New Orleans’s unmissable landmarks and historical sights

New Orleans is a rich heritage city crammed with must-see architecture and nature. Explore the best of these through 15 essential landmarks.

New Orleans is one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the Southern United States. From unique French and African-inspired culture and history to delicious Creole cuisine and scenic boat trips down the Mississippi River, New Orleans has something for everyone.

Historic landmarks worth exploring include iconic colonial and antebellum architecture in the French Quarter, the Garden District of the woodlands and waterways of City Park, and Bayou St. John. NOLA is one of the most unique cities in America when it comes to culture, history, and architecture. Here are the top 15 New Orleans landmarks you must check out on your next visit.

Historic and architectural landmarks in New Orleans

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1. The French Quarter

Founded in 1718, the historic French Quarter is the oldest part of New Orleans and is filled with architectural landmarks from colonial times, lively bars, restaurants, and markets.

Highlights:

See the French Quarter in style with a sightseeing carriage ride. Starting at Jackson Square, your mule-drawn carriage will take you past St. Louis Cathedral, Napoleon House, the French Market, and Bourbon Street.

Address and opening hours:

French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, USA. Open every day.

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2. The Cabildo

Next to the St. Louis Cathedral is this large baroque-style building from the city's Spanish colonial past. Built in 1799, the Cabildo was once the center of governance in New Orleans and is now one of the city's premier museums.

Highlights:

The museum showcases artifacts from Louisiana's history. Combine your visit to the Cabildo with a city tour to get the most out of this experience.

Address and opening hours:

701 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70130. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-3:30 PM.

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3. The Presbytere

On the opposite side of St. Louis Cathedral sits the Presbytere, which was built in 1813 to match the architectural style of the Cabildo building.

Highlights:

The museum inside houses two permanent exhibitions: "Mardi Gras: It's Carnival Time in Louisiana" and "Living with Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond".

Address and opening hours:

751 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70116. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00 AM-4:00 PM.

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4. Preservation Hall

Jazz has been part of New Orleans for over a century. One of the best places to experience traditional jazz is Preservation Hall. Built in 1961, it has become the leading venue for classic jazz.

Highlights:

This venue attracts visitors from all over the world and even has its own record label and touring band. Experience the music and more with a walking tour of the French Quarter.

Address and opening hours:

726 St Peter St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70116. Open every day, 5:00 PM-9:30 PM.

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5. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1

Interested in New Orleans' darker history? Take a trip to the city's most famous cemetery for a fascinating tale or two.

Highlights:

Take a two-hour cemetery tour for an in-depth encounter with the city's dark past. Discover why the graves are built above ground and the city's connection with Voodoo, and learn about some of the cemetery's famous inhabitants.

Address and opening hours:

425 Basin St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70112. Open every day, 9:00 AM-3:45 PM.

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6. The National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum in Downtown New Orleans offers an immersive look at the Second World War through exhibits, multimedia presentations, and first-hand accounts.

Highlights:

Purchase an entry ticket and arrive early to make the most of your visit. Optional extras include guided tours of the Campaigns of Courage and Arsenal of Democracy areas and the 4D film Beyond All Boundaries.

Address and opening hours:

945 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70130. Open every day, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM.

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7. The Garden District

Built in the 19th century, the Garden District is home to some of the best-preserved mansions from the city's antebellum and Victorian periods.

Highlights:

To learn more about the history of the Garden District, take a walking tour of the area. This tour will take you past some of the most notable homes in the area, and Lafayette No. 1 Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in the city.

Address and opening hours:

Garden District, New Orleans, LA, USA. Open seven days a week.

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8. The New Orleans Museum of Art

The New Orleans Museum of Art, or NOMA, is a magnificent marble building housing a permanent collection of over 40,000 items.

Highlights:

When visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art, admire its many artworks, including works by Monet, Picasso, and Pollock. Just outside the museum is the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, a beautifully landscaped garden that features over 90 sculptures.

Address and opening hours:

1 Collins Diboll Cir., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70124. Open Tuesday-Sunday 10:00 AM-5:00 PM.

Scenic and natural landmarks in New Orleans

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9. City Park

City Park is one of the largest parks in the city and one of the oldest in the United States.

