I’m a local to New Orleans and in this post I’ll guide you to the best places to stay in New Orleans. We’ll cover exactly where to stay in New Orleans for different budgets and travel goals.
We’ll start with a summary of my quick picks for the top hotels, before deep diving into the pros and cons of the 6 most popular neighborhoods for staying in New Orleans.
If you read until the end, I’ll share a few insider tips that’ll help you experience the best things to do in New Orleans like a local.
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Best Places to Stay in New Orleans
Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in New Orleans? Here are my top picks for the best hotels in New Orleans:
- 🏆 Best Overall Hotel – Hotel Monteleone
- ✨ Best Luxury Hotel – The Windsor Court
- 👨👩👧👦 Best for Families – Residence Inn by Marriott French Quarter Area
- 👔 Best for Business – Kimpton Hotel Fontenot
- 🏨 Best Boutique – Hotel Peter and Paul
- 💵 Best Value – Marsh Hotel
- 💑 Best For Couples – Maison Perrier Bed and Breakfast
Prefer to stay in an apartment rental? You can find several great options on VRBO.
Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the 6 best areas and neighborhoods when choosing where to stay in New Orleans:
6 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in New Orleans
New Orleans is known as the Crescent City because of the shape of the Mississippi River as it bends through this funky paradise.
It’s fitting, then, that New Orleanians tend to think more in terms of “upriver” and “downriver” than north, south, east, and west. The French Quarter and the Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods lie downriver of bustling Canal Street. The Warehouse District and Uptown are upriver.
The French Quarter is the center of the city’s attractions. It’s what people usually picture when they hear the “Big Easy.” However, in this post, I’ll tell you about several other neighborhoods in New Orleans within a quick walk of this hot spot. Each is its own delight.
To help understand the city’s layout, check out this great map showing the major New Orleans neighborhoods.
The French Quarter
The most popular choice for where to stay in New Orleans is the French Quarter (also known as the Vieux Carre). It is the historic and cultural heart of New Orleans. It’s where you’ll find Bourbon Street, the famous nightlife thoroughfare of the city. It’s also a frequent destination for Bachelor/Bachelorette parties and revelers.
The neighborhood is also famous for its distinctive French and Spanish Creole architecture. The entire neighborhood is considered a National Historic Landmark.
The New Orleans French Quarter follows the curve of the Mississippi River. Esplanade Avenue borders the Quarter on the downriver side and Canal Street on the upriver end.
Historic attractions include St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, St. Louis Cemetery, Preservation Hall, Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (now a bar), and antique stores on Royal Street.
Staying in the French Quarter provides easy access to many popular New Orleans attractions, including pub crawls and ghost tours.
And you’ll be near fine dining like Antoine’s (the oldest restaurant in the city, established in 1840) or Arnaud’s (which serves classic Creole cuisine).
While pricier than some other places to stay in New Orleans, the convenience of the Quarter can’t be beat. This historic area definitely checks the box for classic New Orleans ambiance and architecture.
Pros of Staying in the French Quarter:
- Walking distance to most major attractions
- Do not have to worry about transportation after a night on the town
- Aesthetically unique and vibrant: surrounded by stunning architecture
- Allows you to make the most of a shorter visit
Cons of Staying in the French Quarter:
- Difficult and expensive parking if you have a car
- The best restaurants tend to be historic and expensive; fewer exceptional budget restaurants
- Your hotel may be noisy at night due to the nightlife scene
- The French Quarter–especially Bourbon Street–is not always child-friendly
📚 French Quarter Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Nightlife and Old New Orleans Restaurants
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in French Quarter, New Orleans
🍽️ Where to Eat – Antoine’s ($$$), Arnaud’s ($$$), Cafe Du Monde ($)
🍸 Where to Drink – The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, Pat O’Brien’s, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar, The Old Absinthe House
The Central Business District
The Central Business District is the center of commerce and business and is often referred to as “downtown.” It is located upriver of the French Quarter and downriver of the Uptown area.
The Central Business District is an easy walk or quick ride from the French Quarter. While culturally less distinct than the Quarter, it can provide a quieter place to stay that’s still close to the main attractions.
Some of the most renowned luxury hotels are also located in the CBD – including the Windsor Court, the Roosevelt, and the Four Seasons. Additionally, sports fans will have easy access to the Superdome (where the Saints play) and the Smoothie King Center (where the Pelicans take the court).
