French Quarter Walking Tour:
Location: French Quarter New Orleans
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Optional costs listed below)
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided)
Starting Point: Washington Artillery Park & Terrace
End Of Tour: The Carousel Bar
Walking Distance: 2.6 miles of walking
Time Required: 2 Hours of walking (+a few hours for food and drink)
Fun Scale: 9.5 out of 10
Our free, self-guided French Quarter walking tour will put you square in the cultural heartbeat of New Orleans for an unforgettable experience. Originally called the Vieux Carré (pronounced Vue Ca-Ray), or Old Square in French, the French Quarter as vibrant roots dating Long before New Orleans was founded in 1718. From local Native Americans as early as 400AD to European settlers and slaves centuries later, the French Quarter really started to blend it together. By its heyday in the mid-1800’s, the French Quarter was a thriving melting pot of French, Spanish, African, Native-American and Creole heritages. Today this unique mix of culture shines through the French Quarter with bursts of colorful festivals, hints of voodoo, lively jazz music, an unbeatable bar district and some of the best food in the country. New Orleans is often considered the most unique city in the world and its all on display in the French Quarter. We hope you enjoy our do-it-yourself French Quarter walking tour!
The French Quarter Walking Tour:
1. Washington Artillery Park & Terrace (700 Decatur Street): While often overlooked by tourists, we love to start our French Quarter walking tour on the perch of Washington Artillery Park & Terrace. The park actually on top of a levee that was enhanced in the 1800’s to protect New Orleans from the flooding of the Mississippi River. With its elevated position over Jackson Square to one side and the mighty Mississippi River on the other, the stunning views from the terrace really help you get a lay of the land. It is no wonder that this position was used by the French, Spanish, Confederates and Americans to defend New Orleans over the centuries. A memorial in the middle of the terrace pays homage to the its history of the military battery with a Civil War era cannon always on guard. The cannon, a model 1861 Parrot Rifle used in the Civil War, is dedicated to the local 141st Field Artillery of the Louisiana National Guard.
Looking toward the Mississippi River from the terrace, you’ll see a delightful waterfront walking path known locally as the Moonwalk. If you hunt you for it, will also find a marker for the New Orleans Steamer which landed here in 1812 as the 1st steamboat to navigate the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers. Before leaving the terrace, make sure to take in the perspective of the Saint Louis Cathedral and the horse-drawn carriages that line the front of the Jackson Square below you. A ton of carriage companies are available on standby to take you anywhere you want in the French Quarter and Garden District, but our favorite is Royal Carriages (website). As you descend toward the carriages, make note of the stepped amphitheater where you can often watch some great street performers in action.
2. Jackson Square (700 Decatur Street): When the French founded New Orleans in 1718, they carefully planned their new city around this this large central square called Place d’ Armes (meaning Weapons’ Square). Modeled after the famous Place de Voeges in Paris, the location for the square was selected because of its close proximity to a longstanding Native American trading post. The rest of today’s French Quarter neighborhood, originally called Vieux Carré (meaning the Old Square), was quickly built out around the Place d’ Armes in a clean grid system. From the start, the square quickly turned into an important gathering point in early New Orleans life. France’s influence on the city was further highlighted by the construction of the Catholic Saint Louis Church on the North side of the square along with the adoption of the French language.
After a series of crippling wars in Canada and Europe, the French had to transfer the all of the Louisiana Territory under Spanish control in 1762, which was cemented by the Treaty of Paris. Because Spain chose to rule Louisiana at an arms length from Cuba, the French cultural remained strongly imprinted on the residents of New Orleans. France later got Louisiana back from Spain, but in less than a year, Napoleon sold the entire territory to the United States in 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase. Even though they “owned” the entire territory and started forming new states out of it, America didn’t fully control Louisiana until they withstood British attacks in New Orleans as part of the War of 1812. This war came to a climatic end when the United States won Battle of New Orleans in 1815 under the leadership victorious General Andrew Jackson. During the war Jackson had consulted with local pirates during planning and paraded over 6,000 troops in celebration around Place d’ Armes. In 1856 a large statue of Andrew Jackson triumphantly riding on a horse was unveiled in the center of which was renamed Jackson Square in his honor. It was near the site of this beautiful statue that public executions had been common in early day New Orleans.
*Towering over Jackson Square is the photogenic…
3. Saint Louis Cathedral (615 Pere Antoine Alley): Built in 1727 on the site of hurricane damaged parish, the Saint Louis Church was dedicated to to the sainted King of France, Louis IX from the 1200’s. The church helped to better establish Catholicism in the Louisiana Territory to contrast a largely Protestant United States. Tragedy struck when a massive blaze known as the Great Fire of 1788 badly burned the church and 855 other buildings in the French Quarter. Luckily the church was quickly rebuilt thanks to funding nobleman Andrés Almonaster who also funded stops 4 & 5 of this walking tour. The new Spanish-style church was declared a Cathedral soon after it opened on Christmas Eve, 1794. The timing was perfect as the public badly needed the Church for moral support as earlier in the month the Great Fire of 1794 struck the heart of New Orleans and burned 212 buildings. This lead the Spanish to get away from wood and start building with brick and rod iron which can still be seen all over this free French Quarter walking tour.
