The Garden District, or 'Lafayette City', as it was once known, is part of Uptown New Orleans.
This area is just a short streetcar ride from Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, but it feels like a world apart.
************Click here to see our full selection of New Orleans walking tours*************
It's a must-see in New Orleans, and we know, we lead hundreds of guests each week on walking tours of the neighborhood.
And, in the video below, Andrew, a tour guide with us - Free Tours by Foot takes you on a virtual Garden District walking tour.
Depending on the time of year, we offer daily or 2x daily guided walking tours of the Garden District.
Sights We Cover on the Garden District Tour:
- Colonel Short's Villa
- Briggs-Staub House
- Commander's Palace Restaurant
- Toby's Corner
- Manning House
- Brevard-Mahat-Rice House
- Payne-Strachan House
- Lafayette Cemetery*
- and much more...
*The cemetery is closed to groups for maintenance until further notice. We will still talk about the cemetery at the gate!
New Orleans is well known for uneven streets, most famously in the Garden District.
It is often a source of great humor and peril. Please wear flat shoes and let us know if anyone in your party uses walking assistance.
Where: Meets on the southwest corner of Prytania St. and Washington Ave. (next to the white wall). Please use our Google map for directions to the start of the tour.
Duration: Approximately 2 hours. Approximately 1 mile in length.
When: Check out our tour calendar or take our audio tour at your convenience.
Cost: name-your-own-price tour. Groups of 6-9 must prepay $10/person. Groups of 10 or more must organize a private tour and can read about our options for groups.
Depending on the time of year, we offer daily or 2x daily guided walking tours of the Garden District.
We have been leading walking tours for 15 years and we are well-regarded experts. Read the reviews for yourself.
GARDEN DISTRICT OF NEW ORLEANS AUDIO TOUR
We also offer a self-guided walking tour and audio tour for you to use anytime you wish.
The audio tour is GPS-enabled, so you can also follow it on your phone. Downloads cost just $2.99.
Here is an audio sample.
We also offer audio tours of other New Orleans Neighborhoods.
Here is how it works:
- Purchase an audio tour.
- Get a confirmation email with .mp3, .pdf, and embeddable Google Map
- Enjoy the tour(s).
- Garden District
- French Quarter
- Lafayette Cemetery #1
- Hurricane Katrina Rebirth
- Music, Arts, and More Tour
- St. Charles Streetcar
But first, a little background on the neighborhood.
Excluded from early 19th-century Creole society, newly arrived Yankees got to work creating their city.
They bought property blocks that were carved up from the Livaudais Plantation.
The result is one of New Orleans's most desired neighborhoods and one of the nation's most beautifully preserved city districts and it's home to the rich, the famous, the strange, and the dead!
Join Free Tours by Foot on our Garden District Tour as we stroll the leafy, magnolia-shaded streets of the Garden District and a city of the dead, Lafayette Cemetery #1.
This walking tour is not just historic mansions, live oak trees, and manicured gardens.
It also includes stories of legends, tragedy, epidemics, lost causes, movie stars, celebrity chefs, and haunted spirits.
It's free to visit and walk around the Garden District, and it's a very safe neighborhood.
HOW TO GET TO THE GARDEN DISTRICT
Depending on where you are coming from and going to exactly, the Garden District is approximately 2-3 miles from Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
How you will get to the Garden District depends on where you are staying and what you want to do of course.
Since this page is mainly a self-guided tour of the neighborhood, here is a link to the starting point of that tour.
There are buses that service the area and you could take a taxi or an Uber, but we recommend taking a ride on the St. Charles Streetcar.
The ride along St. Charles Avenue is full of beautiful
If you’re mainly interested in the shopping and dining on Magazine Street, the #11 city bus runs the entire length of that street, from the edge of the French Quarter to the Audubon Zoo.
Many reading this will be coming from the French Quarter, and then you will take the St. Charles Streetcar from Canal Street.
The fare is $1.25, though day passes are also available.
Be sure to read our guide on taking the streetcars in New Orleans. Below is a short video to give you a taste of what you will see.
Be sure to download our, GPS-enabled audio tour of the St. Charles Streetcar that you could take with you. Here's a sample.
Click here to get the audio tour.
While on your journey to the outskirts of town, you’ll pass through the first of New Orleans’ "American neighborhoods".
Known today as the Central Business District, it was the first neighborhood for the American prospectors arriving in town shortly after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
Many structures in this area date as far back as the 1820s.
Once again, here is a link to the starting point of that tour.