Pros of Staying in the Central Business District:
- Cheaper, quieter, and cleaner than the Quarter
- Walking distance of the French Quarter
- Proximity to sporting events
Cons of Staying in the Central Business District:
- The walk from the French Quarter can feel questionable at night
- Less of the traditional New Orleans European aesthetic
- Fewer restaurant and bar options than in the French Quarter or Warehouse District
📚 Central Business District Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay Downtown
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in the Central Business District
🍽️ Where to Eat – Johnny Sanchez ($$), Mother’s ($$), Domenica ($$), Bésame ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – The Sazerac Bar, Bar Loa, Chandelier Bar
The Warehouse District
While the Warehouse District is a little further from the French Quarter than the CBD, it brings some stellar attractions to the table. The WWII Museum could easily occupy an entire day for history lovers. For art lovers, Julia Street is chock full of art galleries.
If you are a foodie, the Warehouse District could also be a good choice for where to stay in New Orleans. In my opinion as a local, the Warehouse District offers some of the most unique and delicious dining options in the city. You’ll find fewer Old New Orleans institutions than in the Quarter. However, the Warehouse District makes up for that by bringing real energy and creativity to the city’s already-noteworthy dining scene.
And for those drawn to repurposed buildings and down-to-earth industrial grunge, the Warehouse District offers a funky and unique ambiance.
Pros of Staying in the Warehouse District:
- Some of the best bars, art galleries, and restaurants in New Orleans
- Proximity to the convention center
- Several world-class museums
Cons of Staying in the Warehouse District:
- The walk from the French Quarter can feel questionable at night
- Further walk to the Quarter than the CBD
- The artistic but industrial aesthetic might not be for everyone
📚 Warehouse District Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay Downtown
🍽️ Where to Eat – Peche ($$$), Cochon ($$), Cochon Butcher ($), St. James Cheese Company ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Pluck Wine Bar, Bar Marilou, Barcadia
The adjacent Faubourg Marigny (Marigny) and Bywater districts are downriver of the French Quarter. They are primarily residential and speckled with small, locally-owned businesses and charming B&Bs.
The Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods have a funky, bohemian aesthetic and the people tend to march to a countercultural beat. The architecture is dominated by colorful shotgun cottages. These are great choices for where to stay in New Orleans if you’re looking to get a taste of local culture and experience a more authentic side of New Orleans.
Locals will tell you that “Frenchmen Street is the new Bourbon Street.” Much of the homegrown live music and Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler spirit can now be found on Frenchmen Street and inside its jazz clubs after dusk. Choosing to stay in the Marigny or Bywater will put you within walking distance from all that bustling Frenchman Street has to offer.
Pros of Staying in the Marigny/Bywater Neighborhood:
- Short walk to Frenchmen Street and a manageable walk to the French Quarter
- Small, local restaurants and bars
- Cute B&Bs slightly outside the bustle of the French Quarter
Cons of Staying in the Marigny/Bywater Neighborhood:
- Not as many hotel options
- The areas around Frenchman Street can be loud late into the night
- There could be isolated and dark parts of the walk between your hotel and Frenchman Street or the French Quarter
📚 Marigny/Bywater Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Offbeat Local Culture and Live Jazz Music
🍽️ Where to Eat – The Country Club ($$), Bratz Y’All ($$), Dat Dog on Frenchman Street ($)
🍸 Where to Drink – Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits, Vaughan’s Lounge, The Spotted Cat, Snug Harbor
Uptown New Orleans is where you might spot Old South socialites swinging on their mansion porches, drinking Mint Juleps. This is particularly true in the beautiful Garden District. And given some of the stellar boutique hotels in the neighborhood, you can moonlight as one of these lucky southerners as well.
For those with a taste for fine architecture, St. Charles Avenue provides miles of gawking. And with its proximity to Audubon Park (with walking paths and horseback riding) as well as the phenomenal Audubon Zoo, uptown is also a great destination for families with kids.
Uptown is also home to some of the city’s finest dining establishments (like the venerable Commander’s Palace) and hip craft breweries. Magazine Street, one of the main thoroughfares of the neighborhood, is full of great dining and shopping options.
Pros of Staying in Uptown:
- The Garden District and Audubon Park are extremely safe
- Quiet and beautiful oasis in the city
- Easy access to parks and the zoo
Cons of Staying in Uptown:
- Will have to hire a car or take the St. Charles streetcar line downtown
- Less nightlife
- Expensive neighborhood overall
📚 Uptown Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Family Fun and Old South Charm
🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Uptown
🍽️ Where to Eat – Commander’s Palace ($$$), Atchafalaya ($$$), Shaya ($$$), The High Hat ($$), Bearcat Cafe ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – NOLA Brewing, Port Orleans Brewery, St. Joe’s Bar, Cure
Bayou St. John
While the Bayou St. John neighborhood near City Park is the furthest from the French Quarter, it can still be a great choice for where to stay in New Orleans if you’re visiting for Jazz Fest. The Jazz and Heritage Festival occurs annually and features both local and world-famous performers. There are other festivals that take place at the New Orleans Fairgrounds, which is also a horse racing venue.
