Want to celebrate life in all its wonderful forms? Get to NOLA. The fun loving, joie de vivre breathing Louisianan city knows how to show travellers a good time, and the best news is we’ve got the scoop on the best area to stay in New Orleans.
Wild, cultural, delicious, hot and always ready to party, New Orleans is a city that grooves to the rhythm of its own beat. The home of the world-famous Mardi Gras celebration as well as the New Orleans Jazz fest, this is a place where 8 piece brass bands jam in the streets, while night after night musicians bring the heat in the packed, grooving jazz clubs on Frenchman. Music fuels every ebb and flow of local life, but don’t be fooled into thinking this city is a one trick pony. Art, culture, history and a healthy dose of sunny Southern hospitality charm locals, travellers and celebrities alike – Solange Knowles calls NOLA home, whilst Nicolas Cage has even built his very own “Pyramid Tomb”. Many come for a visit and stay for a lifetime, and with homely hostels serving up hot tubs, foosball tournaments and epic breakfasts, we doubt you’ll want to rush through.
The French Quarter is where it begins; all Spanish and French inspired architecture, fortune tellers and Hurricanes on Bourbon Street. This is where travellers, stags and out-of-towners come to party; it’s fast, it’s loose, and drinking on the street is entirely legal. You’ll love it, but hop to another hood and you might discover you love it even more. Treme, the oldest African-American neighbourhood in the US, serves up Creole cuisine, culture and jazz by the bucket load, while Marigny is where the hipsters, street artists and musically clued up rub shoulders. Take a ride down to the Garden District to dream house shop ridiculous mansions, or hop over to the Warehouse District for top class museums, art and coffee. Oh, and did we mention this city’s inclination towards all things voodoo and spooky? Take a tour through one of the many sprawling cemeteries for ghost stories, local legends and more.
Consider yourself a foodie? You’re in the right place. New Orleans is a bubbling, flavoursome pot of cultural influences, and the best way to experience this is through the food. This is the land of gumbo, jambalaya, fried oysters, po-boys, beignets and fried chicken – in fact, the best fried chicken in the world according to the Food Network. Come to New Orleans prepared to eat, and expect to leave heavier, happier and with a renewed appreciation for the rich connection between cuisine, culture and community.
So you’ve got good food, great music and must visit neighbourhoods – but how do you get around it all? Well the best news is the New Orleans public transport system isn’t just super simple to use, but also part of the fun. As well as public buses that run regularly and reliably, NOLA is also the proud owner of the oldest continuously operating street car system in the world. Seriously, it dates back to 1835 and still works! The street car (or trolley) covers the central neighbourhoods of the city and is an easy hop on, hop off affair – you just need to make sure you have the exact fare for the ride. Alternatively, you can download the RTA app and buy your pass direct to your phone. Our advice? Opt for a 1 day or 3 day ‘Jazzy Pass’, which gives you unlimited rides on both buses and streetcars.
So, ready to discover your favourite corner of The Big Easy? Here is our extensive guide to where to stay in New Orleans.
Jump straight to:
The French Quarter: the best area to stay in New Orleans for nightlife
- What to do in The French Quarter
- Places to eat in The French Quarter
- Best hostels in The French Quarter
Marigny: the best area to stay in New Orleans for live music
The Garden District: the best area to stay in New Orleans for acting fancy AF
- What to do in The Garden District
- Places to eat in The Garden District
- Best hostels in The Garden District
Treme: the best area to stay in New Orleans for foodies
The Warehouse District: the best area to stay in New Orleans for culture
- What to do in The Warehouse District
- Places to eat in The Warehouse District
- Best hostels in The Warehouse District
The French Quarter – the best area to stay in New Orleans for nightlife
If you’ve ever heard people describing New Orleans as the best party of their life, this is where they’re talking about. Bourbon Street – the neon glowing, strip club offering, potent cocktail serving street of legend – cuts straight through the heart of the French Quarter. It’s stinky, it’s sticky, and it will without doubt deliver you a night for the history books. Many come to New Orleans just to party here and we can totally see why. After all, if a night spent riding mechanical bulls, throwing beads from balconies and sipping potent absinthe cocktails isn’t one to remember (or not, as the case may be), we don’t know what is.
