new-orleans-tram

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.

TO STAY

The Drifter

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.

India House Hostel

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.

The Lookout Inn

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.

Catahoula Hotel

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.

Pontchartrain

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).

India House Hostel

The Lookout Inn

Catahoula Hotel

The Drifter

Pontchartrain

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