A visit to New Orleans usually means a visit to its French Quarter, the oldest section of the city. And rightfully so! This vibrant neighbourhood is ah-mazing. Also, as a solo traveller, the French Quarter was everything I could have wanted it to be – fun, safe, and a feast for the senses!
When visiting New Orleans, I suggest staying in the French Quarter or at least, very close to it. If you need a hotel recommendation, I stayed at the International House Hotel, one street outside of the French Quarter, and loved it. I was right next to the action but not right in it, which suited me perfectly. As for other recommendations, please do read on!
Walking tours, steamboat tours, horse and carriage tours…there are so many from which you can choose!
- Ghosts: You can be a paranormal investigator in a haunted house or explore the French Quarter’s seedy history on foot. You’ll learn about all sorts of things including the horribly infamous Madame LaLaurie and how she connects to Nicholas Cage!
- Black History: Mr. Leon Waters of Hidden History has been doing tours of the French Quarter for over two decades. He is an impressive wealth of knowledge and it is absolutely fascinating to learn about New Orleans from a black history angle. Highly recommended!
- Mississippi River: You can take a cruise on a steamboat along the Mississippi River. The question is, should you? Read this to find out more.
If you’re a fan of good music, the French Quarter is definitely for you. It will seem like everywhere you turn, there is a joyful musical expression of some sort. If you hang out at Jackson Square, you’ll likely to hear buskers of all kinds. If you’re looking for something a little more structured, you have got to check out Preservation Hall!
- Voodoo: The Historic Voodoo Museum is a great place to learn about this misunderstood religious practice. And yes, it is an actual religion, not demonic witchcraft or “just an offshoot of Catholicism” as some would claim.
- Medicine: There is something gruesomely intriguing about old-school medical practices, in my opinion. So, when I stumbled upon the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum, I had to check it out. It was most definitely worth the time and I highly recommend it!
- History: If you want a good overview of New Orleans’ history, I recommend spending a couple hours at the Cabildo.
Roman Catholicism has left its mark all over New Orleans. If churches interest you, check out the St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square – don’t forget to admire Touchdown Jesus at the back!
Ursulines Convent: The Ursuline Nuns were the first religious order to arrive in the French Colony of Louisiana in 1727. The current convent dates to 1751. The National Park Service states, “This is the finest surviving example of French colonial public architecture in the country.” Don’t go out of your way for it but it is a pleasant place in which you can spend an hour.
On the edge of the French Quarter, there lies St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. You cannot visit this cemetery on your own. However, being forced to take tour is a small price to pay in order to see this amazing place. I recommend Save Our Cemeteries as a tour option. Bring your camera and it will get quite the workout!
You’ll definitely keep coming back to this area again and again on your trip to New Orleans. The square is filled with historic buildings, statues, amazing old trees, artists of all sorts, fortune tellers, and delicious restaurants. Across the street is the mighty Mississippi River. Check this out for some recommendations!
The French Quarter has some amazing architecture all over the neighbourhood. All you have to do is pick a street and go for a wander! I loved the wrought iron balconies, the colourful buildings, the gas lamps, and the many pretty shutters. I couldn’t go more than five steps without wanting to take a photo!
It is hard to go wrong with any restaurant but if you want specific recommendations, here are a few I tried in the French Quarter and enjoyed:
- Breakfast: Ruby Slipper; Mothers (expect a massive amount of food!)
- Lunch: The Old Coffee Pot (food was great, service not so much)
- Dinner: Muriel (lovely restaurant, great food, nice service. This place even got me to like bread pudding!); Sylvain (hip cool place with great food)
- Snack: Café du Monde (not my favourite place but it is an institution so you gotta try it). To the left of the café is the French Market if you’re feeling the need to shop or check out its food court.
Bonus: If you do stay at the International House Hotel, two restaurants nearby that I enjoyed were Daisy Dukes Express for breakfast (alligator sausage omelet!) and Luke for dinner (slightly higher end atmosphere but great food with great portions; I still remember the delicious lemon meringue sundae). For some drinks, do check out the lovely Loa bar at the International House Hotel!
You can take this article with you on your travels – offline, even! Check out GPS My City for more details.