But survive a night on the Hand Grenades and wander through the French Quarter in the day time, and you’re in for a treat. Easily walkable and with countless cafes, restaurants and bars to keep you well watered, The French Quarter is the place that turns on the architectural charm. Showcasing New Orleans unique blend of French and Spanish influence at its finest, this part of town is all colourful colonial style buildings, wrought iron balconies and bursts of florals. Enjoy leisurely strolls in the hot sun and be sure to finish up in Jackson Square, a hub for street performers, fortune tellers and the colourful folk of New Orleans.
What to do in the French Quarter
Let’s start by saying what not to do in the French Quarter – don’t be the traveller that drinks 5 Hurricanes, pukes violently and is in bed by 10pm. The drinks are dangerously strong, and no one wants to be stuck holding your hair back. That said, if you’re looking to party, you’ve come to the right place. Stretching thirteen blocks between Canal Street and Esplanade Avenue, Bourbon is the NOLA you’ve seen in all the blurry photographs. Dive bars, live music venues and fun seekers clutching lurid looking cocktails are the vibe here, with the pick of the bunch being Tropical Isle, Bourbon Cowboy, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop and Fritzel’s Jazz Club. Grab a drink to go (it’s legal after all) and try to hit them all.
Come the morning after, hide your sins behind sunnies and head for the Old French Market, which spans a six block radius in the Lower French Quarter. Pretty much everything and anything is sold here; food, handicrafts and jewellery all included. The Flea Market is especially worth a visit to thrift for vintage clothing and antique treasures. Given the French Market’s close proximity to Jackson Square, this vibrant hub and one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks should be your next port of call. Take a stroll through the historic 2.5 acre stretch of space, pausing for thought outside St. Louis Cathedral (the oldest cathedral in North America no less), then put your fate in the hands of a fortune teller to see what the future holds. A word of warning here – trust your gut. Some of these guys are the real deal, others not so much. Go with what feels right for you.
Speaking of otherworldly business, if you’re into all things afterlife and spooky then the Voodoo Museum won’t disappoint. Although small (it’s literally two rooms), the place is packed with historic voodoo relics, paintings, sculptures and artefacts and offers an interesting insight into a culture that is very much alive and kicking in New Orleans. Plus at $7 entry, it’s a cheap way to fill an hour while escaping the midday sun.
Places to eat in the French Quarter
There’s an overwhelming number of tasty food spots in the French Quarter, although many aren’t exactly budget friendly. Wherever you go, there’s one place which is basically a New Orleans rite of passage – Cafe du Monde. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, this institution has been dishing up cafe au lait and beignets since 1862. If you’re unfamiliar, a beignet (pronounced ‘ben yey’) is basically a square French style doughnut generously coated in powdered sugar, and it is goooood. Go early or late to beat the crowds.
Never tried a po-boy? Get yourself to Verti Marte to sink your teeth into one of these traditional Louisianan sandwiches. A local favourite, this is a grab and go kind of joint where you can pick up shrimp po-boys, Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches and BLTs for under 7 bucks. Veggies are also catered for; the mushroom mountain is rumoured to be the stuff of legend. If you’re not in a rush and want to enjoy your po in a historic setting, Johnny’s Po-Boys is another good option. In operation for over 60 years the breakfasts here are notably delicious, especially when eaten on the breezy, sun dappled balcony.
Come the end of the night when those inevitable drunk food cravings come a-knocking, look no further than Lucky Dog. Conveniently dotted on street corners throughout the French Quarter, these weenies may not change your life but they could just save your hangover, and for the price they’re pretty darn good.
Best hostels in the French Quarter
There are pros and cons to sleeping in the French Quarter. Pro – you’re within walking distance of the action, so you’ll naturally save money on cabs home at the end of the night. Con – it can get rowdy and raucous. Couples looking to chill may be more inclined to stay in one of the neighbourhoods listed below, but for solo travellers and lively groups, welcome to utopia.
For roomy social spaces, free brekkies and buckets of Southern charm, look no further than the IHSP French Quarter House. The only hostel in NOLA actually situated within the French Quarter, this is the kind of building you’d expect your rich friend’s parents to live in. Floor to ceiling windows and wrought iron balconies give the hostel a touch of class, whilst the leafy outdoor patio is a great spot to sink a few beers and play some cards. Groups travelling together also have the option of booking a private dorm. Located just 3 blocks from Bourbon, this place gets especially busy around Mardi Gras so be sure to book early.
