They say New Orleans is the USA’s most interesting city – something I can say certainly isn’t far from the truth – there’s no other city I’ve visited that can top that claim.
The city conjures up many images – all doused with a flavour of Jazz, creole cuisine, party vibes and of course the magnificent architecture and art history reminiscent of the French and Spanish occupation. Gloriously mystifying is what it is.
Let your thoughts wander for a second to the TV programmes filmed here – American Horror Story, The Originals, NCIS New Orleans – and the films – Interview with a Vampire, Angel Heart, Jack Reacher, The Pelican Brief and about 100 other famous films. You soon realise New Orleans is a virtual movie set and the French Quarter is the main stage.
Here are our tips that would make a stay in New Orleans French Quarter (Vieux Carre) more enjoyable:
- Don’t even think of staying in a hotel on Bourbon Street. Yes, we know, it is the party street of New Orleans (and probably the largest collection of bars and restaurants that we have seen in one area anywhere in the world), but it is seedier than it is exclusive. It becomes a real pedestrian zone at night, jam packed with people revelling in a drunken haze. We wouldn’t want to hazard a guess as to when half the joints down this neck of the woods renewed their Health and hygiene certificates. Well, except for the Hard Rock Café, which is an oasis of cleanliness and normality. They even serve your drink in a glass – a relative luxury that can’t be said for many other bars along the street!
- Make sure to visit Lafittes Blacksmith Bar – it is worth the trip. While it’s a long way up Bourbon street, get there before you start a pub crawl to truly appreciate the experience.
- As soon as you move away from Bourbon street, you will see a classy historic suburb. The area of the French Quarter closest to the CBD and the riverfront is lined with antique shops, specialty stores, lovely restaurants and bars and hotels. The French Quarter is a lovely area to stay but be warned – you will pay for the privilege. Some sound advice would be to stay in the CBD area or ‘Downtown’ as it is known. Almost all the hotels in this area are within three blocks of the French Quarter, no more than a five-minute walk. No funny sewer smells here – yes, these do tend to permeate the air in summer months along Bourbon Street – and none of the night-time madness.
- Café du Monde, on the corner of Jackson Square is famous the world over. It was the first coffee stand in New Orleans and has since morphed into a large restaurant that caters for the breakfast/lunch trade. It is worth a visit for the beignets and café au lait (do revive your faith in coffee – the USA is not very good at brewing a cup) but get there early – from 10am you will have to face queues to get in.
- Move out of the French Quarter. There is an area called Uptown or Garden district. The area features lovely homes and a street called Magasine Street. For those who do not speak French, that means Shop Street. Its full of boutique shops and restaurants and bars – certainly of a higher quality than those found along Bourbon Street. If you are up to it, pizza at Amici will not be the worst meal you will have.
- If you really want Jazz (good jazz), then venture on the edge of Downtown (South Rampart Street). Here you will find a few old buildings remaining (the suburb was knocked down almost 100 years ago during the Great Depression) that operate a nightly jazz line-up. If you feel like something authentic then rather consider the Little Gem Saloon.
- Do: drink a Ramos Gin Fizz
- Do: have a creole gumbo
New Orleans is an amazing city, offering something for everyone. From personal experience, it seems as if it is going through something of a revival too. Plan your trip well – holiday happy.