If you don’t walk around the French Quarter when you visit New Orleans, are you sure you were in the right city?
Jokes aside, there are so many things to do in the French Quarter (not just Bourbon Street) that are related to the very history and culture of the Crescent City, it’s an essential stop whether it’s your first or hundredth visit!
Also known as the Vieux Carré, this neighborhood is the oldest in New Orleans. It was originally founded way back in 1718, and has since belonged to a variety of cultures, each leaving their mark. Between the French, the Spanish, Creole, American, and plenty of others, the Quarter has become a true melting pot.
Where exactly is the French Quarter?
The French Quarter’s boundaries are Esplanada Ave to east, N Rampart Street to the North, Canal Street to the west, and the Mississippi River to the south.
How to See the French Quarter
There are so many ways to see the French Quarter! Of course, the easiest and cheapest way to do it is to map everything out yourself and just start walking around. You could go around by segway or by horse and carriage.
If you want something a little more guided to the French Quarter, try these different tours:
- Literary French Quarter Tour
- Ghost Tour of the French Quarter
- Historical Walking Tour with Cafe du Monde
- French Quarter Walking Food Tour
Map of the French Quarter
Things to Do in the French Quarter: Must-See Sights
Visit the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
I wanted to go here, but it was closed when I went by! The museum is all about the history of pharmacology, and its location is where the US’s first licensed pharmacist once worked.
Hours: Tues – Sat, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Shop around the French Market
The French Market stretches along 6 blocks and has been around in its current form since 1791. It actually goes back even further in time as the site was once used as a Native American trading post. We strolled around here after getting beignets at Cafe du Monde.
Hours: 8:00am – 5:30pm
Walk around Jackson Square
One of the random phrases I’ll always remember from history classes is the Louisiana Purchase. The way I remember it was that it was like the ultimate bargain for the US because Napoleon’s France needed cash fast for his wars. Jackson Square is where that deal was made. It was formerly named Place d’Armes and Plaza de Armas but was named for Andrew Jackson after the 1815 Battle of New Orleans (and pre his monstrous Trail of Tears).
Over the years, it’s become a place for artists and musicians, and if you visit, you’ll see different vendors hanging out around the border. Whatever you do, please don’t support anyone making their dog lay on its back!
Hours: 8:00am – 7:00pm
Learn more about Louisiana’s history at the Presbytère
The Presbytère was built in 1791 and was used for a variety of reasons through the years. It’s currently a part of the Louisiana State Museum, which is series of National Historic Landmarks around the state. Its two main exhibits are about Mardi Gras and coming back from Hurricane Katrina.
Hours: Tues – Sun, 10am – 4:30pm
The Cabildo‘s biggest claim to fame is that it was the setting of the infamous Plessy vs. Ferguson case in 1892. That’s another phrase I’ll always remember because it established the “separate but equal” precedent that plagued racism cases for the next 50 years. (Bonus if you can remember the case name that overturned this!)
It’s now been turned into a museum where you can learn more about the state’s history. One of the recent ones is called, We Love You, New Orleans, which celebrates everything about the Big Easy.
Hours: Tues – Sun, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Say a Little Prayer at St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral, or Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, is one of the big landmarks of New Orleans. It’s the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese for the city and the oldest cathedral in the US.
Of course I had to stop in! Plus, my mom always said every time you enter a new church you can make a wish ;)
Hours: 8:30 am – 4:00 pm, Mass at 12:05pm
Get Your Photo at the LaBranche House
Now, if you’re looking for those iconic French Quarter homes with Spanish lacy cast iron grillwork and hanging ferns, the LaBranche House is easily the most famous. There are other similar ones we found, but this is probably the one you’ve seen a million photos of!
Walk along Royal Street
While you’re at the LaBranche House, walk down Royal Street and just take in all the beautiful facades.