Situated just a stone’s throw from the Quarter, City House is another backpacker favourite. Super sociable so particularly suited to solo travellers, every night is an occasion here. Foosball tournaments, movie nights and a lively bar make this a great place to meet new friends, while the free city walking tour is an added bonus.
City House Hostel
Marigny – the best area to stay in New Orleans for live music
Authentic, bohemian and unapologetically cool, there’s a lot to love about Marigny. A world away from the drunken antics of Bourbon Street, The French Quarter’s chilled next door neighbour is where the discerning music fans head for a taste of ‘real’ New Orleans. 7 days a week, the jazz clubs on Frenchmen Street churn out the goods, featuring both fresh new talent as well as established old timers. The weekends are always heaving, so if the dates match up try and visit in the week for a more low-key, immersive experience.
Aside from the music, Marigny offers up markets, street art and traditional architecture in spades. Bypass the tacky tourist souvenirs and head here to browse stalls where local artists sell one-of-a-kind paintings, or pick up an ancient relic in one of the many Aladdin’s Cave-esque antique stores. Take your time to appreciate the unique architectural styles of the neighbourhood, where Georgian, Creole and Greek Revival houses sit shoulder to shoulder. And once you’ve done all that, grab a craft beer, kick back in a trendy neighbourhood bar and watch the good people of New Orleans doing their thing.
What to do in Marigny
Start your Marigny exploration with a stroll through Crescent Park, which stretches some 1.4 miles along the banks of the Mississippi and offers unbeatable views of the river. Walk east and cut through the park to Montegurt Street, heading for the artist digs of a local New Orleans legend. Brandan Odums, or ‘BMike’, is the guy responsible for many of the murals you’ll see around New Orleans that celebrate some of history’s greatest black heroes. He was instrumental in using art to help re-build some of NOLA’s poorest neighbourhoods in the wake of Hurricane Catrina, and since 2016 he’s been exhibiting his powerful and moving work in the 35,000 square foot warehouse space known as Studio Be. It’s open Wednesday – Saturday, between 2 and 8pm.
Equally creative and exemplifying the city’s unique flair for making the impossible possible, the Music Box Village is another must-visit. A contemporary art gallery that celebrates imagination, experimentation and fun, here you can spend hours exploring different huts and tree houses that surprise and delight through sound. Sliding doors rigged up to guitars, floorboards that chirp like crickets and a payphone that will have you tripping are just the beginning.
Come dusk, your next port of call should be the open-air Palace Market on Frenchman, open 7 nights a week. Over 80 local artists cram in to the space here, filling up the alley with original artwork, handmade jewellery and souvenirs actually worth the money. Browse into the evening, for once the night comes there’s only one thing left to do – get down and dirty in a dimly lit jazz club. Spotted Cat is a local favourite, where impromptu dance offs are the norm and the crowd are always up for it. Snug Harbour is also a safe bet for reliably good music regularly featuring the hottest talent around.
Places to eat in Marigny
Coffee addicts, let us introduce you to Who Dat Cafe. Homely, eclectic and distinctly Marigny, this is the spot to get your morning cup of joe. The coffee is strong, the servers are friendly (and full of local tips) and the brunch menu will undoubtedly lure you in. Classic dishes given a Cajun twist include ‘Da Crabby Bene’ and ‘Not Yo Mama’s Corn Cakes’, while the Bloody Marys go down like a dream. Not the cheapest option, but the portions are generous.
For a bite of Brooklyn in the heart of New Orleans, look no further than Pizza Delicious. Recently voted the #1 pizza in the city and serving up slices for just $2.25, you really can’t go wrong. You can choose to eat in or take away, but we’d opt for the eat in option given the laid-back vibe and the great mix of clientele who come here. Pizza not your thing? The pastas and salads are also delish, celebrating local ingredients without going too wacky. Veggies and vegans, you’ve also got options here, while beer drinkers will be impressed with the wide range on offer.
Speaking of beer, craft ale connoisseurs should make a bee line for Brieux Carre. A typical craft brewery dedicated to creating beers as weird and wonderful as the city itself, here you can buy individual drinks or flights that allow you to taste a range. The names of the beers are super fun (Waffle Stomp, anyone?), and the patio is a nice little spot to chill while chatting to the friendly brewers about their process.
