City Guide: New Orleans, Louisiana

New Orleans is a city of excess. Nicknamed the Big Easy, it's renowned for its vibrant live-music scene, round-the-clock nightlife and rich, spicy cuisine - all of which comes thanks to its melting pot of French, African and American ancestry. With its distinctly Caribbean-meets-European feel, extensive history and ornate buildings, New Orleans is unlike any other city in the US. While the city's public transport links carry you easily, and cheaply, between neighbourhoods - it's the old-fashioned streetcar that provides the most romantic form of transport as you ride the rails, head stuck out of an open window.

The city is easy to visit on the cheap. Its tantalising streets are packed with impromptu soul musicians and unique street food offerings. Grab a po'boy filled with fried oysters, snack on some crayfish or sit down to a portion of gumbo before perusing the French Market and the charming French Quarter. Alternatively, find a quiet corner in the up-and-coming Bywater district, which has a more local feel to it.

Built on a swamp, New Orleans has lots of incredible wildlife spots. Get up close to poisonous snakes and huge alligators by taking a tour of the shack-lined bayou, where you'll discover an entirely different side of Louisiana.

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The Drifter

New Orleans, United States

A roadside motel that is anything but ordinary, The Drifter is quite possibly the coolest hotel in the New Orleans area. This place is all about the pool parties: expect a gathering of colourful eccentrics, live DJs and flowing drinks (not to mention the “toptional” pool etiquette.) What with the food trucks parked outside, a bar that’s always buzzing and a good-times only culture, you almost never have to leave.

Address

3522 Tulane Avenue, 70119.

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India House Hostel

New Orleans, United States

If the bright lights and party atmosphere are what brought you to New Orleans, then you can’t go wrong by booking a stay at the bawdy India House Hostel. The hostel’s aesthetic is very Mardi Gras, so it’s difficult to forget what city you’ve woken up in, no matter how bad your hangover is.

Address

124 South Lopez Street, 70119.

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The Lookout Inn

New Orleans, United States

A gem hidden in the trendy Bywater neighbourhood. Away from the well-trodden tourist tracks, the Lookout Inn hosts several imaginatively themed suites. There’s the “Mission suite”, embracing the city’s Spanish heritage, the “Elvis suite” dedicated to the King, the “Bollywood suite” and, naturally, the “Mardi Gras suite”. Take a dip in the outdoor saltwater pool and hot tub, and as you lounge in the backyard cabana, make sure someone is firing up the barbecue ready for some post-swim eats.

Address

833 Poland Avenue, 70117.

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Catahoula Hotel

New Orleans, United States

A home away from home, the Catahoula Boutique Hotel keeps it “casual, cosy, and above all, human”. Located on a quiet side street in downtown New Orleans, the hotel is just a stone’s throw from the French Quarter, Superdome and Lafayette Square. Ascend the twisting staircase to settle into one of the hotel’s many balconies amongst chic interiors of monochrome tiles with splashes of colour. Peruvian-themed, the cocktail lounge, restaurant and rooftop tiki bar (slightly less Peruvian) are great places to meet people and soak up cool New Orleans vibes.

Address

914 Union Street 70112

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Pontchartrain

New Orleans, United States

Named after Count de Pontchartrain – a nobleman in Louis XIV’s court – this hotel originally opened as a high-end apartment building in 1927. In the 1940s, it was refashioned as a luxury hotel and became a veritable who’s who of prominent locals and visitors, from Frank Sinatra to Rita Hayworth. Following a makeover, Pontchartrain has returned to its former glory. Inside, walls are flanked with still-life oil paintings, velvet-covered couches and lacquered tables, but with a modern eye for zany prints and jarring colour palettes. The bedrooms are airy with a touch of decadence thanks to textured jewel-toned furnishings. With welcome cookies cut out in the shape of a streetcar this is (literally) one of the sweetest welcomes to the Big Easy you could hope for. Come morning, enjoy breakfast in the Silver Whistle – a dining hub with an automotive theme. After a day of exploring, head for the Hot Tin rooftop bar (an ode to Tennessee Williams).

Address

2031 St Charles Avenue LA 70130

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Maison de la Luz

New Orleans, United States

Giving off major Gatsby vibes, this converted city hall annex combines an easy elegance with art-deco design. Found in downtown New Orleans, Maison de la Luz is a lighthouse for A-listers, granting guests priority access to some of the best cocktail bars and seafood joints in town.

Address

546 Carondelet Street LA 70130

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Soniat Hotel

New Orleans, United States

Located in New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, Soniat House is a cocktail of history and luxury; the colonial-Creole exterior houses ultra-modern suites with custom-colour palettes and French antiques. Soak up some rays in the courtyard or head to the bar for a glass of sparkling champers after dark.

Address

1133 Chartres Street LA 70116

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Henry Howard

New Orleans, United States

Keep it low-key in the Lower Garden District. Signed, sealed and delivered by famed-architect Henry Howard, this aptly named hotel is a short walk from the Mardi Gras parade route. Stroll past sprawling oak trees and grand-dame mansions on your way to the hustle and bustle of Magazine Street.

Address

2041 Prytania Street LA 70130

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Hotel Peter & Paul

New Orleans, United States

A vintage-lover’s dream, this restored church and school house is brimming with artisanal furnishings and European antiques – it’s seen a thing or two in its 150 years. Stop by The Elysian Bar for shareable bites and niche wines before retiring to the parlour for a nightcap.

Address

2317 Burgundy Street LA 70117

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The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery

New Orleans, United States

Based in NOLA’s vibrant Arts District, this brick-and-concrete boutique channels warehouse chic with loft-style rooms and a rotating art gallery. Serving up Caribbean cuisine, Compère Lapin is helmed by chef Nina Compton, whose menu combines Gulf ingredients with French and Italian techniques.

Address

535 Tchoupitoulas Street LA 70130

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The Old No.77 Hotel and Chandlery

New Orleans, United States

This former coffee warehouse set in the buzzy Arts District is a celebration of New Orleans’ rhythm rich history. A rotating art gallery, locally designed whiskey glasses and walls adorned with NOCCA art student masterpieces complete its co-working, creative feel. Your pets’ spiritual wellbeing is The Old No.77 Hotel and Chandlery’s first concern. Offering an on-site animal psychic, as well as holistic animal care and dog massages, you’ll both be fully restored by check-out.

Address

535 Tchoupitoulas St New Orleans LA 70130

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The Drifter Hotel

Take the plunge at this renovated 1950s New Orleans hotel. A wash of turquoise and interjections of white envelope the pool’s edges, while a giant disco ball teeters over the water. Throw in a quirky indoor-outdoor bar and some Acapulco chairs and you’ll soon find it’s not just hotel guests who revel in The Drifter’s old-time charm. New Orleans residents who like their exercise and lounge time with a vintage touch (and a scallop-edged umbrella) can avail of a Swim Club membership for an annual fee of $299.

Address

3522 Tulane Ave New Orleans LA 70119 United States