French Quarter Walk (Self Guided), New Orleans

The French Quarter, one of the oldest and most popular neighborhoods of New Orleans, otherwise known as Vieux Carre, was founded in 1718. It perfectly combines the tempting, noisy and nutty nightlife of Bourbon street with important historic landmarks, art galleries, sophisticated cafes and some of the city's oldest churches. Make sure not to miss a chance to explore this area and take this orientation walk.
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French Quarter Walk Map

Guide Name: French Quarter Walk
Guide Location: USA » New Orleans (See other walking tours in New Orleans)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: ann
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Jackson Square
  • St. Louis Cathedral
  • The Presbytère
  • The Cabildo
  • Moon Walk
  • Old French Market
  • New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum
  • Preservation Hall
  • St. Louis Cemetery #1 and #2
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
  • Historic New Orleans Collection
  • New Orleans Pharmacy Museum
  • Royal Street
  • Bourbon Street
Jackson Square

1) Jackson Square (must see)

Jackson Square, originally known as the Place d’Armes or Plaza de Armas, is a major and important cultural attraction in New Orleans. Because of its proximity to the Mississippi River, Saint Louis Cathedral, and the Cabildo, it was and is a popular meeting spot. Architect and landscape architect Louis H. Pilié designed the plaza in 1721. The square received its current name in 1850.

The square was named after President Andrew Jackson. President Jackson was a hero of the War of 1812 and a statue of him on horseback is in the center of the square. The statue is one of four identical statues in the United States. The square was a hubbub of activity in colonial times and is where the militia performed drills, vendors sold their wares at the open-air market, and public hangings and beheadings occurred.

No longer the site of hangings or beheadings, today’s visitors can have their portrait or caricature drawn by an artist or be entertained by the colorful dancers, mimes, clowns, or singers. In addition, they can buy the works of the many artists who line the walkways. The site has been the location of many movies, festive events, television shows, and is a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike.

Why You Should Visit:
The view of Jackson Square is fairly iconic, featuring Jackson's statue at its center and the beautifully designed St Louis Cathedral as its backdrop, but there's always more to appreciate than the view.
Art festivals, music festivals, street performers... you never know what you'll find here. Good for some great tourist photos, a quick break on the chairs, and really a great place to take it all in.
You'll see so much of New Orleans from just this little spot that it's kind of amazing. And if nothing else, it's free to go to.

Go by 2:00 pm to get the full effect: otherwise, the area dies down... until dinner.
Also, remember to walk up the steps and watch the boats go by on the Mississippi.
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Louis Cathedral

2) St. Louis Cathedral (must see)

The Saint Louis Cathedral is one of the oldest cathedrals that is in continuous use in the United States. It was dedicated to King Louis IX of France in 1718. The place of worship is located in the French Quarter and features Spanish Colonial and Renaissance architecture. It is also a building that is most associated with the city of New Orleans.

Originally constructed in 1718, the church has over 6,000 members. The current cathedral was built in 1789. A renovation in 1850 completely changed the look of the house of worship to the design we see today.

The church was visited by Pope John Paul in 1987 and the plaza was renamed in the pope’s honor to celebrate his visit. The cathedral is a popular building and has been frequently photographed and featured in many movies, television shows, and other presentations. Mass is celebrated on Saturdays at 5 pm, on Sundays from 9 am to 11 am, and weekdays at noon.

Visitors will admire the Rococo-style, gilded altar and stained glass windows. Two gifts shops sell religious items and gifts with the proceeds going towards the upkeep and maintenance of the church.

Why You Should Visit:
The church is awesome to see, but all the happenings that take place in front of the church is also a treat. This area is treated like the town square because it basically is.
The stained glass windows are most representative of the best found in Catholic churches, but you don't have to be Catholic to come here to take photos and look around.

Tours are offered during the week, so be sure to check the schedule.
Getting breakfast across the street at Café du Monde before or after church would be a good idea, too, of course.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-4:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Presbytère

3) The Presbytère (must see)

The Presbytere, originally named the Casa Curial, is located on the site of the former Capuchin monk’s residence. Although the building was supposed to house the clergy, it never did. Currently, it houses exhibits from the Louisiana State Museum. It is located in the French Quarter near the Saint Louis Cathedral along Jackson Square.

Construction began in 1791 and was completed in 1813. The building was originally used for commerce until 1834. In 1834, the building was used by the Louisiana Supreme Court. In 1853, the cathedral was sold to the city. In 1908, the city sold the building to the state. In 1911, the museum became part of the Louisiana State Museum. In 1970, the structure was declared a National Historic Landmark.

