New Orleans is full of architectural wonders. Some architecture dates back to the early 1700s when it was first settled by the French. Much of its architecture is also influenced by the Spanish—think ironwork balconies and bright colors. Shotgun homes are common throughout the city, characterized by their narrow rectangular shape. There is also plenty of urban decay and vine-covered buildings juxtaposed with ornate mansions. It’s difficult to nail down a list of the most beautiful buildings in New Orleans, but here’s a sampling that should be on every explorer’s list.
The St. Louis Cathedral is the centerpiece of the French Quarter and one of New Orleans’ most recognizable landmarks. Built as a Catholic Parish along the banks of the Mississippi River in the 1700s, it’s the oldest cathedral in North America and serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans. Open to the public and offering self-guided tours, the cathedral is a solemn piece of history that also hosts cultural events and sermons.
Based in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood on the bustling Canal Street, Swan River Yoga is situated in a building that was once a public library. It was lovingly restored and updated, and is now a light-filled yoga studio and temple. The bottom floor houses a vegan cafe and lobby area, while the upstairs features an expansive, minimalist space for its popular daily classes.
Once the seat of the Spanish colonial city hall of New Orleans, The Cabildo is now one of the buildings incorporated into the Louisiana State Museum system. Located on Jackson Square, next to the St. Louis Cathedral, it offers historic significance, as it was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803. It was also the seat of the Louisiana Supreme Court from 1868 until 1910. Roof repairs on the Cabildo caused a massive fire 1988 that led to extensive damage to the roof, cupola, and its third floor. The building was repaired over the next six years and re-opened in 1994.
The Degas House is a bed and breakfast located in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans. Once home to French Impressionist Edgar Degas, this guest house, which is designed around Creole-styled architecture, features luxurious guest rooms (some with furnished balconies and spa tubs), free Wi-Fi, complimentary parking, as well as authentic cook-to-order homemade breakfasts, such as French waffles with fresh fruit, French toast topped with caramelized bananas, over-sized Creole omelets with choice of fillings, and a bloody Mary or mimosa. Guests, who can enjoy complimentary wine at check-in, also have the opportunity to experience The Edgar Degas House Creole Impressionist Tour, considered by many to be the most historically accurate tour in New Orleans.
The picturesque and beautifully restored Melrose Mansion, built in an ornate Victorian style, is situated on the outskirts of the lower French Quarter in the colorful Faubourg Marigny neighborhood. This gem of a building houses 21 rooms available for rent and is often the site of weddings or other festive celebrations.
This historic residence is located in the French Quarter and is currently a museum that focuses on some of its past residents, including Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, who lived there after the Civil War ended, and author Frances Parkinson Keyes, who was there in the 1950s. For the New Orleans Tricentennial celebration, the museum is also hosting a number of springtime lecture series, book-signings, and other events that celebrate the city’s history.