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Calling all bon vivants

The Big Easy is synonymous with a rich stew of world-class gastronomy, vivid art and hearty partying. It’s a famously freewheeling, bohemian town that knows how to let its hair down. After all, how many cities not only tolerate but actively encourage street drinking? Some even consider New Orleans the northernmost Caribbean city. So, don your Mardi Gras beads, grab your go-cup and dive in for a full-on sensory onslaught.

Start the day right with cafe au lait and a sugary beignet from Cafe du Monde before exploring Jackson Square and the French Quarter, snooping around its museum-like antique shops such as MS Rau and James H Cohen and Sons on Royal Street. In trendy Bywater, check out the huge murals and street art around Studio Be. For prime views of the city skyline, take a cruise on the Mississippi with live jazz aboard the Steamboat Natchez. Hire a bike and cycle past glorious mansions in boho Faubourg Marigny, then refuel on a flavour-packed po’ boy from any street eatery or call in at Commander’s Palace for classic Creole cuisine and 25-cent martinis at lunchtime. Hit up Frenchman Street for the best music clubs where sweet brass-heavy jazz seems to emanate from every corner. Book your flights to New Orleans and discover this fervently fun city.

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Best hotels in New Orleans for all types of traveller

The Troubadour enjoys an enviable central location. Take in panoramic views from the hotel’s rooftop bar and sample delicious southern cuisine. The quirky International House, in the Central Business District, features rooms styled with architectural artefacts and a fun cocktail bar. InterContinental New Orleans is on St Charles Avenue on the Mardi Gras route. This AAA Four Diamond hotel offers upscale dining at the Trenasse restaurant and boasts a lovely outdoor pool. Meanwhile, the Sheraton New Orleans offers views of the Mississippi and a rooftop pool. Le Meridien New Orleans offers bike hire to discover the city’s charms on two wheels. Hyatt Centric French Quarter New Orleans is right at the heart of the action on Bourbon Street. It features rooms with high ceilings and Keurig coffee machines, and bathrooms with marble countertops and BeeKind toiletries. The Eliza Jane New Orleans is a historic hotel set in the former publishing house of a pioneering publisher of the same name. Expect floor-to-ceiling windows, a large indoor courtyard, and an elegant lounge decorated with vintage typewriters and velvet furnishings.

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New Orleans holiday FAQs

Make the most of your New Orleans holiday

There’s plenty to discover on your New Orleans holiday. Explore leafy parks, world-class museums, internationally renowned gastronomy, a surfeit of great live music and much more besides.

What are the best things to do in New Orleans?

1. Get down in the Treme. Visit the country’s oldest African American neighbourhood, which dates from 1794. Check out the Backstreet Cultural Museum, which tells the story of jazz funerals, second line parades, and the Mardi Gras Indians, with their colourful costumes and fascinating culture.

2. Hail a vintage streetcar named Desire. Tennessee Williams’ famous play was inspired by the city’s fleet of streetcars that still operate. Hop on the green St Charles Line to glide past impressive old homes in the Garden District or take the Cemeteries Line to visit the ‘cities of the dead’ with their extraordinary tombs.

3. Knock back a Sazerac or two. America’s oldest cocktail was supposedly invented in New Orleans, so you owe it to yourself to try one, preferably in the rarefied climes of the Carousel Bar in the Hotel Monteleone. The bar revolves gently, which could leave you feeling a little dizzy after one too many Sazeracs.

4. Call in at Preservation Hall. This venerable institution is perhaps the best place in the city to watch traditional live jazz of an evening, and the house band are legendary. It’s open nightly for multiple shows and with additional early shows on Saturdays and Sundays for all ages. Arrive a good 30 minutes before showtime as it’s strictly first come, first served here.

5. Swing by the New Orleans Museum of Art to take in the city’s premier collection of 40,000 pieces, spanning 5,000 years. Check out the Faberge Gallery and Native American art before taking a stroll around the adjoining Besthoff Sculpture Garden, with pieces by Henry Moore and George Segal among others.