One of the most interesting displays is the Hurricane Katrina exhibit. Hurricane Katrina was a major hurricane whose effects are still seen and felt in New Orleans today. There is also a Mardi Gras exhibit that tells the story of Fat Tuesday and its many traditions from beginning to end. Two of the highlights of the Mardi Gras exhibit are the realistic costumes and the float recreations.

Why You Should Visit:
Lots of beautiful artifacts such as crowns, scepters, costumes, and party accessories related to the Mardi Gras tradition on the second floor. Of course, the first floor had powerful and compelling images, documentaries, news, interviews, and artifacts related to Hurricane Katrina and its effect on Louisiana.

Go upstairs and visit the Mardi Gras exhibits first, and then go through the Katrina exhibit last, as doing it the other way around might prevent you from enjoying the MG exhibits fully.
The whole exhibition space is much larger than expected – be ready to take about 90+min to get through both floors (especially if you read each poster/artifact).

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-4:30pm
The Cabildo

4) The Cabildo (must see)

One cannot visit New Orleans without seeing this. The Cabildo was the original seat of the New Orleans colonial government. Located along the Jackson Square next to the Saint Louis Cathedral, this building is an important part of American and Louisiana history.

The Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies were held at this location. The original building was constructed in 1769. The current structure was raised in 1798 to replace the old building that was destroyed by fire. The local government used the building until the mid-1850s.

Currently, the Cabildo is a museum that tells the history of Louisiana from the time of the Native Americans until the Reconstruction Era. Many of the exhibit’s displays give you a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals. The museum also holds an exhibit that tells the story of music. Visitors should make sure to view the death mask of Napoleon that was donated to the museum by his doctor.

Why You Should Visit:
3 stories packed with the 300-year history of Louisiana – from its indigenous beginnings to the French/Spanish influence, Battle of New Orleans, significant people in the state's past, and more.
If you like history and facts, this is a great place to go. The upstairs also provides great outdoor views of Jackson Square.

They sell a combo ticket with the Presbytere on the other side of the cathedral (or any other Louisiana State museum) with a 20% discount.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-4:30pm
Moon Walk

5) Moon Walk

New Orleans is an eclectic city that features a mix of French, Spanish, and African cultures. Most people think of Jazz, the French Quarter, Tremé, Royal Street, or Bourbon Street when they think of New Orleans. But, there is one more thing that makes New Orleans extraordinary, the Moon Walk.

Located in the French Quarter along the east-bank of the Mississippi River, the Moon Walk is a riverside promenade that is popular with tourists and locals alike. Built in 1976 and named after mayor Maurice "Moon" Landrieu, the boardwalk allows one to catch a cool breeze or aroma or watch vessels traverse the river.

In addition, visitors can enjoy the performances of the many street performers and musicians. The Moon Walk replaced a levee originally constructed in the 1700s that made the area inaccessible, due to its height continually being increased, to people for several decades.

The promenade is conveniently located near many shops and restaurants. It is said that many married couples began their relationships at the walkway. The Moon Walk can be reached by traveling through Washing Artillery Park by means of Jackson Square.

Attractions near the Moon Walk include Jackson Square, the Natchez Steamboat, the French Market, the Cabildo, the Presbytère, the St. Louis Cathedral, the Supreme Court, the French Quarter, Bourbon Street, and the Old Ursuline Convent.
Old French Market

6) Old French Market (must see)

The Old French Market was a major food market for 180 years in New Orleans. People came from far and wide to enjoy the delicious and fresh foods, aroma, and atmosphere. It is one of the oldest public market buildings in America. The original market was located at the Café du Monde site near Jackson Square and was constructed by the Spanish during colonial times to provide a safe and clean place to purchase food. In 1811, a new building was constructed only to be destroyed by a hurricane the next year. The current building was rebuilt in 1813 and survives to this day, albeit with several modifications.

Often called Halle des Boucheries, or the Meat Market, by the locals, the shopping center was the only place where meat could be legally be purchased. The French Market became so popular that it eventually contained a vegetable market, fruit market, a dry goods emporium, and a coffee stand. The market almost came to an end in the 1970s when the City removed most of the produce from the site. The French Market Corporation rebounded by illustrating its glorious past while opening clothing stores, gift shops, and restaurants. One of the best features of the market is the flea market that is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm where clothing, jewelry, arts, crafts, and other items are sold.

Though it is filled with many of the usual market fare from around the world, there are local artists in this market as well, so make sure you look for them. Their wares are reasonably priced and are great souvenirs! Just make sure you bring cash as not all of the booths accept cards.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-6pm
New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

7) New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum

Strange, unique, spooky, fun and scary, the New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum provides the curious an introductory look into the world of Voodoo. Established in 1972 by artist Charles Massicot Gandolfo, the museum is located in the French Quarter between Bourbon Street and Royal Street. The museum’s focus is Louisiana Voodoo which is also known as New Orleans Voodoo.

