Just across the Mississippi River from the French Quarter is a sleepy little hamlet of a neighborhood, Algiers Point. It’s historic, charming, and well-preserved, and its residents are some of the friendliest in a city renowned for its hospitality and kind locals. Algiers is the second oldest neighborhood in New Orleans, founded in 1719 and first settled by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, famed explorer and the founder of New Orleans, who made his home across the river from the new city.
Algiers was an important location — so close to the developing city, yet separated by the powerful Mississippi River. It was the holding area for slaves bound for sale across the river, and machine shops, lumber yards, ship building and its industries, grain and ammunition storage were a big part of Algiers’ early commerce in the 18th and 19th centuries. Algiers was annexed to New Orleans in 1870.
Today, Algiers is incorporated as the only part of the West Bank side of the river that’s a part of the City of New Orleans, and remains beautifully preserved, with plenty of antebellum homes and buildings still standing.
The easiest way to explore Algiers is by taking the ferry at the foot of Canal Street. The Algiers Point/Canal Street ferry is currently pedestrian only (bikes are OK, but not cars), and costs $2 (exact change/cash only) each way, but the trip offers magnificent views of downtown New Orleans and the Mississippi riverfront, including a view of Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral that pretty much can’t be beat. It departs every half hour; check the time tables.
If coming by car, take the Crescent City Connection bridge to the West Bank, exiting at Gen. De Gaulle Drive East, the first exit, and making a quick right turn onto L.B. Landry Avenue, continuing until Opelousas Avenue, where you can turn left and enter the historic district. If you’re geographically challenged, as I often am, you can set your GPS for The Old Point Bar and let automatic navigation steer you there.
Once at “The Point,” after exiting the ferry landing, you’ll encounter a large statue of Louis Armstrong and the National Park Service Jazz Walk of Fame, where you can dial in or download a self-guided audio tour about the famous jazz musicians that called New Orleans home, prominently featured along this short walk on the levee. The Mississippi River Trail levee around Algiers Point has paved lanes for joggers and bicyclists, and is one of the most perfect spots for a picnic in all of the city.
Architecture lovers take note: There are many examples of the many vernacular architectural styles of New Orleans throughout the neighborhood, from classic shotgun doubles, to Creole cottages, center hall mansions, old corner stores, side halls, and Victorian, Queen Anne, Neoclassical and Greek Revival residences that wouldn’t be out of place in the Garden District. Walking down streets such as Pelican Avenue, Olivier, Delaronde and Vallette Streets is like walking back in time, with plenty of stops to look at historical markers and chat with the friendly neighbors. I can’t stress my affinity for the charms of this little neighborhood.
Guided walking tours are available from Algiers Point Tours, should you need some guidance. Algiers Point is also a nice stopping point before or after a swamp tour or a visit to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve while on the West Bank.
Eating and Drinking
For the English Pub experience, try The Crown & Anchor Pub on the corner of Pelican Avenue and Bouny Street. You can’t miss the TARDIS outside the corner entrance, and really it is bigger on the inside. They have a good selection of beer on draft, plus a pleasing (and nicely priced) scotch and whiskey list. They’re open all day, too.
For live music in the evenings, and a real neighborhood bar experience, there’s The Old Point Bar on the corner of Patterson Drive and Olivier Street. The Dry Dock Cafe on Delaronde and Bouny Streets serves classic New Orleans fare — po-boys, seafood platters, red beans, plus sandwiches and salads. Tout de Suite Cafe on Verret Street is a coffee shop that serves hot breakfast and an extensive sandwich/salad menu for lunch. If you’re around in the late afternoons or evenings, chef Pete Vasquez’ Appetite Repair Shop on Vallette Street is a new take-out food shop with global influences. His stick-to-your-ribs food has been pleasing foodies across town for years.
Slightly further afield (you’ll need a car) in nearby Gretna are some of the best Vietnamese restaurants anywhere. New Orleans boasts one of the largest concentrations of Vietnamese in North America, so it’s no surprise. Pho Tau Bay and Tan Dinh are my recommendations — they’ve been around for years and each do pho and other classic Vietnamese food well, and there’s also Nine Roses, which boasts an enormous Chinese menu in addition to the Vietnamese food.
Events & Happenings
Algiers Point is the spot to watch fireworks along the Mississippi River on New Years Eve and the Fourth of July, with the backdrop of Downtown New Orleans and The French Quarter offering a prime, front row seat for the festivities.
On Dec. 6 (and annually) come watch the lighting of the bonfire along the levee and Mississippi River, a tradition dating back centuries. Of course, there’s a second line and live music to accompany this event.
During the summer, there’s a weekly Wednesdays on the Point free concert series with some of the best in New Orleans music, food and drinks and an art market.
All photos by Paul Broussard