“Everything in New Orleans in a good idea”
When Bob Marley resorts to hyperbole to describe a place, you know it must be well and truly special! If there’s one word that describes the city of New Orleans it’s MUSIC. Strains of jazz at the airport inaugurate the seduction that New Orleans unleashes upon its unsuspecting guests.
On getting to the city, you will find music everywhere. Your days will begin with jazz floating in through French windows and end with a soulful violist or saxophone player serenading you down the iconic streets of New Orleans. You will never have to go far to find street side musicians playing music that will have you spell bound – gypsy jazz, traditional jazz, reggae, blues – you name it!
Located by the banks of the iconic Mississippi river, New Orleans makes for the perfect city break. Our favourite way to experience the city is just to walk around listening to music and giving days a chance to unravel at their own sweet pace. Here are some of our favourite ways to plan a city break in New Orleans. Our guide to New Orleans has everything you need for a holiday in the city:-
I) GETTING TO NEW ORLEANS
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is well connected to most cities in the US. It’s also possible to find convenient connecting flights from most major cities in Asia and Europe. The city centre is 15 miles (approx. 30 minutes) away.
We would advise against renting a car to explore New Orleans as roads are busy and parking is both expensive and hard to find. Instead take a cab ($35) or request your hotel for a pick-up. Most hotels in New Orleans offer a paid shuttle service.
II) ACCOMMODATION IN NEW ORLEANS
If you’re in New Orleans for a city break, then consider staying in the French Quarter. Most accommodation in the city is concentrated here. And with good reason! The French Quarter is the city’s oldest neighbourhood and it is well and truly at the heart of the action in New Orleans. Here vintage signboards and pastel coloured houses dilly dally with blazing neon signage, enticing visitors to have a good time and party the evening away.
We chose to stay at Omni Royal Orleans, which is truly as central as it gets. If we had to say one thing to recommend the hotel, it would be location, location, location!! It is situated in the heart of the French Quarter, right next to the iconic Bourbon Street. Most sites, cafés, and eateries are a short walk away. The hotel complex itself has a luxurious old-world feel. Rooms are adorned with French accents and charming to the tee. Space is scarce in the middle of the French Quarter, so most rooms don’t have amenities like bath tubs which are a staple at most luxury hotels. Omni Royal Orleans has many different kinds of rooms but we chose a Deluxe Room with a balcony overlooking St. Louis Street. This way we woke up to strains of jazz music, floating in through windows draped with gauzy white curtains, every morning. It’s the perfect start to the day – right out of a French day dream!
The hotel also has a cozy rooftop bar that is extremely popular with tourists – La Riviera overlooks the rooftops of historic buildings of the French Quarter. The views here transported us to Europe within seconds. Drop by for a drink even if you aren’t staying at the hotel!
III) THINGS TO EAT IN NEW ORLEANS
Who can say no to deep fried choux pastry brushed with powdered sugar? You can’t leave New Orleans without devouring a couple of decadent beignets. Café Du Monde is a New Orleans’ institution and coffee and beignets are the only things on the menu here. We also loved beignets at the picture-perfect Cafe Beignet (heart shaped chairs and quaint vibe). Sit at one of the two cafès and observe passers-by as you munch on these sugary delights or take them away for a picnic in the park.
This traditional Louisiana sandwich is a New Orleans staple. You just can’t leave the city without having had a Po’ Boy (or 5). The Po’ Boy loaf resembles a traditional French baguette – it’s crisp and crumbly on the outside and soft at the centre. Typically the sandwich comes with fried seafood, pickles, lettuce, and tomato. But dozens of variations are available at most stands and restaurants across the city. It’s hard to go wrong with a Po’ Boy sandwich, so experiment away. We quite enjoyed the Po’ Boys at Johnny’s Po’-Boys. Most items on the menu are under $12 and portions are huge. Expect to wait for your meal as the informal eatery is usually packed with visitors.
A bowl of Gumbo
You can’t leave New Orleans’ without sampling some Southern food. Native American, French, and Western African flavours come together to make Creole food well and truly special. There’s no better way of introducing oneself to the flavourful food of the area than with a big bowl of Gumbo. The savoury stew is made from vegetables, shellfish, meats, or poultry and thickened with powdered okra or filé spice. We tried a fair few bowls of gumbo in New Orleans, but we liked the one served at The Rib Room at Omni Royal best. Dig into the steaming hot bowl of goodness or use a loaf of bread to soak up the thick stew. Comfort food like no other!
You might have slurped your way through raw oysters before but here in New Orleans, it’s all about chargrilled oysters. Drago’s spurred the charbroiled oyster revolution in the city but the dish can now be found on menus of seafood restaurants all across the city. Wait for the grilled oysters to cool down before you dig into them. Once cool, slurp these buttery garlicky delights the same way you would raw oysters. Deanie’s Seafood Restaurant and Neyow’s Creole Cafe serve some decadent grilled oysters. Nom!
Walk into Bacchanal (600 Poland Avenue) and you’ll think you’re in your everyday wine shop; however, step into their backyard and you’ll find the most ambient and energetic outdoor party you’ve ever seen. The grass is littered with tables and chairs (they even provide bug spray), with the entire scene illuminated by whimsical lights strung from the trees. There’s also a small stage where local performers play only their own original music. It’s unlike any wine bar you’ve ever been to.
