When you enter the French Quarter of New Orleans, it’s like stepping into a different era where history and modernity blend seamlessly. This neighborhood, characterized by its cobblestone streets and a mix of French and Spanish architecture, is a living history book. The sounds of jazz fill the air, creating a lively atmosphere that’s distinctly New Orleans. I’ve explored the French Quarter many times, and each visit reveals something new, from the buzzing Bourbon Street to the peaceful Mississippi Riverfront.
The French Quarter is the heart of New Orleans, a vibrant mix of different cultures, tastes, and sounds. Here, the aroma of Creole cooking, the visual feast of art galleries, and the rich history of the area combine to create an unforgettable experience. Walking through these streets is like moving through a living museum, showcasing the resilience and spirit of New Orleans.
Every corner of the French Quarter, from the famous Jackson Square to the secret courtyards, tells a unique story. Whether it’s your first time here or you’re a returning visitor, there’s always something new to discover. In this guide, I’ll take you through the best experiences the French Quarter has to offer. Let’s explore the essence of New Orleans together and find out why the French Quarter is more than just a place to visit – it’s an experience that lingers with you, long after you’ve wandered its captivating streets. To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 12 things to see and do in the French Quarter, New Orlean.
Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in the French Quarter? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this vibrant vacation spot in New Orleans. So keep reading to discover all these unique French Quarter places to visit.
Are you looking to get entertained with live music, street performances, and diverse dining options? Or would you prefer to explore historic architecture, art galleries, and soak in the vibrant cultural atmosphere? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in the French Quarter can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in the French Quarter that you should know about.
Jackson Square stands as a vibrant hub, buzzing with activity under the watchful eye of the St. Louis Cathedral. Here, street performers, artists, and musicians bring a unique touch, ensuring every visit offers a new and lively experience.
The square is always alive with action. Local artists showcase their work, from colorful paintings to handmade crafts, each reflecting the city’s culture. Musicians with guitars, jazz bands, and street performers keep the atmosphere energetic and entertaining.
It’s not just about entertainment; the square is rich in history. The historic buildings and the cathedral around it tell stories of the past. You can grab a quick bite from a nearby cafe, take photos of the architecture, or just enjoy the vibe. Jackson Square is where you experience the city’s pulse. It’s straightforward and unpretentious – a place where every corner has something new, and every visit connects you to the heart of a dynamic community.
The benches and green spaces offer a spot to relax and people-watch, immersing you in the local rhythm. On weekends, the square often hosts special events or markets. Whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth, Jackson Square never fails to present something fresh and engaging, making it a true highlight for anyone exploring the area.
Stepping into the French Market is like entering a vibrant world of shopping and food. This historic open-air market is one of the oldest in the United States. The market is a bustling center for those seeking unique culinary and shopping experiences.
As you wander through the market, you’ll find a vibrant mix of vendors. They sell everything from fresh produce and artisanal foods to handmade crafts and souvenirs. Live music often plays in the background, adding to the buzz of locals and tourists. This creates a lively and authentic slice of New Orleans. It’s the perfect place to sample local specialties like gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée, giving you a real taste of New Orleans’ famous culinary scene. The market also hosts a variety of food stalls and small eateries where you can grab a quick bite or a refreshing drink.
Beyond food, the French Market is a treasure trove for shoppers. Here, you can find unique jewelry, art, and crafts that reflect the rich cultural heritage of the city. It’s an ideal spot for finding gifts or souvenirs that are distinctly New Orleans.
The French Market isn’t just about shopping and eating; it’s an experience that immerses you in the local way of life.
Bourbon Street is a must-visit for its dynamic nightlife and vivid ambiance. This famous street is lined with bars, clubs, and restaurants. At night, Bourbon Street transforms into a bustling hub of activity, where the sounds of jazz, blues, and contemporary music fill the air.
During the day, Bourbon Street has a different charm. You can appreciate the historic architecture, with balconies adorned with intricate ironwork, and visit some of the local shops and eateries. The street is home to several iconic establishments, including the Old Absinthe House. Here, you can taste the legendary drink and learn about its history in the city.
For those interested in the supernatural, Bourbon Street offers haunted tours that delve into the eerie and mysterious side of New Orleans. These tours are a fascinating way to learn about the legends and ghost stories that are a part of the city’s lore.
