Looking for things to do in the French Quarter of New Orleans? Is this your first visit to the French Quarter?
The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, also known as Vieux Carre Historic District. It is in the heart of New Orleans. By far one of my favorite places to visit and eat. The charming European architecture, the amazing food, the kindness of the locals, and the vibrant jazz and music heard throughout the city.
It’s the trip you take when all you want is a few days of great food and atmosphere. The one you take when you miss your European adventures, the French Quarter helps fill that void and more. If you’re looking for a city that is always in a festive mood, the French Quarter is it. After almost 2 years in quarantine in Los Angeles, I was ready for this trip.
New Orleans knows how to celebrate. They have a festival for just about everything. If there is something you love, there is probably a festival for it in New Orleans. This is a city that celebrates fried chicken. What’s not to love about that? Finger-lickin’ good. I’m in!
We were recently in the French Quarter during Halloween weekend (that will be for a whole other post) for a wedding with a Second Line. It was an experience we’ll never forget and one of the most fun weddings we ever attended. Locals and tourists joined in on the celebration as we paraded with the bride and groom through the streets of the French Quarter.
I suggest adding to your bucket list: attend a wedding in New Orleans.
It was four years ago when we were last in New Orleans for 3 days. While 3 days in New Orleans may seem like not enough, at the same time it is. The French Quarter is a great place to explore in doses because you can’t do everything all at once.
Three to four days is a good time in the French Quarter and you can even explore beyond it. You may want to visit the World War II Museum, eat where Obama likes his fried chicken from – Willie Mae’s (seriously the best fried chicken), and perhaps take a swamp tour. Alas, these are all ideas for a great New Orleans trip.
On this trip, we explored and ate our way through this vibrant city and fell in love with New Orleans all over again. We vowed from this point on to make a yearly visit to New Orleans. The food is incredible. And, the European influence in the French Quarter is like no other place in the United States.
I’m still swooning over the gas lamps found throughout the quarter.
In this post, we share all the best things to do in the French Quarter, including some of our favorite things to eat. This is a Tasty Itinerary, food is a big part of our travel itineraries. So if this is your first time visiting New Orleans, this is a great list to help you start planning that trip to the French Quarter.
You’ll want to definitely take a ghost tour while you’re there. Walk up and down Bourbon Street and Royal Street. Hit up Cafe Du Monde for beignets and cafe au laite. Visit the oldest structure that’s a bar in the US. Eat your way through the French Market and more.
A few Tips for Your French Quarter Trip
1. The street names can be found on the corner of the sidewalks. I point this out because we are used to seeing signs up and we kept looking for them. Even though we knew from our last visit they were on the sidewalk corners.
2. Where to stay in the French Quarter? In the past, we stayed closer to Canal Street at the Courtyard by Marriott Iberville. That was nice and we were able to walk to everything.
However, the most recent stay was right in the heart of everything and stayed in The Place d’Armes Hotel (make sure to ask for a renovated room). I loved that it was around the corner from St. Louis Cathedral and closer to Decatur. It was a great location.
I recommend staying away from Bourbon Street if you like to sleep. But if you want to be part of the lively festivities at night on Bourbon Street, then by all means check out the hotels on Bourbon Street.
3. If you’re going around the holiday (like I did for Halloween) or during one of their festivals, book a hotel months in advance.
4. If there is a popular restaurant high on your list of places to eat, see if they take reservations and make one in advance.
5. Wear comfortable shoes. Those cobblestone streets are not made for heels.
6. The French Quarter is relatively safe, but like any other city, always be cautious and vigilant of your surroundings. Also, do not fall for any scams.
Things to do in the French Quarter
Here is a Google Map and a link to all the places I mention in this post, so you save and start planning your time in the French Quarter.
1. Bourbon Street
The infamous Bourbon Street. I add this to the top of the list because you can’t visit the French Quarter in New Orleans and not see what Bourbon Street is all about. Bourbon Street is 13 blocks long from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue.
The majority of the cities festivities take place on Bourbon Street. Everyone spills out onto the streets from the bars and hotels. Above the street, balconies are full of visitors and locals celebrating with drinks and tossing beads into the crowds below.
For me, the best time to appreciate Bourbon Street is during the day. It’s quieter (if there isn’t a festival) and sometimes you’ll come across a street jazz band or two, which is always so much fun and one of the things that make New Orleans magical.
While it’s daylight out, you can admire the architecture and history along Bourbon Street. Including the ornate ironwork from the balconies that used to signify the wealth of the person of the homeowner.
At night, it’s a whole party scene and it can get quite rowdy. If it’s for you, have a blast. Looking for a quieter scene? Just walk away from Bourbon and you’ll be fine.