Like your food with a side of jazz? Marigny can do that too. Located on Frenchman, the Three Muses is perfect for those who love to share, with dishes ranging from local classics like Gumbo, to tacos, braised meatballs and yummy rice bowls. But whilst the food is good here, the atmosphere is even better. 7 nights a week, diners are treated to some of the best live music in all of New Orleans, courtesy of an almost exclusive roster of local talent. From pianists to singers to full on jazz ensembles, the Three Muses is a great little joint to ease in to a night on Frenchman.
Best hostels in Marigny
While hostel options aren’t plentiful in Marigny, you can be sure of an awesome experience when you stay at Madame Isabelle’s. A classic old New Orleans house with a long family history, Isabelle’s is a real home from home experience complete with family dining area, ridiculously comfy dorm beds and private rooms that feel like you’re staying at a relative’s house. Painted pink out front so you can’t miss it (and making it oh so Instagram), the real draw card to this hostel is what you’ll find out back. We’re talking a lush jungle style garden, al fresco dining, wooden decking and the piece de la resistance, an oh so tempting hot tub. Just 4 blocks off Frenchman (and also well located for exploring both the French Quarter and Treme), Isabelle’s is within walking distance of all of Marigny’s delights and is especially popular with couples, given its quiet and laid-back vibe.
The Garden District – the best area to stay in New Orleans for acting fancy AF
For a glimpse into the life of New Orleans’s elite, there’s no better place than the Garden District. Leafy, peaceful and oozing wealth, this is where you’ll find the city’s biggest, best and most beautiful mansions, and where the likes of Sandra Bullock and John Goodman both own houses. Originally the neighbourhood where wealthy plantation owners and merchants would have resided, today the sprawling mansions are the ideal place for a spot of fantasy house shopping. A fan of American Horror Story? Have we got a treat coming up for you…
With money comes a splurge of upmarket boutiques, bars and restaurants, all of which the Garden District excels at. You could send a small fortune here on world class cuisine and designer threads, but this neighbourhood isn’t exclusively for those with deep pockets. Magazine Street, a 6 mile long stretch of road that forms the boundary of the neighbourhood, offers up galleries, boutiques, cafes and pubs more suited to a traveller’s budget, not to mention a handful of unique vintage clothing stores.
What to do in the Garden District
If you’re coming to the Garden District from the French Quarter, the absolute best way to get there is by streetcar. Riding along St. Charles Avenue, one of the principal Mardi Gras routes, cast your eyes upwards to the trees above you and you’ll notice these are all heavily draped in beads, a big Mardi Gras giveaway. St. Charles Avenue is also a great jumping off point for exploring the mansions of the neighbourhood, so just pick a stop and enjoy getting a little bit lost. Walking tours of all the biggest and best mansions are available, but our favourites include Anne Rice’s house (a New Orleans based gothic writer who penned the ‘Vampire Chronicles’ and ‘Interview with a Vampire’), Sandra Bullock’s Swiss chalet style pad, and of course Buckner Mansion. Better known as Miss Robicheaux’s Academy from American Horror Story, this is of course the Coven house and oh my God, is it creepy.
Continuing the scary theme, the Garden District is also home to Lafayette Cemetery No.1, one of the most famous cemeteries in NOLA. Around 1000 tombs are found here containing the remains of an estimated 7000 people, not to mention the fact that Lafayette was used as a filming location for both ‘Interview with a Vampire’ and ‘Vampire Diaries’. Unlike other cemeteries in the city you can wander around here on your own, but for the best experience we’d definitely recommend going with a guide both for safety and knowledge.
In need of a dose of reality to level out? Head on over to Magazine Street for a spot of retail therapy. The vintage shops here are seriously cool, especially Funky Monkey and Buffalo Exchange, where you can even trade up your old threads for something new. Century Girl Vintage is also good for a bit of kitsch browsing, while guys can treat themselves to some whiskey scented male grooming at Aidan Gill barber shop.
Places to eat in the Garden District
By now you’ve probably established that New Orleans is a little freaky, so go with it and spend a ‘witching hour’ at the Tea Witch Cafe on Magazine. Decorated in a way that makes you feel like you’ve walked into a Harry Potter movie set, the homemade tea blends (both hot and cold) are a real treat, while the cakes and desserts are seriously scrummy. After hours, classes are hosted here that could teach you the art of tarot card reading or the history of magic. The Tea Witch herself, Tru, is a wonderful human with a real passion for making delectable teas.
