Romantic Itinerary: How to Spend Valentine’s Day in the French Quarter
This city’s sensual charms are undisputed, as New Orleans had been consistently rated as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Romance doesn’t necessarily need a special occasion, but if you happen to be here on Valentine’s Day there are few better places to be.
The French Quarter in particular has much to offer in terms of the romantic itinerary — from the scenic Mississippi River waterfront to strolling through the centuries-old district to enjoying dinner at some of the best restaurants in the country. Here are a few suggestions for what you can do in the French Quarter for Valentine’s Day.
Take a carriage ride
Time-travel in comfort and see the French Quarter from a mule-drawn carriage, as one would have done a couple of centuries ago. You can book online or grab a first-come-first-serve French Quarter Mule Tour offered by Royal Carriages on Decatur right outside the Jackson Square gate, from 8 a.m. through midnight daily. The Dixie Bohemia carriage tour covers the Quarter plus (depending on the time of day) either St. Louis Cemetery #1 or the Marigny. All tours are $40 per person (private tours and wedding packages also available).
Stroll the Riverfront and the French Market
You can access the mile-long riverfront easily from the Jackson Square area. There you will find the Woldenberg Park and a walkway called the Moonwalk, named after the former New Orleans mayor Maurice “Moon” Landrieu. The park is a popular spot to watch the people and the boats go by. There’s plenty of grass and benches, public art dots the space liberally, and you can enjoy street performances along the Moonwalk.
While you are at the Riverfront, you can’t miss the French Market across the street. The best way to experience it is to walk through its open-air mall, starting with the food stands and ending at Esplanade. As the oldest continually operating public market in the country since 1791, the French Market has a structure of a traditional European market. It covers roughly five blocks, from Cafe du Monde on Decatur St. across from Jackson Square to the daily flea market at the end of Esplanade Avenue.
Shop the stalls with handmade art and jewelry, t-shirts, music, and more. Sample local food and cocktails from the food stands or the nearby restaurants sprawling in every direction, or pick up pralines and a beignet mix to take home from any of the surrounding retail shops.
Take a river cruise
If you want to get off dry land, Creole Queen’s Valentine’s Day cruise offers a romantic outing on the river. The paddlewheeler’s evening cruise boards at 6 p.m. and includes open bar, complimentary champagne, live music, and upscale Cajun buffet. Reservations are required, and you should dress to impress.
Walk down Royal Street
The 13 blocks of Royal Street from Esplanade Avenue to Canal Street in the French Quarter present a very different scene from Bourbon Street, which runs parallel only a block away. The stretch between St. Louis and St. Ann streets is a pedestrian mall closed to traffic from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. There you’ll find eclectic art galleries, funky boutiques, upscale antique shops, live music on many a corner, and lots of street performance art. The scenic Royal Street is not only considered one of the best destinations in the country for antique shopping, but it’s also a sight to behold for its wrought-iron balconies and other charming architectural details.
Take in Jackson Square
Don’t miss this timeless landmark located in the very heart of the French Quarter. Known since the 18th century as Place d’Armes, it was renamed in honor of Andrew Jackson following the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Jackson’s bronze statue is the focal point of the square, surrounded by the lavish flora and facing the Mississippi River. Jackson Square is also a host to the open-air artist market and performance space, with local art displayed along the fence. You can have your sketch done, dance to a brass band, or have your fortune told.
Overlooking Jackson Square and the block-long row of the Pontalba Buildings, St. Louis Cathedral is one of the most instantly recognizable buildings in the world and the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States. Come inside to take in the Cathedral’s stunning interior. If you’re lucky, you may get to hear its bell or witness an occasional wedding party spilling out, followed by a second line.
Have dinner at a romantic restaurant
Few cities in the world have as many romantic restaurants as New Orleans, and you can have your pick of many stunners located in the French Quarter. Impress your date with the world-class meal in a historic setting at the trifecta of upscale Creole dining — Broussard’s, Arnaud’s or Antoine’s.
The back patio of the lovely Bayona, which is located inside a two-century-old Creole cottage on a quiet block of Dauphine Street, is as enchanting a setting as it gets. So is the candlelit Sylvain on Chartres Street, where the cocktails are top notch and there’s a charming patio. Or you can share the Chef’s Selection tasting plate over chartreuse at the Meauxbar across the street from Armstrong Park, another romantic destination with an intimate vibe and innovative cuisine.
If you want something traditional yet sophisticated, we recommend Muriel’s Jackson Square for some excellent Creole cuisine and an unbeatable location (as the name suggests, it’s right on a corner of Jackson Square). Finally, the one and only Galatoire’s needs no explanation or additional incentive to visit.
Get a sweet treat
Thanks to the New Orleans’ French and Spanish roots the French Quarter offers some of the best European-style patisseries. Salon Restaurant by Sucre is located above the Sucre boutique at the intersection of Conti and Royal Streets and serves freshly baked pastries, desserts and sandwiches along with specialty cocktails and a well-curated wine list.
Don’t miss Croissant D’Or, tucked away between Royal and Chartres on Ursulines. Steeped in old-world charm, this Parisian-style patisserie has some of the best baked goods in the city. The sweet and savory croissants, and everything else you’ll find displayed in the gleaming glass case — the tarts and the tortes and the quiches — is delicious and served fresh daily from the bakery.
Finally, we can’t think of a more romantic sweet treat when in New Orleans than sharing Brennan’s “World Famous Bananas Foster.” This decadent dessert is made with bananas, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, rum, and vanilla bean ice cream. It’s traditionally flambéed tableside, and you can enjoy it with some bubbly in the restaurant’s lush courtyard.