As support beams were removed during a facade update in 1849 the roof collapsed, the walls developed cracks, and much of the Cathedral had to be demolished. The following year a redesign began with heavy French architectural influences and the only main element they were able to salvage from the Spanish church was the central tower’s bell. The final result of the relentless rebuilding is today’s breath-taking Saint Louis Cathedral, now designated as a basilica, which has become the most iconic landmark in all of New Orleans. Make sure to check out the interior with its checkerboard tile floor and stained glass window depicting the life of King Louis IX including the 7th Crusade. The flags hanging from the interior balconies on the right show the the countries New Orleans has been under since 1718, while the left side has various Papel crests.
During Hurricane Katrina in 2004, two large oak trees in St. Anthony’s Garden on the backside of the Cathedral were ripped up along with portions of the Cathedral’s roof. The hole in the roof allowed water to damage the pipe organ which required a lot of restoration. You can still see some of the damage while in the garden behind the church as marble statue of Jesus lost a finger and a thumb. Even with the missing fingers the statue has awesome lighting that at night casts a larger than life shadow onto the backside of the Cathedral. The easiest way to reach the Garden is by walking down Pirates Alley which we will visit later on this tour. The most celebrated moment in the history of the St. Louis Cathedral was the visit of Pope John Paul II in September 1987, although Pope Paul VI also stopped by in 1964. Cathedral Website: (HERE).
*Sitting to the left side of the Saint Louis Cathedral is…
4. The Cabildo (701 Chartres Street): The Cabildo was built in 1795 as the new City Hall after the old building burned in the Great Fire of 1788. It was kind of a weird time for the local government as they spoke Spanish while the residents continued to speak French. Famously, The Cabildo as the location of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase when the French sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803. The building also served as the home of the Louisiana Supreme Court where the nationally significant decisions of both the Slaughterhouse and Plessy vs. Ferguson cases were handed down in the late 1800’s.
Since 1911, The Cabildo has been the flagship building for the Louisiana State Museum, but still retains it name from Spanish rule when the Illustrious Cabildo (City Council) would meet here. In 1988, The Cabildo was severely damaged by fire but was beautifully restored using 600-year-old French timber framing methods. It reopened to the public in 1994 with a comprehensive exhibit focusing on Louisiana’s early history with great exhibits ranging from Native American, to Colonial, to Civil War, our favorite item is Napoleon’ Death Mask. The mask was given to the city by France because Napoleon died on his way to New Orleans while seeking shelter from exile. Cabildo Museum Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4:30pm. Admission Cost: Adults $6, Children Free (Purchase tickets for 2 or more city museums and get 20% off). Museum Website: (HERE).
5. The Presbytère (751 Chartres Street): Built in 1791 on the former site of the residence, or presbytére, of the Capuchin monks to serve as a home for local clergy called Casa Curial (Ecclesiastical House). This new building was meant to be a bookend twin to the The Cabildo, but after construction delays the 2nd floor wasn’t finished until 1813 and the 3rd floor in 1847. The church finally sold the Casa Curial in 1853 and it became part of the Louisiana State Museum in 1911. Our favorite exhibit at the museum is one highlighting the history of Mardi Gras with many stories, favors, souvenirs, invitations, and more all displayed in huge open storage cabinets. The most dazzling exhibit is probably the Crown Jewels Vault with an astonishing array of tiaras, scepters, necklaces and other baubles worn by generations of royalty. Artifacts in the main exhibit focus on the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, provide an unforgettable experience of loss and devastation. Presbytere Museum Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4:30pm. Admission Cost: Adults $6, Children Free (Purchase tickets for 2 or more city museums and get 20% off). Museum Website: (HERE).
6. The Pontalbas & 1850 House (523 St. Ann Street): The huge, block long, 4 story tall red brick complexes on each side of Jackson Square were built in the 1840’s for $300,000 by baroness Micaela Pontalba in honor have her father Andrés Almonaster who had financed the building of stops 3 through 5. The impressive structures were originally meant as town homes, but were later divided into upper level apartments with lower level shops after the Great Depression. To help give you a glimpse into middle and upper class life was like in the 1840-50’s antebellum era New Orleans, the city set up a living museum called the 1850 house. Furnished with everyday items, decorative art and clothing from the period, the 1850 House does a great job of depicting middle class family life during the most prosperous period in New Orleans’ history. 1850 House Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4:30pm. Admission Cost: Adults $3, Children Free (Purchase tickets for 2 or more city museums and get 20% off). Museum Website: (HERE).
7. Cafe Du Monde (800 Decatur Street): Any time you go to New Orleans one of the first questions your friends will ask is, “Did you get a beignet at Cafe De Monde?” Beignets are square French-style doughnuts, lavishly covered with powdered sugar and they are delicious. The walk up line to buy beignets can be up to a block long at peak times as they are really that popular. Cafe Du Monde, established in 1862, is also known for its strong coffee served both Black and Au Lait. Au Lait coffee means that it is mixed half and half with hot milk. We highly suggest trying their Chicory Root Coffee which is a unique blend of coffee grounds mixed with the bitter chicory root of the endive plant. The coffee was made very popular after the Civil War because coffee was scarce and the root added flavor to the brewing process. Normally served Au Lait, the root added an almost chocolate flavor to your coffee. Keep in mind that Cafe du Monde is so popular the line can often be brutal in the mid to late afternoon, especially on the weekends. Cafe Hours: Daily, 24 Hours. Cafe Website: (HERE).
