Situated in the Deep South of the United States, in the state of Louisiana, New Orleans is a city of contrast. The landscape is filled with multicolored buildings-red, orange, yellow, blue, white, or just bare brick-which are beautifully adorned with iron terraces and plants. Scrawny brick streets travel across the historic downtown, the most famous area being the French Quarter, which is where Bourbon and Royal Street are located. As you may know, New Orleans is famous for its culinary and vivid culture, as well as the birth place of jazz.
Unfortunately, I had to cut my stay in New Orleans short due to a tropical storm which hit the region. Consequently, we only spent two days in the city-which is definitely not enough time! However, I´ll do my best to share about my experience there and tips of where to go.
A Little Bit About New Orleans
The first inhabitants of the region were the Native Americans of the Woodland and Mississippian cultures. In 1718, the Governor of the French Louisiana, Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, founded the city of Nouvelle-Orléans on the margins of the Mississippi River. A few decades later, 1763 and 1764, France signed treaties conveying Louisiana to Spain. Consequently, New Orleans commenced to trade heavily with Mexico and Cuba and adopted the Spanish culture. In 1803 Louisiana was returned to the French, who sold the territory to the United States shortly after in the Louisiana Purchase. In the following centuries, New Orleans thrived: producing, trading, and shipping sugar and cotton. Jazz was born in the clubs and dance halls of the vivid city; additionally, numerous tourists were attracted to the extravagant Mardi Gras festivities.
What to Do
French Market-built in 1791, the market is located between St. Ann and Barracks Streets. On a daily basis the market offers a variety of local products and various types of merchandise: jewels, art, ceramic, and spices.
Jackson Square-once called Place d´Armes, is at the heart of the French Quarter. At the very center of the square a statue of general Andrew Jackson stands, and in one of its extremities lies a white edifice: Saint Louis Cathedral. The square is surrounded by Pontalba Buildings, which once were considered luxurious residential buildings.
Bourbon Street-probably one of the most famous streets of New Orleans, it is packed with people looking for bars, restaurants, and shows. Because of our tight schedule, I quickly strolled around the restaurant and bars. The scenery was quite messy-a brick street, old buildings on each side displayed various signs, and hundreds of tourists came and went. Bourbon Street is the perfect place for those seeking nightlife.
Royal Street-definitely the most charming street in the French Quarter. The historic buildings are carefully adorned with iron embellishments, and plants dangle from windows.
Steamboat Natchez-I really wish we had gone on the steamboat ride; however, the weather wasn’t in our favor. The steamboats navigated passengers from Louisville, Kentucky, to New Orleans, Louisiana, on the Mississippi River and the trip usually lasted between three to five days. The steamboat´s popularity was at its highest in the mid 19th century; nevertheless, it was replaced by locomotives and automobiles later on. The Natchez offers live jazz music and dinners for those seeking the tour.
World War II Museum-America´s official WWII Museum (also the biggest in the world), and features 4D cinematic experience, interactive exhibits, soaring aircrafts, and personal histories.
What to Eat
Café Du Monde-this is a must go place! The a hundred year old café is always packed with tourists who come to try their famous beignets (French donuts) accompanied with chicory coffee. A serving of beignets is composed of three freshly made donuts powdered with sugar (they taste like “bolinho de chuva”), which is the ideal dessert to share with others!
Seed Restaurant (vegan)-this vegan restaurant was amazing! The menu was so healthy and original, and all of our dishes were great. I recommend this place to everyone, even those who are not vegan. If you do end up going there, ask for their chocolate mousse-it´s amazing!!
Cajun & Creole Food-these two typical foods of Louisiana are a must try when visiting New Orleans. There are numerous restaurants which offer Cajun and Creole dishes, so there are no excuses for not trying some!
By Tram-in order to move around New Orleans, the streetcars are a great way to go! There are three different lines-red, green, and blue-which will take you to different neighborhoods. This is a very cheap and fast way to move around.
By Car/Uber/Taxi-if you need to do lots of driving-rent a car. New Orleans is a spread-out city, thus, if you wish to go beyond the historic areas, renting a car or getting a Uber/Taxi is ideal.
By Foot-walking around the French Quarter and the Warehouse District is the best option if you wish to see all of the hidden spots. Because there are so many alleys, small cafes and bars, little boutiques and antiquity stores, walking around will enable you to see everything.
By Boat-since New Orleans lies on the margins of the Mississippi River, catching a steamboat tour or a ferryboat to places is not a bad idea (they do have set destinations though).
What to Do in the Surroundings of New Orleans
The French Quarter and the historic downtown of New Orleans are the most sought areas of the city, but there´s a lot to see in the greater city of New Orleans too, or even an hour away. I´ll list a few places to visit which are outside of the historic area, and trust me, they are worth going to.
Swamp Tour-take a boat tour in the swamps of Louisiana. There, you will certainly be able to encounter alligators, raccoons, wild boars, a variety of exotic birds, and even black bears. (For an additional charge, the tour offers to pick up tourists at designated area).
Oak Alley Plantation-this is a jaw-dropping attraction. The plantation is about 40 minutes away from New Orleans, but it is worth the drive. The landscape is marked by the twenty-eight humongous oak trees which stand in the opposite ends of the mansion. There´s much to see and read throughout the plantation´s tour; additionally, there are private cottages, and a restaurant in the area.
Laura Plantation-this plantation displays a large collection of artifacts: clothing, toiletries, business and slave records, Mardi Gras and mourning heirlooms. The Creole plantation relates what life was like 160 years ago, and what life was like for slaves and a rich Louisiana family.