Exploring Bourbon Street is undoubtedly one of the coolest things to do in the French Quarter, New Orlean. Whether you’re enjoying the lively nightlife or savoring local flavors, Bourbon Street has much to offer. Soaking in the historic ambiance here provides an experience that truly captures the essence of New Orleans. It’s a place where every visit is memorable, offering something for everyone.
The New Orleans Jazz Museum, located in the historic Old U.S. Mint building, is a top spot for music enthusiasts and history fans. It celebrates the deep roots and lasting impact of jazz in New Orleans, often considered the cradle of this uniquely American genre.
Inside, you’ll find a rich collection tracing jazz’s evolution from its early days to modern styles. The museum is filled with fascinating items like old instruments, jazz greats’ personal items, and rare recordings. Each piece not only highlights the music but also the culture and people behind it.
The museum’s interactive and multimedia exhibits bring jazz history to life, offering a hands-on way to connect with the music. Plus, live performances are often on the schedule, providing an authentic taste of jazz.
Visiting the New Orleans Jazz Museum isn’t just about viewing exhibits; it’s an engaging journey into the heart of New Orleans’ music scene. It’s where you’ll feel the pulse of the city’s musical heritage.
In essence, the museum is a vibrant homage to jazz, blending historical depth with contemporary resonance. It stands out as a key destination in the French Quarter, offering a rich, educational, and enjoyable experience for all who walk through its doors.
Famous for beignets and café au lait, Café du Monde offers a taste of the city’s rich culinary heritage. A visit here is not just about enjoying a snack; it’s about experiencing a piece of New Orleans history.
Located on Decatur Street, Café du Monde has been serving locals and tourists alike since 1862. The beignets, square-shaped French-style doughnuts covered in powdered sugar, are a must-try. Paired with their chicory-laced café au lait, these treats are ideal for starting your day. They provide the perfect energy boost for exploring the French Quarter, New Orleans.
The café’s open-air setting, with views of the bustling streets and the Mississippi River, adds to its charm. The atmosphere at Café du Monde is always lively. The sounds of street musicians and the chatter of visitors create a quintessentially New Orleans experience.
Café du Monde is more than just a coffee shop; it’s a cultural institution. It’s a place where you can sit back, savor the flavors, and watch the world go by. A stop at Café du Monde is essential, whether you’re kicking off your day or taking a break. It’s a key part of any French Quarter itinerary.
The Historic New Orleans Collection is a real gem for anyone interested in the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South. Tucked away in the French Quarter, it’s a perfect spot for history enthusiasts and curious visitors alike. This museum and research center brings the city’s past to life, offering a rich journey through time.
As you wander through the exhibits, you’ll encounter a range of stories. These include tales of early French and Spanish settlers, the vibrant traditions of Mardi Gras, and the roots of jazz. The collection is a fascinating mix of historical documents, photographs, and artifacts that vividly illustrate New Orleans’ unique story.
Guided tours add an extra layer to the experience. The guides are brimming with knowledge. They share engaging stories and facts about the city’s history, enhancing your visit with both information and enjoyment.
The Historic New Orleans Collection is an accessible and engaging way to understand the diverse influences that have shaped this iconic city. This museum traces the city’s journey from its early beginnings. It also showcases its famous cultural traditions, capturing the essence of New Orleans in a clear and engaging way.
Venturing onto Royal Street, you enter a world that contrasts sharply with the lively Bourbon Street. Here, the focus shifts to a delightful mix of art, antiques, and architecture. This street is celebrated for its refined galleries, antique stores, and the stunning Creole townhouses and cottages lining its path. A stroll here feels like walking through a living gallery, where the elegance of the past is both preserved and revered.
For those exploring the French Quarter, Royal Street is a standout. It’s a relaxed haven for art lovers and collectors. The galleries here span a range of styles, from classic to contemporary. Meanwhile, the antique shops are filled with rare and intriguing finds, including vintage furniture and historical artifacts.
The architecture on Royal Street is a highlight in itself. The beautifully restored buildings, complete with wrought-iron balconies and hidden courtyards, are a window into the city’s colonial era. Many of these buildings welcome the public, allowing a peek into the grandeur of old New Orleans.
