New Orleans neighborhoods are where the city’s culture and creativity come to life. From the historic French Quarter to the elegant Garden District to the music-filled Marigny, there is great food, music and delight to be found across the city. Here is just a handful of New Orleans’ most popular neighborhoods.
The original settlement, the French Quarter district as a whole — bounded by Canal Street, Decatur Street, Esplanade Avenue and Rampart Street — is a National Historic Landmark. So much of what makes New Orleans unique is captured in miniature in the melting-pot atmosphere of the Quarter, from raucous Bourbon Street to the bohemian elegance of Royal Street. It’s a neighborhood packed with surprises and magic.
Its stunning architecture is likely to catch your eye first. Balconies of intricate ironwork and courtyards filled with lush greenery and fountains hark back to the French Quarter’s European roots. Many buildings bear ceramic plaques informing visitors of the street names during Spanish rule, such as Calle de Borbon.
Jackson Square: Life in the Quarter centers on New Orleans’ most famous landmark, Jackson Square. Originally called the Place d’Armes, the square was renamed to honor Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans. The square is flanked by historic structures such as St. Louis Cathedral and the Presbytere; the Cabildo, which houses the Louisiana State Museums; and the Pontalba Buildings, the oldest apartment buildings in the U.S.
Bourbon Street: Over the years Bourbon Street has been home to vaudeville, burlesque and jazz joints, all contributing to the rowdy atmosphere the street is known for today. But newcomers may be surprised to find that Bourbon offers more than obvious night-life options. The street is also home to traditional jazz clubs, upscale lounges and historic restaurants.
Brass bands gather almost every night, filling the street with rousing music and dance, at the intersection of Canal Street and Bourbon. Canal Street continues for 13 blocks beneath elegant iron balconies and a seemingly endless row of piano bars, restaurants and music clubs. Carnival season draws thousands of Mardi Gras revelers to Bourbon Street in early spring, but catching strings of beads thrown from balconies is a year-round pastime.
Canal Street: Canal Street is a major hub. Bright red streetcars trundle down its center, luxurious hotels tower overhead and throngs of visitors and locals congregate for meals, attractions and shopping, or in transit to and from New Orleans neighborhoods. The adventurous can explore the Audubon Insectarium (423 Canal St.), an interactive museum in the old U.S. Customs House dedicated to insects. Treat yourself to first-class shopping at The Shops at Canal Place (333 Canal St.), home to retailers such as Anthropologie, renowned local jewelry designer Mignon Faget, Armani Collezioni, White House | Black Market and Saks Fifth Avenue. You can catch a movie at the luxury Theaters at Canal Place, with their leather seats, beverages and gourmet dining.
Visitors can hop on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line Uptown to the Garden District, the Canal line to City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art or the Riverfront line that runs along the Mississippi. You can also ask one of the ever-helpful bellmen at one of the many hotels along Canal to hail a taxi for you. At the foot of Canal at the river, you can catch a ferry to historic Algiers Point. Whether you want to explore the French Quarter, the Garden District, Uptown or Faubourg St. John, Canal is the gateway for your travels.
Faubourg Marigny & Bywater
Nestled just downriver (east) from the French Quarter are a pair of New Orleans’ distinctive and well-kept secrets: the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods. Both are just minutes away from the French Quarter yet are embedded in communities that blend old-time New Orleans culture with hip, contemporary bohemianism.
Nothing encapsulates this mix more than the vibrant architecture lining the streets. From quaint shotgun houses and colorful Creole cottages to Italianate mansions, American townhomes and storefront renovations, the Marigny and Bywater exemplify how history and urban renewal can merge to create a funky harmony found only in New Orleans. A commitment to preservation and diversity along with heavy influence from the arts make for beautiful and vibrant neighborhoods.
A trip into the Marigny is not complete without a visit to famed Frenchmen Street. The locals’ version of Bourbon Street and a must-visit destination for night life, Frenchmen is a compact entertainment district whose clubs feature musical styles from traditional jazz to blues to reggae to rock. Frenchmen offers lively street culture of sketch artists, poets, bluegrass and gypsy jazz pickup bands. Brass bands are common on the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen.
During the day, the Marigny’s funky vibe persists. You can cruise antique shops and bookstores, opt for food from Creole to vegetarian or visit the gardens of Washington Square Park, all perfect places for meeting local artists, performers and neighborhood characters. Get their suggestions on restaurants to visit and acts to catch.
Across Press Street into the Bywater, the mood and pace shifts as you enter the heart of the edgier-yet-welcoming St. Claude Arts District, home to more than 30 venues for visual and performance art along with artisan crafts. Even the homes, cafes and restaurants capture Bywater’s eclectic appreciation for the arts.
Above all, these neighborhoods illustrate the relationship between the New Orleans arts scene and local life, so whether you’re looking for the New Orleans of old or want to see where New Orleans culture is headed, the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater will offer you glimpses in either direction.
Tradition, opulence and beauty are all words that describe New Orleans’ historic Garden District. With its well-preserved antebellum mansions, pristine gardens and Southern charm, the Garden District stands out as one of the country’s loveliest neighborhoods, stretching from St. Charles Avenue to Magazine Street and from Jackson Avenue to Louisiana Avenue.
The Garden District was created after the Louisiana Purchase as a settlement for new American residents of New Orleans unwilling to mingle with the earlier occupants, who were concentrated in the French Quarter. Americans made wealthy by cotton, sugar, insurance and shipping commissioned leading architects to create classic homes in Italianate, Greek Revival and Victorian styles. The homes were built on generous plots with room for the cultivation of the magnificent gardens for which the area is named. The result is a breathtaking neighborhood filled with picturesque homes and enchanting surroundings.
Over the years, the Garden District has been featured in countless movies and film projects and has attracted celebrity residents. Anne Rice, Nicolas Cage and Sandra Bullock are just a few who have chosen to call the Garden District home. And no wonder. The elegance of the neighborhood is second to none.
A common destination for those visiting the Garden District is the intersection of Prytania Street and Washington Avenue. Here, in the heart of the neighborhood, you will find a commercial pocket with shopping, cafes and the historic Lafayette Cemetery No. 1. As one of the best-maintained city cemeteries, Lafayette No. 1 has been immortalized in film, literature and photography and is a popular tourist attraction. Guided tours are available. Directly across the street, you won’t be able to overlook the colorful Commander’s Palace Restaurant. In operation since 1880, Commander’s is a New Orleans culinary institution, and its brunches are the stuff of legend.
The Garden District is easily accessible via the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, Magazine Street bus or even by carriage ride. Most travel to the Garden District to enjoy its pristine architecture, but the area also has shopping and delicious restaurants.
St. Charles Avenue
Experiencing the grandeur of St. Charles Avenue is something you can’t miss. Stretching downtown to uptown, St. Charles is a great way to see many sides of the city all along one gorgeous avenue. You can explore St. Charles on foot or by car, or for $1.25 you can hop on the historic green St. Charles streetcar — the oldest continuously running streetcar in the world — and you’re off on an old-fashioned adventure along New Orleans’ most famous avenue.