Even outside of Jazz Fest, City Park is absolutely worth a visit. There, you’ll find New Orleans- and Louisiana-themed putt-putt, a small amusement park for kids, an adorable train garden with miniature replicas of New Orleans buildings, and the New Orleans Botanical Garden.
Around Christmas, the park is filled with a wonderful light display. It’s also home to the New Orleans Museum of Art and its free sculpture garden, which is a gem to stroll through.
And if you love water sports, Bayou St. John is a great jumping-off point. Kayak and gondola tours meander through City Park itself and there are stand-up paddleboards and swan boats for rent as well. Or explore the adjacent Bayou St. John for which the neighborhood is named.
Pros of Staying in Bayou St. John:
- Proximity to City Park
- Easy walk to Jazz Fest
- Access to nature and a beautiful bayou
Cons of Staying in Bayou St. John:
- Furthest neighborhood from the French Quarter
- Mostly quiet and residential
- Not many hotel options
📚 Bayou St. John Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for the Outdoors and Jazz Fest
🍽️ Where to Eat – Liuzza’s By the Track ($$), 1000 Figs ($$), Lola’s ($$), Blue Oak BBQ ($$)
🍸 Where to Drink – Sidney’s Saloon, Swirl Wine Bar
Tips for Staying in New Orleans
Don’t Miss the Local New Orleans Cuisine
Visiting New Orleans is like being transported to another country or world. We even have our own cuisine–and it’s delicious. While you’re here, don’t miss out on beignets (powdered donuts), jambalaya, red beans and rice, crawfish etouffee, and even blackened or fried alligator!
If you’re feeling skittish, make your way to Dat Dog, where you can get an alligator sausage hot dog topped with crawfish etouffee.
If you visit in the spring, try some boiled crawfish. If you visit in the summer, swing by a snowball stand.
If You Visit for Mardi Gras, Venture Out of the French Quarter
The biggest Mardi Gras parades happen outside the Quarter. You’ll find locals along the Mid-City parade routes and the Uptown parade route. To get the full experience as a visitor, you’ll need to plan far in advance, since crowds make both parking and Ubering difficult.
Remember that Mardi Gras is a whole season (between January 6th and Mardi Gras Day), so you’ll have multiple weekends where you can catch some parades.
For more, see my guide to the best time to visit New Orleans.
Enjoy a Ghost Tour
New Orleans has a reputation as the most haunted city in the United States. There is also plenty of lore surrounding Voodoo queens like Marie Laveau and supposed vampires that have walked our streets.
Ghost tours in New Orleans tend to be entertaining and give visitors a great sense of the city’s history, from the Yellow Fever epidemic to Hurricane Katrina.
Visit the Carousel Bar During Off Hours
The Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter is a must-see bucket list item. The Hotel Monteleone itself is historic and gorgeous, and it was a hot spot for writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The bar is an extravagant carousel that rotates (very slowly). You should definitely hit it up, but don’t expect to get a seat at the carousel on a Friday or Saturday night. Instead, consider a brunch-time mimosa on a weekday.
👉 Read Next: Best Day Trips from New Orleans
Prepare for the Heat and Humidity
The humidity in New Orleans in the summer months (and sometimes the spring and early fall) can feel like walking through pea soup. The heat index, amplified by the jarring humidity, can be in the triple digits. High humidity makes it more difficult for the body to cool itself, increasing the risk of heat illness.
Especially if you’re not acclimated or are traveling with children or the elderly, factor in breaks from the heat inside an air-conditioned building. Always carry a water bottle, and consider carrying cooling towels. Seek medical care if you experience signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Prepare for the Rain
Many afternoons in the summer usher in a torrential downpour. If you see rain in the forecast, don’t panic–the storms are often brief. However, they can also be violent. Be prepared with rain boots and an umbrella, and seek shelter if there’s lightning overhead.
Tour a Cemetery
New Orleans graveyards are sometimes known as “Cities of the Dead.” They’re full of above-ground mausoleums because the New Orleans water table is so high that floods can unearth buried remains. These “cities” make for some eerie but beautiful exploration. Some popular cemeteries are St. Louis #1 and Lafayette #1.
Some cemeteries require a tour guide to enter, so check the policy ahead of time. Even if a tour guide is not required, hiring one can often be a good idea because isolated cemeteries can pose a crime and safety risk.
You Can Take Your Alcohol to Go in New Orleans
As strange as it seems to many visitors, you can get your beer or your hurricane cocktail in a to-go cup and parade with it to your next bar. Just remember not to carry glass containers–your bartender will give you a plastic cup.
