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New Orleans French Quarter Walking Tour

Must-see walkable stops in the Big Easy

As one of the most charming and unique US cities, New Orleans is made for strolling and chatting and discovering hidden gems. The buildings are interesting, the people even more so. From the French Quarter to the Garden District, I adore exploring this city on foot with a friend – and a cool drink.

our tour guide, MaryI recently stopped in New Orleans for a short visit and took a tour with Mary, a charming guide who began her tour with an explanation of why you won’t find Katrina damage in the French Quarter. The city is shaped like a saucer and while the surrounding areas were damaged extensively, the oldest (and most beautiful) parts of New Orleans look much like they did a century ago. She also told us we’ll never find a parade on Bourbon Street because New Orleans protects its inebriated…

Walking the French Quarter, New Orleans

Bourbon St, New OrleansI love walking this city. If you go, start your tour early in the day – 9 am is perfect. Take it easy (this is the Big Easy after all) and linger over the iron lacework on the balconies, artisan brickwork and the swaying Spanish moss dripping off the century-old oak trees. There are almost 80 city blocks to explore – if you’re adventurous – so wear comfortable shoes.

339-343 Royal St., Rillieux-Waldhorn House

Built in the early 18th century, this building has housed Waldhorn and Adler Antiques since 1881. Snap some pics of the original Spanish made wrought iron balconies.

333 Royal St., Bank of Louisiana

Street music, Nawlins styleThe Vieux Carré police station began life as a bank in 826. It suffered fires in 1840, 1861 and 1931 and has housed the Louisiana State Capitol, an auction exchange, a criminal court, a juvenile court and an American Legion social hall.

437 Royal St., Peychaud's Drug Store

In the early 1800’s, proprietor and druggist, Antoine A. Peychaud served after-meeting drinks to the Masons who met there regularly. The drinks were bitters (absinthe and cognac) and were served in small egg cups – the birth of the modern day cocktail.

533 Royal St., Merieult House

The only building remaining from before the 1794 fire, it’s now home to the Historic New Orleans Collection Museum and Research Center.

613 Royal St., Court of Two Sisters

Charm Gate, Court of Two SistersBuilt for a French governor and his two daughters, Emma and Bertha Camors, be sure to touch the charming gate. Plan to return for dinner – delish.

 

640 Royal St., Le Monnier Mansion

Hailed as the New Orleans’ first skyscraper, its original height was 3 stories tall – a fourth was added in 1876.

700 Royal St., LaBranche House

This may be the most photographed building in the French Quarter with lacy cast-iron grillwork gracing all 3 floors.

718 St. Peter St., Pat O'Brien's

French Quarter characterHeard of the Hurricane cocktail? Pop inside to enjoy some refreshment in the beautiful courtyard. Ask for a to-go cup – walking and drinking is legal and encouraged in the Big Easy.

726 St. Peter St., Preservation Hall

A jazz hotspot in the evening, stopping here during the day gives you a clear view of a hidden tropical courtyard.

717 Orleans St., Bourbon Orleans Hotel

This beautiful building housed the famous quadroon balls, where wealthy, white men of the city flocked to find their next (colored) mistress in beautifully elaborate balls. It later became a convent and is now the Bourbon Orleans Hotel – talk about a dramatic history.

941 Bourbon St., Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop

Lafitte's on Pirate AlleySome claim this is the oldest building in the Mississippi Valley, headquarters of a pirate who posed as a blacksmith. Stop in for a drink and imagine the trading that took place here in the late 1700’s.

 

Old U.S. Mint

French Market shopsOriginally built to protect New Orleans in 1792, Andrew Jackson led his troops from here in the Battle of New Orleans. Today, it’s home to live jazz performances by the Louisiana Music Foundation.

Historic French Market

A fun place to snap up some New Orleans style souvenirs, this building has housed an open market for more than 200 years. You’ll find everything from gators on a stick to voodoo seasoning to expensive (and cheap) jewelry.  

Decatur Street

historic Cafe Du MondeMeander along Decatur for authentic New Orleans flavor – restaurants, bars and shops. Stop in 923 Decatur St, the Central Grocery, for their famed muffuletta sandwich, or Café Du Monde for their world famous beignets and coffee.

Pontalba Buildings

These matching red-brick buildings form two sides of Jackson Square. Built in the 1840’s, the ground floors house shops and restaurants and the upper floors are apartments. The cast-iron balconies are some of the most beautiful you’ll find in the French Quarter.

St. Louis Cathedral

St. Louis Cathedral, New OrleansThe oldest Catholic cathedral in the U.S. (1794), the current church is the third built on this spot – the first two were destroyed by a fire and then a hurricane.

Pirates Alley, Faulkner House Books

In 1925, William Faulkner lived here and his books (among others) are still available in this charming bookstore.

632 St. Peter St., Tennessee Williams House

The home of the famous playwright who wrote A Streetcar Named Desire. He said, "that rattle trap streetcar named Desire running along Royal and the one named Cemeteries running along Canal and it seemed the perfect metaphor for the human condition."

New Orleans toursIf you’d rather explore New Orleans with a guide, you’ll find a number of free, guided tours – thank you LA Times for this info [New Orleans is one of the only cities that offers free historic tours promoting their city].

I’m looking forward to visiting New Orleans again in a few weeks. Super big thank you to International House Hotel for inviting us to stay with them this tim around. Here's what on our must-visit list so far...

  • Johnny’s Po Boy – Visiting here for lunch will require a lot of walking to work these delish calories off – wow!
  • Court of Two Sisters – From turtle soup to bread pudding, prepare to dine N’Orlean’s style when you visit.
  • Antoine’s Restaurant – I enjoyed lunch here 10 years ago with a girlfriend but I’m looking forward to an elegant dinner here with my lover this time around.

Ever been to New Orleans? I’d love to hear what YOU love about the city. Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook – and let’s continue the conversation!

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