New Orleans: the Draw of the French Quarter

New Orleans: the Draw of the French Quarter

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This article was updated February 2020

Aaaah the French Quarter in New Orleans – honestly, what is not to love? The oldest neighborhood in the city is brimming with not only 24/7 bars, but live music throughout the streets, charming antique stores and art galleries, fabulous restaurants, wacky voodoo shops, quirky street performers and a feeling all to its own. There simply is no other place like the French Quarter.

Walking around and things to do in the French Quarter in New Orleans

Walking around the Quarter, as the locals call it, is an experience so uniquely different from anywhere else. The blend of Spanish, French, Creole and American styles of architecture makes you feel like you’ve left America and entered another world. Bustling balconies, secret courtyards, colorful buildings all add to the allure and mystique. With the sound of live jazz forever wafting in the distance, and the streets abuzz with tourists and locals alike, the energy is infectious. It’s impossible not to fall in love with New Orleans and the French Quarter!

One could wander the streets of the French Quarter all day and be fully satiated by the sites, the sounds, the smells. It’s that kind of place. There are, however, a few places you should definitely see when in Nola. Below are our top picks.

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Street Musicians and Performers

Street musicians in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Listening to the street musicians in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Walking around the French Quarter and coming upon musicians every few blocks is my favorite thing about this city. Nola is the birthplace of jazz, and it’s felt – and heard – everywhere you go. Big groups, small groups, soloists, they all can be found throughout the French Quarter. We couldn’t get into the jazz club Preservation Hall one day because we didn’t purchase tickets ahead of time, but in the end it was ok because no matter what there is always live music in the streets – and good music at that. Sounds so cliché, but these musicians are such a reflection of the city – so much life and soul!

Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Jackson Square is a vibrant public space in the heart of the French Quarter, and a place where people convene, feast, shop and ponder. Facing the Mississippi River and surrounded by buildings, including the St. Louis Cathedral, there is always action to be found in Jackson Square. Whether it be street performers, musicians or artists working away, this is the heart of the city. Restaurants and shops surround the square, and it’s great for people-watching.

Jackson Square is the home of St. Louis Cathedral, America’s oldest operating cathedral! If there’s one image that so defines Nola, this might be it. Three Roman Catholic churches have stood on this site since 1718, the second of which was destroyed by a fire. The now iconic cathedral is said to be one of the few cathedrals in the U.S. facing a major public square. Take a moment to go inside – it’s beautiful.

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Café du Monde

Looking out at Cafe du Monde from the hop on hop off bus in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Eating beignets at Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

No trip to New Orleans is complete without a visit to Café du Monde! In French, it means “Café of the World”, and it really is. Everyone comes to this historic café, just off Jackson Square, for their famous beignets and coffee. Beignets are essentially fried dough – the French version of a donut. I am not a huge donut person, but these are seriously delish! Café du Monde gets packed with people at all hours of the day, so if you can’t sit down at a table, there is also a take-out window. That’s what we did, and the line wasn’t bad. Best of all, though, it’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Except Christmas. So no excuses for not paying a visit.

French Market

Wandering around the French Market in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

America’s oldest public market, the French Market is a French Quarter institution. We love the French Market, and went three times. What started hundreds of years ago as a Native American trading post has become a cultural mecca, full of good food, crafts, art and shops. There is something for everyone, including flea market finds. Some of the food vendors don’t open until later in the morning, so if you’re wanting to go and eat there, don’t go first thing in the morning. My girls came home with art works that they saw the artisan make right then and there, and were forever smitten.


Dining at the Napoleon House in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

New Orleans is known for its food, and in the French Quarter there is a lot of it. Feasting in this city is not for the faint of heart, so bring your appetite because “light fare” does not exist! There are restaurants everywhere you go in the French Quarter, but some notable ones are Napoleon House (known for their muffelata), Oceana Grill (good creole seafood), Brennan’s and old-school classics Antoine’s and Galatoire’s. For a real treat, splurge on some fine dining at R’evolution, fancy yet modern, and incredible food; it was our favorite meal of the trip.