8. Decatur Street (800-1000 Decatur Street): As you leave Cafe Du Monde and stroll down Decatur Street you’ll find the best deals in town on your tourist souvenirs. Although there are fancier shops and art galleries on Royal Street, this stretch of Decatur Street is a dense collection of great tourist shopping even though some of it is tacky. At the start of the shops you’ll first run into the Central Market Deli which is famous for inventing the Muffaletta, a delicious Italian deli sandwich that makes a get snack or lunch to go. Another favorite place to eat in the area is Jimmy Buffett`s Margaritaville (website) which is a family friendly restaurant that is even more festive than the original Jimmy Buffett’s location in Key West Florida. The Crane & Table (website) is also well known for their great brunch and bottomless drinks. After Dark: The stretch between can feel a bit seedy after dark, but is perfectly fine during the day.
*The excellent Latrobe Park is a great place to stop and rest your feet before entering the…
9. French Market (1008 N. Peters Street): What began as a Native American trading post and portage point on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River, was turned into a full market by French settlers in 1791 making the French Market America’s oldest public market. Over its long history, the French, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Moors, Irish, English and Dutch have jockeyed for market share in the French Market making it a cultural melting pot. The melting pot nature of the covered French Market lets you can find pretty much anything here as the Market serves as a Bazaar, Butcher’s Market, Seafood Market, Flea Market, Vegetable Market, and Farmers’ Market with a peppering of restaurants and shops. Market Hours: Flea Market Daily 7am-7pm, Farmer’s Market Daily 9am-7pm. After Dark: The stretch between stops 9-13 can get a little shady after dark with you aren’t with an official tour group and you may feel safer sticking to just the stops around Jackson Square, Royal Street, and Bourbon Street if it’s getting late. Since the French Market is closed at 7pm it shouldn’t really be an issue anyway. Market Website: (HERE).
10. Old United States Mint Museum (400 Esplanade Avenue): The Old United States Mint is the only building in America to have served as a mint for both the United States and the Confederate States. The Mint was built in 1835 under President Andrew Jackson, who had advocated for its establishment in order to help finance development of the nation’s Western frontier. Jackson was always a huge supporter of coins and gold over paper money. Now serving as a Museum, the 1st floor of the Mint houses an amazing collection of both Confederate and Union money while the 2nd floor is home to a pretty good exhibit on Jazz complete with a ton of instruments. We have always felt that the Mint was built backwards as the cool columned facade side of the building faces away from the French Quarter. Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4:30pm. Cost: Adults $6, Children Free (Purchase tickets for 2 or more city museums and get 20% off). Museum Website: (HERE).
11. Old Ursuline Convent (1100 Chartres Street): With a storied past, the Ursuline Nuns were the first religious order to arrive in Louisiana when they landed in 1727. The nuns’ first convent building was half-timbered which didn’t fare well in the humid climate of New Orleans and was a bit of a fire hazard. The deteriorating structure was replaced by today’s impressive brick and stucco Colonial-style convent in 1751. With tales of vampires and casket girls, this eerie three-story convent is known for its intense stories of hauntings. With a largely male population in the mid-1700’s the King of France started to send poor and orphaned ladies from French convents to New Orleans. Each girl was sent over with a casket shaped chest said to hold their belongings which was to be held in storage on the 3rd floor of the Ursuline Convent until the girls found an acceptable suitor. Often looking sickly after 5 months at sea, and donning caskets, rumors that the girls were vampires or brought vampires with them started quickly. Some of the girls did find husbands, but many fell in prostitution or were never heard from again. With the local death rate starting to rise, the girls’ casket chests were found to be empty and the shutters of the 3rd story windows were sealed up out of fear. It’s said that the Pope himself blessed the nails to keep in the evil and they remain closed to this day.
The sitting just across the street from the convent, the Beauregard-Keyes Mansion was built in 1826 a year after the Ursuline Nuns moved to a new convent starting to sell off their extra property. During the Civil War the Greek revival mansion was home to Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard, who was the first prominent general of the Confederate States Army. Was later home to author Frances Parkinson Keyes. Convent Hours & Tours: Free self guided tours available Monday through Friday, 10am-4pm; Saturday 9am-3pm; last admission 45 minutes before close; Closed Sundays. Convent Website: (HERE). Mansion Hours & Tours: For $10 the home and garden (added in 1833) there are tours each hour from 10am-3pm on Monday-Saturday. Mansion Website: (HERE).
12. Madame LaLaurie’s Mansion (1140 Royal Street): This creepy 3 story mansion was built in 1831 by the infamous Delphine LaLaurie and is considered to be the most haunted house in New Orleans. The twice widowed Delphine, known as Madame LaLaurie, was fresh on a new marriage to a local doctor when something evil started brewing. The LaLaurie’s neighbors were the first ones to suspect that something was wrong and that Delphine was potentially a sinister woman. They noticed that the LaLaurie family’s house slaves seemed to disappear often and that parlor maids would be replaced at will. Some servants who disappeared were said to have committed “suicide” and one of their prominent stable boys suddenly vanished, never to be seen again.
The suspicions started coming to light one Summer’s day when a neighbor heard a scream and saw Delphine chasing a young servant girl with a whip. The girl fled to the roof for safety, but when Delphine continued to come after her, the girl jumped to her death. The same neighbor later claimed to see the small slave girl being buried in a shallow grave beneath a tree in the yard. It is said that even today the girl’s screams can still be heard from time to time.
The most gruesome discovery happened on April 10, 1834 when a fire broke out in the home and neighbors burst in to help. What they found on the top floor were a dozen starving slaves chained to tables, the walls, and even in cages. Some of the slaves had their guts hanging out, others their lips stitched shut, and many others missing limbs. As the neighbors ran after Delphine, calling for her head, she quickly jumped in her carriage to never be seen again. The creepy history is part of the draw that got actor Nicolas Cage to own the home from 2007-09. The story of Madame LaLaurie go further attention when she become the main character of an entire season of the hit TV show American Horror Story.
