As the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, the French Quarter serves as the roots of the city’s rich and unique culture and history. It houses centuries-old buildings and holds millions of stories. From museums and tours to shops, bars, and restaurants, there's plenty to do and see in the Vieux Carré. Below are our top 10 things to check out during your next visit to the French Quarter.
Start your day in the heart of the neighborhood at Jackson Square. The picturesque area is great for sightseeing, picnics, and entertainment. Street performers, fortune tellers, and artists will keep you exploring for hours. The oldest active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States, St. Louis Cathedral, sits on Jackson Square and dates back to 1727.
Several museums in the area are worth checking out, but The Cabildo is one of the most historically significant buildings in America. During the Spanish colonial period, it served as governmental offices. Today, it's home to many exhibits honoring New Orleans’ past. To learn about the history of Mardi Gras, visit The Presbytère next door. If you’re a history fanatic, The Historic New Orleans Collection is a must-visit, and be sure to check out the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum for a deeper look into this often misunderstood part of the city’s rich cultural heritage.
The French Quarter is home to some of New Orleans's most iconic restaurants. These establishments have stood the test of time as pillars of classic, mainly Creole, cuisine. Broussard’s is celebrating 100 years of operation in 2022, and Galatoire’s and Arnaud’s have both passed their centennial anniversaries. Meals at these elegant eateries, including courtyard dining at Antoine’s and world-class breakfast at Brennan’s, go hand-in-hand with milestone celebrations for locals and make excellent destinations for travelers looking to experience a taste of decadent fine dining in New Orleans.
If you’re looking for a taste of New Orleans to take home, head to the French Market to shop outdoors. With food, art, trinkets, and often live music, walking through the historic district is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. Be sure to check out the nearby New Orleans Jazz Museum and the newly-painted mural celebrating the cultural connections between Louisiana and Canada on N. Peters and Ursulines Streets.
Along Royal Street, you will find a bounty of unique treasures for your home. M.S. Rau is one of the most noteworthy antique shops in the country. Even if you can’t afford to buy anything, it’s definitely worth looking around. While you’re there, ask for a tour of the shop’s “secret rooms” - you won’t be disappointed!
While you're browsing the shops in the Quarter, be sure to stop by one of the many art galleries along Royal Street and dotted throughout the neighborhood.
While New Orleans is well-known for its unique local food, the Crescent City is also (allegedly) the birthplace of the cocktail – a history you can learn more about at the Sazerac House, just across Canal Street from the French Quarter. Within the Vieux Carre limits, this legacy has blossomed into a vibrant and thriving scene for creative mixologists. Award-winning and nominated spots like Manolito, Jewel of the South, and Cane & Table are sure to satisfy your desire for a drink as unique as New Orleans itself. For a taste of some classic cocktails, the Pimm’s Cup from Napoleon House and the French 75 from – where else – the French 75 Bar in Arnaud’s have perfected these traditional drinks alongside their menus of timeless local cuisine.
Fun for all ages, the aquarium is located on the edge of the French Quarter and opens up to Woldenberg Park. Go and meet with the penguins, sharks, and sea otters and enjoy a stroll along the Riverfront afterward. Reserve your tickets online for speedy entry. After you finish, swing by the recently opened Vue Orleans in the Four Seasons New Orleans for stunning 360-degree views of the city, and interactive exhibits centered around the city's unique culture and history.
Whether it's breakfast or a late afternoon snack, Café Du Monde is arguably the biggest staple in the city. Your trip to the French Quarter isn’t complete without a taste of their famous beignets and café au lait.
New Orleans celebrated its tricentennial in 2018 and stepping into the French Quarter is like stepping back through the centuries. The city’s French and Spanish heritage shines through in architecture, much of which remains unchanged since its construction – save for the installation of plumbing and electricity and a major fire back in 1788. Be sure to visit the Old Ursuline Convent Museum – constructed in 1745, the convent is the oldest structure not just in New Orleans, but in the entire Mississippi River Valley.
While the French Quarter is famous both for its history and its nightlife, this old district is a hotspot for the supernatural – whether factual, fictional, or something in between. Tales of vampires and the loup-garou, the haunting beauty of the above-ground cemeteries, one particular secret torture chamber, and the ghosts of over 300 years of New Orleanians are said to lurk in the shadows of the Vieux Carre, and there are plenty of spell-binding haunted tours to captivate history-lovers, paranormal buffs, and fans of Anne Rice and The Vampire Diaries alike.