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Notable Streets

Antiquing on Royal Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Royal Street is probably my favorite street, full of character with its charming and quirky antique shops, art galleries and good restaurants. The locals will tell you to avoid Bourbon Street for all its crowds and drunken tourists, and while they’re right, it’s still a must-see, just for the rowdy experience alone. The action literally never stops, even at 7:00 a.m., and for that, you have to see to believe. Chartres Street runs through Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral. Decatur Street is famous for running along the Mississippi, with Café du Monde and the French Market on its course, as well as praline, soveneir and brick-a-brac shops .

Walking on Bourbon street in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

Shopping on Royal street in the French Quarter in New Orleans.

The French Quarter is one of the most unique parts of the United Sates and not to be missed – if you want to have a completely different kind of American experience, then head here.

To read more about our Nola experiences, see my posts on the different modes of transportation in New Orleans as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of Mardi Gras World.

Want to read more about New Orleans? Check out these guides!

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Things to do in the French Quarter in New Orleans



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  1. May 3, 2017 / 8:22 pm

    Fantastic post! I love it!! Great photos, tips and interesting facts!

    • May 4, 2017 / 6:19 am

      Thanks Hilary! Made me wish I was there..truly one of the coolest neighborhoods in our country!

      • May 5, 2017 / 11:39 am

        I know, every time I write about it, I wish I was back there! Such a special place!

  2. May 4, 2017 / 9:10 am

    Awe, I love NOLA! So much charm in a single city! I haven’t been in a couple of years and I was actually thinking about going back around Memorial Day… this is making my decision a little easier, plus beignets! #farawayfiles

    • May 4, 2017 / 10:07 pm

      Do it!! There’s no other place like it..thinking I have to try and go once a year!

  3. Wherejogoes
    May 4, 2017 / 12:55 pm

    I love this! The colours, the shuttered houses, the atmosphere, the music! What an evocative post I’d love to visit New Orleans some day and this has whetted my appetite. Pinned! #FarawayFiles

    • May 4, 2017 / 10:09 pm

      Thanks! It’s like no other place in the fact you don’t feel like you’re in the U.S. Try and visit if you can some day, you will be glad you did!

  4. May 4, 2017 / 1:54 pm

    I’m not a doughnut fan either but I remember Cafe du Monde and those delicious beignets! So lovely to revisit the French Quarter in your post Corey, it is gorgeous and your pictures show it off to perfection.

    • May 4, 2017 / 10:09 pm

      The beignets are to die for, especially when they’re hot out of the oven!!

  5. Clare Thomson
    May 4, 2017 / 2:42 pm

    Aah, New Orleans! How you’ve been making me want to go back! I just loved the French Quarter. It’s such a unique part of the US. The music on the streets and the fabulous architecture were a real highlight for me. And as for the beignets at Café du Monde… Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • May 4, 2017 / 10:11 pm

      The combination of the architecture and music is so magical..I could wander around nola forever!

  6. May 5, 2017 / 12:49 am

    You seriously have won me over! The next time I’m in the states we’re making a road trip to NOLA! #FarawayFiles

  7. May 5, 2017 / 6:30 am

    such gorgeous houses #farawayfiles

  8. May 5, 2017 / 11:58 am

    NOLA really has its own soul and character that is completely different to the rest of the US. It’s right up there on my list of places to visit. Hope it’s not too long #FarawayFiles

    • May 6, 2017 / 8:12 am

      You would really love it, Katy. Hope you make it there some day soon!

  9. Anisa
    May 5, 2017 / 6:32 pm

    I have been enjoying your photos from Nola on instagram so nice to read the post. I have been to Nola a few times and I love it there. I have not been to the market though, so adding that to the list for my next trip. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • May 6, 2017 / 8:13 am

      Thanks so much Anisa! Yes, visit the market next time – a Nola institution!

  10. May 5, 2017 / 10:18 pm

    Ah, I miss New Orleans! Your post reminded me how beautiful and unique this city is. I haven’t been there since the hurricane. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • May 6, 2017 / 8:14 am

      I can understand. I didn’t want to visit for years after the hurricane either. It’s come a long way ;).

  11. Ruth
    May 6, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    So swooned by your photos! I have not been to New Orleans yet! I really need to go. I know I am going to love the city.

  12. paulandcarolelovetotravel
    May 7, 2017 / 7:54 am

    Great post full of information, you can feel the vibrant atmosphere. This is somewhere we would love to visit. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    • May 7, 2017 / 5:03 pm

      It is so vibrant..I hope you make it there some day, it will not dissapoint!

