Ah, New Orleans – home of Mardi Gras, Creole cuisine, and Jazz music. The city is said to be one of the most interesting cities in the US, and you can definitely see why! Wandering through the streets, you feel like you are in a European city with the French and Spanish inspired architecture.
The city has so much to offer, from fascinating history, to delicious food, to beautiful architecture and local art! After spending just a weekend in New Orleans, I’ve put together a list of my top things I recommend to do in the city!
Admire the Historical Buildings in the French Quarter
The French Quarter was the first neighbourhood in New Orleans when it was founded, and the entire city was developed around it. The district is also known as Vieux Carré, which translates to “Old Square” in English and has been deemed a National Historic Landmark.
The streets are lined with Creole Townhouses and were built during the Spanish Rule after the Great New Orleans Fire in 1788, which destroyed many of the French Colonial houses that existed there before. The beautiful houses definitely make for great photos and a nice afternoon stroll through the French Quarter!
Visit Jackson Square
Jackson Square was one of my favourite places I visited in New Orleans by far. The square is home to the St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the United States.
The architecture of this cathedral looks right out of a Disney movie, with the castle-like spokes, beautiful white exterior, and a dreamy path leading up to the entrance. In front of the cathedral is a park with many shady benches to hide from the heat of the New Orleans summer, while being able to admire the beauty of Jackson Square.
The middle of the park is home to the Jackson equestrian statue – a statue of a Andrew Jackson on a horse. If you’re lucky enough to beat the crowds, there’s definitely some great photo ops of the statue with the cathedral in the background!
The square not only is a great spot to relax, it is also where many local artists gather and sell their art. In fact, it was a top location for painters to gather in the 1920s to 1980s! Amateurs and professionals alike gathered to show off their art and surround themselves with likeminded individuals. The square eventually started attracting different types of artists, including fortune tellers and sketch artists. Many pieces of artwork are hung up on the fences for purchase, and the different styles are so mesmerizing!
Grab a Drink along Bourbon Street
Oh, Bourbon Street. What a crazy scene! If you are looking to party in New Orleans, you’re bound to wind up at a bar along Bourbon Street. This historic street is located in the core of the French Quarter, and is a 13 block long street lined with various clubs and bars. With the open container laws, you can buy beers and mixed drinks from drink stands and wander the streets drinking alcohol. One of my favourite drinks I had was definitely the giant fishbowls that are sold in the stands along the street. It is a tasty drink, but was there ever a lot of alcohol in it!
If you aren’t into crowded places and obscenely intoxicated people everywhere like I’m not, you can opt to hide away on a side street at a dive bar and enjoy some drinks. Most of my time spent on Bourbon street was sipping beers and playing darts at a dive bar, and it was a lot of fun!
Spend Some Time Shopping at the French Market
The French Market is a 6 block long shopping area, containing food vendors, gifts, and local artisan goods. It is an open-air market, which was originally a Native American trading post in 1791. It evolved into a commercial hub for the French and Spanish colonists to trade their goods, and eventually immigrants from around the world opened up their own shops, showcasing goods from their home countries.
In front of the French Market is a beautiful plaza where you can enjoy a meal purchased from one of the many food shops within the market. Be sure to check out the flea market and the farmer’s market if they are open as well, to find all sorts of treasures and delicious food!
Check out Historical Cafés
New Orleans is filled with many historical cafés, serving fantastic coffee and pastries, including the famous Beignet pastry. The pastry was brought to New Orleans by French colonists in the 18th century, and was officially declared the official state donut in the 1980s. It is a light and soft fritter, traditionally served as a breakfast item in New Orleans. The Beignet is most famously served at Cafe du Monde, a landmark coffee stand located in the French Market. This stand, which has many inside tables and seating, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and almost always has a massive line out the door. Beignets are the only food item that’s served at this stand, along with different coffee drinks. They come in orders of three, freshly made and covered with powdered sugar. Try to avoid peak hours when visiting Cafe du Monde, to limit your time standing in line!
Have you been to New Orleans? What was your favourite thing to do? Let me know in the comments!