Fans of Vietnamese food, look no further than Lilly’s Cafe, also on Magazine. Delicious spring rolls, Bahn Mi, Pho and tasty salads are all on the menu at this friendly, no frills restaurant where the service is fast and the peanut sauce is addictive. A great budget option for spicy soul food under $10, head here for lunch or dinner.
Creative, flavoursome and iconic, Dat Dog has outlets all over New Orleans, but the colourful outdoor patio of the joint on Magazine Street makes this one our favourite. But what makes these hot dogs so special? Well, let’s start with the choice of dogs on offer. We’re not talking just any old sausage here, we’re talking alligator sausage, crawfish sausage, polish kielbasa, smoked bratwurst, or smoked apple sage for the vegans. Then let’s talk toppings, 30 of them to be exact. You’ve got blackberry sauce, dill pickle, nana’s slaw, creole mustard and so many more, added any way you like, and at no extra charge. Now see what we mean when we say this isn’t any old hot dog?
Best hostels in the Garden District
With a couple of sweet hostel options, the Garden District is a great place to stay for those keen to experience a more low-key, local side to the city. One reliable pick is Atlas House, located on Magazine Street. Especially good for groups travelling together given the number of 3, 4 and 5 bed private rooms on offer, the free pancake breakfast, well stocked kitchen and common room complete with games, music and a library of books are added bonuses. The staff here are friendly and always willing to help, regularly organising social events like games nights, pub crawls and even free dinner nights. Yep, free food.
Party people, Auberge Hostel in the Lower Garden District will likely be your jam. Voted best hostel in the USA at our 2018 HOSCARs, Auberge brings the party 7 nights a week, 365 days a year. Located in an old antebellum house, the nightly parties here are off the chain, likely helped along by the fact that for just $10 you can drink cold beer all night long from a keg in the outdoor area. A cinema room, outdoor BBQ and staff willing to go the extra mile all add to the pros of Auberge, before the comfy beds and clean bathrooms seal the deal.
Treme – the best area to stay in New Orleans for foodies
For a taste of real New Orleans history, look no further than Treme. A neighbourhood of rich Creole culture and celebration, even a funeral here is a display of vibrant song and dance, with the iconic Jazz Funerals that regularly take over the streets testament to this. Traditionally a neighbourhood where immigrants, refugees and African Americans have come together to celebrate their individual cultures and traditions, Treme is also the historic location where many slaves obtained, bought or bargained for their freedom. Because of this, jazz music and food are the backbone’s of Treme’s cultural identity, with both celebrated throughout the year in a series of festivals. Jazz in the Park, the 7th Ward Arts and Culture Festival and the Creole Gumbo Festival are just some of these, but take a stroll through Louis Armstrong Park on any weekend throughout the year and you’ll find something fun to keep you entertained.
What to do in Treme
Containing the remains of many old Creole families and boasting multi storey above ground tombs that date back as far as 1789, St. Louis Cemetery #1 is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, and the most haunted in all of America. Many visit to leave offerings and pay their respects to Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau who is laid to rest here, as is NOLA’s first African-American mayor, Homer Plessy. The site is well worth a visit (although we’re not going to lie, it is creepy), but you can only enter with a licensed tour guide due to previous vandalism issues. Entry costs $20.
For those interested to l earn more about African American culture and traditions within New Orleans, the small but informative Backstreet Cultural Museum will deliver the goods. Costumes, artefacts, photographs, films and memorabilia are all on display here, with permanent exhibits exploring the history of Mardi Gras, pleasure clubs, Jazz Funerals and more. Entry is $10, and the love and passion poured into the museum by curator Sylvester Francis is plain to see.
Want a dose of history in an outdoor setting? You can’t beat a wander through the iconic Louis Armstrong park. Honouring one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time, begin your walk under the movie-worthy arch at the park entrance. Take a moment to pay your respects to the park’s namesake, immortalised forever in monolithic statue form, before heading on to Congo Square. Once a place where African slaves were permitted to gather every Sunday to sing songs and practice the cultural traditions of their home continent, today the square features statues and sculptures that honour the city’s musical heritage and heroes.
Places to eat in Treme
A word to the wise – don’t come to Treme if you’re not prepared to eat. Food is celebrated to the max in this neighbourhood, with local cooking legends pouring their heart and soul into every single mouthful. And trust us, it shows. The portions are big, the hospitality even bigger, and you can bet you’ll be rolling home after some seriously decadent feasting.