Highlights:

City Park features around 1,300 acres of space, so a guided bike tour is a great way to catch all the highlights.

Address and opening hours:

City Park, New Orleans, LA, USA, 70124. Open every day, 5:00 AM-10:00 PM.

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10. Bayou St. John

Not far from City Park is the peaceful waterway known as Bayou St. John. The bayou is a quiet sanctuary in the city.

Highlights:

One of the best ways to discover this area is by bike tour, which will guide you to important locations along the waterway.

Address and opening hours:

Bayou St. John, New Orleans, LA, USA, 70119. Open every day.

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11. Audubon Park

Although much smaller than City Park, Audubon Park offers scenic attractions and activities to enjoy.

Highlights:

Spend the day at Audubon Park and enjoy the activities on offer. South of Magazine St. is Audubon Zoo, Whitney Young Pool, and The Fly. To the north are the Audubon Park Golf Course and WWI Memorial.

Address and opening hours:

6500 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70118. Open every day, 5:00 AM-10:00 PM.

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12. New Orleans Botanical Garden

The New Orleans Botanical Garden was the city's first public garden. Today, it features over 2,000 varieties of plants from across the globe.

Highlights:

New Orleans Botanical Garden is open throughout the year. Inside you will find a rose garden, a sculpture garden, miniature trains, a Japanese Garden, and the Conservatory of the Two Sisters featuring tropical and prehistoric plant life.

Address and opening hours:

5 Victory Ave., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70119. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 10:00 AM-4:30 PM.

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13. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park

A short drive from Central NOLA lies the vast nature reserve and pristine wetlands of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

Highlights:

This natural landmark covers a large area and is divided into six sites, with the Barataria Preserve among the most scenic. Immerse yourself in this area with a bayou tour.

Address and opening hours:

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Marrero, LA, USA, 70022. Open every day.

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14. Louis Armstrong Park

Louis Armstrong is one of NOLA's most celebrated musicians. Relax and enjoy one of the live performances that are regularly featured here.

Highlights:

Louis Armstrong Park features an auditorium, theater, and buildings dedicated to the history and preservation of jazz. The most popular attractions are Congo Square and the 12-foot statue of Louis Armstrong.

Address and opening hours:

701 N Rampart St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70116. Open every day, 8:00 AM-6:00 PM.

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15. Woldenberg Park

Woldenberg Park stretches along the mighty Mississippi River. Come here to appreciate the scenery, and perhaps you'll see an old-style steamboat.

Highlights:

Roam along the riverside path in Woldenberg Park, admire the sculptures and enjoy the free entertainment. The park is also home to Audubon Aquarium, several boutique stores, and the iconic SS Natchez.

Address and opening hours:

1 Canal St., New Orleans, LA, USA, 70130. Open every day, 6:00 AM-12:00 AM.

FAQs

What is the oldest historic landmark in New Orleans?

Many of the oldest buildings in New Orleans can be found in the city's French Quarter, several dating back to the 18th century. Perhaps the oldest is the Old Ursuline Convent, built in 1745.

What are some free landmarks in New Orleans?

Many municipal parks and areas like the Garden District and French Quarter are free. Entry into St. Louis Cathedral and several cemeteries are free, except St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.

Are there guided tours that focus on the architecture of New Orleans' landmarks?

Yes. Many guided tours focus on the history and architecture of New Orleans. There are guided walking tours, bike tours, bus tours, boat tours, and even mule-drawn cart tours.

How can I get the best views of scenic landmarks in New Orleans?

New Orleans is flat and without tall buildings, so there are not many places to get a panoramic view. However, areas like The Fly in Aubudon Park and Woldenberg Park offer scenic views of the Mississippi River. Another option is to see the city from the river itself with a journey on the SS Natchez. There are also helicopter tours that offer aerial views of the city.

What natural landmarks near New Orleans are worth visiting?

New Orleans is surrounded by natural swampland and bayous that have become synonymous with life in the Mississippi River Delta. Perhaps the best place to experience the natural environment around New Orleans is in Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve just south of the city.