Visitors to New Orleans generally only stick to the French Quarter neighbourhood of the city. Yes, it’s a great area to explore but if you only visit there, you’ll get a very lopsided view of New Orleans. There are several neighbourhoods of interest in the city but one I definitely recommend is Tremé.
Tremé is extremely interesting because it’s the oldest black neighborhood in the US. There is so much history here! In the 18th and 19th centuries, many ‘free persons of colour’ and ex-enslaved peoples owned property in this area of New Orleans; this was extremely unusual for the US at that time because of slavery.
Today, Tremé is a great place in which to wander for a few hours. So if you’re heading to New Orleans, I challenge you to strap on your walking shoes and go out past the usual party zone in the French Quarter and explore another side to this great city. Here are some of the things you should definitely not miss:
Louis Armstrong Park/Congo Square
Located on the outer edge of the French Quarter, the Louis Armstrong Park is dedicated to you know you and other important musicians. It is a pleasant park in which you can wander peacefully, away from crowds. There are green spaces, fountains, and bridges to explore. My favourite part was Congo Square. Since the early 19th century, both free and enslaved African-Americans would come here on a Sunday. This was the only place in which they could legally congregate. Congo Square had a market but the area became famous for the singing and dancing.
Backstreet Cultural Museum
When you’re in Tremé, make the time to head out to the Backstreet Cultural Museum. Sylvester Francis, the founder, started the museum in 1988. Over the years it grew and today, it has a large collection of Mardi Gras items relating to New Orleans’ African-American community. The items displayed by the museum demonstrate both mask and processional traditions. I was particularly interested in the Mardi Gras costumes themselves. Did you know there are different types of costumes? Check out this post for more details!
St. Augustine Catholic Church
The church’s parish was set up in 1841, established by ‘free people of color’, making it the oldest African-American Catholic parish in the US. You may not be able to see inside but thankfully, one of the more interesting things about the church is outside. In 2004, a memorial to the Unknown Slave was erected. It recognizes all those who were enslaved in the Americas. The memorial consists of two anchor chains welded into a cross; hanging from them are shackles. It’s pretty powerful to contemplate.
St. Louis Cemetery #1
Developed in 1789, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest in New Orleans still in existence. It was built in its location because at the time, it was outside the city’s walls. However, that put the cemetery below sea level – meaning it was always under threat of flooding. One solution was to continually add sand and shells to the grounds. This made for an unusual sight – I was not expecting to see shells in a cemetery!
If you visit this cemetery, there are a number of famous people you can expect to see, including Delphine Lalaurie, Marie Laveau, and the not yet dead Nicolas Cage! Check out my post on the cemeteries of New Orleans!
Finger Lickin’ Good Food
If there is one thing that New Orleans is famous for, it is food. And rightly so – the food here is amazing! Tremé has numerous restaurants that you should check out. One in particular that I really enjoyed was Willie Mae’s Scotch House. From the outside, it didn’t look like much – in fact, when I arrived on a dreary rainy day, I thought I was at the wrong address! But once you’re seated with a plate of beautiful, delicious fried chicken, you’ll be glad you made the trip. Seriously – this place had the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted!