Louisiana’s oldest church is the perfect respite from the French Quarter’s busy streets.
The spectacular St. Louis Cathedral is one of the tallest buildings in the French Quarter and is known far and wide as a symbol of New Orleans.
The 18th-century church provides a picturesque backdrop to bustling Jackson Square. Spot it from across the square on the River Walk. Rest here after visiting the museum exhibits at the Cabildo, the former town hall, adjacent to the cathedral. This is a rewarding stop for anyone interested in history, architecture, or an inspiring place of worship.
St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest continually active Roman Catholic Church in the United States. It was completed in 1727 and dedicated to King Louis IX, the devout French king who was canonized shortly after his death. The original building burned down in the late 1700s, after which many years of rebuilding and remodeling took place. The structure you see today was completed in 1850.
The interior of the cathedral is open to visitors if there’s no service, funeral or wedding in progress. Pick up a brochure from the entrance for a small donation and take a self-guided tour. Docent-led tours are also available, but there’s no regular schedule.
As you walk through the church, listen out to the organ playing and admire the many works of art. The stained-glass windows, telling the story of St. Louis, are remarkable and well preserved, as is the ornate, rococo-style altar at the front of the church. Pay a visit to the church’s small gift store, which sells souvenirs and religious items. All proceeds go toward maintenance.
Stop to see the street performers, tarot card readers and artists’ displays on the plaza directly outside the cathedral.
Take a walk to nearby Royal Street for a lesser-known view from behind the cathedral, where you can see the impressive marble statue of Christ with arms outstretched.
The closest public transport to the cathedral is the streetcar running along the riverbank. Parking in New Orleans can be a challenge; there are metered spaces on the street and public parking lots in the French Quarter, but always remember to check the hourly rate.