See the Outside of the Lalaurie Mansion
If you walk down far enough on Royal Street, you’ll eventually get to the LaLaurie Mansion. That name might sound familiar because it’s for Delphine LaLaurie, who was most recently portrayed by Kathy Bates in “AHS: Coven.” She was an awful, awful woman, and the building, while beautiful, I feel kind of showcases just how awful she was! I mean, it’s gray and bare compared to something like the LaBranche House.
Visit the Old Ursuline Convent Museum
This is another one that was closed when I went to visit! I can’t remember why though because I checked the hours, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t going on a day it was closed.
It was established as far back as 1726 when some nuns from Rouen, Normandy came over, though the current building was completed in 1752. It’s the oldest in the Mississippi Valley, and the best example of French Colonial architecture.
Hours: Mon-Fri 10:00am – 4:00pm, Sat 9:00 am – 3:15 pm
Pay a visit to the New Orleans Jazz Museum
Located in the old US mint building right at the edge of the French Quarter and towards the beginning of Frenchmen Street, the New Orleans Jazz Museum. As the name suggests, it’s all about jazz!
Hours: Tues – Sun, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Learn about Actual Voodoo at the Voodoo Museum
Did you know Voodoo isn’t just some magic mumbo jumbo but an actual religion? I really didn’t know much about it, so this was such a cool thing to visit. Take your time and read about the history, and its impact on New Orleans and Louisiana.
Hours: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
If you want to continue on with your voodoo touring, you can stop in Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo. I popped in, but, truthfully, it’s kind of just a souvenir shop.
Hours: 10:00 am – 11:30 pm
Of course, I’ve got to end with the infamous Bourbon Street! For all the crazy happenings of Mardi Gras and general partying, you’ll want to head to the bars here. We didn’t really spend a lot of time here, but even in September you could tell people were ready to have a good time!
Where to Eat in the French Quarter
Can’t forget about food! We ate at a few of these places in the French Quarter:
- Cafe du Monde for beignets
- Desire Oyster Bar for seafood (and, ya know, oysters)
- SoBou Restaurant for a mix and higher end dining
- Johnny’s Po Boys for poboys!
- The Jazz Playhouse for drinks and live jazz
Some restaurants others recommended but we didn’t get to try ourselves:
- Deanie’s Seafood for seafood
- Oceana Grill for seafood
- Central Grocery + Deli for muffuletta sandwiches
Places Right Outside of the French Quarter
Here’s a quick list of some places I thought were in the French Quarter, but are actually right around the border on the outside!
- Backstreet Cultural Museum
- St. Louis Cemetery 1 (where Marie Laveau’s tomb is)
- Louis Armstrong Park
- Start of Frenchman Street (where everyone recommended for jazz)
Should You Stay in the French Quarter?
You can! I didn’t, and I didn’t find it too difficult to get into the area. From the LOEWS Hotel, we could walk there in less than 10 minutes, and from Auberge NOLA Hostel, it was an easy streetcar ride in.
If you want to stay in, try one of these hotels:
- French Market Inn (Book Now, Compare Prices)
- Grenoble House (Book Now, Compare Prices)
- Hotel Le Marais (Book Now, Compare Prices)
- Bourbon Orleans Hotel (Book Now, Compare Prices)
- Hotel Mazarin (Book Now, Compare Prices)
Just a heads up if you plan on booking with Airbnb — NOLA is having a big issue with unregistered homes still popping up on the platform, and it’s part of an overall gentrification problem in the city. I’d look into who’s renting the property — is it a local New Orleans resident, a business, or someone who lives hundreds of miles away? I’d imagine an apartment like this one, where the host is “a firefighter, veteran, and non-profit leader in New Orleans” is better than one who’s host is a realtor company.
And there you have it! All the best things to do in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Anything I’m missing? Have you been to NOLA before? Let me know!
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I tagged along on a brand campaign to NOLA. Thanks so much to Visit New Orleans for hosting us! All opinions are, of course, my own!