High angle view of St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square in French Quarter, New Orleans, LA, USA

©eyfoto/Getty Images

St Louis Cathedral

Top choice in French Quarter

Why you should go

One of the best examples of French architecture in the country, this triple-spired 18th-century cathedral is dedicated to Louis IX, the French king sainted in 1297. The St Louis Cathedral, located in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter overlooks Jackson Square. It's an attractive bit of Gallic heritage in the heart of an American city. 

Throughout the year, St Louis Cathedral hosts events that are at the core of New Orleans’ Catholic community. If you’re in town during any of the following holidays, try to attend. Christmas services are packed, including a 5 pm vigil on December 24 and midnight Mass on December 25 (doors open at 11:15 pm). On Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), the transfixing Blessing of the Palms ceremony begins at 10:50 am. Come on Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras; ashes, a symbol of mourning and penitence, are distributed at 12:05 p.m. during mass and in St. Anthony Garden from 2-3 pm.


In 1722, a hurricane destroyed the first of three churches built here by the St Louis Parish. The second was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire. Architect Don Gilberto Guillemard dedicated the present cathedral on Christmas Eve in 1794. Pope Paul VI awarded it the rank of minor basilica in 1964.

Besides hosting African American, white and Creole congregants, St Louis has attracted those who, in the best New Orleanian tradition, mix their influences. Voodoo queen Marie Laveau worshiped here during the height of her prominence in the mid-19th century.

Nearby Restaurants

Head to Spitfire Coffee, on St Peter, for a jolt of joe that will keep you awake for the rest of the day. Or, duck over to Pirate's Alley Cafe, which is steps away from the cathedral and a nice spot for a beer or, if you're feeling adventurous, a sip of the "Green Fairy."

Tips for visiting the St Louis Cathedral

St Louis is a working cathedral, so be respectful when you visit. Loud noises and obtrusive picture-taking are frowned upon.

Don't overlook the interior stained glass and French wall inscriptions, which offer a peek into New Orleans’ Catholic heritage.

Get there early if you want to attend a ceremony on a major holiday.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby French Quarter attractions

1. Cabildo

0.03 MILES

The former seat of government in colonial Louisiana now serves as the gateway to exploring the history of the state in general, and New Orleans in…

2. Presbytère

0.03 MILES

The lovely Presbytère building, designed in 1791 as a rectory for the St Louis Cathedral, serves as New Orleans’ Mardi Gras museum. You’ll find there’s…

3. Rodrigue Studio

0.05 MILES

The late Cajun artist George Rodrigue’s gallery is the place to see examples of his unbelievably popular ‘Blue Dog’ paintings. The iconic dog became his…

4. Jackson Square

0.06 MILES

Whatever happens in the French Quarter usually begins here in Jackson Square, at Decatur and St Peter Streets. It's a gentle, carnivalesque scene,…

5. Gallery Burguieres

0.06 MILES

Ally Burguieres' artwork demonstrates plenty of technical skill, but there's also a lot of heart in her paintings and sketches, which focus on animals and…

6. Hemmerling Gallery of Southern Art

0.06 MILES

William 'Bill' Hemmerling was a self-taught folk artist who incorporated wood, debris and found objects into a powerfully vital body of work. This gallery…

7. 1850 House Museum

0.08 MILES

The 1850 House is one of the apartments in the lower Pontalba Building. Madame Micaëla Pontalba, aristocratic daughter of Don Andrés Almonaster y Roxas,…

8. Lucky Rose

0.11 MILES

Cathy Rose blends wonder, whimsy and ethereal aesthetics; her art has whiffs of Chagall, if you can picture him on the Mississippi. Rose uses mixed media…