In Depth

A guide to New Orleans, USA

Join jazz hounds, mixology maestros and thrilled foodies beside the bayou

Why board British Airways' new service from Heathrow to New Orleans (launching 27 March)? Try a jazz-drenched music scene, the world's funkiest food and enough high jinks, open-mindedness and love to shine through the current political fog.

What to see

The Big Easy's centre is a small rectangle. Welcome to the French Quarter: an immersive world of colonial buildings, hedonistic bars, voodoo psychics and a unique brand of brouhaha. More elegant, the adjacent Warehouse District houses an innovative National World War II Museum, plus galleries showcasing Southern and contemporary art.

Take some time out

Local swamp tours – New Orleans is beside the Mississippi Delta and Lake Pontchartrain – promise not just alligator sightings, but also relaxing hours spent amid mossy channels. Steamboat rides upriver are similarly soporific, while equally classic are the city's iconic streetcars. Ride the St Charles Line to gawp at beautiful, plantation-style mansions.

What and where to eat

The classic eats are beignets – fried dough-balls, best scoffed at Cafe du Monde – and po' boy baguette sandwiches, for which Barack Obama visited Parkway. Otherwise, local food blogger Emily Smith touts a Garden District haunt. "Though it may seem strange to suggest Latin/Caribbean tapas in New Orleans," she says, "Baru Bistro is simply serving some of the city's best flavours right now. One of my favourites is the skirt steak with chimichurri and manchego-cheese fries."

What and where to drink

Cocktails were supposedly invented here and institutional French Quarter venues such as Arnaud's French 75 still claim the best mixologists around. The Big Easy also excels at music and partying: as tiny Preservation Hall hosts nightly jazz concerts, livelier all-night joints all along Bourbon Street cover just about every musical alternative.

 
Don't miss…

Bywater scores for avant-garde art and hipsterism, but is hardly a secret; the fastest emerging area is Central City. A former hub of 1960s civil-rights activism, main drag Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard is re-emerging; witness the shabby-chic Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center and unexpectedly fun Southern Food & Beverage Museum.

The best place to stay

Situated amid an ex-furniture store, the Ace Hotel's boasts include open-plan rooms with SMEG fridges and hand-painted antiques, and the lobby's Stumptown Coffee Roasters cafe. The highlight, however, is rooftop venue Alto, whose garden, pool and pretzel dogs are open to the public.

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