New Orleans has always been a popular vacation destination, but in recent years the city has reached a whole new level with record visitation and a modern-day influx of trendy new hotels. What're more, the city continues to boast one of the strongest food, drink and music scenes in America. Paired with that historic “only in New Orleans” French-inspired architecture and infectious party-centric way of life, the always-welcoming Big Easy is also welcoming a complete renovation of its international airport which is scheduled to open May 15. So if you haven’t been convinced by now to visit, we don’t know what the hell you’re waiting for – the only question remaining is where to stay in New Orleans.
As there is so much to the city beyond just the tourism-focused French Quarter, we’re here to present you with a comprehensive breakdown of the coolest neighbourhoods alongside our picks for some of the best hotels in each area. And in a one-of-kind city as offbeat as New Orleans, you can bet the accommodations are just as eccentric – with options ranging from historic mansions and renovated church buildings to a former firehouse and chandelier factory.
Home of the iconic Bourbon Street and Jackson Square, the French Quarter is the first place most people think of when they imagine a trip to New Orleans. The popular tourist district is packed with a wide range of accommodations for all types of travellers, including some of the most iconic hotels in town. But there are a few budget alternatives to be found around the margins, if you know where to look.
For a hotel in the heart of it all: Hotel Monteleone
This 570-room historic landmark, built in 1886, is one of the most spectacular hotels in the South. It has hosted a number of big-name American authors over the years including Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Take a dip in the swanky rooftop pool before heading down for a drink at the hotel’s legendary Carousel Piano Bar & Lounge, where the bar stools revolve under carousel hoardings as you drink.
For classic New Orleans charm: Hotel Maison de Ville
When you conjure mental images of New Orleans, chances are that Hotel Maison de Ville is largely what you are picturing. Dripping with classic New Orleans charm from head to toe, the historic three-story property occupies one of the oldest structures in the French Quarter, with luxurious rooms equipped with balconies overlooking the action along Toulouse Street.
For a budget-conscious alternative Hotel Provincial
Centrally located yet far enough from the heart of the tourist trail to provide guests with some rare peace and quiet on the outskirts of the French Quarter, this historic hotel offers a more affordable alternative with small yet comfortable rooms and a charming brick courtyard with pool.
The lively French Quarter © Shutterstock
Central Business District
Traditionally a mostly lifeless dredge of buildings that few frequented after work hours, today the Central Business District (CBD) has been transformed into one of the trendiest areas of the city for overnight stays with a number of hip boutique hotels opening in recent years, seemingly one after the other. Close proximity to the French Quarter and an up-and-coming arts scene provide added pluses.
For the chance to hang with the cool kids: Cambria Hotel New Orleans Downtown Warehouse District
Since opening in 2017, this classy boutique hotel with an on-site art gallery has been helping to lead the downtown hotel revival and is one of the top-rated properties in the city. With chic industrial design and close proximity to downtown’s burgeoning Warehouse District scene, there’s plenty to like here.
For live music in a hip setting: Ace Hotel New Orleans
This popular chain is well known for having some of the coolest hotels in America, and the Ace Hotel’s New Orleans outpost is no different, with a lobby that's a fashionable music-focused space featuring suites equipped with guitars and turntables. Hit the hotel’s intimate on-site music venue Three Keys for live music most nights of the week.
For art and chandeliers: Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery
Ever want to stay in a former chandelier factory? If so, this buzzing boutique hotel is calling your name. Featuring a rotating art gallery and one of the city’s top restaurants (Compere Lapin) located on site, the range of accommodations here includes loft suites and artist studios.
The CBD now offering several cool new options for where to stay in New Orleans © Sean Pavone / Shutterstock
This hip neighbourhood bordering the French Quarter is home to the bustling bars and music venues along Frenchman Street, which has evolved in recent years into a thriving alternative to the tourist overkill of Bourbon Street. From B&Bs co-owned by rock stars to historic churches and an old fire station, it’s also home to some of the most unique accommodations in the Big Easy.
To party like a rock star: Royal Street Inn & Bar
With five immaculate suites and the rowdy on-site R Bar playing some of the best music in New Orleans, you’ll feel like a rock star when staying at this hipster-approved, somewhat secretive spot in the Marigny. Maybe it’s because the joint is partly owned by Greg Dulli of American rock band Afghan Whigs. Or maybe it’s because it’s just that cool.
