Last month, I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in New Orleans which has quickly become one of my favorite cities. It was my fourth time visiting NOLA and I was able to re-visit a few favorites and explore some new spots too. The city is filled with history, culture, food, and… celebration! While it’s most known for Mardi Gras, there is ALWAYS something going on in New Orleans. Filled with live music, food, festivals, and fun, this city knows how to have a good time.
If you’re planning a visit to NOLA, check out some of my favorites below!
WHAT TO DO: New Orleans has so many things to do but these are some of my favorites.
- Jackson Square – This historic square is located in the French Quarter and is home to the St. Louis Cathedral. It’s a great place to walk around after beignets and cafe au laits at Cafe Du Monde.
- French Quarter – Explore the oldest neighborhood in the city known for it’s architecture, history, restaurants, shops and, of course, Bourbon Street.
- Magazine Street – my favorite street in the city! It’s less busy than the French Quarter but has just as much to do with quirky shops, amazing restaurants and the neighboring historic homes of the Garden District.
- The Bywater – an upcoming, eclectic neighborhood with artsy shops and restaurants, just minutes from the French Quarter.
- Swamp Tour – I had been wanting to go on a swamp tour and finally did it during this last visit! We went on a tour through Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours and loved it. We explored the bayous of the national park by boat and met some alligator friends.
- Frenchman Art Market – check out this cool outdoor market for local crafts, art, candles and jewelry right on Frenchman Street (this is where the locals go for live music and good times).
- Audubon Zoo – spend an afternoon visiting the animals at the zoo in Audubon Park.
WHERE TO EAT: One of my favorite parts of the city is… the food! Seriously, this city has some of the best food ever. Gumbo, oysters, crawfish, jambalaya, boudin, po boys, muffulatas, king cake, pralines and beignets… need I say more?
Breakfast / Brunch:
- Surrey’s Cafe: known for its shrimp + grits, this cafe is perfect for brunch on Magazine Street. Bonus tip: while they don’t serve alcohol, Les Bon Temps next door to the Uptown location (they have two locations) serves delicious bloody marys that you can bring to brunch!
- District Donuts: this donut + coffee shop is delicious! They have really unique donut flavors that change daily (Pad Thai, Ginger Mint Julep and Cereal + Milk to name a few flavors we saw) and is located on Magazine St in the lower Garden District. Bonus tip: they also serve sliders so you can go for lunch too!
- Willa Jean: traditional southern fare from local favorite, Chef John Besh, serving everything from coffee and baked goods to fried chicken and avocado toast. A great addition to a newly popular neighborhood in the Central Business District. Bonus tip: try the cornbread, you won’t be disappointed!
- Cafe Du Monde: in the heart of the French Quarter, Cafe Du Monde is known for its café au lait and its French-style beignets. If it’s your first time visiting the city, this is a must! Bonus tip: it’s cash only, so make sure to have some, and try to go on a week day or a weird hour to avoid the lines (it’s open 24 hours)!
- The Camellia Grill: a landmark diner with counter service, located in Uptown, known for its omelettes, freezes and pecan pie. Bonus tip: Take the streetcar for a lovely view along the way!
- Cochon Butcher: a butcher shop, sandwich counter and full bar in the Warehouse District, this place is perfect for a delicious, weekend lunch. Bonus Tip: Have a picnic! Their cured meats and sides are perfect for all occasions!
- St Roch Market: be sure to visit this new market, refurbished from 1875, located in the Marigny, one of NOLA’s up and coming neighborhoods. There are a dozen food and drink vendors inside with a little something for everyone (fresh oyster bar to pimento cheese sandwiches to asian fare and lovely salads). Bonus tip: check their calendar and go on a day with live music!
- Steins Market + Deli: guilty of visiting this deli on every visit to New Orleans! I can’t not go there… the sandwiches (and bagels) are too delicious! This deli, located in the lower Garden District, serves traditional Jewish + Italian sandwiches and has the city’s BEST selection of craft beers located in the back of the restaurant.
- La Petit Grocery: Love, love, love this place! I had my first visit last month, and it reminded me of the city I went to school in: Charleston, SC. The restaurant is right on Magazine Street in a cottage that originally housed a grocery store in the 1800s, and serves made-from-scratch traditional Louisiana fare.
- Commander’s Palace: a New Orleans landmark and award-winning restaurant in the Garden District serving traditional but upscale creole food. I can confirm the food is absolutely amazing 🙂 Bonus tip: make a reservation for the weekend jazz brunch and don’t skip the bread pudding!
- Cochon: this NOLA standout by Chef Donald Link serves up traditional cajun southern dishes in the Warehouse District right next to its little sister, Cochon Butcher. Bonus Tip: Anthony Bourdain has called this his favorite restaurant in NOLA.
- Shaya: one of NOLA’s newest hot spots and a James Beard award winner. Shaya serves modern Israeli cuisine right on Magazine Street and it’s delicious! Try the hummus plates – they are divine. Bonus tip: they have an outdoor patio in the back!
- Coquette: Southern cuisine, locally sourced ingredients and an innovative menu right on Magazine Street… I’m getting hungry thinking of their food! Their tasting menu is one of NOLA’s best and it’s clear why.
- The Tasting Room: This place is the cutest. With an outdoor patio, couches, and old movies playing on a projection screen, this place has an amazing atmosphere for wine and shareable plates. Located on Magazine St. in the Lower Garden District, this is a perfect hideout off the beaten path.
- Domilise’s (Uptown)
- Verdi Mart (French Quarter)
- The Grocery (Garden District)
- Parkway Tavern (Lakefront)
- HiVolt Coffee: this place is my new favorite for coffee on Magazine Street! I went here pretty much every morning. I love that they have healthy options for breakfast and lunch (surprisingly difficult to find on Magazine). Their Avo Cup and Kale Caesar Crunch Salad are amazing!
- Church Alley Coffee: we actually only discovered this place on the last few days of our trip but instantly fell in love. Any place that serves Horchata Lattes and $2 Avocado Toast is an A+ in my book. Quiet, unique and located in an up and coming neighborhood in Central City.
WHERE TO GO OUT: Just like the food, New Orleans has no shortage of places to go out!
- The Victorian Lounge Bar at the Columns Hotel: this place is so cool! I feel very New Orleans when I’m here. They have a mahogany bar, 15-foot ceilings and amazing drinks. Located in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue. Bonus tip: Happy Hour is 5-7pm every day of the week!
- Pat O’Briens: this one is a classic! Located in the French Quarter right on Bourbon St., this place is always lively. Check out the dueling piano bar and drink a Hurricane!
- Frenchman Street: known for its bars and live music, this area is more local-friendly than Bourbon St. and always a good time. Popular favorites include the Blue Nile, d.b.a and The Spotted Cat.
- Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone: this bar looks like a carousel and actually moves. Okay, it moves really slowly but it’s still cool. Plus you get to check out Hotel Monteleone and it’s right in the French Quarter.
- Bacchanal Wine: this wine bar is in a house in the Bywater neighborhood. The first floor is actually a wine shop, while the top floor is a beautiful bar, and the back patio has tables and live music! They also have a small food menu with unique and delicious options.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my favorites, and if you have any other recommendations, please leave them in the comments!