This blog post offers a route for exploring French Quarter locations that were key to films, TV shows, and books set in New Orleans.
It’s a companion to our video tour (click the image below to watch) on the same subject, but you can also use this page during an in-person visit to discover these sites on your own.
The route covers several parts of the French Quarter and a small portion of the Marigny, an adjoining neighborhood.
The walk begins in Jackson Square in the center of the French Quarter. Begin by standing in front of St. Louis Cathedral, looking away from the church and toward the Andrew Jackson statue.
Jackson Square itself is home to many shoots, including moments from NCIS: New Orleans and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Turn left and walk to the corner of the Square; you’ll be at the intersection of St. Ann and Chartres Streets.
The block of Chartres straight ahead of you was the location of a memorable moment from James Bond: Live and Let Die.
It featured a jazz funeral, one of New Orleans’s traditional processions with a marching band leading the way from the church to the gravesite with dirge music.
The film also featured less traditional Louisiana moments, like crossing a body of water by using alligators as stepping stones. (We Louisianians leave such feats to the British.)
Turn left onto St. Ann and proceed straight ahead. Cross Royal Street; on the next block, watch on the right for an innocuous archway in a brick wall.
This gateway is one of the most frequently shot locations in NCIS: New Orleans, where it serves as the entryway to the NCIS headquarters.
(The interior of the HQ is shot on a sound stage in another part of town.) NCIS uses locations all over the city, and we’ll pass another in the course of the walk.
Turn around and return to the intersection of St. Ann and Royal Streets and turn left onto Royal Street. At the end of the block, at the intersection with Dumaine, you’ll see a large brick building on the left.
This building is a major element of the show The Originals – the main characters spend a season fighting for control of it.
Like NCIS,The Originals shoots its interiors elsewhere, but unlike NCIS, that elsewhere is much further away – in Atlanta.
Even exteriors are mostly shot there, on sets built to look like French Quarter streets.
Turn right onto Dumaine Street. On the right, you’ll see a wide building with a ground floor of white brick and an upper of green-painted wood.
This is one of many sites featured in Interview with the Vampire,the coffin scene.
This film and the novel it was based on, written by Anne Rice, introduced the world to the idea that New Orleans was crawling with vampires and set the stage for other locally-set vampire sagas like The Originals and True Blood.
The house is called Madame John’s Legacy, a name it gets from a short story by 19th-century writer George Washington Cable.
Cable played an early role in defining perceptions of New Orleans among readers from other parts of the United States.
His works were influential enough that this house was named for one of them – not because it had anything directly to do with Cable’s work, but because it looked like a house featured in one of his stories and provided a visual reference for tourists.
The building was also used in 12 Years a Slave, a film we’ll revisit further along the walk.
Go back to Royal Street and turn right. Continue a block and cross St. Philip Street. On the next block, look on the right for a two-story townhouse with iron railings, 1018 Royal Street.
The neighborhood had an effect on him – he was one of many rock musicians whose style paid tribute to early recordings by Fats Domino, recorded on the edge of the French Quarter.
And he and the film had an effect on the neighborhood, too – while Bourbon Street used to be a jazz corridor, Elvis and King Creole helped set an expectation for rock and roll that the street fulfills to this day.
Continue along Royal Street, crossing Ursulines Street. On the block that follows, watch on the right for the Gallier House at 1132 Royal.
You may see a sign with the name of the house hanging at 1128 Royal, next door; this building houses the box office for touring this historic home.
The property was featured in American Horror Story: Coven as the home of Delphine LaLaurie, one of the French Quarter’s most infamous 19th-century residents.
Today, ghost tours regularly tell her story, congregating around the last house on this block, still called the LaLaurie Mansion.
But that house is a replacement, built on the site of Madame LaLaurie’s 19th-century home.
The Gallier House looks more the part. AHS: Coven shot all over town, as did the subsequent season of the show, AHS: Freakshow.
From here, our next stop is several blocks away. Continue along Royal Street across Governor Nicholls Street, then Barracks Street, and finally to Esplanade Avenue.
Turn right on Esplanade and walk one block to the intersection with Chartres Street.
