Home / Travel Guides - New Orleans / The French Quarter

The French QuarterThe French Quarter—some 90 blocks between Canal Street, Rampart Street, Esplanade Avenue and the Mississippi River—represents the original French Colonial settlement of Nouvelle Orleans. Known as the Vieux Carré (VOO cah-RAY) or “old square,” the Quarter was laid out by military engineers in a simple gridiron pattern with straight, narrow streets.

In many ways the French Quarter remains the true heart of the city, not only because of its historical nature, but also because it is still very much alive. People from all walks of life reside in this historic area and guard its iron-embroidered architectural treasures with fierce pride, enjoying the Quarter's endless variety with as much gusto as first-time tourists. Hurricane Katrina did little permanent damage in the Quarter, which stands on the city's highest ground and avoided flooding.

Typical of the contradictions of the Quarter is that its architecture is not French, but Spanish. Disastrous fires in 1788 and 1794 destroyed all but a handful of the original French structures. Street names have changed from French to Spanish to mainly French again; the gold and blue signs on the corner buildings indicate the street names that prevailed under earlier régime.

In every doorway lingers the memory of some famous character. Legend has it that on Bourbon Street, near the demure Royal Street and its antique stores, once stood the shop Jean Lafitte and his brother Pierre operated as a clearinghouse for their contraband. Marie Laveau, most powerful of a succession of voodoo queens, frequented the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis King of France on Jackson Square and, in her waning years, the parish prison where she consoled the condemned.

Maspero's Exchange on Chartres Street was a scheming ground for the filibusters. Often financed by state and local politicians, these swashbuckling adventurers launched elaborate campaigns for power and land in revolution-ripe countries which were at peace with the United States. One of the most famous was William Walker, self-styled “liberator” of Nicaragua and Honduras. As the country became more industrialized after the Civil War, the hunger for land diminished, and filibustering came to an end.

Although it is only one facet of New Orleans, the French Quarter is the city's great drawing card. Visitors throng to its restaurants and luxurious hotels. They hunt antiques on Royal Street and carouse on Bourbon Street. The Quarter contains enough of the proper and the improper, the sacred and the profane, and the conventional and the unconventional to keep any visitor happy.

Beauregard-Keyes House

The Cabildo

Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis King of France

French Market District

French Quarter Visitor Center

Gallier House

Hermann-Grima House

The Historic New Orleans Collection

Jackson Square

Louisiana State Museum

Madame John's Legacy

The New Orleans Jazz Museum

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Visitor Center

New Orleans Musical Legends Park

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

New Orleans School of Cooking

Old Ursuline Convent

Pontalba Buildings

1850 House (The Lower Pontalba Building)

The Presbytère

Preservation Hall

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New Orleans, LA

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Travel Information

City Population

343,829

Elevation

11 ft.

Sales Tax

Louisiana's statewide sales tax is 5 percent; an additional 5 percent is levied in the New Orleans metro area, and Orleans Parish has a .5 percent tax on food and beverages. The city has a 14 percent lodging tax, plus an occupancy tax of $1-$3 per night. The state's car rental tax is 3 percent.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

(504) 821-2222

Fire (non-emergency)

(504) 658-4700

Time and Temperature

(318) 324-8808

Hospitals

Ochsner Medical Center, (504) 842-3000; Touro Infirmary, (504) 897-7011; Tulane Medical Center, (504) 988-5263; University Medical Center New Orleans, (504) 702-3000.

Visitor Information

1221 Elmwood Park Blvd. Suite 411 New Orleans, LA 70123. Phone:(504)731-7083 or (877)572-7474

Air Travel

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) is about 21 miles west of downtown New Orleans in Kenner and is served by nearly all major domestic and foreign carriers.

Rental Cars

New Orleans is served by several major car rental agencies. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz, (504) 568-1645 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

Amtrak uses the Union Passenger Terminal at 1001 Loyola Ave. Daily service is offered. Phone (800) 872-7245 for further information.

Buses

The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1001 Loyola Ave.; phone (504) 525-6075 or (800) 231-2222 for schedule and fares.

Taxis

Cabs are plentiful in the main business and tourist areas. Average fare is $3.50 initially and $2.40 for each additional mile and $1 for each additional person. The largest companies are Carriage/Yellow/Checker, (504) 207-7777; Metry, (504) 835-4242; and United, (504) 522-9771. Information about taxi service also can be obtained from the Taxicab & For Hire Bureau at (504) 658-7176.

Public Transportation

Transportation by bus, streetcar and ferry is available in New Orleans.

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