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Discover New Orleans: A Beginner's NOLA Guide

by JylBenson January - last edited December

New Orleans’ mysterious culture was created by the amalgamation of nearly a century of rule that regularly shifted from French to Spanish, tempered by large influxes of persons of Anglo-Saxon, Italian, German, Irish and African descent.

Discover New Orleans and its European heritage – immediately discernible through its architecture, music, cuisine, social structure, and the welcoming nature of its people – with our beginner's guide to the Crescent City...

Essential Guide to New Orleans

The colourful New Orleans Streets © Dennis Lomanaco
 

The city's architectural character continually offers a feeling of new discovery, even to those who spend their lives here. Each of its nine historic neighbourhoods – all of which are easily accessible to the visitor – features subtle differences in style. Canopies of fine, often centuries-old live oak trees shroud St. Charles Avenue, creating filigreed frames for the great boulevard's collection of 19th century Italianate and Greek Revival mansions. A walking tour of the stately, verdant Garden District reveals opulent homes – often 20 or 30 rooms in size – built for wealthy Americans who poured into the area following the Louisiana Purchase.

Essential City Guide to New Orleans

The distinctive wrought iron balconies of the French Quarter © Jeff Anding
 

Across town, the French Quarter (the city's first neighbourhood) remains beautifully intact with Creole townhouses adorned with lace-like wrought iron balconies from which hang magnificent vertical gardens forming colourful tunnels around the pedestrian walkways beneath. Throughout the city the predominance of fine craftsmanship and architectural brilliance employed to create structures that could withstand New Orleans’ peculiar subtropical climatic demands makes the city something of a Technicolor, outdoor, free-flowing museum.

Essential New Orleans City Guide

New Orleans is famous for its jazz scene © Jay Combe
 

As the acknowledged birthplace of Jazz, New Orleans has attracted musicians drawn to that ineffable style, as well as those who simply want to experience the vibe that makes New Orleans so alluring. The city is one of welcoming warmth and celebration and musicians share a panorama of melodic richness – Zydeco, Cajun, gospel, jazz, rhythm and blues, classical, folk, funk, new age, punk, and classic rock. Music simply permeates life here. It is in the air, at street parades, jazz funerals, funky music clubs, grand performance halls, endless festivals (most notable the world-famous New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) and drifting seductively from open doors everywhere.

Essential New Orleans Guide

Seafood is an essential element of Creole cuisine © Sara Essex
 

With over 1,300 restaurants to suit every conceivable taste and budget it's possible to explore many culinary genres in a single day. However, it’s the city's famous native Creole cuisine that has earned it particular praise. Dining opportunities range from humble curb-side shops selling sandwiches over-stuffed with crisply fried shrimp and drizzled with pungent sauces for just a few dollars, to elegant eateries housed in historic venues where times slips away over extravagant meals of many courses and hours.

Essential City Guide New Orleans

Spanish moss and azaleas make for pretty street scenes © Jay Combe
 

In this age the culture that has always made New Orleans magical has proven to be its greatest monetary asset, too. To merely sit in one place and look around or walk about without a plan can easily make for a fascinating experience.

Our partnership with Delta Air Lines means you can enjoy our award winning service on Virgin Atlantic flights to New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago and San Francisco and then travel onwards to 44 North American destinations with Delta – earning miles every step of the way.

You’ll also be able to book direct flights from London Heathrow to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis. Plus, you can look forward to more frequent flights from Heathrow to New York and Boston, giving you even more choice.

Have you spent time in New Orleans? Where do you go to experience a real taste of New Orleans life?


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About the author: JylBenson

Jyl Benson

A native of New Orleans, Jyl Benson has over two decades of experience as a journalist, editor, and writer, with a concentration in southern American culture, cuisine, and heritage.