But Royal Street is more than just a place for shopping and sightseeing. It’s an immersive cultural experience, reflecting the artistic elegance of the French Quarter, New Orleans. Whether you’re there to shop for art, admire the historic buildings, or just take a peaceful stroll, Royal Street offers a tranquil and picturesque retreat from the city’s lively pace.
You’re immediately immersed in the rich culture of traditional jazz upon entering Preservation Hall. This storied music venue, unassuming in appearance, has been a dedicated sanctuary for the genre since the 1960s. It’s a place where each visit transports you to a different era, centered entirely on the music and its vibrant history.
The hall’s rustic charm has weathered walls and simple wooden benches. Here, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and other local musicians perform nightly, keeping the traditional jazz sound of New Orleans alive. The acoustics in the hall are exceptional, allowing every note to resonate with clarity and warmth.
Attending a performance at Preservation Hall is more than just a musical event. It’s a journey into the heart of New Orleans’ cultural heritage. The musicians often share stories about the songs and their personal connections to the music, adding depth to the performance. The atmosphere is welcoming and inclusive, inviting everyone to share in the joy of jazz.
For jazz enthusiasts and newcomers alike, a visit to Preservation Hall is a must. It’s a place where the legacy of New Orleans jazz is not only preserved but vibrantly celebrated. The experience of listening to live jazz in this iconic venue is profound. It reminds us of the music’s enduring impact and is a highlight of any visit to the French Quarter, New Orleans.
Exploring the supernatural side of the French Quarter is a uniquely thrilling experience, and the Haunted Ghost Tours offer just that. New Orleans, known for its rich history and folklore, has a reputation as one of America’s most haunted cities. These tours guide you through the dimly lit streets of the French Quarter. Here, tales of ghosts, voodoo, and vampires come to life.
The guides are skilled storytellers, blending historical facts with chilling tales. They lead you to some of the most notoriously haunted locations in the area. You’ll visit places like the LaLaurie Mansion, known for its dark past and ghostly sightings. There, you’ll hear stories that have been passed down through generations. The experience is both eerie and educational, offering insights into the darker aspects of New Orleans’ history.
These tours offer more than just scares. They provide a deeper understanding of the city’s past, including the tragedies and events that contribute to its haunted reputation. The atmosphere is spooky, but the focus is on storytelling and history, making it an intriguing experience even for the skeptics.
Participating in a Haunted Ghost Tour is a memorable way to experience the French Quarter after dark. It’s an adventure that combines history, folklore, and a touch of the supernatural, offering a different perspective on this historic neighborhood.
Delving into one of New Orleans’ most mysterious and often misunderstood cultures, the New Orleans Voodoo Museum offers a fascinating insight. This small but intriguing museum, located in the heart of the city, focuses on the history and practices of Voodoo. Voodoo is an integral part of the city’s cultural fabric.
As you wander through the museum’s rooms, you’ll encounter a variety of artifacts. These include Voodoo dolls, altars, and paintings, each with its own unique story. The exhibits take you on an educational journey through the history of Voodoo in New Orleans. They trace its African roots and its synthesis with Catholicism. The museum excels in demystifying Voodoo, presenting it as a spiritual practice. This contrasts with the sensationalized version often portrayed in popular media.
Additionally, the museum explores the life of Marie Laveau, the legendary Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. The museum offers insights into its influence and legacy in the city. Visitors can learn about the rituals, spells, and traditions of Voodoo. They can also understand its role in the city’s history and its continuing presence today.
Exploring the Voodoo Museum is certainly one of the unique things to do in the French Quarter. It’s a place that challenges perceptions and offers a deeper understanding of a significant aspect of New Orleans’ cultural heritage. This museum is not just an attraction; it’s an enlightening experience that sheds light on a vital part of the city’s soul.
In the French Quarter, there’s a must-see landmark that blends spiritual, historical, and architectural significance. The oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States, this historic site captivates visitors with its unique charm. With its iconic triple spires, the St. Louis Cathedral stands as a striking symbol of New Orleans.
Upon entering, you are greeted by a serene and awe-inspiring interior. It features stunning stained glass windows, intricate frescoes, and a beautifully detailed altar. The peaceful ambiance provides a stark contrast to the lively streets outside. Visitors are welcome to explore the cathedral, attend a mass, or simply sit in quiet reflection. They can absorb the rich history that permeates the walls.
