Charming and historic French Quarter hotels

Years ago, we went to New Orleans and stayed outside the French Quarter. We’re not big partiers, so we thought we’d prefer staying some place less frantic.

But we were wrong. Having to take a cab every time we wanted to go anywhere was a hassle – and an expense. And after the innkeeper told us not to go outside until the cab arrived, we actually felt less safe than if we’d stayed in the French Quarter.

We’ve stayed in the Quarter several times since then, and although it can get a little crazy on Bourbon Street, we love staying there. Rooms in the better French Quarter hotels are remarkably soundproof, and if you’re one or two blocks off Bourbon Street, you likely won’t hear a peep.

Best of all, many of the city’s finest restaurants, antique shops, and night spots will be a short – and colorful – stroll away.

Luxury French Quarter hotels.

Located at the edge of the French Quarter on Canal Street, The Ritz Carlton is housed in the old Maison Blanche department store. It’s been beautifully updated, and with amenities like Bulgari toiletries and ultra-comfy beds, the 360 rooms and suites are really top drawer. The spa here is the best in town, there’s a 24-hour fitness center, and afternoon tea in the lobby is old-school New Orleans at its best.

For an even more luxurious experience – including butler service and wood floors – upgrade to the club level called Maison Orleans. The 75 rooms here have a separate lounge that serves cocktails and five meals a day.

Lovers of luxury who prefer an intimate experience should book a room at Soniat House – well in advance. With only 33 rooms in three early 19th-century townhouses, the Soniat is one of the most exclusive New Orleans hotels. The most desirable rooms are in the main house and the annex where you can expect polished hardwoods, Oriental rugs, high ceilings, and beautiful plasterwork. The courtyards are secluded and serene, and service is impeccable.

We stayed at the Royal Sonesta in December and loved it. It’s surprisingly refined for being smack dab on Bourbon Street. Step into the marble lobby, and you’re a world away. The nearly 500 rooms vary in size but are all nicely outfitted and decorated in a traditional style. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, reserve a room facing the inner courtyard, which has a large swimming pool. Scattered around the hotel are more than 7,000 original works of art. On Sundays, Begue’s Restaurant serves New Orleans’s best brunch, and Desire Oyster Bar has impeccably fresh shellfish.

For a truly romantic getaway, the Audubon Cottages are just the thing. Surrounding the oldest swimming pool in the French Quarter, the seven one- and two-bedroom cottages here have private or semi-private courtyards and separate parlors. Hardwood floors, Jacuzzi tubs, antiques, and four-poster beds add to the charm. Audubon lived in Cottage 1 when he was working on his Birds of America series.

Built in 1886, the Monteleone is the largest French Quarter hotel and the most historic. A recent renovation made the most of both old and new and the addition of Spa Aria makes this a great choice for those who wish to unwind too. The Hunt Room Grill is a favorite of locals and visitors alike. One of the most appealing features is the rooftop swimming pool.

Other French Quarter hotels.

Chateau Bourbon occupies the D.H. Holmes department store, which dates from 1849. And many of the larger than average rooms have high ceilings, columns, and other period details. If you like being in the thick of things, request a room with a balcony overlooking Bourbon or Dauphine Street. There’s a swimming pool and pretty, inner courtyard. When it’s time for dinner, the Red Fish Grill next door is excellent.

Given its location and amenities, Dauphine Orleans offers good value for money in the Quarter. The property is made up of several buildings – an old bordello which serves as the lounge, a 19th-century cottage, and a wealthy merchant’s home. A recent renovation led to nicely done rooms. And there’s a salt water swimming pool and WiFi in the rooms.

If you’re planning to travel to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, Jazz & Heritage Festival, or another major event, make your reservations several months ahead of time.

1) Ritz Carlton New Orleans
2) Soniat House
3) Royal Sonesta Hotel
4) Audubon Cottages
5) Hotel Monteleone
6) Chateau Bourbon
7) Dauphine Orleans

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