New Orleans, Louisiana (often abbreviated to NOLA) is guaranteed to be like nowhere else you've ever been! It has one of the most vibrant scenes in the United States and a big, colourful personality that's all its own.
It’s mainly famous for festive annual affairs like Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, though this lively hotspot has so much more to offer than just partying on Bourbon Street. It’s no wonder it has made so many people’s bucket lists as a dream destination.
NOLA boasts fantastic cuisine, renowned cultural sites, rich history, delightful diversity, stunning scenery, oddities galore, and an overall enchanting Southern charm that will have you falling hard for the Big Easy in no time. It’s a fairly spread out city, so deciding where exactly to stay can be a bit of a challenge.
Luckily, we’ve mapped out all the best boroughs to base your adventures from so you discover the city that’s known for marching to the beat of its own drum.
Set just upriver from the French Quarter, the Uptown District is the best place to start for any NOLA newcomers. It’s just far enough away from the chaos of the crowded party centres of the city while everything still feels super close and accessible.
Uptown includes the St. Charles Streetcar at your doorstep. Easily the most charming and convenient way to navigate the sprawling streets, it also happens to run along one of the most iconic roads in the city. It’s home to the two major universities here, Loyola and Tulane, though the neighbourhood feels more residential than student-oriented.
Magazine Street, one of the coolest drags around, is just a short walk away through the beautiful park Audubon Park. Here you’ll be able to enjoy streets lined with historic homes and giant oak trees, adorable cafes, quaint eateries, and bustling bars, as well as some of the best independent shops around.
Oak Street is another gem for lowkey local haunts including live music venues, art galleries, and antique stores. There’s an abundance of cool Airbnbs and restored historic hotels to stay in this area for any preferred price point.
Stay at the Park View Historic Hotel in an elegant 1884 mansion offering rooms with period furnishings with breakfast included.
The Garden District is renowned for its scores of grand mansions and breathtaking verdant spaces. It’s also a serenely quiet sect of the city, making it an idyllic spot to cozy up with a loved one. Even a sweet little stroll holding hands will transport you back to a bygone era of beauty in the Big Easy.
The aesthetics alone are enough to entice any couple to embrace the inherent romance of NOLA. It’s home to an array of highly regarded eateries as well, so an intimate date night or two is a must.
Check Commander's Palace for a special night out on the town, pack a picnic with goodies from Turkey and the Wolf, or go for a boozy weekend brunch at Ruby Slipper. Everything from budget to luxury accommodation options exists here, so you’ll easily find the perfect place to stay for any style.
You’ll find beautiful boutiques and artisan craft stores galore, along with galleries and upscale bars. It’s also conveniently located close to the major attractions, though you may be inclined to skip venturing out of this nest of a neighbourhood entirely. Hit up the Garden District Marketplace to find a little bit of everything that makes this city great.
Stay at the beautiful Sully Mansion for a relaxing and romantic trip
Bayou St. John is often referred to as the crown jewel of the city by those in the know. It’s a tiny enclave that offers a quiet residential atmosphere that’s ideal for families. It’s technically a subdistrict of Mid-City, though it feels worlds apart. The small community atmosphere here will have the whole clan feeling super safe and comfortable straight away.
Being set right on the idyllic waterway, outdoor adventure is easy to come by, whether it's simple hikes or some leisurely paddling. There are plenty of family-friendly beer gardens and po boy shops for enjoying regional eats and Bayou Road is a historic stretch boasting a charming collection of speciality shops.
Bayou St. John is only a quick ride away from the major attractions like the French Quarter and all the coolest museums. It’s a great place to learn more about the captivating history of the city as even casual walks around the neighbourhood reveal incredible tidbits about Creole culture and heritage.
It’s also known for hosting several festivals throughout the year, including Bayou Boogaloo and Greek Fest which are fun for all ages. It has its fair share of green spaces, with plenty of parks for the kids to play in, including Lafitte Greenway and City Park. For a peaceful setting that little ones will love, Bayou St. John is the perfect place to stay.
Stay in a traditional house with room for the whole family
Just downriver from the French Quarter lies the little known gems Marigny and Bywater. These conjoined districts are rapidly becoming the coolest spots to stay in NOLA for those in the know, especially anyone with a strict budget. Sure, they’re set a bit outside of the city centres, but we guarantee they have everything you need!
A new haven for the young and hip, both Marigny and Bywater boast Creole-style cottages housing art galleries, funky shops, and eclectic eateries. Dr Bob's Folk Art, Euclid Records, Harold's Plants, and Bacchanal all deserve stop-ins for sure.
Crescent Park is right on the riverfront here and provides endless free ways to enjoy the enchanting nature of NOLA. There are some smaller inns and cute B&Bs to consider, though many of the bigger hotels haven’t moved in yet.
St. Claude Avenue is home to healthy cafes and cute bars but Frenchman Street is the true cultural strip of the area. It has become the more authentic (and affordable) alternative to the French Quarter for music lovers and cheap travellers alike. The slightly subdued and bohemian vibe make Marigny and Bywater the best base for budget-conscious cool kids in New Orleans.
Stay at Hotel Peter and Paul located in a renovated 19th Century convent
Located just across Canal Street, CBD is a bustling borough that was traditionally centred around all the big business buildings. Covered in high rises it’s also referred to as the downtown of Crescent City. However, it’s since developed into a hip hub for all the best food and drink that New Orleans has to offer, especially in the newly coined South Market section.
It all started with Emeril's and today includes the trendy Warehouse District, a haven for the thriving arts scene of the city, evident with only a wander down Julia Street. The CBD is also home to famous theatres and arenas if you wish to catch a performance or a sporting event after a foodie feast.
All of New Orleans’ most talked about restaurants can be found in the CBD, from Cochon to Peche. Happening modern hotels and landmark legendary accommodations abound as well, often boasting rooftop bars with sweeping views of the skyline. Walkability to the French Quarter makes it an appealing area as well.
For modern Creole cuisine try August, Luke serves up enticing international fares, Le Chat Noir has the most impressive vegetable-forward food, and Italian eats from Domenica come highly recommended. Always start the day at Willa Jean and be sure to hit the new hottest ticket in this part of town, Chemin A la Mer.
Stay in a comfortable self-contained apartment at Girod by Sextant
Mid-City sits partway between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain. It’s known as a strong and diverse local community, meaning it’s your best bet if you're hoping to blend in and really get an authentic slice of NOLA life. It may feel a bit far out from all the most popular attractions, but the real and laidback energy away from hoards of tourists is well worth the trade-off.
Carrollton Ave is a vibrant commercial strip, full of classic bars, restaurants, and sno-ball stands that all the natives New Orleanians tend to frequent. Most people that live here have done so for generations, adding to the original and honest flair of the area.
Parkway is the favourite watering hole and for a down-home drinking haunt hit up Finn McCool's. City Park provides all the green scenery you'll need, including those iconic moss-covered oaks. This borough is covered in charming B&Bs, bigger hotel chains, and quaint apartments to rent. It's so unpretentious and super liveable that you'll quickly realize why it's the go-to for any long term residents.
Its lowkey feel doesn’t mean it’s without any landmarks at all. Check out the NOMA, New Orleans Museum of Art, as it has one of the coolest collections of works in the country. The New Orleans Botanical Gardens offer an opportunity for a tranquil escape from city streets as well.
Stay in a colourful townhouse in a very convenient location close to the streetcar line. There's also parking, if you're driving.
Planning a trip to New Orleans? Read our travel tips from a NOLA local.
Last Updated 8 April 2022