Nestled just down river (east) from the French Quarter are two of New Orleans' most distinct and well-kept secrets: the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods. Both neighborhoods are only minutes away from the French Quarter, yet are tucked back into their own diverse communities, combining old-time New Orleans culture with a hip, contemporary bohemianism.
Nothing encapsulates this mixture more than the vibrant architecture lining the streets of these neighborhoods. From quaint shotguns and colorful Creole cottages, to Italianate mansions, American townhomes and storefront renovations, the Marigny and Bywater are shining examples of how history and urban renewal can successfully merge together to create a funky harmony only found in New Orleans. A commitment to preservation and diversity along with a heavy influence from the arts makes for beautiful and vibrant neighborhoods.
Located between Esplanade Avenue and Press Street (the eastern and western boundaries), Faubourg Marigny is one of New Orleans' oldest neighborhoods and was one of the first surburbs of the Vieux Carre.
During the day, the Marigny's funky vibe pervades. You can peruse antique shops and bookstores, opt for food from Creole to vegetarian or visit the gardens of Washington Square Park - all perfect places for meeting local artists, performers and neighborhood characters. Get their suggestions on restaurants to visit and acts to catch.
A trip into the Marigny is not complete without a visit to the famed Frenchmen Street. Known as the local's version of Bourbon Street, and a must-visit destination for nightlife, Frenchmen is a compact entertainment district home to a wide range of clubs featuring musical styles from traditional jazz to blues to reggae to rock.
Frenchmen also offers a lively street culture that creates a seamless experience of music and fun both inside and out of the clubs that line the district. Sketch artists, poets, bluegrass and gypsy jazz pick-up bands nestle into stoops along the strip. Brass bands are commonly found on the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen and will give you an opportunity to second line alongside locals. On the weekends, the nocturnal Frenchmen Art Market sets up with tempting local crafts and wares.
So feel free to get outside, stroll, wander, dance in the street and, of course with New Orleans' open-container law, you can always take your drink with you as you explore.Whether you're a night owl or early bird, you can always pass a good time in the Marigny.
Stretching from Press Street to the Industrial Canal is the Bywater, where the mood and pace shift as you enter into the heart of an edgier yet still welcoming neighborhood. The St. Claude Arts District, centered around St. Claude Avenue, is home to more than thirty locations exhibiting visual and performance art, along with an array of artisan crafts. Down Piety Street, the fun continues with restaurants, thrift stores and more galleries. Even the homes, cafes and restaurants seem to capture Bywater's eclectic appreciation for the arts.
Spend the afternoon at Crescent Park for some impressive views of downtown New Orleans and the Mississippi River. Afterward, you can thrift your way through the neighborhood before stopping in at an exhibition and finally making your way to dinner. The area's restaurants are among the most innovative in the city and are great places to sit with a cocktail and chat with locals.
Above all, the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods illustrate the relationship between the New Orleans arts scene and local life. So whether you're looking for the New Orleans of old, or if you want see where New Orleans culture is headed for the future, the Faubourg Marigny and Bywater will offer you glimpses in either direction.