In the median on Esplanade is a historical plaque explaining that this intersection was once the home of the slave market where Solomon Northup, the writer, and protagonist of the book 12 Years a Slave, was sold into slavery.
The building no longer stands. The film of 12 Years a Slave used New Orleans both as itself and as Saratoga, New York – the town where Northup lived before his abduction.
Turn left onto Chartres, walk a block, and turn left onto Kerlerec Street. (By crossing Esplanade, you’ve left the French Quarter for the Marigny, home of Frenchmen Street, a music strip located just beyond our route.)
At the end of the block, at the intersection of Kerlerec and Royal Streets, is the R Bar.
The exterior of this building is used in NCIS: New Orleans as the Tru-Tone Bar, the main characters’ go-to hangout. In reality, it’s a working bar with a guesthouse upstairs.
Our next stops are back near where we began, around Jackson Square.
To get there, turn left on Royal Street, cross Esplanade Avenue back into the French Quarter, and continue for seven blocks to the intersection with Orleans Street.
Orleans St. is on the right; on the left, you’ll see the back of St. Louis Cathedral. Just past the Cathedral, turn left into Pirates Alley, a narrow, pedestrian-only path.
A few doors down on the right is Faulkner House Books.
William Faulkner is a former resident of this building; he lived here and in another cheap apartment right around the corner in Cabildo Alley during the little more than a year he spent living in the French Quarter.
It was a brief but formative time; he wrote short fiction that was published in local newspapers and magazines, befriended the then-renowned novelist Sherwood Anderson, and, with the older writer’s help, published his first two novels, Soldier’s Pay and Mosquitoes.
He was just one of many bohemian characters in the French Quarter of the 1920s, living cheaply and colorfully in a neighborhood that was home to thousands of immigrant Sicilians, dozens of artists, countless bars (during Prohibition), and only two tour guides.
The bookstore is small, but it holds historic copies of Faulkner’s works and sells an excellent selection of New Orleans-related fiction and nonfiction, and the staff has the knowledge to make recommendations.
Just past Faulkner House Books, turn right into Cabildo Alley. The alley ends when it meets St. Peter Street. There, look right and you’ll see, across the street, a tall building painted red, with an exposed-brick top floor.
That top floor was one of several homes of Tennessee Williams, who took inspiration from the French Quarter and came and went several times in his life. He lived in this building while writing A Streetcar Named Desire.
At that time in the 1940s, streetcars still ran through the French Quarter, including one with the word “Desire” across the front, named for Desire Street, its destination.
Iconic as it is, A Streetcar Named Desire has less connection with the French Quarter than viewers often expect.
The action is located on Elysian Fields Avenue in the Marigny, not far from the R Bar. And the film was mostly shot in California.
But for the French Quarter atmosphere from the same era, Elia Kazan, the director of Streetcar, shot another film shortly before called Panic in the Streets, which uses the French Quarter as the setting for a detective-flavored story about a public health official tracking down a man carrying a deadly plague.
Our last stop is on the edge of the French Quarter, on Canal Street.
To get there, turn right onto St. Peter Street, then left onto Royal Street, and walk six blocks to Canal Street. Turn right and walk a block, crossing the intersection with Bourbon Street.
On the next block of Canal, watch on the right for a statue. It depicts Ignatius J. Reilly, the main character of the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.
Among people who know New Orleans well, the book is famous for capturing local personalities and dialects. Circumstances around the book are also infamous.
Toole committed suicide before it was published, and it only ever reached the public through years of effort by his mother Thelma Toole with the help of novelist Walker Percy.
And efforts to adapt the story for the screen have been notoriously doomed, with several actors dying while committed to the role.
The statue is modeled on local actor Spud McConnell, who has successfully played the role on stage. The building it stands before is the former home of the D.H. Holmes department store, where Ignatius is waiting for his mother as the book begins.
Thank you for joining our walk, whether digitally or in person. For more videos exploring New Orleans, visit our YouTube channel.
And if you’re in town, consider joining us for a walk of the French Quarter, which will explore other aspects of the history of several of these sites.