Voodoo is an ancient religion, of spirits, whose roots are based in Western Africa. When the slaves landed on the shores of Louisiana, they brought this mysterious and often misunderstood practice with them. The Voodoo religion eventually merged with native French and Spanish culture to create its own distinct branch of the faith.

Although the museum only consists of two rooms, it is jam packed with items. There are skulls, altars, and masks everywhere. The local priestess will even give you a psychic reading in person or by phone. For those who wish to take the experience further, ritual services with local practitioners can be arranged. These services range from blessings and curse removals to weddings.

The gift shop sells love potions, books, chicken feet, gris-gris (amulet) bags, snake oils, books, dolls, candles, and other mementos. There is also a Voodoo Cemetery Walking Tour that takes you to the tomb of the great Marie. They are open seven days a week from 10 am to 6 pm.
Preservation Hall

8) Preservation Hall

Established in 1961 with an aim at preserving traditional New Orleans Jazz, Preservation Hall can be found in the heart of the famous French Quarter on St. Peter Street just a few blocks from the Mississippi River. Hosting live jazz performances nearly every single night of the year, Preservation Hall incorporates over one hundred expert musicians from around New Orleans and also offers an educational program for children interested in playing jazz music as well. In recent years the house band has collaborated for tours and recordings for a number of artists outside the genre, including gospel, hip hop, rock, and other inventive blends of styles.
St. Louis Cemetery #1 and #2

9) St. Louis Cemetery #1 and #2 (must see)

It would seem odd that cemeteries are a tourist attraction, but not for the city of New Orleans. The above ground resting places represent an important part of their history and display beautiful Spanish and French design. Two of the most famous cemeteries are Saint Louis Cemetery #1 and #2.

Saint Louis Cemetery #1 was established in 1789. It replaced the Saint Petersburg Cemetery. It is located eight blocks away from the Mississippi River on Basin Street. Many impressive people are entombed in the many crypts and tombs. Some notable residents include the Civil Rights activist Homer Plessy, Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, and sugar industry pioneer Etienne de Boré.

Saint Louis Cemetery #2 was established in 1823. It is located three blocks away from Saint Louis Cemetery #1 on Claiborne Avenue and has over 100,000 burials. A protestant section is also located on the grounds. Many notable people are entombed in Saint Louis Cemetery #2, including Civil War hero Andre Cailloux, Jazz musician Danny Barker, rhythm and blues singer Ernie K. Doe, and sainthood candidate Blessed Mother Henriette DeLille. In addition, the graveyard is the final resting place of several politicians.

It seems like the church has closed the #1 cemetery to self-guided tours due to unwanted late night ceremonies and vandalism; however, you can book a guided tour, day-side (be sure it is led by a guide with a license to enter the cemetery and not just talk about it outside its walls). If you're not a fan of guides or tours, try the #2 cemetery, which is free.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 9am-3pm; Sun: 9am-12pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

10) Our Lady of Guadalupe Church

Located on the corner of North Rampart Street, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church is the oldest house of worship in New Orleans. Originally named the Mortuary Chapel of St. Anthony of Padua, the place of worship was built in 1826 to serve as a burial church for the victims of yellow fever. The current name of the church was received in 1918. Architects Gurlie and Guillot built the church. It is staffed by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The church was a place of worship for the Italian community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although it fell into disuse in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1915, the church rebounded each time and returned to service. The church serves as the International Shrine for St. Jude, one of the 12 apostles. In addition, there is a statue of St. Expedite near the entrance who the locals claim can cure procrastination.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church has a community center that provides a range of services, such as counseling, to the community. In addition, the women’s shelter helps those who are down on their luck find jobs and housing. The church’s food bank program helps to feed the needy.

Mass is at 7:30 am, 9:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm (Spanish) and 6 pm on Sundays, at 7 am, 12 pm during the week, and at 7 am on Saturday. The Saturday Vigil is at 4 pm.
Historic New Orleans Collection

11) Historic New Orleans Collection

Located in the French Quarter on Royal Street, the Historic New Orleans Collection focuses on the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South region. The collection was established in 1966 by General and Mrs. L. Kemper Williams.

The museum includes the Merieult House, William Gallery, the Louisiana History Galleries, a museum shop, and the Williams Residence. Other buildings on the site include the Counting House, Maisonette, Townhouse, Louis Adams House, and Creole Cottage.