2. Take a walking Tour of the French Quarter
One of the things to do in the French Quarter is take a walking tour of this historic neighborhood. Especially if it’s your first time visiting, it’s a great introduction and you’ll learn some great facts that you wouldn’t on your own. They’ll take you down intriguing paths and point our nooks and crannies you’d probably miss otherwise.
Free Tours by Foot offers walking tours in the French Quarter and other related tours. Highly recommend booking a tour with them.
3 Days in New Orleans
Wondering how to spend 3 Days in New Orleans? Get a taste of New Orleans with this itinerary.
3. St. Louis Cathedral
The Saint Louis Cathedral is hard to miss as it is the heart of the French Quarter. This beautiful church dominates the beauty of Jackson Square. It is the oldest Catholic Cathedral still operating in the United States. And one of the most photographed landmarks in New Orleans.
It is worth the visit inside when it is open to the public. From the outside, you wouldn’t expect it to be so grand, but it definitely takes your breath away when you enter. You can take a self-guided tour with a $1 donation.
4. Take a stroll through Jackson Square
Jackson Square is a National Historic Landmark. This historic park can be found right in front of St. Louis Cathedral or right off Decatur Street.
The grounds of the park are beautifully kept. It’s a great spot for photo opportunities with the Andrew Jackson statue and the St. Louis Cathedral in the background. It’s also a quiet place to take a seat and people watch.
Outside the exterior of the park, you’ll find local artists selling their works of art. On this last trip, we purchased a beautiful watercolor painting of Cafe du Monde. It’s a great memory of the trip.
If you’re in need of a psychic visit, a number of them hang out right in front of Jackson Square.
5. Visit the Presbytère Museum
Located right in Jackson Square is the former courthouse is the Presbytere Museum. There are two permanent exhibits here. One that educates us on the history of the Mardis Gras celebration. The other tells us the story and resiliency of the city and the hurricanes it has endured.
6. EAT Beignets
No trip to New Orleans is complete without beignets. If it’s your first visit, eating beignets at the renowned Cafe du Monde should be one of the top things to do in the French Quarter.
There are several spots where you can have beignets. But it can’t be denied that Cafe du Monde is the most popular and the most classic spot for Beignets. I wouldn’t want you to miss this experience. Get a serving of 3 or 6 of these powdered sugared donuts with a cafe au lait, take a seat and enjoy them while they are hot.
Cafe Beignet on Bourbon Street is also open until late at night.
7. Visit the French market
One of my top favorite things to do in the French Quarter is visiting the French Market, also known as Shops of the Colonnade. This market makes up for 6 blocks of shops and commercial buildings. It’s filled with fantastic food stands, local shops, and local artisans.
This is one of those stops that I recommend you go hungry. Here you’ll find all the local treats and delicious eats in New Orleans.
Don’t miss the stuff beignets at Loretta’s. Not only are the praline-filled beignets the best I’ve ever had, but I was told by locals around me that I must have the crab stuffed beignets next time I’m in town.
Also, the fresh shucked oysters and seafood.
And, Muffaletta’s at Alberto’s.
Alligator on the menu? Give it a try.
If you need to do some souvenir shopping, the French Market is the place.
8. Don’t forget to try a Muffuletta
Another classic dish in New Orleans is the muffuletta. Originally from Italy, the sandwich is on a large round sesame bread and it’s layered with Italian meats, cheese, and an olive tapenade.
The most popular spot to enjoy at muffuletta is at Central Grocery & Deli (temporarily closed due to the hurricane). However, if you read my post on our first trip there, I prefer the muffuletta at Alberto’s at the French Market.
No matter where you have it from, it’s definitely food not to miss while in New Orleans.
9. Experience the local food
Speaking of beignets and muffuletta’s, New Orleans is home to some of the best food in the United States. That may be just my opinion, but this is one of those foodie cities that you can expect to eat your way through while you’re there. I sure did on this last visit.
You’ll want to try everything from charbroil oysters, boudin balls, gumbo, po’boys, beignets, shrimp boils, and other scrumptious creole dishes that are part of this amazing city.
Highly recommend booking a food tour while you’re in New Orleans. Food tours are fun, filling, and worth every penny. You will be introduced to dishes that you would probably have never tried on your own. Plus, it’s a great way to get local recommendations to fantastic places to eat in New Orleans.
Delicious Spots for Beignets in New Orleans
Where to have the best beignets in New Orleans? Cafe du Monde is not the only place to have beignets in New Orleans. Check out our list of places for delicious beignets in Nola.
10. Moonwalk Riverfront
After you have grabbed your beignets from Cafe du Monde or finished eating at the French Market, head on over to the Moonwalk Riverfront. This is a pedestrian path that you can take off one of the side streets connected to Decatur. The walk takes you by the Mississippi River that serves as a great lookout point of the Crescent City Connection Bridge.
Stroll along, take in the beautiful site and finish off at the Washington Artillery Park. Where you’ll find another great view of Jackson Square.