13. Gallier House (1132 Royal Street): In the mid-1800’s, James Gallier was one of New Orleans’ most prominent architects. His design work found an enthusiastic audience of civic leaders, businessmen, and affluent families. You will enjoy a stroll through Gallier’s elegant Victorian home, restored to reflect the lifestyle of a successful urban designer in pre-Civil War New Orleans. Local author Anne Rice was inspired by the Gallier House and used it as the home of Lestat and Louis in her famous novel Interview with the Vampire. It’s said that Rice was inspired by the stories of Count Saint Germain, son of the Prince of Transylvania, and one of New Orleans’ most famous vampires. The Count was said to be an immortal man possible 500 years old who lived nearby at the intersection of Ursulines and Royal. In 1902, a girl tried to escape him by jumping off the balcony but he got away. When authorities arrived they found no dishes in the home but did find 17 bottles of human blood said to have over 100 strands of DNA.
The exterior of the Gallier was also used as the facade of Madame LaLaurie Mansion in the TV show American Horror Story. The same owners of the Gallier House also own the Hermann-Girma House which we will visit later in this free French Quarter walking tour. Hours & Tours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday hourly tours run from 10am-3pm; Wednesday tours by appointment only; Saturday hourly tours 12pm-4pm; Closed Sundays. Admission Cost: Adults $12, Children $10 (you can add admission to the other home they manage at Stop 27 for $8). Museum Website: (HERE).
*Get your first taste of Bourbon Street at…
14. Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar (941 Bourbon Street): With fireplace heating and no electric lights, a visit to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar will make you feel like you are stepping back in time. Built between 1722 and 1732 as a cottage-like home for Nicolas Touze, the historic tavern is considered the Oldest Bar in the American South. From 1772-1791 the Blacksmith Shop served as a hideaway for Jean Lafitte (pronounced Zhah La-feet) and his band of pirates who posed as blacksmiths while they smuggled goods in from the Caribbean. The smuggling operation was widely held under wraps by locals as New Orleans was under Spanish rule at the time and a trade embargo made it hard to get some goods in. Jean Lafitte later became a national hero when he used his pirate expertise to help General Andrew Jackson defeat the British in the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. With American troops out matched and under supplied, Lafitte secretly smuggled supplies to the Americans giving them the edge to win the Battle. After his good deed was done Lafitte then sailed off to new adventures and the Blacksmith shop became a full time tavern. The tavern is typically our favorite stop on this free New Orleans walking tour.
You may notice that the architectural style of the Blacksmith Shop looks quite a bit different than most of the other houses in the neighborhood. This is because a slate roof and brick helped to protect the Blacksmith Shop from the great fires in 1788 and 1794 which destroyed hundreds of the neighboring wooden homes. With Spanish rule at the time of the fires, many of the rebuilt homes nearby had more of a Spanish influence compared to the old French cottage. To this day the Blacksmith Shop still rolls old school with no electric lighting, allowing its fireplace, romantic candle light, and live music make it a truly magical place to have a drink after dark. While they have a wide selection of drinks, our favorite it the purple frozen Voodoo Blend that comes right out of an old school slushy machine. Keep an eye out for other buildings in this style as you make your way further down Bourbon Street our free French Quarter Walking Tour. While many of the other bars on Bourbon Street were also historic homes, most weren’t converted into bars until the late-1800’s and have been heavily modernized inside. The name Bourbon Street predates these bars as it was named after the royal Bourbon Family of France and not the alcohol. It is also said that the bathroom of the Blacksmith Shop is haunted. Bar Hours: Open daily until late. Bar Website: (HERE).
15. New Orleans Voodoo Museum (724 Dumaine Street): Really, no one grows up in New Orleans without being exposed to the culture of Voodoo. In the case of Charles Massicot Gandolfo, the Museum’s founder, it was a little stronger with tales that his great-grandfather had been raised in New Orleans by a Voodoo Queen. An artist, with a passion for all the history and romance of New Orleans, Charles started the Voodoo Museum in 1972 to share his fascination with the world. Taking all the mysteries, the secrets, the history and folklore of rituals, zombies, and gris-gris of the Voodoo Queens, Charles put it all in one place in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter. This is a worthwhile stop if you want a better introduction to Voodoo than the souvenir shops give. Cameras, photographs and questions are always welcome and encouraged. Hours: Daily 10am-6pm Cost: $7 or $5; if you mention their Facebook page; Children $3.50; Admission is FREE if you do their $19 Voodoo walking tour. Museum Facebook Page: (HERE).
16. Cornstalk Hotel (915 Royal Street): This elegant yellow hotel is one of our favorite homes in the French Quarter. Judge Francois Xavier Martin, author and first Attorney General of State of Louisiana, built the Cornstalk in 1816 and lived here until 1826. Doctor Joseph Secondo Biamenti purchased the mansion in 1834, turned it into a hotel, and added its famous cast iron Cornstalk Fence in 1856. The fence is truly a landmark that in itself has helped make the old French Quarter famous. Your gaze will be drawn to the fence’s beautifully ornate and delicate iron handicraft. Ripe ears of corn on their stalks are seemingly ready for the harvest, each kernel a work of art. Pumpkins form the base of the iron columns around which are entwined by pumpkin vines and the leaves and morning glories. Look for the yellow butterfly on the front gate.
