Party with the locals in the jazz clubs and cafes of this hip New Orleans avenue.
No visit to New Orleans would be complete without taking in some of the music for which the city is world-famous. Frenchmen Street is within walking distance of better-known Bourbon Street, yet it’s slightly off the beaten tourist trail, making it hipper and less commercialised than its fashionable neighbour. This is where the locals come to party and listen to some of the hottest jazz in the South.
The area around Frenchmen Street was once a lower-class residential district of French Creole apartment blocks known as Faubourg Marigny. By day, the river end of the street, which runs between Filmore Avenue and the Mississippi, is popular for its laid-back cafe scene. At night the pulse quickens as the jazz clubs take over, filling the narrow streets and alleyways with the sweet sounds of authentic New Orleans music.
One of the most famous venues is the Spotted Cat Music Club, where celebrities such as Keith Richards, R.E.M. and Maroon5 have been spotted checking out their local counterparts. The club was named after the huge African cat belonging to a previous owner, which was often mistaken for a leopard. The rolling programme from late afternoon to the early hours, seven days a week, features top Louisiana jazz and blues bands and soloists as well as guest artists, and the club is legendary for its laissez-faire vibe, summed up by its invocation to “Leave drama at the door and ENJOY!”.
Although this historic part of town has been a popular hangout for local residents for decades, it’s beginning to be discovered by discerning visitors too, attracted by its contagious party atmosphere and graceful Colonial architecture. An increasingly popular way to explore the area is by horse-drawn carriage, which can be easily hired from anywhere within the French Quarter. The sight of these dainty carriages and their prancing steeds lends an air of authenticity to the scene and makes a lovely photograph. At night, as you head for home with the Creole beats still ringing in your ears, you’ll find it equally easy to hail a modern cab in this friendly and accessible part of town.