So, where to start? Well for fried chicken connoisseurs, there’s only one place – Willie Mae’s Scotch House. Hailed for serving the best fried chicken in the world (seriously, it’s won awards), this is soul food through and through. Aside from the fact that the chicken is insane – the perfect combo of tender, crispy, salty and sticky – the sides here are also out of this world good. Mac and cheese, mash potato, yams, okra and corn bread are just a taster. We’re talking carbs on carbs on carbs, and not a single regret. Family owned since 1957 and located in a humble, low key restaurant, this is an absolute can’t miss experience. They don’t take reservations and the lines are known to snake around the block so go early to avoid disappointment.
From one local legend to another, next up on the Treme food tour is Dooky Chase. An undisputed food institution, Dooky Chase has been dishing up home-style Creole cooking in the Treme neighbourhood for over 70 years. With white table cloths and African American art adorning the walls, the buffet style dishes will have you going back for seconds, thirds and fourths, but what you’ll take from your time here is a sense of having visited somewhere really special. After all, this is the spot where Barack Obama symbolically chose to eat after his inauguration, and where civil rights leaders came together in the 1960s. Sadly, Dooky Chase’s stoic founder Leah Chase passed away this year at the grand old age of 96, but her family remain at the helm, as do the recipes she spent her lifetime perfecting.
Still room for dessert? Waddle yourself on over to Buttermilk Drop. Another iconic New Orleans sweet treat (and perhaps even better than a beignet, just saying), the buttermilk drop is a buttery, sugary, silky kind of donut that melts in your mouth like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. For native New Orleans residents they’re a taste of home, and for tourists they’re a bite of pure calorific heaven.
Best hostels in Treme
With no hostels located within the actual Treme neighbourhood, your best bet is to stay in nearby Midtown. You can then catch a bus or streetcar back to Treme; both run regularly between the two neighbourhoods.
For social vibes and pool hangs, India House Backpackers Hostel is a great shout. The only hostel in New Orleans with a pool (which come the sticky summer months you will be super thankful for), India House is a popular choice for solo travellers and groups of mates looking for a good time. Dishing up free breakfasts every day in a cool outdoor kitchen, the hostel also offers cheap evening dinners and even has its own stage, so live music events are a regular occasion. It’s a little bit further out of town than other options, but because of this it’s also decent value.
India House Backpackers Hostel
If you’re something of a hostel breakfast connoisseur, you’ll have little room for complaint at Site 61. Bagels, porridge, cereal, coffee and juice are all for the taking come brekkie time, while the chunky wooden beds and clean bathrooms create a cosy, homely feel. Added bonus if you’re a sci-fi fan; Site 61, formerly a 20th century boarding house, has been renovated with a fantasy twist, so expect Matrix-style artwork and Hans Solo themed shower curtains. More chilled and quiet than India House, this spot is favoured by couples and those looking for a more private experience.
The Warehouse District – the best area to stay in New Orleans for culture
What’s old is new again in the artsy Warehouse District, located just south and within walking distance of the French Quarter. An area once overshadowed by its all-singing-all-dancing next door neighbours, today the Warehouse District is a destination in its own right, regarded as the epicentre of the New Orleans art scene.
The Warehouse District began life in the 19th century as the industrial area of the city. Given its proximity to the nearby Port of New Orleans, vast warehouses were built and used to store grains, coffee, cotton and other produce, while industries including steel, iron and copper also thrived here. Come the second half of the twentieth century, the Warehouse District became something of a ghost town, with buildings left derelict and deserted. That is, until the Contemporary Arts Centre was built in 1976. One of the city’s pride and joys, this 10,000 square foot masterpiece spurred the re-birth of the Warehouse District, and since then local artists have come in their droves to convert the empty warehouse spaces into cool, cutting edge art galleries.
Today, over 25 independent galleries can be found in the Warehouse District (also known as the Arts District), many of which are located on Julia Street. Trendy hotels, restaurants and bars are also commonplace here, frequented by an in-the-know local crowd who dress sharp and party hard. For backpackers who love culture, art and feeling a part of a local, constantly evolving scene, there’s no better place in New Orleans.
