New Orleans is famous for many things, but NOLA cemeteries are an unforgettable part of the city’s character.
The above-ground tombs and mausoleums are crafted with care and artfully arranged, giving the appearance of a mystical neighborhood for the souls who inhabit them. Which earned NOLA’s cemeteries their nickname: the cities of the dead.
A trip to see these marvels is essential, but what if it’s your first trip to New Orleans and you want to make the most of your short stay here?
The decision of which New Orleans cemetery is best is a matter of personal preference. We can’t declare a winner, but we’ll definitely help you understand what makes each of the most popular New Orleans cemeteries so special. Here’s everything you need to know to plan a trip to your favorite burial ground!
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
One of the oldest, most famous and most haunted cemeteries in New Orleans is also the closest to Hotel Monteleone.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is located just a few short blocks from our hotel at the corner of St. Louis & Basin Streets.
You’ll need to join a tour group to visit this one – in 2015, the Archdiocese of New Orleans began restricting access to this historic cemetery to protect and preserve it for generations to come.
Founded in 1789 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this cemetery houses more than 700 tombs and over 100,000 deceased.
The graves house famous figures such as the Voodoo Queen, Marie Laveau, as well as noted New Orleanians Etienne de Bore, who was a pioneer in the sugar industry. Homer Plessy, of the landmark Supreme Court segregation decision Plessy vs. Ferguson, and world famous chess champion Paul Morphy are also buried in St. Louis No. 1.
The cemetery was also featured in the classic 1969 film, Easy Rider, and houses the pyramid-shaped tomb that actor Nicholas Cage has reserved as his final resting place.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Tucked away beneath the storied oak trees of the Garden District, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is as historic as it is strikingly beautiful.
The site has been featured in the 1999 movie Double Jeopardy as well as the novels of Anne Rice. (Many of her characters, including the vampire Lestat and the Mayfair witches, have fictional tombs in this cemetery.)
Located at Washington Avenue at Prytania Street, one of the entrances to this cemetery lies directly across from the iconic Commander’s Palace restaurant.
This iconic attraction is one of the safest and most well-kept of all of the NOLA cemeteries, and while tours are available, you can easily explore this cemetery on your own.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 3
Art lovers won’t want to pass up a trip to St. Louis Cemetery No. 3.
Located on Esplanade Avenue near Bayou St. John, City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art, this cemetery is one of the largest in the city. And it is home to a number of elaborate burial vaults of Greek Orthodox and Masonic design, as well as the tomb of famed Storyville photographer E. J. Bellocq.
St. Louis No. 3 is easily accessible from the French Quarter via the #91 Jackson-Esplanade bus line, which you can catch at N. Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue. It will drop you off right at the front gates of the cemetery.
You can also take the Canal streetcar (City Park/NOMA line) and walk just two blocks across the bayou on Esplanade to enter the cemetery.
Metairie Cemetery is home of some of the most interesting visuals of all New Orleans’ burial sites. Points-of-interest here include a pyramid-shaped vault and the “Weeping Angel” statue in the Hyams family tomb.
The expansive cemetery is also the final resting place of notable New Orleans musicians Louis Prima and Al Hirt. Many local restaurateurs are buried here as well, including Al Copeland, creator of Popeyes Fried Chicken, and the founding owners of Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Brennan’s and Arnaud’s restaurants.
It’s easy to get to Metairie Cemetery from the front steps of Hotel Monteleone: take one of the nearby Canal St. streetcars marked “Cemeteries” to the end of the line. After disembarking, walk to the corner of Pontchartrain Blvd. and Metairie Road, where you can walk up the steps into the original cemetery entrance.
St. Roch Cemeteries & Chapel
For something a bit more off the beaten path, the St. Roch Cemeteries & Chapel offer a unique glimpse into the history of an up-and-coming New Orleans neighborhood.
Located just a few blocks from the recently revitalized St. Roch Market and St. Claude Avenue Arts District, the gates that house these NOLA cemeteries are also home to an adjoining chapel.
The modest structure contains more than a century’s worth of unusual offerings, left by neighborhood parishioners to thank St. Roch for healing them.
The strange offerings inside the St. Roch chapel include false teeth, plaster casts of feet, and the leg braces of cured polio patients. The collection is quite a dazzling and humbling sight.
To get the most out of this cemetery excursion, consider taking a bicycle tour: Confederacy of Cruisers offers tours which stop at St. Roch Cemeteries.
Explore All of these Beautiful NOLA Cemeteries When You Stay at Hotel Monteleone
No matter which cemetery you decide is your favorite, there is one choice that is clear: there is no better place to start and end your day in New Orleans than at Hotel Monteleone.
Book your next trip to New Orleans today and discover all the historic attractions that NOLA has to offer!