6. No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a visit to the bayou, the swamplands that make up a hefty chunk of the surrounding landscape. Various companies offer boat tours that allow you to spot alligators and other local wildlife, including by kayak and pedal barge.

7. Far more than the carnival weekend itself, Mardi Gras in New Orleans is an entire season starting in early January, when the streets come alive with music, arts and costumed revellers. Prepare yourself for king cake, bead-tossing and parades, as events build towards a climax on Fat Tuesday. Whether it's new traditions like Krewe of Chewbacchus (with its Star Wars-inspired tomfoolery) or centuries-old stalwarts Zulu and Rex, there’s always plenty to gawp at.

8. Take in the best views in town at Vue Orleans, a 360-degree observation deck and immersive museum perched 34 storeys above the Mississippi. You can get a unique overview of the city’s 15 neighbourhoods and 60 points of interest, from history-rich urban architecture to the wetlands and waterways beyond.

Which holiday type in New Orleans is right for me?

There are plenty of good value hotels in New Orleans’ central areas. Located in the fashionable Warehouse district the Cambria New Orleans is one of the city’s top rated hotels on TripAdvisor. See why with its local Creole cuisine and modern in-room technology. NOPSI New Orleans is set in an architecturally unique elegant industrial building in the heart of the Central Business District. Expect upmarket, contemporary dining in its restaurant Public Service. The Magnolia New Orleans is a good value, boutique, 4-star hotel a few blocks from the French Quarter featuring rooms with cool design touches and hardwood floors. The Wyndham New Orleans is a budget-friendly French Quarter hotel offering elegantly furnished rooms and handy amenities. The Hotel Monteleone is another viable French Quarter option. Just four blocks from Jackson Square, this hotel has a famous revolving bar and a heated rooftop pool.

Where are the best places to stay in New Orleans?

The French Quarter in fact owes much of its architecture to the Spanish. Jackson Square, with its buskers and tarot readers, is a fine starting point. It’s dominated by America’s oldest cathedral, St Louis Cathedral, and bordered by the historic Pontalba Buildings. Wander down Pirate’s Alley and mooch by the artisan stalls of French Market (where you can try gator sausages, gumbo, jambalaya and more) and take in the gorgeous wrought-iron balconies of Royal Street. Not forgetting Bourbon Street, the raucous nightlife epicentre that’s also home to a lively LGBTQ community.

The Garden District, with its sprawling mansions and fancy apartments, is one of the city’s most affluent areas. The architecture is a rich melange of Victorian, Greek and Gothic-Revival, complete with Gingerbread embellishments. It’s also home to Lafayette No 1, the city’s creepiest cemetery. Here the dead are laid to rest in a series of Gothic mausoleums and raised tombs.

Algiers is the city’s second-oldest African American community. It’s a major centre for black cultural history and especially jazz. To reach it you must take an inexpensive and centuries-old ferry service, which gives you a special view of the city. Check out the Algiers Folk Art zone and the Tulane Museum of Natural History (by appointment only) for a unique cultural perspective on the city.

The quirky bohemian neighbourhoods, Marigny and Bywater, are home to a vibrant arts scene, local artisans' galleries, funky live music venues and art markets. Look out for the colourful Creole cottages, walk along Crescent Park on the waterfront and catch some live jazz in the many bars of Frenchman Street.

Known for its 19th Century paving stones and rooftop swimming pools, the lively and dynamic Warehouse Arts District is home to several James Beard award-nominated restaurants, the National WWII Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Mardi Gras World and the Julia Street Gallery Row.

Mid-City is where the locals like to hang out with globally inspired cuisine and offbeat attractions. Take in world-class art at NOMA before strolling around the surrounding City Park and the New Orleans Botanical Garden, bike the new 2.6-mile-long Lafitte Greenway that stretches from Basin Street to Carrollton Avenue, or take a ride on the Canal Street streetcar.

It may not be the most atmospheric part of town, but the Central Business District is a convenient place to lay your head since all the city’s streetcar lines converge here and there’s a high density of hotels, many with cool rooftop bars. The main attraction is the Caesar’s Superdome, home to New Orleans Saints football team as well as being a major events venue.


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