The French Quarter can easily part you with your hard-earned cash in one evening if you are splurging on the swanky and the high-end (a dinner at Galatoire’s and drinks at French 75, for example), but, just as easily, you can have a great time on a limited budget. There’s a wealth of free attractions, reasonably priced food, low covers for live music, and happy hours with craft cocktails under $10. Here are some suggestions on how to do the French Quarter on a budget.
Have Breakfast at Cafe du Monde
If you hit Cafe du Monde (800 Decatur st.) in the morning, you’ll probably have to wait in line. But it’s worth the wait for a breakfast treat New Orleanians have been savoring since 1862. Order a plate of three fresh-from-the-fryer beignets dusted with powdered sugar, and dip them into a steaming hot cup of cafe au lait. Though light as air, beignets are surprisingly filling, and taste even better when you’re listening to live jazz while breezes waft off the nearby Mississippi.
Cost: about $6, plus tip.
Walk Along the Mississippi River, and Take a Trip on the Algiers Ferry
Strolling the banks of the Mississippi River is both delightful and free. And you don’t have to spring for a pricey ticket on a paddlewheel boat to cruise the river. It costs just $2 to board the Algiers ferry to the West Bank, which leaves from the foot of Canal Street, near the Aquarium of the Americas. You’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city’s skyline, and the towering spires of St. Louis Cathedral.
About five minutes later, you’ll dock at Algiers Point, a historic neighborhood with expansive views of the Crescent City along the Mississippi River levee. Reboard the ferry for another $2 when you’re ready to leave, and get back off where you started.
Cost: $4 round trip.
Grab a Sandwich to Go for Lunch
Central Grocery (923 Decatur St.) invented the muffuletta. It rivals the po-boy as the city’s most iconic sandwich. Layered with sliced Italian deli meats, rich provolone cheese, and hot and spicy olive salad, muffulettas are served on locally baked seeded buns and are big enough to feed two people. If it’s just you, opt for the half-sandwich.
Another great option, Verti Marte (1201 Royal St.) has dozens of sandwiches on its extensive menu, including the specialty gems like a vegetarian Green Giant and the meat-and-shrimp laden All That Jazz. Pro tip: Bring your lunch to the Moonwalk for a riverside picnic that will more than fill you up for the day.
Cost: $15.25 for a half of muffuletta; Verti Marte prices vary.
Walk Around and Window Shop
One of the best streets for window shopping is Royal Street, its pedestrian-only part in particular. There you’ll find dozens of antique, jewelry and vintage shops touting their stunning wares in their windows.
We’re especially impressed with a trove of priceless antiques worth a fortune at M.S. Rau Antiques (630 Royal St.), but it doesn’t cost a dime to drool over exquisite Victorian music boxes, dazzling diamond-encrusted brooches and elaborate player pianos. And Rau is just one of the many shops brimming with oddities and treasures on Royal Street.
The architecture isn’t shabby either, so enjoy all the wrought iron. Cap off an afternoon of aspirational window shopping by trying on one of the phantasmagorical wigs at Fifi Mahony’s (934 Royal St.).
Another fun street to walk is Chartres Street, which is studded with boutiques and interesting local stores. If you walk from Canal Street toward Esplanade Avenue, Chartres Street will lead you right to Jackson Square, where there’s usually a lot going on: street performances, brass bands, art displayed for sale, fortune telling, and just lots of local color and joie de vivre. Soak it up!
Hit a Happy Hour
New Orleans is a drinking town and boasts some of the best happy hours in the country. Lagniappe: many offer budget-priced small bites that can easily serve as an early dinner. These are just three to pick from, but really, the options are expansive.
Kingfish (337 Chartres St.)
Live like a king (on a budget) Monday through Friday from 2 to 5 p.m., when you can drink draft beer ($4), wine ($6), or specialty cocktails ($7) while noshing on $9 small plates like duck and andouille gumbo and Louisiana crawfish bread.
Saint John (1117 Decatur St.)
You can’t go wrong with upscale Creole cuisine when the bar bites are $7 and the libations are $5. This French Quarter newcomer is garnering accolades left and right, and this is your chance to find out why.
The Bombay Club (830 Conti St.)
If you’re staying at the Prince Conti Hotel, one of the best and most leisurely happy hours in the Quarter is right downstairs at The Bombay Club, where it runs from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Wash down shareables and bites like Natchitoches meat pies and Ploughman’s Board with a couple of beers ($3), glasses of wine ($4), or specialty cocktails ($5). Cost: Depends on how heartily you imbibe, but about $20 plus tip for two drinks and two apps buys a nice buzz and something in your belly to offset it.
Want to be close to al these places and attractions? Book your stay at our beautiful French Market Inn! Our historic hotel is located in the heart of the New Orleans French Quarter, close to a multitude of popular New Orleans bars, restaurants and landmarks.