History lessons and photographic opportunities abound in this famous cemetery, a final resting place for New Orleans residents since 1833.
Covering a block in the Gardens District of New Orleans, a National Historic Landmark District, the cemetery's grid-like layout mirrors the layout of the surrounding city. The cemetery took its name from the original settlement of Lafayette, which over time was annexed by the booming city of New Orleans. Lafayette Cemetery No. 2 began in 1850 and is located just north of here.
Walk through the gates of the cemetery and slip back in time. Two avenues form a neat cross through the graveyard, making it easy to navigate. Wander through the rows of tombs and crypts. Their epitaphs trace the city’s history, from its Creole beginnings, through periods of plague and war. Just like New Orleans, this non-denominational cemetery is a true melting pot; the remains of immigrants from over 25 countries are buried here.
The cemetery features various types of graves, from the simple “ovens,” or wall vaults, which line the perimeters, to family tombs and group memorials. Keep an eye out for the monument to the deceased “woodmen of the world,” and the shared crypt of the city’s “destitute orphan boys.” Interestingly, this is regarded as one of the most haunted burial grounds in the United States. Make sure you take your camera; you may photograph more than you planned on. Over the decades visitors have reported sightings of ghostly figures, feeling cold spots and hearing strange scraping sounds amongst the tombs. Little wonder gothic fiction author Anne Rice has used the cemetery as a setting for several of her novels.
Be careful where you step as subsidence over the years has caused some of the monuments to sink, while others have been dislodged by the roots of ancient trees, giving the cemetery an eerie feel. The grounds have appeared in a number of films, including Interview with the Vampire and Double Jeopardy.
Lafayette Cemetery is lovingly maintained by the Save Our Cemeteries Group, which runs informative one-hour tours from Mondays to Saturdays. The cemetery is open every day except Sunday. The St. Charles streetcar stops close by, and if you still have an appetite after your visit, one of the city’s most popular restaurants, Commander's Palace, is right across the road.