Updated January 2016: I’ve visited New Orleans five times now, and have stayed in the French Quarter and just outside. My top tip for visiting the city of jazz is to stay IN the French Quarter. It’s where you’ll spend most of your time and there’s lots of walking and exploring to do here.
Behind all those little shuttered windows of gaily painted buildings and wrought iron balcony railings above are courtyards, swimming pools, gardens and patios of the boutique hotels hidden from view but right on the doorstep of all the action of the French Quarter.
I stayed here for four nights, just one block from Bourbon Street. Next door is May Baily’s bar, a former bordello, for a cheeky splash of an evening and breakfast is in the Audubon room where John James Audubon painted his famous Birds of America series from 1821-22 while residing at the Audubon Cottages next door. I had a street front room which can be noisy when folks stumble out of nearby bars at 2am. But this is a wonderful character hotel and for the convenience of being so close to said bars, restaurants, shopping, a short stroll to Jackson Square and famous Cafe du Monde, I’d recommend it. They also have valet parking.
After a huge $30m refurb, the Royal Sonesta on Bourbon Street is an elegant and luxurious gem of a hotel. It’s deceptively huge with 483 rooms hiding a pool in the back surrounded by loungers. Some rooms have French doors onto the balcony overlooking it (mine!) I was staying with my cousin so we loved the two queen beds and huge bathroom with plenty of room to unpack and drop off our constant supply of “show-and-tells” from the surrounding shops.
Their jazz lounge is a great venue with no cover charge for live music except for Wednesdays when for $15 you can see the legendary Irvin Mayfield and his band from the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra from 9pm till midnight. Directly across the road on Bourbon is Cafe Beignet with live music all day and Southern style fast food.
Half a block from Bourbon Street is this trendy, chic boutique hotel. I wandered through Vive bar to have a peek at the courtyard and heated saltwater pool with lounge furniture. This is where the hipsters stay in a stylish 4-star hotel. Happy hour is Monday to Friday from 5-7pm ($5 house wines, $3 domestic beers) and on Wednesday nights they have Deals for Heels where cocktails are discounted 10-50% depending on the height of your heels (if you dare, those streets are higgledy piggledy!) So even if you’re not staying, pop in for a drink and a look around. You’ll probably choose this hotel next time!
I poked my head in here to see this awesome courtyard open up hidden behind the walls of this luxury boutique hotel. As it happened the presidential suite was available for me to have a gander through. The owner has classy taste. Not only are the furnishings and antiques completely covetable, but the rooms are bigger than most in the city, Egyptian cotton bed linens and granite tile in the bathrooms. This is a five star hotel – and they don’t charge for WiFi! Oh and you’re half a block from Bourbon and Royal Streets.
These newly multi-million dollar renovated cottages are hidden behind a private door in the wall on Dauphine Street (a block from Bourbon). It’s leafy and tranquil back here and I had a peek in one of the 2 bedroom cottages with their own little courtyard. There is a saltwater pool – said to be the oldest in New Orleans. This would be ideal for a group booking – and often it’s snapped up by the many wedding parties that come to New Orleans to tie the knot. Again, the attention to detail in the furnishings is gorgeous and on the coffee table lies a copy of one of the most expensive books in the world, John James Audubon’s book of paintings of American birds. The original sold for $30million!
This hotel has also undergone a multi-million dollar restoration and it’s now a upscale hotel with heaps of history. It’s regal and elegant with plush furniture under chandeliers, adjacent to Jackson Square, which is a fantastic place to enjoy street musicians and local artists who hang their wares on the iron railings, you’re also only half a block from Bourbon Street.
If you’re looking for some cool things to do in New Orleans, I loved this three-hour cycle tour around the French Quarter (which included a stop for beignets!) You can read my post here >>
And here’s my post on some of the best cocktail bars in New Orleans and their amazing history!