Where is the French Quarter?
The French Quarter is commonly referred to as being the area from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue and from the Mississippi River up to North Rampart Street, and this is how you’ll find it defined on most tourist maps!
There are some variations to this though – the National Historic Landmark District for example, is a little larger than this area, and New Orleans City Planning Commission has the French Quarter marked a little differently as well.
A History of the French Quarter
When talking about the history of New Orleans, you can’t avoid talking about the French Quarter as this is where the city first began back in 1718.
The French established New Orleans (known as La Nouvelle Orleans in French), building their new city on the banks of the great Mississippi River. But, the irony is that just about all of the buildings you see here today were not built by the French!
In 1763 New Orleans was handed to the Spanish Empire and 15 years later, on the afternoon of March 21, 1788, a fire broke out in a property on Chartres Street. Within five hours the Great New Orleans Fire had burnt most of the city to the ground. The Spanish set about rebuilding the French Quarter, based on their own architectural styles and making sure the buildings were sided with a fire-resistant stucco, not wood as before, and that they were as fire-proof as possible.
However, six years later another fire swept through the city on December 8, 1794. This Great New Orleans Fire succeeded in wiping out what little remained of the original French colonial architecture and threatened many of the newly built Spanish buildings such as the famous St Louis Cathedral.
So despite this being the ‘French Quarter’ we actually have the Spanish to thank for the signature buildings with their beautiful ironwork balconies and galleries! And they have stood the test of time, surviving through several hurricanes; they were accepted by the French when they regained control of the city in 1801 and were embraced by the United States when they purchased New Orleans in 1803.
The French Quarter Today
Today the French Quarter is the essence of New Orleans for visitors from around the world, many of whom will come to New Orleans to see only the French Quarter and nothing else. It’s true to say that this is probably the most captivating area of the city, but there’s more to New Orleans than the French Quarter!
Still, the famous streets, such as Bourbon Street and Royal Street, the stunning architecture all around, the impressive Jackson Square with St Louis Cathedral and the Cabildo (colonial city hall), and the fantastic New Orleans cuisine are definitely great reasons to want to visit the French Quarter!