Famous guests at the hotel include Bill & Hillary Clinton, and even the “King” himself…Elvis Presley. Among many famous hotel guests, Harriet Beecher Stowe allegedly stopped here and was inspired to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin from the sights at nearby slave markets. The novel was later a major influence on the starting the Civil War. Speaking of famous guest, the neighboring Nine-O-Five Royal Inn (905 Royal St) claims to have been a place where Rip Van Winkle slept. It’s hard to believe this claim though since the fictional story of Rip was actually written in and based in England. Also make note of the Romeo spikes on the gallery posts across the street (910 Royal) which are decorative, but also to stop intruders. Famously in 1904 a man who was sleeping with the red headed lady who live her tried to slide down the pole to escape her fencing champ father and was split wide open. Hotel Website: (HERE).
17. Madame John’s Legacy (632 Dumaine Street): After the Great Fire of 1788, this timeless home was built on the ashes of the previous home dating back to 1725. Shortly after the new construction was finished, it ended up being one of the only houses in the area to escape the Great Fire of 1794. The name Madame John’s Legacy came much later from a story call Tite Poulete, written in 1879 by author Geo Cable Madame about the previous home that stood here. John’s Legacy is an excellent example of Louisiana Creole design from the end of the 18th century which mainly only survives today deep in the bayou. Museum Website: (HERE).
18. Royal Street Art Galleries (632 Dumaine Street): In contrast to the sometimes grimy Bourbon Street bar scene, Royal Street offers a much higher quality shopping and tons of funky artist galleries. While the art is fairly expensive, the classy galleries are a pure joy to wonder through. With a wide selection of sculptures and paintings our favorite pieces are mixed media works depicting street scenes and jazz life in New Orleans. Every day parts of Royal street are closed off to cars, creating a lively pedestrian only zone.
19. Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo (739 Bourbon Street): Marie Laveau’s House Of Voodoo is a really cool Voodoo themed tourist shop. The House of Voodoo offers a wide variety of items to help in both learning and practicing the spiritual and religious ceremonies of Voodoo. Tribal masks and statues from around the world symbolize man’s connection with the spirit and earth. Talismans and charms directed towards all different things you many want from the spirits from health, to wealth, and much more. They also have Mojo Bags, Voodoo Dolls, Spell Kits, and a fortune teller and palm reader on-site. They typically do not allow photos inside. Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10am-11:30pm; Friday-Saturday 10am-1:30pm. Cost: Free to enter. Museum Website: (HERE).
20. Tropic Isle & Funky Pirate Bar (721 Bourbon Street): Although the Original Tropic Isle is down the street (600 Bourbon Street), this Tropic Isle location is probably the most fun bar in New Orleans. They have live music, a really funky interior, great balcony, and are known for their over-the-top signature drinks the Shark Attack and Hand Grenade. The fun Shark Attack is truly that as each one comes with a rubber shark the attacks your drink as warning lights flash the bar leaving a pool of blood (grenadine). Make sure to see how high you can blow on the bar’s breathalyzer machine contest. If competition is truly your thing, the urinals in the bath also have the wizinator game where you can race your neighbor. Right next to the Tropic Isle is the Funky Pirate, which has the same owners and has a great assortment of late night Blues music. Live Music Schedule: Tropic Isle typically has live music Monday-Thursday 5pm-1:30am and Friday-Sunday 1pm-close; next door at the Funky Pirate their Jazz & Blues music runs Monday-Wednesday 8pm-close and Thursday-Sunday 4pm-Close with Saturdays sometimes starting at 1pm; the original Tropic Isle at 600 Bourbon has music daily 1pm-Close. Bar Website: (HERE).
21. Le Pretre Mansion (716 Dauphine Street): The creepy Le Pretre Mansion is rumored to be haunted after the gruesome events that took place in the 1800’s. Built in 1836, the mansion was later bought by plantation owner Jean Baptist Le Pretre as urban getaway during the Winter months. In 1879 Le Pretre decided to rent his mansion out to the brother of the Sultan of Turkey. Along with the Sultan’s brother came eunuch guards and 17 harem girls. The home quickly became the frequent scene of large parties and orgies. After 3 years of partying the house went silent on night in 1882 and an old lady passing by saw a river of blood pouring down into the street. When the authorities burst in they found 37 mutilated bodies, but it took 3 days to find the body of the Sultan’s brother who was buried alive in the courtyard. There had been no screams and the murders are still somewhat of an unsolved mystery. To this day, however, many locals claim to have heard screams by the home and have seen haunting shadows in the windows.
22. Cat’s Meow Karaoke Bar (701 Bourbon Street): The highly rated Cat’s Meow has way more of a lively party atmosphere then your normal Karaoke Bar and is very fun even if you don’t like to sing. Many famous musicians have enjoyed some of the nightlife at the Cat’s Meow ranging from soul singer Seal to country musicians Brooks and Dunn, comedian/songwriter “Weird Al” Yankovic, the Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode, and N’Sync have all sang here. Other celebrities from software mogul Bill Gates of Microsoft, actors Tori Spelling, Mario Lopez, Julie and Doria of Playboy’s Night Calls, and adult film star Stormy Daniels have stopped in to the Cat’s Meow to sing.
Aside from the more famous people that have visited Cats Meow, several national television shows shot on-site broadcasts from the club. The festive atmosphere of the Cats Meow has provided wonderful backdrop and ambiance for such popular TV programs like The Regis and Kelly Show, MTV’s Road Rules and The Grind. We love the Bar’s 3-for-1 happy hour and of course the fact that all your friends back home can watch you sing your lungs out on the live web cam posted on their website. If your more in the mood for some great live music, consider Krazy Korner (website) which lies kiddy corner from Cat’s Meow. This compact corner bar can be a really fun place to get your Jazz and Blues fix. Cat’s Meow Hours: Daily until late. Bar Website: (HERE).