Visiting the St. Louis Cathedral is among the best things to do in the French Quarter for those interested in architecture and history. The cathedral has been a part of New Orleans’ landscape for centuries. It has survived fires and reconstructions, each time emerging with added layers of history and beauty. The cathedral is a testament to the resilience and enduring spirit of the city.
The cathedral’s location, overlooking Jackson Square, makes it a central and easily accessible landmark. Exploring the interior or admiring the majestic exterior of the St. Louis Cathedral is a captivating experience. It offers a glimpse into the historical and cultural fabric of New Orleans, enriching the understanding of anyone who visits.
Just a short streetcar ride from the French Quarter, the Garden District presents a different, yet equally engaging side of New Orleans. This neighborhood is a quiet haven, known for its beautifully preserved antebellum mansions, lush gardens, and streets lined with majestic oaks. It offers a peaceful break from the city’s lively center, like a tranquil journey back to New Orleans’ opulent past.
Strolling through the Garden District, the architectural elegance of the homes is immediately apparent. Each mansion, with its unique style ranging from Greek Revival to Victorian, has its own story. The heart of the district is home to the famous Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, adding a touch of historical allure. This cemetery, with its above-ground tombs and old oak trees, is both serene and intriguing.
The area is also sprinkled with boutique shops, quaint cafes, and inviting restaurants. These spots, nestled in scenic settings, offer a great mix of dining and shopping experiences. You can savor a leisurely lunch, shop in unique boutiques, or just unwind under a magnolia tree.
A visit to the Garden District offers a refreshing change from the French Quarter’s vibrant atmosphere. It’s a serene and sophisticated neighborhood that showcases the diversity and charm of New Orleans, making it a top spot for anyone exploring the city.
Looking for more content on the top things to do in the French Quarter? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to French Quarter:
The ideal time to visit the French Quarter is during the spring months, from February to May. This period offers pleasant weather and is packed with vibrant events like Mardi Gras and the Jazz Fest. Fall, especially October and November, is another great choice for its mild climate and thinner crowds.
Yes, the French Quarter offers numerous family-friendly activities. Families can enjoy carriage rides, visit the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, explore the Louisiana Children’s Museum, and be entertained by street performers at Jackson Square. Many historical tours and riverboat cruises are also suitable for children, making it a diverse destination for family fun.
To immerse yourself in the French Quarter’s music scene, visit iconic venues like Preservation Hall for traditional jazz or explore the diverse array of live music on Frenchmen Street. Street musicians also add to the area’s charm, offering spontaneous performances that embody the musical soul of New Orleans.
When in the French Quarter, don’t miss out on beignets at Café du Monde, savor gumbo and jambalaya at local Creole eateries, enjoy the fresh seafood, and grab a po’boy sandwich from a street vendor. Also, try a muffuletta sandwich and end with a sweet praline for dessert.
The French Quarter is generally safe for tourists, especially during the day. Standard safety measures should be followed, such as staying in well-lit, populated areas and being mindful of personal belongings. Caution is advised at night, particularly on less crowded streets, to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.
Absolutely, the French Quarter is a must-see. It’s the heart and soul of New Orleans, brimming with rich history, stunning architecture, vibrant music, and culinary delights. Every street tells a story, from the lively Bourbon Street to the serene Mississippi Riverfront. It’s a unique blend of cultures and experiences that you won’t find anywhere else.
The most famous corner in the French Quarter is the intersection of Bourbon Street and St. Louis Street. This iconic spot epitomizes the lively spirit of New Orleans. It’s a bustling hub of activity, known for its vibrant nightlife, jazz clubs, and historic bars. This corner is a quintessential stop for experiencing the energy and excitement of the French Quarter.
Exploring the French Quarter is an experience that leaves a lasting impression, especially when you stay in New Orleans. This historic neighborhood, with its blend of cultures, history, and vibrant energy, offers something for everyone. From the lively jazz music echoing through the streets to the exquisite Creole cuisine, the French Quarter is a feast for the senses.
Strolling through the cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter architectural wonders, charming shops, and friendly locals, each adding to the unique character of the area. Whether you’re soaking up the lively atmosphere on Bourbon Street, delving into the rich history at the museums, or simply enjoying a beignet by the riverside, the French Quarter always delivers memorable moments.
A visit to the French Quarter isn’t just a trip; it’s an immersion into the heart of New Orleans culture. It’s a place where every corner has a story, and every visit is an adventure.