at the end of the 1700s. The intermingling of Native Americans, Africans and European settlers resulted in the unique Creole culture found in this region of Louisiana. While is has undoubtedly been through its share of tough times, most recently Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the city and its proud population continues to recover. Today, New Orleans has rebuilt itself as a hub of innovation and culture and its diverse neighborhoods reflect different aspects of its heritage.
The French Quarter
The most recognizable neighborhood in New Orleans, the lively French Quarter is the oldest part of the city. The energy is palpable throughout this walkable area, which sits on land shaped like a crescent along the Mississippi River. Revelers can always be found on Bourbon Street, famed site of the annual Mardi Gras celebrations, but there is no shortage of places to visit for food and fun. Restaurants, cocktail bars and dive bars can be found around every corner, and many buildings are rich in history. The French Quarter’s architecture reflects an iconic mix of Spanish, French and Creole styles—keep an eye out for brightly colored houses with cast-iron balconies and walled courtyards.
Must-visit spot: Café du Monde, 800 Decatur Street
You can’t go wrong with the classic dish of beignets (fried doughnuts) and coffee at this world-famous spot. Just be prepared to wait in line!
The Garden District
Just a streetcar-ride away from the edge of the French Quarter lies the elegant Garden District. The 19th-century architecture is one of our favorite aspects of this residential community, where incredible Southern mansions and gorgeous antebellum homes can be found along the quiet streets. After taking in the architecture, stroll down Magazine Street, an eclectic shopping avenue filled with restaurants, galleries and boutiques.
Must-visit spot: Commander’s Palace, 1403 Washington Avenue
Dress your best and sample the city’s tastiest Creole-inspired cuisine. Insider tip: go for lunch on a weekday to indulge in the drink special of 25-cent martinis.
The Arts District
This revitalized area in New Orleans’ downtown area was once the industrial hub of the city. Today, the Arts District is filled with galleries, eateries and museums to explore—there’s something to be found in this neighborhood to appeal to all kinds of travelers. The National WWII Museum houses exhibits that are popular with many visitors, and the original Emeril’s restaurant opened here back in 1990.
Must-visit spot: The Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp Street
Founded in 1976, this art complex is home to a wide range of exhibitions, performances and events.
Music lovers, this is the place for you. This charming neighborhood near the French Quarter offers the most authentic look at the local culture. Frenchmen Street is known for its venues with incredible live music, with everything from jazz to reggae to brass band styles. While you’re there, visit the Frenchmen Art Market to shop for locally made jewelry, art and crafts. Here, the city’s popular catchphrase, Laissez les bons temps rouler, or “let the good times roll,” is always in full effect.
Must-visit spot: The Spotted Cat Music Club, 623 Frenchmen Street
Stop by to hear jazz musicians play every night at this loved-by-locals club. If you plan to enjoy some drinks while you listen, pay a visit to the ATM first—the club is cash only.
Which neighborhood of New Orleans would you like to explore? Tell us in the comments below.