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Where to stay in New Orleans

Look no further when it comes to the best neighborhoods to stay and play in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS
NEW ORLEANS
By Gerrish Lopez |
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Why has New Orleans become one of America’s hottest destinations? For starters, the city offers some of the best restaurants and things to do in the country. Where’s the best place to stay when visiting New Orleans? The French Quarter is the most popular neighborhood, and the center of most of the action. There are also worthy neighborhoods outside of the Quarter with good food, music, and shopping. Whether you want to stay near the party on Bourbon Street or get to know more of the city, here are the best places to stay in New Orleans and the top things to do and eat while you’re there.

Where to stay in New Orleans

1
French Quarter
Photograph: Creative Commons

French Quarter

The French Quarter is the city’s oldest and best-known neighborhood. Most visitors make a beeline to Bourbon Street, and many first-timers think the Quarter is nothing but a party. But there’s a lot more to do here - gorgeous architecture, a ton of history, fabulous antiques, local boutiques, great food, music, and views of the Mississippi. It’s family-friendly too, with the Aquarium of the Americas, the Cabildo Museum, carriage rides, street performers, and more fun for kids. Stay here if you want to be in the middle of it all, with easy access to other neighborhoods.

 

EAT

Galatoire’s

While the Quarter is home to some newer, award-winning restaurants, dining at one of New Orleans’ historic fine dining institutions is a must. Galatoire’s offers a glimpse into the city’s unique dining culture; most of the waiters, dressed in tuxedos, are local and have worked at the restaurant for decades, and many high-society locals are longtime regulars. The bright walls, black and white tile, and white tablecloths make for a refined but celebratory atmosphere. Dine on shrimp rémoulade, trout almondine, and other New Orleans classics for a memorable experience.

 

DRINK

Arnaud’s French 75 Bar

Located in the century-old Creole restaurant Arnaud’s, the French 75 bar offers a step back in time. The dark, intimate space is adorned with monkey lamps and other original vintage decor. Order a classic cocktail like an Old Fashioned or a sidecar, or ask the expert bartenders for an inventive concoction. Either way you’ll be impressed. Order soufflé potatoes, an Arnaud’s specialty, then check out the intriguing Mardi Gras museum upstairs.

 

DO

Royal Street

Running parallel to Bourbon Street, one block over, is one of the Quarter’s most elegant streets. From Canal to Esplanade, you’ll find a beautiful stretch of art galleries, antique shops, fine jewelry, street performers, and picturesque buildings adorned with intricate ironwork. For a unique experience, check out M.S. Rau Antiques. The 25,000 square foot gallery features an incredible collection of high-end antiques, art, and sculpture. Ask to see the “secret room” and you’ll be amazed at the rare, museum-quality artifacts on display.

 

STAY

Hotel Monteleone

Family-owned and operated since 1886, the Monteleone is one of the most recognized hotels in the city. Its opulent rooms were favored by writers like Anne Rice, Truman Capote. Tennessee Williams, and William Faulkner. The star of the hotel is the Carousel Bar. Locals and tourists alike frequent this revolving bar for classic cocktails and musical entertainment. It’s a must-do on any visitor’s list, and as a guest you can imbibe to your heart’s content and stroll right on up to your room.

 

If you do just one thing…

Get beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde. Enjoy an order on the covered outdoor area and watch the crowds go by on Decatur, or take it to go and sit on the edge of the Mississippi. Your visit to the Quarter isn’t complete unless you’re covered in powdered sugar at some point. 

2
Uptown/Garden District
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Paul R.

Uptown/Garden District

This area of the city - encompassing several smaller, residential neighborhoods upriver from the French Quarter - includes the St. Charles Avenue streetcar, grand historic mansions, Tulane and Loyola Universities, the beautiful Audubon Park and Zoo, and many beloved local institutions. It’s away from the hubbub of the French Quarter, offering the culture without the craziness, but easily accessible by various modes of transportation. During Mardi Gras, it’s a great place to be, as the parades roll down St. Charles in an exceptionally family-friendly environment. You’ll find neighborhood cafes, po-boy shops, long-running family restaurants, and several popular spots for snoballs, New Orleans’ favorite summertime treat. You can enjoy pleasant walks, grand oak trees, and unique shopping. As you move further Uptown, passing scores of grand Garden District mansions (which you can learn about by taking a guided walking tour), you’ll find a mix of high-end restaurants (Commander’s Palace) and colorful neighborhood dives (Parasol’s).

 

EAT

Brigtsen’s

This century-plus Victorian cottage tucked away in the Riverbend houses some of the best modern Creole fare in the city. Chef Frank Brigtsen updates classic dishes in a straightforward way with delicious results. Perfect after enjoying a stroll through the surrounding neighborhood, it’s a smart option for sampling New Orleans cooking in an intimate, friendly setting.

