Crescent City neighborhoods were originally called “faubourgs.” Each one has its own attractions, delicious restaurants and hopping bars. It would be impossible to list every great spot in New Orleans, but this overview should get you started.
French Quarter – The original city center, founded in 1718 by the French explorer Bienville, continues to captivate. Crowds enjoying beignets (a form of French doughnut) covered in powdered sugar at Café du Monde gaze across the street at St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Many of the city’s oldest restaurants are there. So are artists, street performers and palm readers. The iconic architecture of the French Quarter—continuous fronts and rod-iron balconies—actually dates from the Spanish period and was part of an architectural code instituted to avoid fires after two devastating blazes. So what to do first? Stroll through the French Market for souvenirs. Gaze out at the Mississippi River and the Natchez paddleboat at the Moon Walk. Peruse antiques and art galleries on Royal Street. Tip a street musician or two. If you can’t help yourself, get your fill of tourist shtick with a carriage ride and a stroll down notorious Bourbon Street. Culinary delights abound. Try Café du Monde, Café Beignet on Royal Street, Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Johnny’s Po’Boys or Felix’s. If you’re in the mood for something different, sample African cuisine at Bennachin. There are so many bars that it’s hard to choose. Top picks include the rotating Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone (a favorite of William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams), Pirate’s Alley Café, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (the oldest continuously-operating bar in the U.S.), Maison Bourbon and Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub.
CBD/Warehouse District – Cross Canal Street and you’ll find business people, art galleries, museums, warehouses converted into lofts and chic wine bars. Visit the National World War II Museum, Contemporary Arts Center and Mardi Gras World. Grab a bite at Cochon and taste wines at WINO (Wine Institute of New Orleans). Wednesdays in spring and fall, enjoy free evening concerts in Lafayette Square.
Faubourg Marigny – The current “it” neighborhood is the go-to destination for quality live music. A string of small jazz clubs lines Frenchmen Street, including Snug Harbor, d.b.a., The Spotted Cat, Three Muses, and many more. Off of Frenchmen, check out Mimi’s in the Marigny or the Hi-Ho Lounge on St. Claude Ave. Every Saturday night at Hi-Ho, DJ Soul Sister hosts her legendary dance party. When you finally wake up, take a stroll around the Marigny and marvel at the colorfully-painted Creole cottages.
Bywater – The up-and-coming “it” neighborhood. This is where you’ll find your down and dirty bohemians these days – artists, musicians, hipster transplants priced out of Brooklyn, and a healthy helping of dreadlocked freight train hoppers down for the winter. Check out Vaughan’s Lounge for music, or grab some BBQ at The Joint.
Tremé – The oldest African-American and Creole neighborhood in the U.S. is teeming with history, second line parades and jazz funerals. This is where the music that became jazz started and where you’ll find the Basin Street of “Basin Street Blues,” a song made famous by Louis Armstrong. Check out live music at the Candlelight Lounge, or visit Congo Square, the New Orleans African American Museum and Saint Augustine Church.
Uptown Neighborhoods – Uptown New Orleans is the portion of the city that is upriver from the Central Business District and French Quarter. Historic mansions built by Americans after the Louisiana Purchase line St. Charles Avenue, which is also the main Mardi Gras parade route. You can see beads hanging in the oak trees year round. Closer to the river, Magazine Street provides miles of interesting boutiques and restaurants. The greater Uptown area is divided into several smaller neighborhoods, each with their own appeal.
Lower Garden District (Uptown) – The closest to downtown of the uptown ‘hoods, the LGD has its own urban vibe. Shop for antiques and enjoy hip boutiques and bars on Magazine Street. Stop for brunch at Surrey’s Café & Juice Bar, NOLA-style Mexican food at Juan’s Flying Burrito, or specialty sandwiches and craft beers at Stein’s Deli. Late night, drink and dance at The Saint.
Garden District (Uptown) – This is where you’ll find imposing mansions, stately Commander’s Palace (many locals’ pick for best restaurant in the city), and the moldering Civil War era tombs of Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. Hop off the St. Charles Avenue streetcar and sip a cocktail on the grand porch of The Columns Hotel, or meet a date at the intimate Delachaise wine bar.
Irish Channel (Uptown) – This stretch of Magazine Street between Washington and Louisiana is bursting at the seams with too many restaurants, bars, shops and clothing boutiques to list. It’s also the home of the world’s liveliest St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Grab a beer at The Bulldog, people watch from the second floor terrace at The Balcony Bar, or find the perfect second hand outfit at Funky Monkey.
University/Riverbend (Uptown) – Named for the place where the Mississippi River bends, this neighborhood is the home of Tulane and Loyola Universities, and offers plenty of attractions of its own. For outdoor activities, you can’t beat Audubon Park, Zoo and Golf Course. At nearby Cooter Brown’s sports bar, watch a Saints game, eat oysters, and sample their extensive beer selection. Across the street, you’ll see the lines for breakfast outside of Camellia Grill day and night. Oak Street and Maple Street boast charming concentrations of shops and restaurants. Oak Street is the home of the music venue The Maple Leaf, as well as Jacques-Imo’s restaurant, brunch spot Oak Street Café and many, many more. Every November, Oak Street hosts Po-Boy Fest. On Maple Street close to Tulane University, you’ll find a patisserie, coffee shops, more restaurants and more boutiques. Also in the University/Riverbend area is the award-winning restaurant Boucherie. For intimate dining, Martinique Bistro on Magazine Street beckons, or visit St. Joe’s bar for a blueberry mojito.
Uptown (as a neighborhood) – The center of Uptown includes several other main areas for eating, drinking and merrymaking. Freret Street, on the north side of St. Charles Avenue between Napoleon and Jefferson, has been christened “the new Frenchmen” by some. New music and art venues are popping up as you’re reading this. The Freret Street corridor offers wood-fired pizza, fancy cocktails and gourmet sausages. On the other side of St. Charles, you’ll find a collection of restaurants at Prytania and Robert Street, including the ultra-romantic restaurant La Crêpe Nanou. At the intersection of Jefferson and Magazine, on the border with the University District, you’ll be greeted by countless coffee shops, boutiques and eateries. Finally, any list of Uptown favorites would not be complete without the legendary live music venue Tipitina’s, Guy’s Poboys, and brunch mecca Surrey’s Uptown.
Mid-City – This friendly area is the home of the red Canal Street streetcars. Sightseeing opportunities include cemeteries galore and New Orleans’ beautiful, massive City Park. The park’s countless attractions include the New Orleans Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden, paddleboats, putt-putt golf, beignets in the oaks, jogging and biking trails and botanical gardens. Favorite Mid-City restaurants include Mandina’s, Katie’s, Ralph’s on the Park, Angelo Brocato’s for dessert, The Ruby Slipper for brunch, Parkway Bakery & Tavern for po’boys, and Finn McCool’s Irish Pub for a pint of Guinness and a sports game.
Bayou St. John – This small neighborhood is found where Esplanade Avenue meets, naturally, the Bayou St. John. It is most famous for being the home of The Fairgrounds, where the huge live music party that is Jazz Fest takes over every last weekend in April and first weekend in May. Keep an eye out for locals and tourists kayaking in the bayou and restored mansions on Esplanade Avenue. Great places to eat include Lola’s, Café Degas, and Liuzza’s by the Track.
Algiers Point – Take the quick ferry from the French Quarter over to this historic neighborhood filled with gingerbread cottages. While you’re there, grab a beer at Dry Dock or Crown & Anchor, or catch some live music at Old Point Bar.