Since the 1800s, New Orleans has been divided into seventeen numbered wards, but you’ll rarely hear a neighborhood referred to this way (the Seventh Ward and Lower Ninth Ward are two exceptions). The city is instead carved into smaller sections within wards — often with some overlap or debate on neighborhood borders.
New Orleans is a relatively small city with practically year-round warm weather (and a user-friendly streetcar system), so it’s easy to explore the many local pockets of personality beyond the main tourist districts. You can often travel neighborhood-to-neighborhood on foot, but some longer distances and areas are safer to reach by taxi or car, especially late at night.
Here are ten neighborhoods to explore in New Orleans.
The French Quarter
The oldest and most famous neighborhood in New Orleans is where you’ll find attractions like Bourbon Street, The French Market, Jackson Square, and the St. Louis Cathedral. These touristy, popular areas often intersect with quiet side streets full of historic charm, and there are many pleasures in the French Quarter beyond its flashiest sights. Try the art galleries and antique shops of Royal Street, friendly pubs on Chartres Street, small museums, and some truly romantic restaurants.
Wandering the French Market for New Orleans souvenirs and culinary specialties is a somewhat cheesy, but essential experience for first time visitors, as is sitting down for a beignet next door at Café Du Monde. Just beyond the café’s green-and-white awnings, the neighborhood meets with the Mississippi River, where a generous boardwalk and park let you enjoy the sights and sounds of this busy American waterway.
The CBD (Central Business District) & Warehouse District
These two centrally-located neighborhoods are often grouped together and both lie between the French Quarter and the Lower Garden District. If you book a hotel in New Orleans, it’s likely you’ll find yourself in the CBD, home to many big businesses, hotels, and government buildings in New Orleans, as well as the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Next door, the Warehouse District houses many of the city’s high-end art galleries.
While not the most picturesque or exciting New Orleans neighborhoods, you’ll find some of the most prominent museums in the city here, the largest being The National WWII Museum. The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Louisiana Children’s Museum, and the Confederate Hall Memorial Museum are all within walking distance of each other (and of the WWII Museum), as are several popular restaurants like Cochon, Peche, and Compere Lapin.
An artsy area of the Upper Ninth Ward, the Bywater is a mix of industrial warehouses, colorful street art, Creole cottages, charming cafes, and lively dive bars. Crescent Park stretches along the river from the Bywater all the way to the French Market, allowing visitors to walk the curve (crescent) of the river between these New Orleans neighborhoods and watch the barges and ships chug along the Mississippi. Bywater sights are more spread out than in the neighboring Marigny or French Quarter, but some of the hip boutiques or little wine bars you’ll wander upon are full of delight, and the dive bars on its edge bring in great local music acts.
Bayou St. John
This photogenic neighborhood is nestled between The Treme, Mid City, Fair Grounds, and City Park, and can be reached on foot or bike via the Lafitte Greenway, a greenspace and pedestrian path that extends from Armstrong Park to Bayou St. John. Life here centers around the Bayou, a natural waterway and a vital trade route in New Orleans history. Extending all the way to Lake Pontchartrain, the access this waterway provided to early settlers was an important factor in planning the city and its location. Today, Bayou St. John is the site of kayakers, picnickers, the occasional music festival, and gorgeous sunsets.
The Pitot House, a preserved home and museum, is a good example of the Creole country estates that once lined the Bayou. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, you’ll find cute restaurants, coffee shops, and neighborhood bars. Just beyond Bayou St. John is the Fair Grounds, the oldest racetrack in the country and yearly host to The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Known for beauty in the form of historic mansions and lush greenery, the Garden District lies beyond the Central Business District, leading into Uptown, and is bordered by Magazine Street, Jackson, Louisiana, and and St. Charles Avenues. Downriver from the Garden District, The Lower Garden District neighborhood is less scenic overall, but is dotted with hip new businesses, restaurants, and local breweries.
In the Garden District, take a tour of historic mansions; walk through the gorgeous and eery Lafayette Cemetery No.1 (after lunch at Commander’s Palace, of course); or window shop and snack at the businesses on Magazine Street. A streetcar ride along St. Charles Avenue follows the traditional Mardi Gras parade route, with views of grand houses surrounded by live oaks, ornate lawns, and wrought-iron gates.
New Orleanians often refer to a place by its orientation to the Mississippi River (“upriver,” “downriver,” or “riverside”) rather than by cardinal directions. This is how Uptown — a neighborhood upriver from the French Quarter and older areas of the city — earned its name. Today Uptown encompasses a large area of residential homes, 19th-century architecture, university campuses, and Audubon Park and Zoo, the neighborhood’s main attraction. The park has over 300 acres of waterways, lawns, walking paths, and mossy live oaks, and you’re likely to sight the same birds that once inspired naturalist painter (and former New Orleans resident) John J. Audubon.
While it’s much quieter in this part of town, Uptown’s best music clubs, Maple Leaf Bar and Tipitina’s, rival the finest of downtown venues. Freret Street, around Tulane University, has also become a hot dining and nightlife scene.
This quaint neighborhood with a small-town feel sits across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter, easily accessed by a short ferry ride. Algiers Point is the second oldest neighborhood in the city, and its cobblestone streets and ornate shotgun houses reflect the architecture and layout of the French Quarter. “The Point” is surrounded by a high levee, and a walk/bike path along the levee provides gorgeous views of the river and downtown New Orleans. There are charming coffee shops and bars here. Time spent at a local institution like the Old Point Bar will show you this neighborhood’s colorful, quirky personality.
Right in the middle of the map, this laid-back neighborhood is easy to reach from the French Quarter via the Canal St. Streetcar. There are two Canal Street lines: one ends in New Orleans City Park, while the other takes you to several notable cemeteries. Aside from acres of swampland, bayous, lagoons, and centuries-old live oak trees, City Park is also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art and its accompanying sculpture garden. There are several good restaurants in Mid-City — with new ones popping up every day — and the bars and cafes here have a pleasant local feel.
One of the oldest areas of New Orleans, Tremé sits above the French Quarter between Rampart and Broad Streets. It was the early home of the city’s free people of color, and has been a prominent African American neighborhood throughout U.S. History. Several museums in Tremé honor the neighborhood’s history and lore: New Orleans African American Museum, Backstreet Cultural Museum and Free People of Color Museum.
In the corner of Tremé's Louis Armstrong Park, Congo Square was once the Sunday meeting place of slaves during French colonialism. The dance, music, and words created on these Sundays went on to inspire the invention of jazz music, and many consider Congo Square the birthplace of American music as we know it. Today, there are concerts often held in the Square and throughout the park. Casual jazz clubs in Treme are great places to hear the sounds of contemporary local jazz.
The Triangle-shaped Faubourg Marigny extends from St. Claude Avenue to the river, bordering the French Quarter at scenic Esplanade Avenue. Once a local’s secret, Frenchmen Street is now the Marigny’s main attraction and the most popular place to find live music in the city. This three-block section of the Marigny is jam-packed with jazz clubs and music venues, filled nightly with revelers spilling out into the street, often with a “go-cup” in hand (there’s no open container law in New Orleans). There are also a large concentration of lively gay bars in the Marigny. Nightlife lovers can plan to stay at one of the lovely boutique hotels in this neighborhood, like the Melrose Mansion or Hotel Peter & Paul.