23. Preservation Hall (726 Saint Peter Street): Today’s Preservation Hall was opened in 1961 to help protect the traditions of live Jazz music as Rock-n-Roll took over America. The Hall is a popular place to hear traditional New Orleans Jazz at night. It’s a widely popular place with older crowds to hear traditional New Orleans Jazz at night so check their nightly schedule as you pass by. Please note that during the day they are closed, shows starting usually around 8pm, and even when they are open they do not sell alcohol. Across the Street from the Hall are Yo Mama’s, known for its great burgers, and an old French cottage building housing Reverend Zombies house of Voodoo. It is outside of this Voodoo shop where you can join a walking tour by New Orleans Ghost Tours (website). We highly recommend fitting one of their tours into your stay if you are in New Orleans for a few days which range from ghosts, to cemeteries, and even vampires. Preservation Hall Website: (HERE).
24. Pat O’Brien’s Piano Bar (718 St. Peter Street): Pat O’Brien’s may be known for its red Hurricane Drinks, Dueling Pianos, and large outdoor patio with flame fountains, but it has held many hats over the years. In 1791, Maison de Flechier built a private home (600 St. Peter Street) which later became home to the French Theater Company, then was home to the 1st Grand Opera in America, and then morphed into a speakeasy. Pat O’Brien bought the property in 1933 and turned the speakeasy into a full on bar. Pat O’Brien’s Bar was so popular for its piano music and drinks that Pat needed to expand and quickly moved into the bar’s current location (718 St. Peter Street). The Bar’s popularity hit epic status when Pat created the Hurricane Drink in the 1940’s and cemented the establishments home forever in the New Orleans drinking scene. As you enjoy some live dueling pianos, makes sure to notice the crossed muskets from 7 counties and over 500 beer steins that decorate the ceiling of the bar. They also have a large outdoor courtyard with stunning fire fountains to keep you warm after dark. Pat O’Brien’s Hours: Monday-Thursday Noon-Close; Friday-Sunday 10am-Close. Bar Website: (HERE).
25. LaBranche House (700 Royal Street): Built in 1835, the large LaBranche House is one of 11 homes the rich sugar planter Jean Baptiste LaBranche built in the French Quarter. With its many levels of detailed cast-iron gilding, the LaBranche House is one of the most photographed buildings in the New Orleans. We especially like taking photos of this large corner lot mansion in December when it’s decorated in holiday lights. It is important to note, especially among locals, that decorative balconies on the LaBranche House are actually called galleries. Galleries go all the way to the ground with supportive posts while balconies only jut out of the side of a home. Sitting directly across St. Peter Street from the LaBranche House, you’ll find the Le Monnier Mansion (640 Royal Street). When Le Monnier was built in 1811 it was considered to be a “sky scrapper” of its day even though it was just 3 stories tall at the time.
26. Pirates’ Alley: Originally called Orleans Alley, the 16 foot wide Pirates’ Alley is steeped in folklore. The tales range from mad scientists to swashbuckling pirates, and although they are mainly fiction, are fun to dream about. The pathway it’s was no more than a way to cut from the main square to behind the church in early day New Orleans and wasn’t even paved with cobble stones until 1831, long after pirates left New Orleans. Even at their peak, the pirates would have likely avoided the alley as it was right next to the public square, Cabildo town hall and the jail. The often foggy alley did house a few famous residents at times including briefly Andrew Jackson (616 Pirates Alley) and author William Faulkner (624 Pirates Alley). Faulkner, the Nobel Prize prize winner author, wrote his first published novel “Soldiers’ Pay” in 1924 while living in this house. Faulkner House Books (website) opened in the home on September 25th, 1990 in honor of the writer’s birthday. Our favorite house is the Creole House (622 Pirates Alley) which now holds the Pirate Alley Cafe (website). The home started as a French guard house and jail in 1728 which was nicknamed the Calabozo during Spanish rule and rebuilt after a series of fires. The Calabozo jail once held Pierre Laffite, brother of pirate Jean Laffite, who famously escaped here in 1814. The current Creole House replaced the jail in 1837 and with the legends taking hold, the path’s name was officially changed to Pirate’s Alley in 1964.
Before leaving the Pirate’s Alley, make sure to check out the fenced in garden behind the Saint Louis Cathedral. The beautiful statue of Jesus with his arms raised in the air is illuminated at night to cast a breath-taking shadow silhouette on the back wall of the church. The statue, which was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2004, is often called Touchdown Jesus by local football fans.
27. Streetcar Named Desire House (632 St. Peter Street): If you pop down St. Peter a couple houses to 632 you’ll find the red brick home where Tennessee Williams wrote the book Streetcar Named Desire. The book became not only and instant hit and symbol of New Orleans, but was also turned into a very successful play. The film adaptation from 1951 is a must watch movie before your New Orleans visit. From time to time you can still she tourists yell “Stella” at the house in the play’s memory. Next door to the Streetcar Named Desire House you’ll run into one of our favorite restaurants, The Gumbo Shop (website). This great restaurant will help you get your fill of Creole cooking with its mouth-watering Gumbo. Our personal favorite is the chicken and sausage gumbo, truly amazing.