This walk should take you between 60-90 minutes, possibly more if you decide to enter Lafayette Cemetery #1.
Our tour begins just down the road from the Washington Ave. stop at St. Charles Ave.
You could also view this tour on a smartphone on Google Maps and you can use it offline.
Stop 1. The Rink/Still Perkin
The mustard-brown building at 2727 Prytania St., was once called the Crescent City Skating Rink, which we call the Rink today,
It was built in 1884, the year New Orleans hosted the World Cotton Centennial Exposition – that year’s name for the World’s Fair.
The whole city prepared to entertain huge crowds of visitors, and on this site, that meant building an ice skating rink.
Today it contains a coffee shop, the Still Perkin’ Café, where you can get a quick pastry or sandwich or a café au lait or chicory coffee to carry with you.
Upstairs is the Garden District Bookstore, which has hosted many book signings for the neighborhood’s famous novelist, Anne Rice.
You can see photos in the shop window of a theatrical mock funeral staged during one of her book promotions, and inside you’ll find a barrister bookcase filled with signed copies of her works.
Diagonally across the intersection from the Rink, you’ll see the white-painted brick wall of Lafayette Cemetery #1. Halfway along it on Washington Avenue, you’ll find the cemetery gate.
Stop 2. Lafayette Cemetery #1
Lafayette Cemetery #1 was established in 1833 and was named for Lafayette, the autonomous city where it was located and which would eventually be incorporated into New Orleans.
It is a municipal cemetery, owned and operated by the city rather than by the Catholic Church, and is the third oldest cemetery still standing in New Orleans today.
27 or more nationalities are represented in its interments.
The cemetery still has burials occurring.
There are about 1,000 tombs and an estimated 7,000 people buried in Lafayette #1. It is a city block in size.
For a more thorough exploration, read our self-guided tour and guide to Lafayette Cemetery #1.
We also have a GPS-led audio tour of the cemetery.
The cemetery is open Mon-Fri 7:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m., Saturdays 7:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. and it's closed on Sundays.
Exit the cemetery where you came in, on Washington Avenue, and walk left to Prytania Street. Turn right on Prytania and proceed one block, where you’ll see a fence with a cornstalk design on the right.
3. Colonel Short’s Villa
This house, at 1448 Fourth Street, was built by architect Henry Howard for Kentucky-born Colonel Robert Short in 1859.
Local lore says that Short’s wife complained of missing the cornfields in her native Iowa and that he bought the cornstalk fence as a gift for her.
An alternative explanation, suggested by the current owners, is that the wife saw that it was the most expensive fence available in the building catalog and requested it on that basis.
If you look closely, the corn plants are wrapped in bean vines – a common strategy for efficient cultivation of land, used by the region’s native population.
During the American Civil War, New Orleans was taken and occupied early as a strategic move to cut off Confederate supply lines.
Colonel Short’s Villa was commandeered in September 1862, and Governor Nathaniel Banks lived inside with Major General Benjamin Butler.
As a result of the early occupation, New Orleans, unlike many southern cities, evaded destruction from Sherman’s March.
Continue in the same direction along Prytania Street until the next intersection, where you’ll find the Briggs-Staub house on the left side.
4. Briggs-Staub House
The Briggs home, at 2605 Prytania. Street, built in 1854, is the only true example of Gothic Revival architecture in the Garden District.
Because this style reminded the Protestant Americans of the Catholicism of their Creole antagonists, it was not popular.
Original owner Charles Briggs did not hold African slaves but did acquire Irish indentured servants. The large servant quarters can be seen to the left of the home.
Continue along Prytania to the next house on the same side of the street.
5. Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel - 2523 Prytania St.
The beautiful Madonna and canopy in the yard denote a small Catholic chapel, which used to stand here until Anne Rice, author of Interview with a Vampire, purchased the property.
It became the setting for Violin, another of her novels.
The home was designed by architect Henry Howard in 1857. Most of his works, including this house, were in the Italianate style.
Italianate homes in the Garden District, on average, have ceilings that are seventeen feet high.
You’ll also notice the exquisite metalwork along the galleries.
At the tops of the metal columns, you’ll notice what we call “Romeo spikes” – installed, according to local lore, to keep young men from climbing into young women’s rooms.
The more likely intent of most owners was robbery prevention.
You’ll also notice gas lights on the porch that burn all day and night.
Lights like these found on many historic New Orleans buildings, uphold a tradition that dates to the 1833 arrival of J.H. Caldwell, a theater manager and gasworks industrialist, who added gaslighting to much of the city.
