Just two miles from the heart of the French Quarter lies the Bywater, a historic New Orleans neighborhood bursting with personality and charm. Towering oaks and blooming magnolias characterize its gorgeous streets and take you back in time to yesteryear.
Known for its mom-and-pop cafes, live music, and diverse population, this colorful neighborhood is beloved by locals and visitors alike. Sandwiched between the popular neighborhoods of St. Claude and Faubourg Marigny, the Bywater sits along the Mississippi River just east of the Central Business District.
The real crown jewel of this little slice of paradise in NOLA is its welcoming atmosphere; strutting around town, it’s not uncommon for strangers to pass along well wishes and start up a friendly conversation.
The neighborhood continues to grow and evolve each year while maintaining the eclectic feel that it’s known and loved for, making it the perfect destination to land on your weekend stay.
Below is our guide on what to do, eat, and see during your Bywater vacation getaway!
There are a few different theories on how Bywater got its name. Some say that it is because of an old telephone exchange that formed neighborhood names based on easily recognizable landmarks. Others say it was simply due to bordering the Mississippi River.
But before this eclectic neighborhood even had a name, it was home to plantations in the 18th century. In 1831, a prominent plantation owner sold a portion of his land to the Levee Steam Cotton Press Company, and railroad tracts were built to support this new business.
By the end of the 1800s, the Bywater neighborhood saw a large influx of immigrants from Italy, Germany, Ireland, and Haiti. Originally part of the 9th Ward, the neighborhood was permanently called Bywater by the 1940s.
Due to its higher elevation, the 19th-century shotgun homes and Creole cottages of the Bywater district have remained intact following Hurricane Katrina. Bywater has experienced a rise in gentrification over the last few years due to new real estate developments in the area. However, the neighborhood’s integrity has remained intact due to community members’ commitment to honoring its rich culture.
Visitors will experience a taste of Nola history as they stroll the Bywater streets lined with colorful homes and railroad tracks, locally-owned cafes, and countless art exhibits.
The Bywater is approximately 30 minutes from the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY). From the airport, visitors have multiple options to get to their rental destination:
*Please note that prices are current at the time of publication.
The Bywater is a small, residential neighborhood. Most travelers prefer to experience it by foot or bike since each street is lined with small cafes, hole-in-the-wall shops, and historic churches to explore. Visitors can utilize ride-share services throughout the neighborhood as well.
StudioBE has become an incredibly important presence in the fabric of the Bywater neighborhood and New Orleans as a whole. The 35,000-square-foot warehouse was transformed into an art gallery by local artist Brandan ‘Bmike’ Odums in 2016.
Known for its graffiti and art murals, StudioBE features over 40 different artists and various art mediums exploring Black American history, activism, and more. As the largest public art exhibit in the South, StudioBE attracts visitors from around the country.
On Wednesdays, students, educators, and Louisiana residents can tour for free. The gallery is open Wednesday through Sunday, and you must book your tour online before visiting. The self-guided tour takes approximately 1 to 2 hours.
If you’re a fan of joy, art, and music (who isn’t?), then JAMNOLA is a must-visit on your Bywater list. Opened in 2020, JAM is an interactive exhibit celebrating the history, culture, art, and music of New Orleans.
The 5,500 square-foot warehouse features 17 experiential installations, from life-sized sculptures to interactive paintings and virtual reality booths. JamNola is a celebration of New Orleans, the local artists, and the incredible talent comprising this vibrant city. JamNola gives visitors a taste of the New Orleans art scene’s creativity, talent, and uniqueness.
Tickets are only available online and cannot be purchased at the door. The tour takes approximately one hour.
Pro Tip: Right across the street from JAMNOLA lies Dr. Bob Folk Art, a local art gallery displaying pieces from New Orleans folk artist Dr. Bob. You won’t want to miss it.
Music Box Village is a one-of-a-kind music venue and art exhibit rolled into one. A flagship project of New Orleans Airlift, the venue invites visitors into an interactive village full of “musical architecture.”
Instruments are embedded into the ceilings, walls, and floors of the village, allowing guests to interact with music in a unique and larger-than-life way. Music Box Village regularly hosts an impressive line-up of artists, music-making workshops, festivals, and community events.
Crescent Park runs along the Mississippi River through Bywater and neighboring Marigny. This 20-acre park is a best-kept secret among locals, providing one of the best views of the city’s skyline that you can find anywhere.
Spanning 1.4 miles, Crescent Park is the perfect way to end your evening. Take a walk around the park after dinner, relax on a park bench, and watch the boats pass along the river before sunset over the skyline.
