Ironwork galleries on the Streets of French Quarter decorated for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana are hit by the hot afternoon sunlight
Cool and Unusual

The Coolest Secrets of New Orleans’ French Quarter

Let the good times roll at the best-kept secrets of New Orleans’ French Quarter.

Despite the history and culture oozing from every brick in New Orleans’ iconic French Quarter neighborhood, it will forever remain a very tourist-y destination: it seems like every popular and clichéd “thing to do” in New Orleans was crammed into 78 city blocks. That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a visit, though! Dodge the crowds and head to some of the best-kept secrets of the French Quarter.

Erin Rose Sandwich Shop

Okay, so it’s a block down from the technical boundary of the French Quarter, but it’s worth the walk. This sandwich shop is actually located in the very back of the Erin Rose Bar. The menu is pretty small but the quality of the po’boys is incredible. If you’re feeling traditional, go for the shrimp, but the decadent pork belly po’boy and veggie-friendly sweet potato po’boy are out-of-this-world delicious.

The Cabildo

Colorful architecture in the French Quarter sit beneath a bright afternoon sky in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Source: Shutterstock

One major feature of the French Quarter is that many of the buildings were built even before 1803, when America obtained New Orleans in the Louisiana Purchase. The French/Spanish influenced architecture is so iconic and distinctive to the neighborhood that any modifications to any building in the French Quarter have to be approved by a committee to make sure they gel with the historic vibe of the rest of the buildings in the area.

One of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter, The Cabildo, is located in the neighborhood’s iconic Jackson Square. It was the seat of the colonial government when the Spanish were in control, and it’s where the Louisiana Purchase was formally signed, transferring New Orleans to the U.S.. It was used by the New Orleans city council, and then became the home of the Louisiana Supreme Court—famous cases like Plessy v. Ferguson were heard here. It’s now used as the Louisiana State Museum and features displays on the state and its uniquely colorful history.

Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop

If you’re looking to avoid hoards of people, it makes sense to go to the farther reaches of the French Quarter, where crowds thin out considerably. So, even though Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop is on Rue Bourbon, it’s at the end of the street, and most people give up before making it quite that far along. It’s one of the oldest buildings in New Orleans, built circa 1720 (it survived the big fire of 1830). Oh, and it was maybe a hideout for New Orleans’ most notorious pirate, Jean Lafitte. They serve up old-school piano music to go along with that helping of history, making it well worth a visit.

Brennan’s

A historic colonial building in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana sits beneath a blue morning sky.

Source: Shutterstock

Everyone who comes to New Orleans goes to Cafe Du Monde: the beignets, the cafe au lait (brewed with chicory – not everyone likes it, but it’s worth a try) and the history can’t be beat…they’ve become the place to get a beignet, a French donut topped in powdered sugar, since they’ve been serving them up since before the Civil War. If it’s your first time visiting, it’s tradition to blow some powdered sugar off your beignet and make a wish before you dig in. The downside to snacking at Cafe Du Monde, however, is that it’s eternally crowded. Never fear, beignets aren’t the only sweet treat in the French Quarter. Sample New Orleans’ other signature delight: bananas foster, invented at Brennan’s. Bananas Foster, if you haven’t had the pleasure of enjoying it, is bananas cooked in a sugary, buttery rum sauce served over vanilla ice cream.

Court of Two Sisters

Try more Bananas Foster the Court of Two Sisters – it’s just as good with less of a wait – or find it incorporated into cheesecake, French Toast, and other recipes all across the city.

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum

A historic colonial building in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana sits beneath a blue morning sky.

Source: Shutterstock

Most people will inevitably be seduced into visiting the Voodoo Museum, which is cool because the place is totally interesting, but for a different perspective on voodoo and New Orleans history, you should definitely check out the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. They have a display on gris-gris and other voodoo potions used for healing the sick, as well as assorted questionable medical practices and devices, old school medical tools, cosmetics, and some background on how the soda fountain became tied to the pharmacy. You’ll leave equal parts horrified and amused, much like most of New Orleans.

Have you ventured to any of these cool secret spots in New Orleans? Let us know by commenting on our Facebook page.

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