By Hadi Ktiri
December 22, 2014
Simon Reddy / Alamy

It’s generally agreed upon that the best sights here in New Orleans are the people.  They amble down the narrow streets in various states of inebriation and casual meandering.  We don’t have impressive skyscrapers here. And there are certainly no mountains to provide us with a beautiful backdrop like they do in Whistler or Cortina d’Ampezzo.  But nestled among the men in Seersucker suits and ladies adorned southern splendor are some of the most gorgeous and intricate urban landscapes. In the French Quarter examples of Greek revival style can be found among the few remaining Creole homes.  If you go further out towards Mid-City there are increasing numbers of double shotgun style houses that begin past Claiborne Avenue. Further uptown along St Charles Avenue there are gorgeous antebellum mansions that survived Civil War bombardment. Take a few tours around the city and it will start to become quite clear that New Orleans was once a bustling and culturally rich European port city. Here are a few can’t-miss architectural sights.

St. Louis Cathedral

This church is a New Orleans icon.  Located smack in the middle of the French Quarter, at the edge of Jackson Square Park, this beautiful example of 17th-century French architecture, with its triple spires and gorgeous vaulted nave, was built for St. Louis, who was then King of France. If you’re lucky enough to visit during the holidays, the church holds free concerts with famous local musicians.   

Beauregard-Keyes House and Garden Museum

This classic Victorian house is a beautiful restoration of the home of Confederate General Pierre Beauregard, as well as American author Francis Keyes. Originally built in 1826, it has been beautifully restored and preserved, and is open to the public as a museum.  Because it’s in the French Quarter it is one of most popular destinations for visiting architecture and history buffs.

Old Ursuline Convent

Built in 1752, this building is the oldest surviving example of French colonial architecture in the United States. It is also famous for being the oldest building still standing in the Mississippi River valley. Tours are regularly given of the property, which includes an art gallery, a handmade cypress staircase, and a beautiful garden.

Immaculate Conception Church

Known locally as “The Jesuit Church,” this imposing and beautiful church sits right across from the Roosevelt Hotel in the downtown business district. Built in the early 1900’s its architecture includes elements that reflect both Gothic Revival and Moorish Revival styles—including spectacular stained glass windows, a soaring nave, and arched columns. 

Saenger Theatre

Opened in 1927 as the flagship theatre owned by entertainment entrepreneur Abe Saenger, this concert venue was a celebrated landmark on Canal Street for many years.  Recently, after Hurricane Katrina dealt the property a devastating blow, investors rallied to restore it to its original splendor—complete with LED-lit ceiling to mimic the night sky.