Are you looking for the best things to do in the French Quarter of New Orleans? With all the incredible food, a rich and well-preserved history, and nonstop energy, there is always something going on. Here are our favorite French Quarter, New Orleans things to do.
Well known for its unrivaled Mardi Gras festivities and parade, the French Quarter, east of the Garden District, has become party central for many visitors. But there is so much more to see and do here than just bar hopping at night. With one of the richest histories of all American cities, there is always something new to discover and explore.
New Orleans is also one of the most resilient cities. Bouncing back time and time again from calamity and natural disasters, the city has always found a way to push back and focus on the good times. The French Quarter is one of the best places in New Orleans to witness this grit and joyful exuberance.
Wandering through the quarter during the day, sampling Creole and Cajun culinary dishes on a food tour, or partying at night along Bourbon Street with a few thousand of your close friends gives only a little taste of what the French Quarter has to offer.
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Top Things To Do in New Orleans’ French Quarter
The French Quarter gets its name from the fact that this is where the first French settlers decided to build their townsite. While the French influence can still be found in the food and other customs, most of the architecture is Spanish with rich red brick and ornate wrought iron railings around the balconies.
Take a French Quarter Tour
With so much history and colorful characters in its past, the best way to get to know the French Quarter is on a tour. In fact, I would recommend taking at least three different tours if you have the time.
First of all, start off with a walking history tour to really get to understand how the quarter evolved over time. Learn about the architecture and hear the stories of some of the more famous and infamous buildings.
Next up should be a food tour. This is not just a good way to find the best places to eat, but also a great way to familiarize yourself with the Creole and Cajun dishes New Orleans is famous for. The best of these French Quarter food tours are led by local chefs who really know the ingredients and evolution of the dishes and the restaurants.
Of course, the French Quarter has always had a mystical, supernatural side to it as well. So, naturally, some sort of tour covering this aspect of the neighborhood is a must. With vampires, ghosts, and voodoo having such a strong presence, you really should consider going on a spooky nighttime haunted French Quarter tour.
What started as a tiny Native American trading post in the early 18th century, the French market is now a rambling, five-blocks shopping and eating paradise. Start on one end of the market with coffee and beignets at the world-famous Cafe du Monde and then make your way down Dutch Alley and into the Shops of the Colonnade for some serious shopping and eating.
You can find everything here including local arts and crafts, fresh produce and spices, soaps and candles, interesting commodities and oddities, and, of course, food. In fact, this is where you’ll find the best muffuletta in the city, at Alberto’s Cheese and Wine Bistro.
Perhaps the best-known street in the world, but certainly in the USA, Bourbon Street has a well-earned reputation for partying. This is where you go to let the good times roll. Grab a tall styrofoam cup of your favorite daiquiri, mine’s amaretto peach, and get ready for some serious people-watching.
Python snakes, sidewalk preachers, street performers, and tourists from all walks of life and every corner of the world are all jostling along the pedestrianized street. Just about everyone is dancing to the music spilling out from the bars and nightclubs lining both sides of the street. Stop in at Pat O’Brien’s Courtyard for one of their world-famous Hurricanes to really get in the party mood.
Jackson Square is a small park dedicated to the hero of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson, the 19th century general who liberated New Orleans from the British during the War of 1812. His statue stands in the middle of the square surrounded by inviting green spaces and lush flowers. This is the perfect spot for a picnic in the sun.
Afterward, wander around the square enjoying the music and dancing of the many street performers that make the square their stage. This is also where you’ll find a few tables set up by local artists selling their paintings or jewelry. Want to discover what’s in store for your future? You can find out by visiting a palm reader or fortune teller found here at Jackson Square.
St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral has its roots in the earliest days of the French settlers in New Orleans. In fact, it is the oldest cathedral in the United States. If there’s any building that adds the most character and personality to the historical feel of New Orleans, this is it.
The church offers tours, occasionally, during the year, and if you are lucky enough to be visiting the city during one of those times, definitely take the tour. Otherwise, stop inside for a tranquil moment of relaxing peacefulness.
For the best views of the cathedral, and Jackson Square, walk over to the river and climb the stairs up to Washington Artillery Park. This is where you’ll take the most iconic French Quarter photo.
French Quarter New Orleans Map
We’ve got all of our favorite places to eat, museums, and historical places marked on our tourist map. Feel free to use it!
Some of our Recommended New Orleans Hotels
- Quarter House: In the heart of the French Quarter with a beautiful courtyard and pool
- New Orleans Marriott Warehouse Arts District – Personal favorite, near the art galleries, bars and brunch spots of the Arts/Warehouse District
- Drury Plaza Hotel – Excellent rooms and value in a good location in the Central Business District, St. Charles streetcar stop just around the corner
Depending on who you’re talking to, you’ll find out that New Orleans is either a music city with a drinking problem or a drinking city with a music problem. Not sure which one to believe? Head on down to the French Quarter and make your mind up for yourself.
Author Bio: Jim Vail, is an avid traveler and explorer. He’s been to all fifty states and traveled around the world. He’s happiest shooting wildlife photography, camping, and hiking in the mountains, or fishing on the side of a river in Alaska.