Stay in a renovated church: Hotel Peter & Paul
This show-stopping former church, schoolhouse, rectory, and convent property has risen through the ranks to establish itself as one of the best new hotels in America since opening last fall. Select from a range of impressive rooms with heavy nods to the past across the newly renovated buildings of the stunning complex in what was once the Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church.
Rent out a historic firehouse: French Quarter Firehouse
If you and your crew are looking to splurge on the ultimate crash pad for a raucous emergency-filled bachelor party weekend, you could do far worse than renting out the gorgeous seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom Historic Engine 24 New Orleans Firehouse on Airbnb.
One of the many colourful buildings in New Orleans' Marigny neighbourhood © Peek Creative Collective / Shutterstock
This formerly rundown section of town between the Marigny and Lower Ninth Ward neighbourhoods has been experiencing an influx of hipsters, musicians, artists and transplants from New York City. These new residents have helped to cement its reputation as the coolest hood in an increasingly hip city. Traditional hotel-style accommodations are scarce here, but offbeat treasures await the adventurous traveller.
For a stay near Bywater Historic District: Hip Bywater Suites by Sonder
Located within 2.3 miles of St Louis Cemetery No 1 and 2.6 miles of Bourbon Street. The best part? The property is within easy walking (okay, stumbling) distance of some of the coolest spots in town, including elite locals-friendly live music venue Vaughn’s Lounge and A-list BBQ restaurant The Joint.
Rock the Elvis suite: The Lookout Inn
This funky little hidden gem is an affordable alternative off the beaten path at the edge of the Bywater. Not only is it close to neighbourhood hotspots like BJ’s Lounge and Bar Redux, it’s also (probably) the only place in New Orleans where you can rent an Elvis-themed suite. If you’re not into the King, choose from additional room themes including Mardi Gras and Bollywood.
The Bywater neighbourhood has attracted many artists and musicians in recent years © cdrin/Shutterstock
This laid-back, mostly residential area offers some of the most spectacular scenery that can be found in any American city. Ride the iconic St. Charles Avenue streetcar through this leafy neighbourhood as you ogle its massive historic mansions before stopping off for lunch at a landmark local restaurant like Commander’s Palace. Maybe even stay in one of the mansions for the night.
To ride the streetcar to your room: Pontchartrain Hotel
This historic NOLA classic can be on the pricey side (although there are early- to mid-week deals to be had), but that’s to be expected from one of the finest hotels in the city. Everyone from former presidents to actress Rita Hayworth to rock band The Doors have stayed here over the years. The 14-floor hotel sits along the famous St. Charles Avenue streetcar line, with appropriately posh rooms and a popular loft-style rooftop bar.
To make friends at a budget hostel: Auberge NOLA Hostel
If you are priced out of the fancy mansion B&Bs that are the norm for accommodations in the Garden District, try this hostel located just a bit outside the official neighborhood borders for bright, clean shared accommodations at a fraction of the price. The crowd is friendly and pretty much up for anything, including organised trips to local bars and music venues.
The leafy Garden District of New Orleans © Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock
This fun neighbourhood around Tulane University is criminally underrated and well off the beaten path for most French Quarter-focused visitors. Those willing to travel the few extra miles will be richly rewarded with legendary New Orleans institutions including incomparable music venue The Maple Leaf and infamous late-night hang Snake & Jake’s. Accommodations in the mostly residential area are scarce, so get creative.
To feel like a local: Down the Block From Tulane
Located just a few blocks from one of the most storied dive bars in America (Snake & Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge), this appropriately-named Airbnb sets up shop in the fun yet under-the-radar neighborhood of Uptown/Carrolton near Tulane University. Rent out the two-bedroom space within this large gated home in the mostly residential area and feel like a local.
For rooms with a park view: Park View Historic Hotel
As unknown as the Uptown/Carrolton neighbourhood is, an even more underrated destination in New Orleans is the sprawling 350-acre Audubon Park located just steps from this historic B&B. Rooms are elegant with an 1800s monarchy vibe, so keep the ruckus down to a minimum.
Audubon Park is a highlight of this neighbourhood © Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock