New Orleans – NOLA, The Big Easy: New Orleans has many nicknames. Louisiana’s capital sounds familiar to many people and is a common holiday destination even to Americans. New Orleans has the French Quarter, Lafayette Cemetery and the City Park and most importantly is located right at the Mississippi River. What exactly makes New Orleans special and why is it a place you should have seen?
French Quarter: Bourbon Street and Jackson Square
The French Quarter buildings mostly date back to the 19th century, some are even older, a few from the 20th century. Most of them have been protected buildings for 100 years.
In the French Quarter, Bourbon Street is the central street. The street is not that busy on the day but wakes up in the evenings: it gets blocked for traffic, pedestrians take over. Bourbon Street has all kinds of bars, restaurants and nightlife. Apart from that, a bit unnecessary, many cheesy stores sell the usual tourist junk.
Bourbon Street is located in the center of the French Quarter. It’s a five-block-distance to the river and a three-block-walk opposite direction. All these little streets make the unique New Orleans character. It doesn’t really matter where exactly you walk in the French Quarter, you will definitely find a spot to take a good picture. This is how you can spend quite some time: just lingering around in the French Quarter.
Jackson Square, a one-block-square is located right next to the river. There you find the President Andrew Jackson statue, a Cathedral, the Presbytère and the Cabildo (former home of the government, now a museum). From here you can go to the river promenade. In the North you find the New Orleans Flew Market, a bit further south the river’s port for steam boat tours, after that the New Orleans Aquarium and even farther south a shopping mall.
At Jackson Square, the horse carriages wait for guest. The Aquarium is next to Canal Street (an intersecting east/west street). Canal Street (upriver) is the Southern end of the French Quarter. The shopping mall starts here, so kind of at the outskirts of the French Quarter.
French Quarter: How to Reach and How to Move There
The French Quarter is not that big. You can easily walk anywhere. Walking and strolling along its streets is quite something. The entire area has no American chain restaurants like McDonalds, Starbucks or Pizza Hut. There are many restaurants and bars but they don’t have big neon lights and signs. This is how the French Quarter’s maintains its unique atmosphere.
Driving a car there is not a nice thing to do. The roads are very narrow, on the day, trucks are everywhere. There is almost no space anywhere. Most roads are one-way-streets. Often, it is necessary to take a detour and drive the long way even though walking distance would be rather short. The last two kilometers to the hotel took a long time, easily as long as it would have taken to walk. Because of all these detours, you definitely need a GPS. Without a GPS, finding your hotel is probably difficult.
Canal Street is the southern end of French Quarter. If you are into theater, ballet and opera, this is the right place to go to. You find all of that on this street (in the direction of Rampart Street crossroad, western end of the French Quarter). Canal Street is a big six lane road you can and you can also see the stylish New Orleans Cable Car here.
Some five-star hotels and hotels from the well-known chains are south of Canal Street. Moreover, you find the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and a World War Two Museum here. On the east (right next to the river) is an Outlet Shopping Mall.
At Canal Street and a few steps further south, you find some cheaper restaurants: Ihop, Hard Rock Café and many other chains (CVS Pharmacy, Saks, etc.). Southern end of this quarter is the Pontchartrain Expressway.
Garden District and Lafayette Cemetery
Moving up north along the river leads to the Garden District. The Garden District was originally built because US-American wanted to separate themselves from the Creoles in the French Quarter. Nowadays, it’s mainly a living area for well-off people. The quarter has many beautiful houses, totally different from the ones in the French Quarter. The area is remarkably larger than the French Quarter; you need a ride to go there, either your own car or the bus. When you are in New Orleans, you should definitely visit this area. This is also where you find the famous Lafayette Cemetery.
Magazine Street in the Garden District has many restaurants and cafés, again no big chains. A very nice place to stop for a coffee.
According to Wikipedia, many celebrities live here: Sandra Bullock, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, John Goodman, Nicolas Cage. We did not see anything about that. A big hit for tourists was the Manning House (don’t know if Eli’s or Peyton’s). They both live in French Quarter and all Americans were super happy to stand in front of their house.
The graves at Lafayette Cemetery have many rock constructions, looking quite monumental. Some graves are very old, other a bit younger. If you are in Garden District anyways, come here to see the cemetery. Parking is easy: we found a spot at the street in front of it.
This is part 1 of New Orleans.
This article continues in part 2: