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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > Louisiana > New Orleans

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New Orleans Travel Guide

About New Orleans

Sitting pretty at the mouth of the Mississippi River, New Orleans is one of America’s most astonishing cultural melting pots. It’s a little bit French, a little bit Spanish-Creole, a little bit Caribbean and a whole lot New Orleans – there’s nowhere quite like it, even in the American South.

Tucked between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans sprawls across low-lying swampland, with the floodwaters held at bay by enormous levees, which broke with devastating consequences in 2005 as Hurricane Katrina surged ashore.

The good news is that many neighbourhoods have burst back to life, and little evidence of the disaster remains in the areas most frequented by tourists - though deprivation and crime still blight live in some quarters of the city (most notably the Ninth Ward).

Known as the Crescent City for the curving shape of the Mississippi as it snakes through town, New Orleans is truly cosmopolitan. Settlers from as far afield as France, Spain, Africa and the Caribbean washed up here during New Orleans’ heyday as the principal port of the American South.

Each group lent something to the mixing pot. The French left their language, and the Spanish their flamboyant architecture. Africa donated the rhythms that morphed into jazz and the blues. The Caribbean left a love of celebration and a touch of voodoo magic, while Cajun Americans pulled all these influences together to create one of America’s most eclectic cuisines.

The attractions of New Orleans are the same as they have always been – riding rattling streetcars and the Algiers ferry, snapping your fingers to hot jazz in colonial cafes, seeking out occult relics in ancient cemeteries, or just admiring the stately architecture in the French Quarter, Bywater, Faubourg Marigny and Tremé.

Then of course there’s the greatest-show-on-earth that is Mardi Gras, held in late February or early March. If you miss it, don’t panic; there are few weeks in the year when there isn’t some festival or other filling the streets with crowds and music. As the locals say: “Laissez les bons temps rouler!” (“Let the good times roll!”).

Key facts

Population:
343829
Latitude:
29.953725
Longitude:
-90.077756

Featured Hotels

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Hampton Inn

Formerly a 1903 'skyscraper' office building, the Hampton Inn is just two blocks from the French Quarter. Every Monday to Thursday 1730-1900, the lavish lobby is the scene for the complimentary manager's reception. Rooms are large and comfortable with high-speed Internet and king-size or two double beds. The hotel also has a gym, concierge, coffee shop and parking for a fee, along with access to Spa Atlantis, directly across the street. The daily hot breakfast buffet is included.

La Quinta Inn and Suites Downtown

This hotel has great facilities for bargain prices, such as guestrooms with either king-size or two double beds and large bathrooms, and some have microwaves. In-room business facilities include data ports, oversized desks, free high-speed Internet access and local calls. Add to that, cocktail lounge, business centre, a heated pool, and fitness centre, plus a free breakfast. The location is convenient for the French Quarter, Superdome, downtown, and the convention center.

Hotel Monteleone

One of the classic New Orleans luxury hotels, the Monteleone has been wowing visitors since 1886. Rooms are decked out with plush curtains, high-thread-count sheets and large flat-screen TVs. The lobby is suitably grand, and the Carousel Bar is something of a local haunt for cocktails and people watching.

Melrose Mansion

A tasteful, small property on the edge of the French Quarter, this luxury Victorian-era mansion dates back to the late 19th century. The interiors are suitably plush, with antique furniture, original artwork and all the mod cons you'd expect (iPod dock, LCD TV, Wi-Fi and minifridge). There's also a fairly large outdoor swimming pool.

Soniat House

Old books, fine artwork, Oriental rugs, American and European antiques: it is the little touches like these that make this hotel unique. The two restored 1830s townhouses have spiral staircases, balconies and patios. Sweet olive, magnolia, guava and ginger grow in the courtyards. Each of the 19 rooms and 14 suites are furnished with antiques that are accompanied by Frette Egyptian cotton bed linen, Wi-Fi, data ports and two phones.

Dauphine Orleans Hotel

This unassuming building on a quiet stretch of the French Quarter is recorded back as far as 1775, almost to the city's own beginnings. A former bordello site, the hotel now has 111 modern rooms and a host of old, atmospheric cottages. The pool and courtyard are nicely secluded and the hotel bar, May Baily's Place, also harks back to those hedonistic times.