New Orleans Cemetery Tours

29

Jan

One of my favorite things I did in New Orleans was visit cemeteries! After my mom and I toured the Warehouse District and National WWII Museum, we had two New Orleans cemetery tours at the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in the French Quarter and the Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District. I loved them because they’re a different way to learn more about the fascinating history of New Orleans! (If you know me, you know I’m all about history). And don’t worry, they’re not creepy tours during the day, but they do have night ghost tours if you’re interested in that.

New Orleans Cemetery Tours

The first tour my mom and I went on was at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Unfortunately, this tour is not free because there has been so much vandalism so they need funds to maintain the cemetery now, and you can only go in the cemetery with a tour guide. You can sign up for tours with a variety of tour groups in New Orleans, or you can beat the crowds and have the whole place to yourself like we did!

I read on a helpful blog post that all the tour groups start their tours at 9:30 a.m. BUT the cemetery actually opens at 9:00 a.m., so you can go on a private tour with one of the cemetery guides and not have to worry about being with a huge group of people! I highly recommend doing this because by the time our private tour was finishing, I could see the groups of tours lining up outside. It was also really nice to have the place to ourselves because the cemetery is really cramped, so it would be harder to get around and hear your tour guide in a larger group. So if you want to visit St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, I highly recommend getting there right at 9:00 a.m. for a tour with one of their guides! You’ll also want to go as early in the day as possible since in a cramped cemetery with cement ground and no shade, it gets hot quickly.

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Built in the 1700s, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest existent cemetery in New Orleans, and it’s actually still being used today. One of the most interesting things I learned on the tour is that while you may have heard during Hurricane Katrina that bodies are buried above ground because of the flooding, that actually isn’t true (this part is a little icky if you don’t have a strong stomach!). These burial vaults are family vaults made to hold generations of bodies, but underground graves can only hold one body. If you’re wondering how these vaults can hold dozens of bodies, it does work and it’s a little weird. After the body had been in the vault for a year, they would go in and push all the bones to the back of the vault to make room. So the back of the vault is just a pile of bones apparently! 

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

If people couldn’t afford large graves, they were actually put in the cemetery walls!

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

This is one of the vaults still in use today

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Many of the burial vaults are still being used today, and they’re actually still adding vaults. Nicholas Cage has built his own vault and apparently visited a local voodoo priestess who told him to built his vault in the shape of a pyramid. If you’re confused, yes he is still alive, I suppose he just wanted to buy a plot and build the vault before the cemetery filled up. 

Nicholas Cage grave

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

New Orleans cemetery tours

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

New Orleans cemetery tours

This is a Catholic vault (New Orleans was a Catholic city back in the day)

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

New Orleans cemetery

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Plessy gravesite

Plessy (from the famous court case Plessy vs Ferguson) is buried here

Plessy gravesite

New Orleans cemetery tours

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

New Orleans cemetery

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

The second most visited grave site in the U.S. is in New Orleans. Any guesses whose it is? I had no idea before going, but it’s actually a voodoo priestess! She was very famous in her time, and people would visit her grave and mark it with x’s in hopes that her voodoo would help them. The vandalism got bad, so that’s one of the reasons why you’re only allowed to enter the cemetery with a guide now. 

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

Saint Louis Cemetery Number One

After our tour of St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, we had a tour of the French Quarter (I’ll post those photos soon!) before going to Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District. Lafayette Cemetery was much more open with more greenery, and it was pretty empty when we were there in the afternoon. And there are a few spots with shade if it’s a hot day. It is free to enter this cemetery, and we went as part of a tour with Free Tours By Foot, which I highly recommend! I love going on tours by locals to learn more about the area’s history.

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

This cat is a cemetery regular and all the tour guides know him

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

New Orleans Lafayette Cemetery

There are many other cemeteries around New Orleans if you would like to see more, but these are two of the most famous. There are also ghost cemetery tours if that’s up your alley. If you’re visiting, I highly recommend going on some New Orleans cemetery tours! It’s a great way to see a different part of the city and learn about local history!

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  1. Wow! I wouldn’t want to be trapped in a vault with my entire family – dead or alive! LOL! These cemeteries definitely look intriguing. I went on a ghost tour of the ones in Savannah and it was really neat to hear the history.

  2. Tonya says:

    Every time I read your stories I just want to pack up and visit that weeks place!

  3. Megan Indoe says:

    I LOVE the cemeteries in NOLA, they are so unique and fascinating! We did a tour through St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, but I’d love to go back and do more. Each one is unique/special in its own way. Haha, Nick Cage’s tomb always makes me giggle too.

  4. Unta says:

    That thing about N. Cage is so weird, but that’s New Orleans. I visited a year ago, but I explored more jazz clubs than cemeteries. 🙂

  5. Caroline says:

    So cool and interesting! I’m actually headed to New Orleans tomorrow and I would love to do a cemetery tour. Lovely photos too btw!

  6. Erika says:

    I got my masters at Tulane in New Orleans. I went down memory lane with your post. You’re spot on to write an article solely on New Orleans’ cemeteries. They’re spectacular and unique to the US. I loved all of your tips and fun facts. Wow does this city has some incredible history! Great post!!

  7. Misa says:

    Whenever I plan a trip, I search for local cemeteries. It’s something that I really like, I think they are beautiful and think about the people that are there (I studied Legal Medicine and Forensics, it fascinates me) And this list will be on my “to-visit” the next trips ahead. Thanks for the recomendations!

  8. Ellie says:

    What an interesting tour! I’d never think of doing a cemetery tour but it sounds like it had some really interesting history to it… and Nicholas Cage haha.

  9. Andrea says:

    This is such a cool post with an awesome perspective thank you for sharing

  10. Kelly says:

    You captured New Orleans so well — makes me want to go on a cemetery tour!

  11. Cathie says:

    I love the cemeteries in NOLA. filled with so much history. We have never done an organized tour but sound cool and getting help from a cat is always fun!Thanks for sharing.

  12. Sally says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Julia! We had a recent trip to NOLA ourselves but didn’t visit any of the cemeteries. I think a night tour of New Orlean’s cemeteries would terrify me- let alone the kids! Do you know what the XXX’s actually mean on the crypts? I noticed them on some of the other photos- not just from the voodoo priestess’ gravesite.

    • Julia says:

      Going during the day isn’t scary! I’m not sure what xxx would mean on other graves, but maybe they were other voodoo priestesses!

  13. Julia says:

    The history of the cemetery is fascinating! It really does look and feel old, which makes it so interesting. It’s a shame people have been vandalising it though, especially since it’s a place of peace and respect. The Nicolas Cage vault story is kind of funny though – and a bit creepy when you think about it!

    Julia x
    Last Post: Makeup First Impressions | http://juliaspeaksbeauty.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/beauty-makeup-first-impressions.html

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