How to explore New Orleans’ beautiful Garden District

Destinations

Lucky for both residents and visitors, the beautiful Garden District of New Orleans lives up to its name. There are few areas as as pleasant anywhere in town.

Here, you’ll find spreading live oak trees and shaded lanes, whirring streetcars and college students on a stroll, mansions and apartment buildings that resemble mansions, and quirky businesses. Exploring the neighborhood is a highlight of any trip to the Big Easy.

Here’s our guide to New Orleans’ Garden District.

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Where to find the Garden District of New Orleans

The area is part of uptown New Orleans – meaning upriver from the Mississippi River. (“Downtown” – ie downriver – neighborhoods include the French Quarter.) Rather confusingly, it is not part of the neighborhood of (capital-U) Uptown, which lies nearby.

While the Quarter was settled by the first Creole (French and Iberian) arrivals to the city, the Garden District was founded by English-speaking Americans who arrived in the early 19th century wishing to distance themselves from Francophone New Orleans.

The Garden District is the fancy part of town, where some of the city’s most opulent mansions got built. In the 21st century, you can still spot some of those historic mansions, as well as more contemporary signposts of wealth like yoga studios and locavore fine-dining establishments.

The Garden District has some of New Orleans’ grandest and most beautiful mansions © Shutterstock / Jade3234

Admire grand historic homes on St Charles Ave

One of the most beautiful urban thoroughfares in the country, St Charles Ave forms the northern border of the Garden District. All along its length, St Charles is fronted by a grand assemblage of mansions – whose architectural beauty and sheer number are hard to beat. The best way to see St Charles is by taking one of the dark-green streetcars that trundle the length and breadth of the Garden District. Like hundreds of locals, you can also jog along the “neutral ground” (median) that divides the street, and houses the streetcar tracks.

Pro tip: Prytania St, which runs parallel to St Charles, is also packed with gorgeous historic homes.

Shop independent stores along Magazine St

The southern border of the Garden District, Magazine St lacks enormous, opulent homes yet offers a slew of businesses catering to both college students and well-heeled locals. This commercial area was once famous for consistently almost entirely of independent boutiques – though rising property values, rents and taxes mean that chains have recently arrived. Houses here are on a smaller scale than around St Charles, since the mansions that once lined the street got subdivided into smaller lots.

Rows of tombs at the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana
Lafayette Cemetery is one of the most famous sights in New Orleans © Tiago_Fernandez / Getty Images

Stroll the famous gothic Lafayette Cemetery No 1

Because of its low elevation and high water table, New Orleans residents were traditionally “buried” in “cities of the dead” full of above-ground tombs and mausoleums. Of all the iconic graveyards in New Orleans, few can match the sheer gothic creepiness of Lafayette No 1, where vines and vegetation grow up and around ornate funerary monuments.

Order a classic sandwich from Stein’s Deli

The po’boy is the iconic New Orleans sandwich – yet if you’re looking for something else delicious served between two pieces of bread, it’s hard to beat this Stein’s Deli on Magazine St. This is classic Northeast lunch-counter fare: Reubens, corned beef specials, Italian hoagies, etc., all served alongside refrigerators full of good beer by a staff that brooks no nonsense. The ordering procedure may feel weird on crowded days (which are most days): just find the end of the line, wait a while and order with confidence.

The bright blue facade of Commander's Palace restaurant in the Garden District of in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
The decadent Commander’s Palace restaurant is a landmark of New Orleans’ Garden District © William A Morgan / Shutterstock

Indulge in fine Creole cuisine Commander’s Palace

New Orleans is famous for grand-dame fine-dining temples to Creole cuisine, which blends the sauce-y richness of French gastronomy with African and Native American techniques and local ingredients. Of all the legacy restaurants in the city, few have the sheer institutional presence of Commander’s Palace. Housed in a turquoise-and-white mansion you can practically see from space, the restaurant has an enormous white-linen dining hall that’s welcomed generations of New Orleanians looking to indulge the city’s signature rich gastronomy. It all tastes better together with a 25-cent-martini lunch special, a decadent idea for a midday feast.

Grab a drink at the unassuming Verret’s Lounge

In a neighborhood that is understandably considered fancy, Verret’s Lounge is an appealingly scruffy dive bar where youngsters rub elbows with grizzled regulars, and everyone has a good time. The vibe is friendly, unassuming and decidedly old-school – no bespoke craft cocktails here.

Refill with a healthy bowl at Poke Loa

Poke is hardly traditional New Orleans fare, yet (as everywhere) it’s increasingly popular, reflecting the trends of healthy eating, superfoods and gluten-free ingredients. These bowls also delicious, and Poke Loa, popular with students and a business crowd, is a great spot for a fix.

Enjoy a sundowner in the fairy lights strewn Bulldog courtyard 

Popular with Tulane students and alumni, post-shift doctors, suits getting off work and really anyone who likes a good beer, the Bulldog boasts dozens of brews, all served in an easygoing atmosphere. The big draw is a courtyard complete with a fountain formed from a long row of beer taps.

Musicians playing in front of shop on Magazine Street
Catch buskers between indie shopping, dining or drinking on Magazine St © Shutterstock / William A. Morgan

Embrace the romance of the Sully Mansion B&B

This beautiful, tidy bed-and-breakfast offers a quintessential Garden District stay, with fine accommodations and an upscale but casual aesthetic. Here’s your chance to sleep in – rather than just gawk at – a historic mansion. It’s got all the bells and whistles you’d expect: a wedding cake design, garden, breezy terrace and enormous wraparound porch.

Enjoy chic contemporary style at Henry Howard Hotel

Located just east of the Garden District, the Henry Howard occupies a converted 1867 double-gallery townhouse, nicely balancing an exposed-brick historic vibe with a minimalist-chic design sensibility. The property is within easy walking distance of the lively nightlife scene of the Lower Garden District – the next neighborhood over from the Garden District, so named because it is further downriver.

Take your pet to Hotel Indigo New Orleans Garden District

This branch of the self-consciously bohemian Indigo boutique chain offers familiar comfort and amenities in the neighborhood. Iconic New Orleans photographs are displayed amid the brand’s signature contemporary-for-everyone design palette. Notably, this is a pet-friendly business, which can be rare for hotels in town.

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