Since the Garden District was founded just as his enterprise began, the neighborhood would have never been without light.
Continue along Prytania to this block’s last building on the right.
6. The Women's Opera Guild House - 2504 Prytania St.
The standout homes in the Garden District often include more than one style.
Designed by William Freret in 1859, this building combines a Greek Revival structure and Italianate metalwork with a Queen Anne extension.
Now owned by the Women’s Opera Guild, the home can be toured on Mondays from 1 to 4 p.m.
Recent filming in the house includes the motion pictures Elsa and Peter with Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer and the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.
Continue down Prytania for another block; cross First Street and find the first house on the right.
7. Toby's Corner - 2340 Prytania St.
The Garden District’s oldest still-standing residence was built in 1838. You can note the basic Doric columns, which speak to the home’s age.
Although built for an American owner, the house displays Creole building techniques that are practical for the region.
The house has a raised basement for flooding as well as ventilation.
The ceiling height is 15 feet. Floor-length windows surrounding the structure could be opened to take advantage of cross-breezes coming from the nearby Mississippi.
From the front gate, you can see a sugar kettle being used as a fountain in the front yard, paying homage to southeast Louisiana’s biggest crop.
If you’re here during the Carnival season, you’ll likely see three flags with the insignia of Rex, King of Mardi Gras, one of New Orleans’ many parading organizations.
Next, look across Prytania Street.
8. Bradish Johnson House and Louise S. McGehee School - 2343 Prytania St.
Architect James Freret designed this mansion in the Second Empire style for sugar baron Bradish Johnson in 1872.
It is quintessential Reconstruction-era architecture.
You can also find this style further uptown along St. Charles Avenue in neighborhoods like Audubon Place, which was developed during that era.
Today, the property is the private Louise S. McGehee School for girls. They celebrated their centennial in 2012.
From here, turn back along Prytania to the intersection with First Street, then turn left. Continue along First Street until you find a tan house on the right.
9. Archie Manning House - 1420 First St.
This is the home of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning, as well as the childhood home of his sons Peyton, Eli, and Cooper Manning.
The family are full-time residents and are a common sight in the neighborhood.
A lot of footage from the documentary of the family called The Book of Manning (2013) was shot at the home.
BUCKNER MANSION – 1410 Jackson Avenue
The massive house at Coliseum and Jackson, built in 1856, is the Buckner Mansion, the largest home in the neighborhood.
As you approach on Coliseum Street, you’re seeing the back of the house, including a long, three-story extension: this was the home’s slave quarters.
As you come around to the front of the house on Jackson Avenue, you’ll get the full sense of its size – over 20,000 square feet.
Henry Buckner, its namesake, was a cotton magnate who commissioned the house, and his family continued to live there until 1923 when it became a business school.
You can still see a mosaic stating its educational mission by the front gate.
Now it’s again a single-family home, but it got to play the part of a school in American Horror Story: Coven.
10. Morris Israel House - 1331 First St.
By the 1860s, the Italianate style was the most popular style of architecture in the Garden District.
Like many New Orleans homes, this one is narrow along the street but extends far back on the lot.
Large square lots that failed to sell were often split lengthwise, sometimes more than once, to form multiple lots, leaving owners with no choice but to build long, rectangular homes.
Past visitors to Disneyland in Anaheim, California might recognize this house, as it was the basis for the design of the Haunted Mansion – and the house appropriately has rumored ghosts of its own.
Continue along First Street until you cross Chestnut, then find the first house on the left.
11. Brevard Mahat/Anne Rice House - 1239 First St.
Originally designed in 1857 as a Greek Revival home, this house has noticeable modern additions, like an Italianate bay and a skylight.
Notice the Rosegate fence, believed to be one of the first chain link fence designs in the world.
Viewers today, especially those familiar with the works of former owner Anne Rice, often see skulls rather than rosebuds.
Rice, best known for her novels about vampires in New Orleans, renovated and used the home as her primary residence for many years, besides setting her Witching Hour trilogy inside.
She sold the home in 2003 after the death of her husband, Stan Rice.
Continue along First Street, stopping at the first house on the right after the intersection with Camp Street.
12. Payne Strachan House - 1134 First St.
The first and only President of the short-lived Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis, died here in December 1889.
He had been traveling to New Orleans to give a lecture, became ill, and spent his last hours here in the home of Judge Charles Fenner, where he was brought to receive care.