  13. May 7, 2017 / 6:41 pm

    New Orleans is a great city – we spent a week there last year and would love to return at a least busy time (we were there during Mardi Gras!).

    • May 8, 2017 / 5:16 pm

      I hear you – I’m not sure I would want to be there for Mardi Gras! Thanks for stopping by ;).

  14. May 7, 2017 / 11:52 pm

    Mmmmm… beignets. It’s been too long since I’ve visited New Orleans, and I cannot wait to introduce my kids to such a vibrant, culturally rich city. I’d love to explore Royal Street at a leisurely pace, so I may need to send hubby and the kids off to the zoo or a park so I can go as slow as I want.

    • May 8, 2017 / 5:17 pm

      I hear that. I sent my husband back to the hotel pool with the kids so I could walk around – love Royal Street!

  15. May 8, 2017 / 3:22 pm

    I love your pictures! The streets are so colorful and lively, love it!

    • May 8, 2017 / 5:19 pm

      Thank you! It’s such a colorful, vibrant city..every turn was a photo opportunity ;).

  16. May 8, 2017 / 7:50 pm

    What a great post! Of course, we love New Orleans, so maybe just a tad biased. 😉 Great pictures, too. Makes us want to head back to NOLa right now! Thanks for making us smile, and for linking up on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

    • May 10, 2017 / 10:58 am

      Thanks so much! I think everyone who visits Nola falls in love..what is not to love!!

  17. May 9, 2017 / 7:04 am

    That does look like a great place to just wander around. Love the houses! Love the street musicians. Would probably love the donut things!

    • May 10, 2017 / 10:59 am

      Yes, you would love it all – impossible not to!

  18. May 9, 2017 / 11:37 am

    Wonderful post, tips and photos! You’ve captured the French Quarter beautifully. We used to visit New Orleans fairly often during my teen years and I haven’t been back since visiting with my (now) husband a few years ago. I do miss it! Definitely somewhere I’d love to go back to again. Thanks for sharing #FarawayFiles

  19. May 9, 2017 / 12:11 pm

    There are so many places I’d like to visit in the US, and New Orleans is definitely one of them. I could almost feel and hear the hustle and bustle reading your post! Thank you for this wonderful tour.

    • May 10, 2017 / 11:01 am

      Ah thank you! I hope you’re able to visit some day, you will not be disappointed!

  20. May 9, 2017 / 12:41 pm

    So much colour, history and life radiating out of every picture! New Orleans is absolutely a special place, unlike any other!

    • May 10, 2017 / 11:02 am

      No other place like it. Thanks!

  21. May 10, 2017 / 6:23 pm

    I clearly need to move beyond Bourbon Street on my next visit – only been to NOLA one time! Lovely atmosphere and colors! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  22. May 11, 2017 / 1:32 am

    You’ve certainly lured me into the magic of New Orleans’ French quarter. Hearing the music, eating good food and people watching sounds very appealing. New Orleans has just shot up my travel list! Thank you for linking #citytripping

    • May 11, 2017 / 6:36 am

      I hope you make it there some day – its magic is contagious!

  23. June 5, 2017 / 10:26 am

    Fantastic recommendations! Both my parents and in-laws have visited New Orleans in recent years and come home raving about it. I think I’d spend my time wandering the streets, just soaking up the colour, music and smells. Thanks for sharing this on #MondayEscapes

    • June 6, 2017 / 8:26 pm

      It is just the best, you will have to come visit some day!

  24. pigeonpairandme
    June 6, 2017 / 6:00 am

    Those vibrant colours! And I’d LOVE to try a beignet. I bet my kids would, too 😉 #MondayEscapes

    • June 6, 2017 / 8:27 pm

      They’re really, really tasty!

  25. January 25, 2018 / 8:44 pm

    What a great guide, thank you so much for sharing! I love your photos, they make me want to get on the plane right now 🙂 Can’t wait to try all the food and listen to real New Orleans Jazz!

  26. Nancy Bell
    February 11, 2018 / 1:28 pm

    The French Quarter is unique in every way. Spent our honeymoon there. Enjoyed seeing the comments on the street performers. Tuba Skinny street performers are the best and very talented musicians. Catch them on You Tube.

    • February 11, 2018 / 4:57 pm

      Thanks for the tip – what a fab place for your honeymoon!!

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