Lonely Planet review
There's no denying the Quarter's appeal. It's walkable, picturesque, always busy, and filled with an extraordinary range of great restaurants, bars, nightclubs, courtyard cafés, art galleries, rummage shops and quirky museums. A visitor can walk these blocks time and time again and on each occasion notice something new.
Locals call it Vieux Carré , (Old Quarter) but the French Quarter is much more than an historic district. It is the cultural and geographic focal point of New Orleans. Though the Quarter is very touristy, the locals have not completely surrendered it to out-of-town visitors. Contrary to the neighborhood's ribald Bourbon St image, you are never more than two or three blocks from a quiet residential street with a solitary local bar or a bourgeoning flower shop or a bookstore guarded by a docile dog.
The Quarter's grid streetplan was laid out in 1722 by engineer Adrien de Pauger. For many decades it was New Orleans - a tiny settlement on the river, surrounded by swamps and plantations. A canal and portage linked it to the Bayou St John. After the Louisiana Purchase brought an influx of Anglo Americans, the Quarter remained the heart of the Creole city, while the Americans settled uptown.
By the early 20th century, the Quarter had deteriorated into a run-down, densely populated working-class neighborhood. In the 1930s, wealthy New Orleanians such as the Williamses, whose home is now part of the Historic New Orleans Collection, began to restore some of the Quarter's old townhouses, spawning a preservation movement that ultimately saved the Quarter from demolition. At that time, the city purchased historic properties like the Pontalba Buildings overlooking Jackson Square, and federal funding helped restore the French Market. The entire Vieux Carré was soon declared an historic district and most of its buildings acquired landmark status.
Since the 1930s, the population in the Quarter has plummeted from more than 12,000 to about 5000 today.