A small monument in front of the house bears the date of Davis’ death: December 6, 1889.
Notice the sky-blue color of the ceiling on the front porch.
The color is believed to keep winged insects from nesting there and to ward off evil spirits.
Many Garden District homes adhere to this tradition, along with many other homes throughout the Gulf South region.
The color is called “haint blue.”
From here, turn back along First Street and proceed until you reach the intersection with Coliseum Street. Turn left and continue until this block’s last house on the right.
13. Joseph Merrick Jones House - 2425 Coliseum St.
This home currently belongs to the actor John Goodman, known locally for his role in the post-Katrina HBO drama Treme by David Simon, creator of The Wire.
He's known more broadly for his film career and long-running role as Dan Conner on the hit TV show, Roseanne.
He moved to New Orleans over thirty years ago after making the film The Big Easy with Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin.
Thanks to his depiction of a staunch defender of New Orleans culture in Treme and his real-life advocacy, New Orleanians take him as an honorary native son.
Before Goodman owned the home, it belonged to Trent Reznor, the singer of Nine Inch Nails.
Some would speculate he was not a good fit as he had quite a few unconventional guests and a recording studio installed inside.
Continue along Coliseum Street and pause at the next block’s last house on the left.
14. Musson Bell House - 1331 Third St.
This home was built in 1853 for Michel Musson, one of the few Creoles living in the Garden District before the Civil War.
He was the uncle of French artist Edgar Degas.
Degas briefly lived with Musson in another home on Esplanade Avenue during a visit to New Orleans.
You can tour that home, now called the Degas House.
The backyard of this building, visible along Coliseum Street, contains several detached buildings typical of 19th-century homes.
This includes slave quarters and a kitchen, a stable and carriage house, and a cistern for water storage.
Mark Twain, on visiting the neighborhood and seeing all the cisterns, once commented that it looked as if everybody in the neighborhood had a private brewery.
15. Robinson House - 1415 Third St.
Building on this property began in 1859 and did not end until 1865. It was designed by architect Henry Howard for tobacco merchant Walter Robinson.
The property is one of the largest in the Garden District at 12,000 square feet.
The roof is flat and once gathered rainwater for the home’s indoor plumbing and drinking water.
The house went up for sale in 2010 and the listing price was $12.5 million.
Continue along Coliseum until you reach the next block’s last building on the right.
16. Eustis/ Sandra Bullock Residence - 2627 Coliseum St.
This Swiss Germanic Chalet, built in 1867, is one of only three homes of this style in the entirety of New Orleans.
It is not a practical style of architecture in a part of the country that gets as warm as New Orleans does.
It was designed by Architect William Freret for James Eustis, a one-time U.S. Senator.
Today, it is the home of the Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock.
She bought the home in late 2009, shortly before her adopted son Louis was born in New Orleans.
People flock to the home hoping for a sighting, but she’s rarely here.
She does allow other celebrities to stay inside, though, so you never know who might come out of the front gate.
BENJAMIN BUTTON HOUSE – 2707 Coliseum Street
This house (Nolan House) was one of the main shooting locations for the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, featuring Brad Pitt – and also the one the film had to fight hardest to secure.
The director chose the house as the ideal setting for the retirement home where the title character has lived for many years.
However, the owner, who at the time was evacuated to Houston thanks to Hurricane Katrina, refused the request, as she had with
many requests from film companies in the past.
It took the director personally convincing her that the film would portray New Orleans in a positive, hopeful light – much needed after Hurricane Katrina – to change her mind.
The design of the house shows the broad array of visual styles the Americans living in this neighborhood drew from.
These include Ionic columns on the ground floor, Queen Anne reliefs on the second floor, and Gothic arches in Greek Revival dormers on a roof of part shingle, part Spanish tile.
Continue along Coliseum to the corner of Washington Ave.
17. Commander's Palace Restaurant - 1403 Washington Ave.
The bright turquoise-and-white building on the corner was erected in 1883 for Emil Commander to be run as a restaurant.
It is now considered to be one of the best restaurants in the United States and has been owned by the Brennan family, some of New Orleans’ foremost restauranteurs, since 1974.
Locals attend the weekday martini lunches – twenty-five cents for a martini with an entrée! – but a weekend jazz brunch is also a nice option.
Reservations are required and there is a strict dress code.
And that concludes our self-guided walking tour of the Garden District in New Orleans.
If you are reading this in preparation for an in-person visit, then consider joining other like-minded travelers on a guided tour with us, Free Tours by Foot (see below).