11. Go antique shopping
As you’re exploring the French Quarter, you will notice that there are many antique shops. It’s a great time to do some window shopping or seek out some fascinating finds. Old pieces of artwork, furniture, or trinkets for the home.
12. THE New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
A must-see in New Orleans, check out the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Circa 1823… this is one of the oldest apothecaries in the US. You learn and see what pharmacies looked like in the past before modern medicine. There is a total of two floors with historic pharmaceutical and medicinal items.
It’s pretty cool and yet creepy how far we’ve come. Vintage eyewear, antique medicine bottles, superstitious cures, old informative posters, birthing chairs, and more.
Expect to spend 30-60 minutes here.
Fun fact: They have a beautiful courtyard that they use for weddings. We actually ran into a wedding one of the days we passed by the pharmacy.
13. Take a ghost tour
With a history like New Orleans has you can imagine the ghosts lurking around the city. Taking a ghost tour is one of the best things to do in the French Quarter that will easily help you find these legendary haunted spots.
It’s creepy, fun, and eye-opening. You may just find out that the hotel you’re staying at is haunted. Actually, the hotel we did stay at, Place d’Armes, IS haunted – watch out for the little girl asking for her parents and then vanishing.
14. Marie Laveau House of Voodoo
The Marie Laveau House is an interesting spot to visit and check out. It is a small museum and a store with many Voodoo items and even a Voodoo altar.
The history of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans, is quite interesting and nothing like American Horror Story makes her out to be. In short, she was a hairdresser that was privy to the information (gossip) she overheard while working or from other servants. She took that information and provided paid counsel for those that sought it. As well as assist them with keeping evil spirits away.
Visiting the House of Voodoo is a great opportunity to learn more about this religion.
No pictures are allowed inside. Be respectful.
New Orleans History of Voodoo and Cemetery Tour [book here]
15. the Lalaurie Mansion
Another historical mansion to add to your list is the Lalaurie Mansion. It is one of the most haunted houses in the French Quarter. It was also featured in season 3 of American Horror Stories.
The mansion once belonged to Madame Delphine LaLaurie, a socialite sadist that took pleasure in torturing her slaves. In 1834 a fire erupted and a torture chamber was discovered. The ghosts of her slaves haunt the home to this day.
At night, you’ll see many ghost tour groups gathered around the mansion.
Fun fact: Nicholas Cage once owned and resided here.
The LaLaurie Mansion | 1138 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (Google Map It)
Amazing Restaurants in New Orleans
Add these amazing places to eat in New Orleans to your itinerary. This short list of restaurants in the French Quarter and nearby will guarantee you’ll have a delicious time in the Big Easy.
16. Drinks at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
Nearby on Bourbon Street, you’ll find Lafitte’s, the oldest structure used as a bar in the United States. From the moment you see it, you will wish the walls could talk.
Stop by for a beer, take in the fun and cool atmosphere. It will take you back in time and you’ll start envisioning what it was like centuries ago.
At night, candles light up the bar, keeping it dimly lit while live music energizes the place. Possibly one of the best bars on Bourbon Street.
17. The LaBranche House
The LaBranche House is another historic and iconic home to visit. This building and this entire corner are probably the most recognizable as it is always featured on film whenever a movie or TV show is set in New Orleans.
The last time we visited this corner, a wonderful street jazz band was playing.
The LaBranche House | 700 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (Google Map It)
18. Take a steamboat ride
One of the things I keep missing out on but want to pass along to my readers is a Steamboat Ride on the Natchez. It’s a fun riverboard experience over the Mississippi River. Depending on the time of year, a dinner cruise would be ideal to catch a glorious sunset leaving the French Quarter.
This is definitely an experience everyone can enjoy. Definitely plan and book this in advance.
19. Grab a drink at the carousel bar & Lounge
The Carousel Bar is located at Hotel Monteleon is one of the most unique bars in the French Quarter. It’s pretty freaking cool! This classic spot is an actual Carousel that rotates with seating. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Seating at the bar is difficult. So I only got to look from afar. I suggest going there EARLY to claim a seat at the bar and try to experience it. Expect a wait.
20. Enjoy a Jazz Band Play at Preservation Hall
Do you love Jazz? Preservation Hall is the jazz venue to experience some of the best jazz musicians performing. This intimate classic spot is a favorite. The entire experience will take you back in time. It will be the best jazz performance you’ll see during your trip.
Reservations are required in advance. It’s a small space with limited seating so they limit the audience. No bathrooms are available.
You can’t visit New Orleans without spending some time in the French Quarter. It’s like visiting Europe but in the US. The history is fascinating, the architecture is beautiful and the food is out of this world. You will love your time in the French Quarter.
What do you love about the French Quarter in New Orleans? What are things to do in the French Quarter that you’re looking forward to?
Don’t forget to share the love on Pinterest: