New Orleans is probably best known for its French Quarter (after Mardi Gras, of course), so we couldn’t go to New Orleans without visiting that area! My mom and I actually went every day we were in New Orleans (we couldn’t get enough of the beignets!), and we did take a New Orleans French Quarter tour with Free Tours By Foot, which I highly recommend. I did enjoy all the colorful buildings in the French Quarter and the history was so interesting, but it was a little “grungier” than I expected. I never felt unsafe, but just be prepared for some dirt and puddles from construction and trash and bottles in the street in some areas.
We stayed at Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery in the Warehouse District, but it was only about a fifteen minute walk to the French Quarter. If you’re visiting New Orleans and aren’t a fan of the nightlife, I recommend staying in the Warehouse District so you can get a good night’s sleep and also easily get to the French Quarter. After exploring the Warehouse District our first day there, we went to the French Quarter for dinner and a little exploring. And don’t worry, I have an entire post about all the amazing restaurants we went to in New Orleans!
The Pontalba Buildings
We saw some pretty interesting sights!
St. Louis Cathedral
I loved all the balconies on the colorful buildings!
French Quarter tour with Free Tours By Foot
We started the next day with a cemetery tour before going on our New Orleans French Quarter tour with Free Tours By Foot. We began in Jackson Square, which is one of the most famous spots in New Orleans. It’s a beautiful park surrounded by the St. Louis Cathedral, museums, and beautiful historic buildings. It’s also where we learned what I thought was the most interesting history of New Orleans about a baroness, and I’ll get into that fascinating story next.
Our tour guide told us about Baroness de Pontalba, whose father was a successful developer in New Orleans, and after he died when she was young, she inherited his fortune. She married and moved to France and her new father-in-law was after her fortune, but after she kept refusing to give it to him, he shot Baroness de Pontalba four times before committing suicide. She apparently lost a few fingers but wore her injuries like a badge.
Needless to say, her marriage didn’t work out and she returned to New Orleans where she built the Pontalba Buildings around Jackson Square. Now, the Pontalba Buildings house the oldest continuously-rented apartments in the U.S., and our guide told us you would have to wait at least three years before getting an apartment there! I had never heard of Baroness de Pontalba before, but I thought her history and impact on New Orleans was fascinating! Learning these interesting tidbits about places I travel is why I always love doing tours with locals.
We learned that when the balcony is larger and supported with posts on the ground, it’s called a gallery, which were all over New Orleans. I loved seeing all the ornate designs and colors!
Spanish history in New Orleans
I was surprised to learn about the impact of the Spanish on New Orleans. I’ve only heard about the French impact, but the French Quarter seemed to be just as Spanish as French! New Orleans was French first and then it was owned by Spain for 40 years before the Louisiana purchase, and it changed nationalities three times in just a three year span! It was really interesting to see how all the cultures influenced New Orleans, and it’s one of the main things that makes New Orleans so unique.
Our tour guide also told us about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the area, and I thought it was interesting that there wasn’t much damage to the area because it’s closest to the river, but it was hard to get to the French Quarter because of all the floods surrounding it. And places like the famous restaurant Antoine’s lost things like their historic wine supply because the electricity was out for so long that it ruined all the wine.
New Orleans is known for its voodoo culture, which I mentioned in my cemetery post since a voodoo priestess’s tomb kept getting vandalized. Apparently, voodoo practiced in New Orleans isn’t what you see in the movies and there aren’t curses and voodoo dolls resembling people, and it’s more of a spiritual religion that came from African religions. It was interesting to learn that it’s still widely practiced today, and our tour guide’s roommate is a voodoo priest.
I can’t remember her name, but this is a famous street musician and there were crowds of people around listening to her!
I love doing tours and learning all these interesting tidbits that I wouldn’t learn otherwise, and I highly recommend doing a New Orleans French Quarter Tour with Free Tours By Foot! (The tours are free, but you are encouraged to give your tour guide a tip afterwards if you enjoyed the tour). Stay tuned for more posts about fascinating New Orleans tours and delicious food! 🙂