There is nowhere better to start your morning than Bywater Bakery. The red building with large “Bakery” letters will greet you first before you’re hit with the smell of fresh pastries as you walk through the blue doors.
Bywater Bakery was opened in 2017 out of a love for the local Bywater community. They have made a name for themselves in New Orleans, serving one of the top-rated king cakes in the city and their infamous Chantilly Cake.
Open every day until 2 pm, their daily menu changes regularly but features items such as breakfast gumbo, tofu scramble, and their Cuban sandwich. They even have “Bagel Fridays,” serving hand-made bagels and all the fixin’s every Friday. Of course, visitors can also enjoy a slice of cake any day of the week.
Parleaux Beer Lab is the Bywater’s neighborhood taproom and brewery. They pride themselves on variety and originality in their brews, so their menu frequently changes.
They want to push the vision of what craft beer can be, and you will see why as soon as you take a sip of one of their creations. The atmosphere is casual and laid-back, with plenty of outdoor seating, string lights, picnic benches, and food truck pop-ups. They are open seven days a week and make a great NOLA brewery destination.
Considered “New Orleans’ best-kept secret,” The Country Club has been a Bywater staple for nearly 40 years. The Country Club is a little bit of everything: eclectic, refined, and relaxed all at once. Their dinner menu boasts fresh, seasonal ingredients with Italian-French-Creole flavors such as Saffron Mussels and Duck Cassoulet, while its brunch is considered one of the best in the neighborhood. .
The Country Club is most well known for its infamous Drag Brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Typically sold out months in advance, they offer reservations for a 10 am and 1 pm brunch spot full of delicious food and entertainment. Guests can even take a dip in their swimming pool post-brunch for $20 per person!
Bacchanal Wine Shop has a special place in the Bywater and New Orleans hearts and is lovingly named “Nola’s Backyard Party” spot.
The wine shop offered a reprieve from the hardships of Hurricane Katrina on restaurant owners and local chefs. It started Bacchanal Sundays, a weekly pop-up to support Nola chefs who were displaced due to the aftermath of Katrina. After this, Bacchanal became a staple in the Bywater community for good food, wine, music, and community gathering.
Bacchanal Wine Shop is open seven days a week and offers small plates, an extensive wine list, and live music daily. No reservations, and guests must be 21+ to enter.
The Joint is the ultimate hole-in-the-wall BBQ spot. Serving classics like pulled pork sandwiches, a whole rack of ribs, and a beef brisket plate, this is the place to get your BBQ fix New Orleans-style.
Located in a corner Creole cottage, The Joint maintains the Bywater’s character and charm while delivering outstanding food. Of course, you won’t want to miss out on the Jalapeno cornbread muffins or potato salad either. The Joint is open every day but Sunday.
Bywater American Bistro was opened in 2018 by award-winning chef Nina Compton. Despite its impressive accolades, the restaurant boasts of being a casual neighborhood spot representing the best that the Bywater offers.
The service is incredible, and the seasonal menus highlight fresh local ingredients. Some of our favorites include the Blackened Octopus appetizer, the Pork Belly and Polenta entree, and Coconut Tres Leches for dessert.
But the star of the Bywater American Bistro is its drink menu. The cocktail menu is inclusive and creative and showcases the sheer talent that exists in this restaurant. Between the seasonal menu, elevated cocktails, and impeccable service, Bywater American Bistro is the perfect place to land for dinner.
The Bywater is perfect for visitors who appreciate a truly local experience. It is a neighborhood built by artists, musicians, and community members who value their home and the history that comes with it. You will not find the typical tourist spots here.
Instead, you’ll find authenticity in the locals who will welcome you in to experience true gems that make New Orleans culture what it is.
There are many activities for the whole family to enjoy, including immersive art exhibits and casual dining options. However, many of the Bywater gems are ideal for adults who enjoy art, live music, and good drinks.
The Bywater neighborhood is a 10-minute drive from the French Quarter. Visitors will pass through the Marigny, another popular neighborhood, along the way. Other nearby neighborhoods include Treme, St. Roch, and the Central Business District.
While there are no medical facilities in the Bywater, below is a list of the closest urgent care and hospital options.
We promise you a weekend in the Bywater neighborhood will be unlike anything you’ve experienced.
It is a deep dive into local New Orleans culture with the best of the best artists, musicians, local cafes, and bars around. Visitors have countless entertainment options within blocks of their vacation rental.
With easy access to other popular New Orleans neighborhoods, Bywater is the perfect place to land, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth visit to our beloved city.