28. Court of Two Sisters (613 Royal Street): The Court of Two Sisters is a good place to go if you want a fancier dining while in NOLA. The property has a storied past going back to 1726 when Sieur Etienne de Perier, the second French royal governor of colonial Louisiana was the first to live here. The entire block was even originally called Governors’ Row for all of its powerful residents. At the time the block was home to 5 governors, 2 State Supreme Court Justices, a future U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and Zachary Taylor who later became the 12th President of the United States. Needless to say, if you lived on the 600 block of Royal Street in the mid-1700’s you were among excellent company. It’s said that pirate Jean Lafitte once killed three men in separate duels in one night in the buildings inner courtyard. It is at this courtyard where you can join a daily Jazz Brunch at the upscale Court of Two Sister Restaurant. The Restaurant, which serves Creole food with a side of Jazz, is named after two local aristocratic Creole sisters who had a fancy dress shop here in the 1800’s. The 3 course Jazz Brunch is excellent, but at typically $50+ per person, the restaurant is a little expensive for some tourists. Website: (HERE).
29. Merieult House (533 Royal Street): Built in 1792, the Merieult House was the only family home in the neighboring blocks that survived the Great Fire of 1794. The owner Jean Merieult’s wife was said to be so beautiful that Napoleon wanted to buy some of her hair as a wig for the Sultan of Turkey. Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9:30am-4:30pm; Sunday 10:30am-4:30pm; Closed Mondays. Cost: The 1st floor gallery is Free, Guided Tours are $5. Guided Tours: 45 minute docent-led tours of the 11 galleries on the second floor provide a comprehensive look at the settlement and development of Louisiana from the early 18th century to the present. Tour Times are Tuesday–Saturday 10am, 11am, 2pm, 3pm and Sunday 11am, 2pm, 3pm. Museum Website: (HERE).
30. One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse Street): Expect a lot of live music ranging from jazz, funk, hip hop, to rock as well as touring comedy acts and alternative shows at One Eyed Jacks. The most famous show is the sexy Burlesque show called Fleur de Tease (website) which takes place daily at 8pm & 10pm. Fleur de Tease is a premiere Variety Burlesque Revue. This modern twist on a classic vaudeville show has something to please and tease every audience member. Magicians, fire eaters, comedians, aerialists and of course beautiful burlesque dancers all make up the core members of the troupe. Special guest artists such as sword swallowers, singers, and other circus acts make each show a unique and different experience so no two programs are ever the same. Burlesque Show Cost: For the Fleur de Tease general admission is $15 and reserved seating is $20. Other Shows vary. Show Times: Fleur de Tease is daily at 8 & 10pm. Other traveling shows vary. Bar Website: (HERE).
31. Napoleon House (500 Chartres Street): House built for New Orleans mayor Nicholas Girod in 1812 who offered it to Napoleon in 1921 as refuge during his exile from France. Unfortunately Napoleon died of poisoning the same year and never made it New Orleans. Luckily the home was turned into a restaurant in 1914 and still bursts at the seams with charm. Seriously go here and eat or at least stop by for a drink, the old vibe is awesome. Hours: Sunday & Monday 11am-5:30pm; Tuesday-Thursday 11am-10pm; Friday & Saturday 11am-11pm. Website: (HERE).
32. Louisiana State Supreme Court (400 Royal Street): Built in 1908, the huge Louisiana State Supreme Court building looks almost like a marble palace and takes up an entire city block. While the court was established in 1813, the new building was required when it moved from the the Cabildo building in Jackson Square. Nearby is a delightful yellow mansion which used to be the Louisiana State Bank. The is not really a whole lot more to say about either building’s history, but every time we visit we end up being impressed and taking a lot of photos. Website: (HERE).
33. Antonie’s Annex (513 Royal Street): After the restaurant opened in 1840, Antonie’s Annex quickly became the place for New Orleans locals to get their Bourbon Whiskey and Black Coffee drink called Café Brûlot. Variations of the drink were vast and in the 1890’s owner Jules Alciatore created a flaming concoction of coffee, brandy, and spices he called Café Brûlot Diabolique. This new concoction became a huge hit and even more popular during Prohibition as a great way to disguise alcohol. Around the corner from Antonie’s Annex on St. Louis Street is Antonie’s more fancy sit down Antonie’s Restaurant with its own bar called Hermes. Restaurant Website: (HERE).
*While the Gallier at stop 13 focused on middle class living, it is the wealthy on showcase at the…
34. Hermann-Grima House (820 St. Louis Street): A walk through the meticulously restored Hermann-Grima House and gardens allows you to peak back into this the Golden Age of New Orleans history. It was built in 1831, by a German Jewish immigrant, Samuel Hermann, who amassed his fortune in the cotton market. This handsome Federal mansion with its courtyard boasts the only horse stable and functional 1830’s outdoor kitchen in the French Quarter. The outdoor hearth kitchen, with its view of the antique roses, citrus and parterre gardens, provides a dynamic experience for our visitors. As a museum, the home celebrates artistic contributions and building trades of the Free People of Color and enslaved persons in New Orleans, without who, the Hermann-Grima House would not stand today. Visitors are also fascinated to learn that Hermann originally purchased the property from a Free Woman of Color. The interior of the home was also used as Madame LaLaurie Mansion in the TV show American Horror Story. The same owners of the Hermann-Girma House also own the Gallier House which we was earlier in this free French Quarter walking tour. Hours & Tours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday hourly tours 10am-3pm; Wednesday tours by appointment; Saturday hourly tours 12pm-4pm. Cost: Adults $12; Children $10. Add the Gallier House (Stop 13) for $8. Museum Website: (HERE).
