If New Orleans has a beating heart, it’s Jackson Square. Art. Music. Culture. History. It is a site that visitors to the Crescent City must make a pilgrimage to if they want to say they have actually been New Orleans. And the moment you arrive there, you understand why.
The birth of Jackson Square
Declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, Jackson Square was the location where Louisiana officially became part of the United States. That happened in 1800s, but the history of the French Quarter and New Orleans goes back much further than that.
New Orleans itself was founded in 1718 after the French claimed what would become Louisiana in the 1690s. In 1763, New Orleans was taken over by the Spanish. A pair of fires in the late 1700s destroyed many of the buildings.
After that, architecture became a mélange of French, Spanish and even Caribbean influences, giving birth to the French Quarter that tourists are familiar with today. And at the center of all that history was Jackson Square, named for the seventh President of the United States.
It’s all about the neighbors
A huge part of the allure of Jackson Square is everything around it. Just across Decatur Street are Washington Artillery Park and the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. If you’ve never seen it in person, that river lives up to the hype of all the stories and songs about it.
Also across Decatur is Café Du Monde, an fantastic spot for coffee and beignets, which simply taste better when eaten in New Orleans. But it’s not the only place to get a bite to eat in the vicinity of Jackson Square.
As one would expect, there are several incredible restaurants around the square. One of those restaurants is Muriel’s. It has been open since 2001, and offers a variety of dining options as well as some delightful old school Louisiana fare. And don’t forget to ask about their ghost.
In addition to the restaurants are several shops around the square and the nearby Faulkner House Books on Pirate Alley. But the most iconic landmark adjacent to Jackson Square is undoubtedly St. Louis Cathedral, a majestic 18th Century church.
Jackson Square proper
While Jackson Square is picturesque and well situated in the French Quarter, it has another huge feature that makes it a massive draw. There are buskers and vendors all around it that make it a living, breathing experience.
During the day, there are artists, fortunetellers and more all around the square. Even if fortunetellers aren’t your thing, there are some truly talented artists working there. They are more than worth checking out.
The biggest draw in the square is easily all of the musicians that perform. There are some amazing, and historic, music venues all around New Orleans, particularly in the French Quarter. Music is a key part of this city’s identity.
But there is no experience like sitting on the steps of St. Louis, enjoying a beignet after a great meal. The cool night air refreshes you while outstanding music wafts by. That is the quintessential experience of enjoying Jackson Square.