A Visitor’s Guide to the French Quarter
So you’re heading to the French Quarter?
If you’ve never been, I’m guessing that you’ve heard stories about this amazing place and you sure won’t be disappointed.
The French Quarter is really the heart of New Orleans. It’s a tourist destination that’s unlike any other place I’ve visited, and it contains everything you need for a great vacation. There are so many places that you can’t miss in the French Quarter and food is definitely on that list. New Orleans is home to some of the best food you can eat, hands down. Don’t worry though, you’ll walk enough miles to work it all off.
New Orleans title as “The Big Easy” is well earned by the laid back attitude of the locals. The locals say “laissez les bon temps rouler” which is Cajun-French for “let the good times roll”. You’ll find this emblazoned on souvenirs and signs all around town, and you’ll find that this is more than a saying, it’s a lifestyle.
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Best of the French Quarter Food
There are so many delicious places to eat in The French Quarter that it’s hard to know where to start. My list only includes the best of the French Quarter, the places that you just can’t miss.
Every list you read is going to have a variation on places you have to try and they’re all correct – but don’t miss these! These should be at the top of every list.
Cafe Du Monde
Everyone must experience Cafe Du Monde in their lifetime!
I can’t imagine visiting New Orleans and not taking the time to go and get a cafe au lait and a beignet. I’ve tried them in other cities but there’s just something magical about Cafe du Monde.
There’s rarely a time when there’s not a line to get in but it moves quickly and it’s worth the wait. If you want to avoid the line, the best time to go is early in the morning or late at night. You’ll find that not much is stirring early in the morning in NOLA.
Cafe du Monde is open 24 hours and it’s a great place to people watch while you sip your cafe au lait.
This is where you’ll get a classic beignet, which is a pastry barely visible under the powdered sugar. I think you can count these as any kind of meal – breakfast, snack, dessert. That’s why we visit anytime of day for a little sugar and caffeine pick-me-up.
If it’s still awhile until your next New Orleans get-away, brew Cafe Du Mondes famous chicory coffee at home!
Acme Oyster House
Acme Oyster House has the best chargrilled oysters I’ve ever tried. I also love that you can sit at community tables and visit while you’re eating. (They also have separate tables if you prefer them.)
There’s usually a long line to get into Acme, but half the fun is visiting with your neighbors while you wait your turn! And it always moves quicker than you think.
Once inside you’ll find fresh, hand-shucked oysters from Louisiana and all the delicious toppings. Start off with some oysters on the half shell and then move on to some chargrilled ones. Choose some jambalaya, gumbo or red beans and rice for your side and you’ve got a feast. The Po’Boys are delicious and the food comes out fast and hot.
While there are lots of places to get a muffuletta, there’s only one original.
The Central Grocery is a small Italian-American grocery store run by the same family in its third generation. This place is well know for it’s classic sandwich, and it won’t disappoint.
Central Grocery is an actual grocery store and you can purchase all the fixin’s to make your own sandwich and best of all, you can get a jar of their classic Italian Olive Salad to take home.
The olive salad is the secret to the best muffuletta, or maybe it’s the bread. But the olive salad is great as a dip with chips or over cream cheese – delicious!
Best of the French Quarter Drinks
The French Quarter is known for it’s bars, and it’s drinks. Bourbon Street closes to vehicular traffic after dark and you are encouraged to get your drink and carry it with you from place to place. There are some well known bars that should be on your don’t miss list though.
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is rumored to be the oldest building used as a bar in the US. It was built between 1722-1723, and was added as a National Historic Landmark in 1970. It has survived fires and hurricanes and is known to be haunted.
We enjoy the dim atmosphere with the always flickering candles, and the crowd that frequents it. The doors open wide to invite you in and let you observe the crowd while you have drinks. It’s definitely one of the more notorious buildings you will visit.
Ask the bartender for recommendations and let them surprise you with their “purple drank”.
The Carousel Bar
This is a unique bar located in The Hotel Monteleone. It’s named as one of the top 20 bars in the world so it’s definitely a bucket list item.
Step up to the revolving carousel and have a drink and a bar bite.
It’s definitely an experience because the bar does actually revolve once every 15 minutes. Thankfully the seats are anchored and don’t go up and down because that wouldn’t mix well with drinks!
You don’t want to try to hit happy hour here, go for the late afternoon or late evening so that you can sit on the carousel.
Best of the French Quarter Activities
Walk Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street is definitely the most well know area of the French Quarter. It’s the center of the nightlife, which can really be found around the clock. You can bar hop, or just get a drink to go and enjoy the people watching. There’s always something to see on Bourbon Street, and we recommend leaving it for the latter part of the day. Go see some sights and come back to this after dark.
Shop on Royal Street
Royal Street doesn’t get as much attention as Bourbon Street but it shouldn’t be missed. There are beautiful antiques and store fronts. If you need a nice walk or some hard core window shopping this is the place for that.
Visit Jackson Square
The St. Louis Cathedral anchors one side of Jackson Square. This area is home to shops, live music and artists. The cathedral is situated between the Cabildo building and Presbytyre. The Presbytyre was built to complement the Cabildo building on the other side.
This group of buildings face the Mississippi river and are a wonderful place to wander and shop. Pirate’s Alley is located alongside the Cathedral and is a very narrow alleyway lined with shops. There are usually artists set up along the edges of the square and you can almost always catch some sort of performance near this area.
Enjoy a Haunted Ghost Tour
A haunted ghost tour will give you a fun, and possibly frightening history of the area. There are many companies that host the tours, just be sure you get a great guide. They’re really the ones that make the tours fun.
We’ve learned some legends and some folklore on the haunted ghost tour. They’ve also taken us down some side streets that we wouldn’t have ventured down and we’ve seen some amazing architecture. The tour guides can also answer lots of questions.
Outside of the French Quarter
You can take a bike tour of the french quarter, but if you go on a haunted ghost tour you may see a lot of the same places.
The bike tour of the Garden District is one of our favorite activities. It starts in the French Quarter and will take you to a part of the city that you may not see otherwise. There are lots of celebrity homes to see and the architecture and history is pretty amazing.
The cemeteries of New Orleans are hauntingly beautiful and a must-see historic feature of New Orleans. The earliest settlers realized that burying their dead below sea-level wasn’t an option, so the solution was the marble chambers used to emtomb in the cemeteries seen all around town today.
We enjoyed exploring Lafayette as part of our garden district tour, but other famous spots include St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, 2 and 3, St. Patricks Cemetery No. 1 and Greenwood Cemetery.
We would love to hear your go-to spots for your New Orleans trips in the comments below! Make sure to save this pin below for your next trip.