*Further down Bourbon Street you’ll notice a sea change as you come to…
35. Larry Flynt’s Barley Legal Strip Club (423 Bourbon Street): Larry Flynt’s is one of the many strip, lap dance, and cabaret clubs that pepper the 200-400 blocks of Bourbon Street. The presence of these clubs may feel trashy or grimy to some, but they are isolated, and add to the personality of the care-free French Quarter. While strip clubs aren’t really our thing, walking by them is still a unique tourist experience somewhat similar to the Red Light District in Amsterdam. Do remember that you are in the Big Easy so try not to be uptight about it. Club Website: (HERE).
*If you’re wondering why we sent you so far down Bourbon Street, you’ll be rewarded at the…
36. Old Absinthe House (240 Bourbon Street): Shortly after the building opened as a coffee house in 1807, the owners came up with new drink using the Wormwood based alcohol Absinthe called Absinthe House Frappe. The narcotic-like drink became so popular that the owners eventually decided to change the coffee house’s name to the Old Absinthe House. The name was later expanded to Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House, as this is the place where pirate Jean Lafitte and General Andrew Jackson ended up planning the Battle of New Orleans. Lafitte and Jackson haven’t been the only celebrities to grace the bar as their bartenders tell us that Mark Twain, Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, Oscar Wilde, P.T. Barnum, General Lee, and Edgar Allen Poe also came to get their Absinthe on. As you can see by the business cards, postcards, sports jerseys, and celebrity photos that plaster the walls of the bar, people are still coming here from all corners of the World.
When Wormwood based Absinthe became illegal in 1912 for being too hallucinogenic, the owner switched to Herbsaint based Absinthe to keep the business running strong. Thanks to a change in the law they were once again able to go back to using Wormwood in 2007. One of the coolest things inside is the original copper colored bar which had been removed for it’s own protection during Prohibition and was finally returned in 2004. The photo we used of the Old Absinthe House is from a postcard dated 1910.
Attached to the Old Absinthe House the bar’s owner Tony’s Moran also runs called Tony Moran’s Restaurant (website) which is renown for its Crawfish. Overall we’ve found Moran’s to be a little pricey for what you actually get and you are better off going down a block to Iberville Street where you’ll find Felix’s Restaurant (website) & Acme Oyster Bar (website). Both of their menus are great, cover a wide range of food including Oysters and Crawfish, and are much more affordable than Tony Moran’s. Our favorite New Orleans dishes are Po-boy Sandwiches and the Fried Seafood Platter. Bar Website: (HERE).
*If you have enjoyed stepping back in time at New Orleans historic bars, you’ll really fall in love with the…
37. Carousel Bar (214 Royal Street): With great views overlooking Royal Street, The Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone (website) is the only bar in New Orleans that revolves around the room. The focal point of the bar is the rotating the 25-seat carousel bar, which was originally installed in 1949. The large embellished carousel turns on 2,000 large steel rollers, pulled by a chain powered with a one-quarter horsepower motor creating a very smooth ride. While the bar always rotates at the same speed, visitors who have drink at the bar for a while often claim that the bartender has turned up the motor’s speed. The bar was renovated in 1992 when the current carousel top was added. Fiber optics were also installed in the ceiling to create unique stars in the night sky and even one special shooting star was created to cross the room at regular intervals.
In the early days of the Carousel Bar, the hotel was the home to the famous Swan Room, a nightclub where celebrities such as Liberace performed. It wasn’t unusual for the performers to join their friends for a nightcap after their shows. William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Winston Grooms (Forrest Gump) are among the famous authors who have enjoyed drinks at the Carousel Bar. Today, the Carousel still attracts celebrities, including some recent sightings – Michael Jordan, Dennis Quaid, Greg Allman and Sally Struthers.
In addition to the rotating bar, the adjoining room features quiet booths and tables where live entertainment is offered nightly at the piano. If you arrive at just the right time during the cocktail hour you can enjoy complimentary hors d’oeuvres from the famous Monteleone kitchen. Our favorite original drinks at the Carousel are French flared Vieux Carre Cocktail and the Caribbean inspired Goody. Bar Hours: 11am-2am. Bar Website: (HERE).
Other Attractions Near The French Quarter:
38. House Of The Blues (225 Decatur Street): You can’t come to the Big Easy without getting your fix of Blues Music, and the House of the Blues gets some of the biggest names in music. Even if you can’t make one of their daily performances, it has a really uniquely fun vibe to grab a drink, and the colorful entrance makes for great photo opportunities. By far our favorite thing at the House of the Blues has an amazing Gospel Choir Brunch every Sunday morning which cost $40. Bar Hours: Daily 11:30am-Close. Show Cost: Daily performances/events costs vary, but they are always open for dining and drinks. Bar Website: (HERE).
39. St. Louis Cemetery #1 (425 Basin Street): New Orleans’ oldest cemetery from 1789 is a spooky one indeed with tales of Bloody Mary and the tomb of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. The blocks around the St Louis Cemetery #1 can be very shady as the neighbor is part of the often dangerous Storyville Projects. Only go during the day with a tour group. We like the tour from Save Our Cemeteries (website) the most which leaves Daily at 10am plus Fridays & Saturdays having a second tour at 1pm. The tour is run amazing, costs $20 a person and lasts 1 hour. Other tour companies charge from $30 to $50 per person for pretty much the same tour, however, the money that Save Our Cemeteries makes goes toward restoration of the tombs.