What to do in the Warehouse District
Given it is singularly responsible for the artistic nature of the neighbourhood today, first up on your agenda should be a visit to the Contemporary Arts Centre. Located on Camp Street, the centre claims several floors of creative space including permanent and temporary exhibitions, gallery spaces, theatres and education facilities. It’s a place to come and appreciate the creative energy of New Orleans, while the book store is a particular highlight for art lovers.
Another must visit is the National WWII Museum. Even if you’re not big into history, this museum deserves a visit for its world class storytelling alone. First person narratives from surviving veterans and an ever-growing roster of incredible exhibits will keep you enthralled for hours as you explore the museum that spans several blocks. This is one of the most popular museums in North America and for good reason; it brings to life one of the most horrific events of the 20th century in vivid, human form, and we have no doubt it will evoke all the feels.
Art fiends, a stroll along Julia Street, otherwise known as Gallery Row, will make you very happy indeed. This is where the region’s most reputable artists own galleries, and where you can stroll between them all to browse or even buy art. A few favourites include the Arthur Roger Gallery, the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery and Steve Martin Fine Art. If you happen to be in town on the first Saturday of the month, you’ll also get to visit the ‘First Saturday Gallery Openings’ monthly event, where each gallery opens its doors to the public to display works of art.
Finally, finish up your Warehouse District experience in true New Orleans style – with live music and fun. Howlin’ Wolf is a down and dirty favourite where local legends Hot 8 Brass Band provide the tunes every Sunday Night, whilst Barcadia is part bar, part retro games arcade where you can sip cocktails whilst thrashing it out on Street Fighter II.
Places to eat in the Warehouse District
Good food is the name of the game in the Warehouse District, and despite the trendy vibe you can get some seriously yummy eats that won’t break the backpacker budget.
Revelator Coffee is a necessity for caffeine addicts. Simple, strong and delicious, it’s the perfect morning boost, with tasty pastries and cakes for a little something extra. Have it to go, then head next door to the St James Cheese Company. Crammed full of amazing sandwiches and salads, take your pick or ask one of the staff to help you pick out a favourite cheese and charcuterie combo. Then, take your picnic treats to nearby Woldenberg Park to enjoy in the sunshine.
Nesbit’s Market, a local neighbourhood store on Poeyfarre Street, is another good lunchtime grab and go option. Located near the WWII museum, here you can pick up locally sourced produce, takeaway sandwiches, pastries and salads, or eat in to enjoy their well-priced weekday lunch specials. The Bahn Mi is a particular favourite.
For regular live music, an awesome fairy-light filled courtyard, a massive outdoor TV screen for sports and good beer, look no further than The Rusty Nail. A real neighbourhood bar with a reliable roster of locals, this is the perfect place to spend an evening under the stars. Food is provided courtesy of the on-site food trucks, while the extensive Scotch selection makes for strong cocktails.
Best hostels in the Warehouse District
Within easy walking distance of the Warehouse District and right next to the French Quarter, HI New Orleans is the city’s newest hostel offering. Brand spanking new (and it shows), the indoor mezzanine area of this hostel will have you dropping some serious ‘wows’. Sleeping wise, the dorm beds each come with curtains and individual reading lights, while the private rooms and their squishy pillows and duvets are especially nice. Also a plus – to help get you acquainted with the city, tours are on offer from local volunteers. So far the reviews of this hostel have been awesome, so we’re hedging our bets on saying this place is going to be a regular backpacker favourite.
HI New Orleans
So, ready and raring to take on all that the Big Easy has in store? We hope our insider’s New Orleans guide has left you feeling prepped and good to go, but just remember that NOLA is all about the unexpected. Whether you party in the French Quarter, jazz it up in Marigny, live the high life in the Garden District, eat everything in Treme or gallery hop in the Warehouse District, just be sure to enjoy the ride and all that this life-loving city has to offer. Ready to find your perfect New Orleans hostel? The journey begins now.
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A freelance travel writer and content strategist, I’m currently travelling through Latin America in search of stories, cultures and tacos. Favourite country in the world (so far) > Colombia. Favourite travel experience to date > Swimming with whale sharks in Tanzania. Favourite Hostel > Barbara’s Boutique Hostel in Antigua, Guatemala. Stalk me on Instagram @ginnycopestake, or hire me for words, strategy and cups of tea (I make a mean brew) at www.ginnysmithcreates.com.
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