III) THINGS TO DO IN NEW ORLEANS
I’ll be honest – my favourite things to do in New Orleans is to walk around aimlessly, admire its architectural gems, click some photographs of its picture perfect pastel houses, or just listen to jazz on the roadside while munching on a Po’ Boy. Having said that here are some other experiences we enjoyed in New Orleans
- St. Louis Cathedral
St. Louis Cathedral is the focal point of all activity in the French Quarter. The area is usually swarming with musicians, horse carriages, and tourists. But don’t let that dissuade you! Because this doesn’t detract from the charm of St. Louis Cathedral or the surrounding area. The best place to get a photo of the area with the Cathedral is the Artillery Park
- St. Charles Tramway
New Orleans’ has a sprawling network of public transport. Trams connect various areas of the city. But they aren’t just used for commuting! St. Charles Tramway is a vintage tram car that is still used to ferry commuters and tourists through some of the most scenic neighbourhoods of New Orleans. It’s a cost-efffective way of seeing the city without purchasing an expensive hop-on, hop-off tour. 1 ticket costs just $1.25 and a day pass for unlimited rides costs $3 .Just hop on and enjoy the ride. Whenever you get bored, just get off and take the tram back to the city centre. We went all the way to the end and loved it!
- St. Claude’s Corridor
St. Claude’s Corridor is one of the oldest areas of New Orleans. It houses some gorgeous architectural gems but it has undergone a renaissance following Hurricane Katrina. No wonder it is fast becoming one of New Orleans’ most bohemian and edgy districts. The area is home to independent eateries, dance studios, boutiques, street art haunts, and so much more. Here’s a short guide to St. Claude’s Corridor.
- Archetypal New Orleans Experiences
Here are some more experiences, unique to New Orleans. Put them on your itinerary for a memorable experience in the city:
- If you’re in the mood for a languorous stroll, go for a romantic walk by The Mississippi River
- Sit in your hotel room’s private balcony and enjoy the music floating in from the French Quarter as you sip on a glass of wine.
- Hop onto a horse carriage or walk around the French Quarter – take in New Orleans’ vintage signboards, voodoo shops, and its unique culture.
- Get on the Algiers ferry and cross over to Algiers Point to get a gorgeous view of the New Orleans skyline at sunset. The ferry runs regularly and costs $2 per person each way. Take a walk in the neighbourhood once you get off the ferry and as the sun begins to dip, walk along the river on the Mississippi River Trail to get stunning views of NOLA’s skyline and the sun setting behind the skyscrapers.
IV) WHERE TO FIND MUSIC IN NEW ORLEANS
Music runs through the veins of New Orleans. It’s what makes the city uber special. You will need to go far to find music in New Orleans – there jazz quartets at street corners, lone violinists playing outside restaurants, and Jazz and Blues festivals in the park. Having said that, here are some of our favourite places in New Orleans to find music that will transport you to wonderland:
- Frenchmen Street
Frenchmen street is a short walk away from the glaring neon lights and mediocre music of Bourbon Street. Here vintage shop fronts and wooden signs form the backdrop for some amazing live music. Try walking around the Faubourg Marigny neighbourhood!
- The Tremé
This won’t come as any surprise to you if you’ve watched the hit TV series on HBO titled Tremé. Most tourists don’t venture outside the French Quarter but the Tremé is one of the best places to find live music in New Orleans. We timed our visit to coincide with the Annual Tremé Fall Fest and loved all the free concerns in and around Jackson Square at the time. After all it’s hard to beat a spot of free jazz in the park!
- Jazz Bars
There are plenty of jazz bars dotting the city. Bourbon Street is perfect if you want to party the night away but most of the music you’ll find there is mediocre. For something special look up little-known places such as Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits. The outdoor garden here is peppered with vintage tables and fairy lights. Live music and good wine are always on the menu. There are many such eateries and bars in New Orleans – just follow your ears and let them lead you to a quaint musical venue every night 🙂
We’ve also heard great things about Musicians’ Village in the Upper Ninth Ward but we couldn’t visit it during our short getaway in New Orleans.
V) COFFEE IN NEW ORLEANS
This is Bruised Passports and we don’t wrap up city guides without some coffee haunts. Oh no! Café Dumond and a host of other cafés around the city serve traditional filter coffee but if you’re a third-wave coffee geek and like your cuppa to hit all the right spots, then you will have to hunt hard in New Orleans. Surprisingly there aren’t too many third-wave coffee shops in the city (although that is fast changing!). Here are two little gems in the French Quarter that we frequented during our time in New Orleans:
- Addiction Coffeehouse : The aptly titled ‘Addiction’ serves locally-sourced coffee. Addiction’s coffee is from New Orleans based French Truck Coffee. The coffee shop is located on a quiet street in the French Quarter and offers a perfect respite from the hustle bustle of the surrounding streets. Drop by for a quiet cuppa or get your computer and work here for a while.
- Spitfire Coffee: This coffee shop, located in the French Quarter, is as tiny as it gets. But what it lacks in space, it makes up in taste. Everything from pour overs and espressos to flat whites and ice coffees are on offer at Spitfire.
Salon By Sucre, Revelator Coffee Company, and French Truck Café are some other good options, depending on the area you’re staying in.
Heading to USA soon? Read all our experiences from America 🙂