French Quarter (Vieux Carré)
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré - or the “Quarter” to locals, sits on a crescent in the Mississippi River on some of the highest ground in New Orleans. Not only is this is city’s cultural hub, but is a community where residents take time to reminisce with neighbors about times gone by and to welcome visitors in the streets.
Intimate and unique, New Orleans’ oldest neighborhood has exerted a spell over writers and artists since the time of Mark Twain, Lafcadio Hern and John James Audubon.
Hollywood celebrities and software magnates have joined the residential mix, keeping the glamour up-to-date, but it is the year-round local residents who keep the neighborhood vibrant.
French Quarter architecture is a mix of Spanish, French, Creole and American styles. Plastered walls and single chimneys reflect laws enacted after fire virtually destroyed the city in 1788 and 1794. Walled courtyards, perfect for French Quarter parties, are a gift of the Spanish influence.
Cast iron balconies were added to many masonry buildings after 1850, when Baroness Pontalba included them on her fashionable row houses near Jackson Square. These lacy galleries, along with plentiful stoops and porches on younger buildings, make the Quarter a great place for people-watching-and every kind of person imaginable can be spotted on the sidewalks of the Quarter.
Visitors can obtain an inside look at Vieux Carre’s architectural gems by going on home tours offered throughout the year. Gallier House, designed and built by James Gallier-one of the most esteemed architects in New Orleans History, is one of the best examples of the fusion between culture and architecture in the city. Gallier House dons “Summer Dress” each season, and visitors are fascinated by this 19th century, Creole custom which helps keep the house cool during the warm summer months.
Besides its obvious architectural distinction the Vieux Carre offers visitors a plethora of different experiences. Around the bend of every corner you may find a eclectic shopping destination, delicious restaurant, or history museum. Browse the treasure trove at the French Market, shade yourself in Jackson Square, and munch on a muffellata at Central Grocery.
Do not be fooled by the common interpretation of the French Quarter because it is so much more than anything you could expect.