Whether you love it or hate it, for plenty of visitors to New Orleans Bourbon Street is the ultimate embodiment of this hard-partying, good times-loving city. Noisy, raucous, and exciting all night long – it is a remarkable avenue that doesn’t really have an equal anywhere else in the world.
Whatever your feelings about beads, hurricane cocktails, and dancing on tables, it would be unthinkable to depart on a cruise from New Orleans without experiencing Bourbon Street at least once. Here’s a quick guide with everything you need to know before you go.
Despite its booze-fuelled rep, Bourbon Street’s name has nothing to do with the brown liquor. The street was laid out in 1721 by Adrian de Pauger and named after the French royal house of Bourbon, who controlled the city at the time. Bourbon Street was a quiet residential thoroughfare until the late 19th century when the Storyville red-light district was founded a few blocks away. Ever since then its been a place for debauchery, decadence, good times, and nocturnal entertainment.
Bourbon Street is lined with bars and clubs, but there are a few which are of particular note.
Home of the famous Hurricane cocktail, Pat O’Brien’s boasts a wonderful patio and the unique dueling piano spectacle.
Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop
This old Creole cottage is packed to the rafters with history. Shrouded in mystery, it was built at some point before the founding of Bourbon Street, and was supposedly the base of the Lafitte brothers’ piratical escapades. These days it is a moodily atmospheric spot to have a drink, and well worth experiencing.
The Cat’s Meow
An astonishingly popular karaoke bar, the Cat’s Meow embraced the art form way before singing in public was seen as part of a great night out.
Did you know drinking on the street is legal in New Orleans, as long as it is from a plastic cup? This adds an extra dimension to bar-hopping on Bourbon Street, as you don’t even have to wait to finish your drink before heading to the next venue! Just decant it into a ‘geaux’ cup, and head to the next bar, drink in hand!
Despite its decadent reputation, Bourbon Street also boasts some of the finest music venues in New Orleans. Preservation Hall was founded in the 60s to celebrate the city’s jazz culture, and is a showcase for the best artists in the area. Fritzel’s European Jazz Club offers a wonderfully old-fashioned experience, while the Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel is as swanky a live venue as you are likely to find anywhere!
Bourbon Street’s vibrant, excessive, 24-hour vibe is a vital part of what makes New Orleans such an amazing city, and should be a part of any NOLA itinerary!