New Orleans Streetcars Only Take Cash
Streetcars are a cheap (albeit slow) way to get around the city. Just make sure you’ve got cash and exact change for the fare. A one-way trip is $1.25.
The St. Charles Streetcar is an Activity Unto Itself
Even if you don’t have anywhere to go, a ride on the street car down St. Charles is a great way to see the amazing mansions that line this avenue. They are stunning, particularly when they’re decorated for Christmas or Mardi Gras.
Park Outside the French Quarter
Parking (and driving) in the French Quarter are tough and should be avoided. Instead, opt to park on the outskirts of the Quarter in either direction. Head towards Rampart St. or Esplanade.
If you want to head to Uptown, there is often parking on Magazine or its side streets. Most street parking is short-term pay-to-park. You have the option of using a kiosk or texting a number that you’ll see on a nearby sign. I recommend using the text option because the machines are often glitchy and you might end up paying twice.
Make sure you read the no parking signs along the street. Some specifically refer to no parking during parades – if it’s not Mardi Gras, you’re probably safe.
Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
As I explain in my article on safety in New Orleans, the city’s neighborhoods have variable crime rates.
Tourists are sometimes the targets of petty theft on Bourbon Street or in cemeteries, and it is inadvisable to walk in dark or isolated areas, especially without a group. When in doubt, check this interactive New Orleans crime map when making plans.
Snap the classic New Orleans Postcard Photo
To snap the classic New Orleans photo of St. Louis Cathedral, head to Jackson Square in the French Quarter. Cut straight across Jackson Square from St. Louis Cathedral to Decatur Street, and carefully cross Decatur. Go up the steps to the Mississippi River levee. From there, look back at the cathedral, and you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
While you’re there, you might as well grab some beignets from the adjacent Cafe du Monde!
Try a Sazerac
For those who enjoy a beverage, no trip to New Orleans would be complete without sampling the city’s most famous cocktails. The Sazerac is one of the most notable cocktails native to the Big Easy. It’s a mix of rye whiskey, absinthe (yes, it’s legal in modern times), Peychaud’s bitters, and sugar. The origins of the cocktail can supposedly be traced back to the bitters created at a local pharmacy.
The Sazerac House offers a free tour of their cocktail museum and complimentary tastings of some of the most famous local drinks.
The Old Absinthe House is a great venue to try absinthe prepared traditionally. Sugar from a cube in a slotted spoon is slowly dissolved and dripped into the absinthe.
FAQs About Where to Stay in New Orleans
Where should I stay in New Orleans for the first time?
The French Quarter is the best area of New Orleans to stay if visiting for the first time. The French Quarter is within walking distance of most of New Orleans’s main tourist attractions and stunning architecture. You can also stay just adjacent to the French Quarter in the Central Business District (CBD) or Warehouse District.
Regardless, you’ll want to make sure you’re within walking distance of Bourbon Street, Royal Street, Jackson Square, and Canal Street.
The French Quarter has access to the streetcar line, so you’ll be able to jet off to other interesting parts of town without a car. You can take the Canal Street line to City Park, where you can explore the New Orleans Botanical Garden, visit the Louisiana Children’s Museum, play putt-putt, and see a train garden with New Orleans depicted in miniature.
You can even take the St. Charles streetcar line uptown to see the historic mansions in the Garden District, visit Audubon Park, tour Lafayette Cemetery, or shop on Magazine Street.
Is it better to stay in the French Quarter or downtown New Orleans?
For first-time visitors, it is better to stay in the French Quarter than downtown New Orleans. Staying right in the New Orleans French Quarter ensures a central location with easy access to many of the attractions in New Orleans. These include the nightlife on Bourbon Street, the Saenger theater on Canal Street, St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, antique shops on Royal Street, and the Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River.
The French Quarter also has accommodations for everyone–from the best luxury hotels in the city to historic hotels to hostels. You’ll be surrounded by unique Creole architecture and live music.
However, if you do decide to stay in the New Orleans downtown neighborhood, just make sure you still have easy access to the city center. Some of the benefits of staying downtown are more affordable accommodations, some of the most interesting boutique New Orleans hotels, and some really stellar dining options.
For a first-time visitor, staying in the French Quarter, or the center of town, can’t be beat. You’ll be within walking distance of most tourist attractions like Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, and the Mississippi River.
A few other neighborhoods could be great options as well. These include downtown (the Central Business District or Warehouse District), the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods, or Uptown and the Garden District. If you’re coming for Jazz Fest, definitely consider the Bayou St. John neighborhood near City Park and the New Orleans Fairgrounds.
I hope I’ve helped you figure out where to stay in New Orleans!
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