In addition, the Williams Research Center on Charles Street allows researchers to view the documents, library items, manuscripts, photographs, prints, drawings, paintings, and other artifacts. The museum shop sells books, prints, jewelry, stationery, gift cards, and other items.

Displayed collections include the William Russell Jazz Collection, the William C. Cook War of 1812 in the South Collection, the Tennessee Williams Collection, and the Clarence John Laughlin Collection.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and on Sunday from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm.
New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

12) New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (must see)

One might find it odd that a pharmacy is a national landmark. But, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum is no ordinary museum. It holds the distinction of being the site of the first pharmacy in the United States. Opened in 1823 by J. Dufilho, the first licensed pharmacist in the United States, the museum allows one to take a step back into the days of the past.

There are many items you will see when you visit, such as live leeches, apothecary jars, medical instruments, eyeglasses, wooden blenders, bloodletting devices, and prescription files. There is even a pharmacist’s work area that displays the microscope, mortal, and pestle that the doctor used to make his medicines. The nearby garden shows the herbs that were a part of the many prescriptions that the doctor wrote. There are literally hundreds of items to look at and discover. In addition, the display of New Orleans epidemics is fascinating.

In 1950, the pharmacy became a museum. In 1987, budget cuts almost caused the museum to close its doors. Luckily, a non-profit group known as the “Friends of Historical Pharmacy” took over the financial responsibility of the museum and saved the day.

Why You Should Visit:
To learn about the history of NOLA via medical history, health habits and beliefs of NOLA people; soda origin, old medical quackery, and much more.

Get there just before 1 PM to take the one-hour 'tour' in the style of an entertaining lecture/presentation (Tuesday through Friday, for the same price as the self-guided tour but so much better).

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10am-4pm
Royal Street

13) Royal Street (must see)

If you want to experience the finer things in life, Royal Street is one the best streets in New Orleans where you can do so. Unlike the nearby Bourbon Street, Royal Street displays a more sedate culture and refinement. Miles and miles of upscale galleries, stores, and restaurants line the street. It is one of the oldest streets in New Orleans.

Many of the buildings on the avenue date back to the 18th and 19th century and feature ornate and beautiful design. Patrons dine at restaurants that display scenic gardens, ornate fountains, and beautiful courtyards. Connoisseurs of antiques will feel as they have walked into heaven since many of the estates have items that are available for sale. And let’s not forget the many galleries that display fine works of art that rival those that are displayed in major museums.

From visiting the Gallier House to touring the Historic New Orleans Collection or eating at the New Orleans influenced African restaurant Bennachin, there is a lot to see and do on Royal Street. You will also bask in comfort at one of the many luxury hotels if you need to stay overnight. Royal Street is so unique that one will find that it is difficult to choose where to begin and where to end.

Why You Should Visit:
Host to some amazing eateries, boutiques, art galleries, and local flavor. Definitely one of the more upscale streets in New Orleans where you can also get some good people-watching in.
Certainly refreshing if you're tired of the party scene in New Orleans or simply need a break. It's a more family-friendly vibe and the stores have many souvenirs appropriate for family & friends.
Plus, all the main attractions in the city are in walking distance from this quaint street.

Have a handful of dollar bills to tip the performers: it's their livelihood and most are talented!
Sight description based on wikipedia
Bourbon Street

14) Bourbon Street (must see)

Set in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter, the Bourbon Street is an attraction in its own right, stretching 13 blocks from Canal to Esplanade Avenue. Renowned for its bars and strip clubs, as well as the live jazz scene, Bourbon Street is just as rich in historic sights and iconic venues. Built in 1798, it is home to some of the most luxurious spots in the city, including The Royal Sonesta Hotel and Galatoire’s Restaurant where you can taste the best of the French Creole cuisine. Among the iconic bars here are Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop on the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip Street; The Old Absinthe House, the birthplace of the famous Absinthe House Frappe; and Lafitte-In-Exile, the oldest gay bar in the U.S. among whose regulars during his time in New Orleans was Tennessee Williams. If you’re in the mood for jazz, head to Fritzel’s European Jazz Club, an almost 200-year-old building hosting live jazz gigs every night of the week!

Why You Should Visit:
Nice to walk around and look at the art shops during the day and check out the food options, but come night time it gets pretty wild.
Be prepared for sensory overload: the lights, the noise, the smells, etc. There will be something here to surprise the unsurprisable. Definitely ADULT entertainment.

If you visit, you MUST try the famous hand grenade drink.
And don't take pictures of street performers if you don't intend to tip them.
For those looking for some hard-core jazz music, that appears to have all moved over to Frenchmen Street.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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