 

DRINK

NOLA Brewing

Head to the outskirts of the Irish Channel on Tchoupitoulas Street to sample a wide selection of innovative, locally-influenced craft beers. Take a tour then hang out in the convivial tap room for pints of standards like Hopitoulas and Irish Channel Stout, or seasonal tap room-only flavors like hibiscus ginger.

 

DO

Tipitina’s

Tip’s is a destination for music-lovers, but even the disinterested will get swept up in the vibe. This funky space has been a landmark since 1977 for live music and weekly Cajun dancing sessions. The standing room-only space is perfect for seeing a local band while soaking up some musical history. The associated Tipitina’s Foundation provides support to local musicians and maintains an interesting Walk of Fame on the sidewalk. 

 

STAY

Terrell House Bed & Breakfast

A quiet neighborhood retreat, Terrell House is a converted 1857 home in the Garden District. Simply strolling through the main house, with its 14-foot ceilings, period antiques, balconies with cast iron railings, and other original architectural elements, is a treat. The rooms are luxurious, with modern amenities, and guests have full access to elegant parlors and the lush courtyard.

 

If you do just one thing…

Head to Magazine Street - six miles of unique local shops, art galleries, neighborhood bars, popular restaurants, and colorful architecture.

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3
Central Business District
Photograph: Creative Commons

Central Business District

The CBD, just across Canal Street from the French Quarter, contains the bulk of New Orleans’ office buildings and includes the Warehouse District and the newly-coined “South Market District.” Typically the go-to area for travelers conducting business in the city, it has blossomed into a hip hub for food, drink, and culture. The Warehouse District, which began its transformation in the late 80s, is now a full-on arts district, with renowned art galleries and museums. The CBD also includes the Orpheum and Saenger Theaters, and the Superdome - home of the New Orleans Saints. You’ll find a wealth of places geared towards office workers for a quick, inexpensive bite, but you’ll also find some of the city’s most talked-about restaurants, including Cochon, Peche, and Emeril’s. Younger travelers will be drawn to cool hotels with rooftop bars like the Ace, Moxy, and Troubadour, but you’ll also find renowned landmark hotels like The Roosevelt, Windsor Court, and Le Pavillon. Both the Warehouse and South Market Districts feature buzzy restaurants and food halls with an array of crafty bites and cocktails. For a more modern vibe and trendier offerings, the CBD is a good choice for its walkability and proximity to the French Quarter.

 

EAT

Cochon Butcher

A smaller spinoff of Chefs Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski’s famed Cochon, Butcher has now come into its own as a top destination for a Cajun-influenced, meat-centric meal. Grab a deli sandwich at the counter or take home house-made meats, sausages, terrines, pickles, sauces, and jams. (Don't miss out on taking some Andouille and tasso home with you.)

 

DRINK

Sazerac Bar

This elegant bar within the landmark Roosevelt Hotel was a favorite of Huey Long’s. Sidle up to the long wood bar, order a Sazerac or a Ramos Gin Fizz, and admire the famous Paul Ninas murals. A New Orleans icon, the Sazerac Bar has long been one of the city’s most popular pre- or post-meal gathering spots for friends, families, and business dealings.

 

DO

Julia Street

“Gallery Row” on Julia Street in the Warehouse District is a series of more than a dozen art galleries occupying former storefronts. The architecture creates a unique setting for browsing classic and cutting-edge art. On the first Saturday of every month, galleries host coordinated openings with a festive atmosphere. White Linen Night - held the first Saturday in August - is the premier opening, when hundreds of people come out in white linen to enjoy art, food, and music.

 

STAY

The Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery

This renovated 1854 warehouse features hardwood floors and exposed brick walls paired with modern design and local art. It’s in a prime location, just three blocks from the French Quarter. Best of all, award-winning chef Nina Compton’s restaurant Compère Lapin is here, so you won’t have to go far for exceptional cocktails and delicious, Caribbean-inspired New Orleans cuisine.

 

If you do just one thing…

Visit the National WWII Museum, a world-class complex with award-winning exhibits showcasing the stories of those who served in WWII and on the homefront. Highlights include a theater with WWII-era musical performances, a restaurant, and a fantastic gift shop with 1940s-inspired gifts and clothing. 

4
Marigny/Bywater
Photograph: Courtesy/Yelp Gloria S.

Marigny/Bywater

Downriver from the French Quarter, across Esplanade Avenue, are two of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city, frequently referred to as one continuous neighborhood. The young and the hip are drawn to this area, which is attracting an ever-increasing “in-the-know” crowd. Hotel chains have yet to invade this area, but there are several bed and breakfasts and a couple smaller inns to consider. The furthest reaches of Bywater are best accessed with a cab or rideshare, but the energetic can safely walk through the area when there's daylight. You’ll find colorful Creole cottages and historic homes containing small cafes and shops, a few art galleries and hip record stores, and the occasional community garden. Restaurants are local and casual, with a smattering of vegan-friendly spots along St. Claude Avenue. Bars run the gamut from the classy Three Muses to the divey Siberia. The epicenter is Frenchmen Street; here you’ll find a string of live music venues where you can hear anything from jazz or blues to reggae and rock, or even a brass band performing on a corner. There are bars and restaurants and lots of energy. It’s still crowded, but a more unique alternative to the Quarter.

