Big Easy, Small Budget: the best spots for people-watching in New Orleans

Few places are as perfect for people watching as New Orleans.

by Kate Taylor
July 8, 2022

Be honest. How often do you find yourself sitting at a restaurant or bar, eyes moving from your drink to the windows lining the place, drawn to watch the people passing by outside as they chat with friends or stop to gather their bearings? If you’re like me, people-watching is a regular pastime. There’s something fascinating about seeing passersby, each with a life as complicated and rich as our own, simply going about their day. 

Few places are as perfect for people watching as New Orleans. Depending on the neighborhood, you can see groups of cyclists with elaborately decorated bikes, women in impossibly high heels waiting for a table, or people in full costume just because it’s Thursday. If you’re interested in finding a few of the best people-watching spots in Nola, read on.

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Oh, The Things You’ll See


Located above the Apple Barrel bar, Adolfo’s serves Creole Italian food in a cozy, lowly lit atmosphere. Chef Adolfo Perez Palavicini founded the restaurant in 1997 and has been cooking from the closet-sized kitchen ever since. But what makes the place such a great people-watching spot?

The answer is simple: Frenchman Street. This row of live music venues, restaurants, and bars fills with people wanting to enjoy the best the city has to offer each night. Sit by the windows so you can peer out to watch the brass bands playing on the corner and the people dancing. Go early or there’ll be a wait, and be sure to have folding money on you when you go since Adolfo’s is cash only.

Getting there
611 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70117, USA
Mon-Wed Closed
Thu-Sat 5:30–9pm
Sun Closed
More Info

Market Cafe

Occupying the second oldest building in the French Quarter’s historic French Market, The Market Cafe is a superb place for people-watching. It occupies the wedge of ground where Decatur and North Peters Streets separate and lies just across the street from local radio station, WWOZ. It also sits just next to New Orleans’ own Joan of Arc statue, a golden figure of Joan on a horse holding a large flag above her head in triumph. 

New Orleans, UNITED STATES: A statute of Joan d’Arc in the French Quarter of New Orleans, 08 August 2006. The French Quarter is the number one tourist destination in New Orleans, but almost one year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, tourism, the city’s most important industry, is struggling. AFP PHOTO / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

All of these things combine to ensure a steady stream of tourists, French Quarter workers, gutter punks, and musicians pass by the cafe at all hours of the day. You can sit inside to enjoy a blast of icy air conditioning or dine al fresco on their spacious patio. Enjoy the cafe’s daily live jazz band as you gaze out over the throngs of people walking by.

Hot Tin Bar

This bar atop the Pontchartrain Hotel offers stunning views of the Nola skyline and a bird’s eye view of the streetcar and pedestrians below. Styled as a 1940s artist loft, this former penthouse is a great place to see and be seen among the denizens of the Lower Garden District. The 270-degree view offers a unique vantage point to take in the great oaks of St. Charles Avenue, and it’s especially fun to watch the crowds surrounding a big krewe during Mardi Gras’ Uptown parades.

Hot Tin
Getting there
2031 St Charles Ave FL 14, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA
Mon-Thu 2pm–12am
Fri-Sat 2pm–2am
Sun 2pm–12am
More Info

Besthoff Sculpture Garden

City Park is home to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. Occupying 11 acres surrounding the New Orleans Museum of Art, the garden is home to nearly 90 works of art dating from the 1800s to the present day. The Besthoffs first donated the seed money and dozens of sculptures to NOMA in 2003, and an additional 6.5 acres were added to it in 2017.

Walking through the distinctly divided sections of the garden, you’ll pass through the Pine Grove, City Park Lagoon and Cascade Pool, and the Oak Grove. Visitors from all over the globe come each year to experience this world-class open-air art installation. There’s little better than taking in the art on a sunny day and watching as the other observers stroll past.

Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
Getting there
1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA 70124, USA
Mon-Sun 10am–5pm
More Info

The Vintage

Opened in 2018, The Vintage is a perfect combination of bar, breakfast spot, coffee house, and small plate restaurant. The interior is decorated with mid-century-inspired chairs, a marble top counter, and a green velvet-covered piano. What could be a cacophony of disparate styles melds into a harmonious atmosphere that is at once both chic and comfortable.

Specializing in next-level beignets, these marvels of fried dough change from matcha, mud pie, to whatever inspiration strikes the cook with each season. The Vintage restaurant and bar offer both a great happy hour and some great people-watching. Sit by one of the plate glass windows or at a table outside to see all the shoppers happily touring the stores on Magazine Street.

The Vintage
Getting there
3121 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115, USA
Mon-Fri 7am–9pm
Sat-Sun 8am–10pm
More Info

For Katherine Taylor becoming a writer was prophesied by her maternal grandmother who said she had too grand a name to be anything else. Kate has been published by, Bright Wall Dark Room, and Bold Culture. She is currently working on a series of short stories and essays.

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