 

EAT

Adolfo’s

Perched above the bustling Frenchmen Street, up a narrow flight of stairs from the Apple Barrel bar, is this quaint, cash-only restaurant serving Creole Italian - a local specialty combining Italian and local French influences. Enjoy huge portions of seafood and pasta as you check out the quirky, colorful decor. Be prepared for a wait, and bring cash.

 

DRINK

Bacchanal Wine

While it’s no longer a locals’ secret, Bacchanal retains its unique local charm and funky hideaway feel. At the far end of the Bywater, you’ll find this wine shop/hangout with a cozy “treehouse” bar and lush back patio. Pick a bottle and a cheese plate or one of several gourmet small plate offerings and listen to a live band. It’s like a party at your friend’s house every night of the week.

 

DO

Crescent Park

This 1.4-mile linear park follows the Mississippi downriver from the French Market. There’s a walking/jogging/biking path, landscaping with native plants, picnic areas, a dog park, and two rehabbed industrial wharves used for anything from parties to yoga classes. Climb to the top of the Piety Street Bridge (aka “the Rusty Rainbow”) for beautiful views of the river and Downtown.

 

STAY

Royal Frenchman Hotel

This renovated Creole townhouse has everything you need, from cozy, well-appointed rooms with a vintage vibe to an on-site bar serving craft cocktails. Some rooms have a balcony overlooking the street, and all guests can enjoy the interior courtyard and plush lobby lounge. Plus, you’re only steps from the action on Frenchmen.

 

If you do just one thing…

Support live, local music on Frenchmen. Whether it’s funk at Blue Nile, a brass band at d.b.a, reggae at Cafe Negril, or trad jazz at Snug Harbor (to name just a few), experience the music up close. You can also stop in Louisiana Music Factory to take home some tunes from your favorite local artists.

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5
Mid-City
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Ryan C.

Mid-City

For a real neighborhood adventure away from - but accessible to - the French Quarter, consider Mid-City. Midway between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, it offers easy access to both destinations via streetcar or taxi/rideshare. For the overachievers, the Lafitte Greenway, a 2.6-mile paved trail is a bikeable option to the Quarter. Mid-City is a strong, diverse, local community that’s home to the famous annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. You’ll find an artsy crowd and colorful homes in the Bayou St. John area as well is historic landmarks along Bayou Road. There’s a thriving commercial corridor along Carrollton Avenue and a number of classic bars, restaurants, breweries, and snoball stands throughout the neighborhood. Many Mid-City families have been based in the area for generations. If you’re a repeat visitor and want to have a more local experience, Mid-City is a good choice.

 

EAT

Parkway Bakery and Tavern

This family-owned, casual neighborhood joint is a top choice for classic, overstuffed po-boys. It has grown in popularity but the friendly staff still takes care of the locals while welcoming tourists like they’re locals, too. Shrimp are fried to perfection, roast beef is sufficiently messy, and the Barq's (and beer) is served icy cold. For a non-traditional po-boy option, try the smoked alligator sausage.

 

DRINK

Finn McCool’s

This Irish pub with local flavor is one of the top neighborhood bars in all of the city. Lively and totally unpretentious, you’ll feel like a regular as soon as you order your first beer. It’s a lively gathering spot for Saints games and soccer games, and their weekly pub quiz night is particularly raucous. The pop-up kitchen in the back serves worthy pub grub too.

 

DO

City Park

City Park is a beautifully-landscaped, 1,300-acre green space filled with moss-drenched oaks, peaceful walking paths, and native birds. Within the park is the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Botanical Gardens, and golf, both mini- and regular. The Big Lake offers boating and other activities, while Storyland and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park offer fun for kids. The park provides a much-needed respite from the action in the Quarter, a quiet spot to enjoy local natural beauty.

 

STAY

Canal Street Inn

This charming B&B on Canal Street offers easy access to the streetcar. The elegant decor is original to the home, and the homemade breakfasts are filling. With comfortable parlors and a garden terrace, it’s a quiet, homey place to unwind after exploring the city.

 

If you do just one thing…

Head to Rock ‘n Bowl to dance while you knock down a few pins. Even if you’re not into bowling, Rock ‘n Bowl is one of the liveliest spots to see live music, from blues to zydeco, and the dance floor is always hopping. 

Looking for more must-do's in the city?

Things to do

The 20 best things to do in New Orleans

Oysters, po-boys, beignets and classic cocktails feature prominently on any NOLA itinerary, but there's much more to the city than eating, drinking and general indulgence. Whether you’re a newcomer or a lifelong local, check off these essential things to do in New Orleans, from antiques-hunting in the French Quarter to unique museums and storied jazz joints.

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