These Balcony Bars Have the Best Views of New Orleans
Take in the sights and sounds of the city with a cocktail in hand.
In New Orleans, balconies are a particular treasure. In a city full of non-stop action, these perches allow you to observe the comings and goings of everyday life, take a breather, and admire the city’s unique architecture. A front row seat at a balcony bar is perfect for enjoying any number of only-in-NOLA traditions, none bigger than Mardi Gras—anytime there’s a parade or festival nearby, simply seek out a top French Quarter balcony bar and you’ll be rewarded with world-class people watching. You might even find yourself becoming part of the action, tossing beads and other rewards from high above the street.
Upstairs outdoor seating (with libations in hand) can provide an excellent way to keep the party going while at a relaxed distance from the buzz of the street, especially on Bourbon, where the majority of the city’s balcony bars—including plenty of options that are a bit less raucous—can be found. We’ve walked up and down countless flights of stairs to narrow down the best balcony bars in town with great drinks and views to take in parades, second lines, and plain old people watching.
Situated in the heart of always-lively Frenchmen Street, 30°/-90°—named after the city’s map coordinates—hosts a musical gumbo every night. In between sets of blues, jazz, zydeco, or funk, you can escape to the upstairs balcony and spend some time watching the street-level crowds. The bar also has some pretty killer happy hour specials, so get there early before the music starts to really make the most of it.
American Sports Saloon
Take your fandom to a higher level by watching a big game at the Quarter’s biggest sports bar. American Sports Saloon always has tons of TVs turned to all manner of games; join the crowds of fans cheering on their teams or opt for the private table area with personal screens so you and your crew can watch the most obscure matches. When the place gets especially crazy, you can take a time out on their balcony and decompress while watching the colorful street scenes below.
The Avenue Pub
Avenue Pub has long been a St. Charles Avenue staple—somehow combining a welcoming dive with a best-in-class craft beer bar into one perfect two-story hideaway. To take your beer game to a higher level, ask the bartender for a recommended pint, then head upstairs to the wooden balcony for a great view of New Orleans’ premier avenue: St. Charles. Get there early during Carnival season for the best parade views, period.
As the neighborhood’s top party spot, Bacchanal has become a Bywater institution for its epic wine list and live music, offered daily without a cover. Among the myriad seating options, the best bet might just be the balcony seats that overlook the interior courtyard. Best of all, these seats keep you above the crowds while providing a great view of the live performers and easy access to the upstairs bar.
Balcony Bar & Cafe
How could we not include the bar with an eponymous name on the list? Luckily, Balcony Bar has more to offer than just a relevant name—it’s one of the best spots along Magazine Street to chill out with friends while sipping one of the 50 beers available, including a bunch of local offerings on draft. The venue also includes a great cafe, so you can enjoy a bite while catching a breeze on the second story and watching all the pedestrians below as they traverse the city’s top shopping street.
Among the numerous Bourbon Street nightlife options with balconies, Bourbon Heat stands out for its locale and the size of its outdoor space. Situated in the historic Tricou House, this multi-level bar and event venue features a 50-foot balcony with one of the best views of the city’s most notorious street. Fuel up with some Creole and Cajun fare in the lush courtyard, then party the night away with DJs and light shows. When you need some fresh air, head up to the balcony and wave to the hordes below.
Bourbon Pub & Parade
This 24/7 party hot spot is New Orleans’ largest gay bar and nightclub, making it a popular destination for Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence festivals. With karaoke sing-alongs, themed parties, drag shows, go-go dancers, vivid music videos, and a large wrap-around balcony overlooking Bourbon Street, this is the place to go if you’re ready to party. Book tickets in advance for big events and parties, or you might be standing on the sidewalk looking up at all the fun.
Cafe Lafitte in Exile
Cafe Lafitte in Exile lays claim to being the oldest continuously operating gay bar (since 1933) in the United States. Open 24/7, this Bourbon Street hangout offers an upstairs balcony that’s perfect for people watching. Keep an eye out for colorful weekly happenings like DJ parties, no judgment karaoke, and trash disco.
Among its three local outposts, Dat Dog’s Frenchmen Street location is the only one with a balcony, a wraparound one with a panoramic view of the street action. This means you can grab a drink and a cheap bite, head upstairs, and watch the craziness unfold below at the busiest intersection in the Marigny. As the name implies, Dat Dog also has the most inventive and tasty hot dog and sausage options in New Orleans, with countless combinations of meat, toppings, and sauce to choose from.
Good Friends Bar & Queen’s Head Pub
This is a bar that really lives up to its name. A 24-hour, queer-friendly neighborhood bar, Good Friends often serves as a hub for locals and tourists during both Southern Decadence and Pride Week. There’s usually some great dancing upstairs, along with pool tables below, and no visit is complete without ordering a Separator, a rich, boozy, frozen chocolate concoction. Located upstairs, The Queen’s Head Pub—sometimes referred to as the Balcony Bar at Good Friends—delights with its elegant Victorian decor and scenic wraparound balcony overlooking St. Ann and Dumaine Streets.
Lower Garden District
Chef Eric Cook’s highly regarded restaurant offers the best balcony option on Magazine Street for fine food and drink. Pick a nice night and grab a balcony table to enjoy a cornucopia of refined Southern cuisine and local favorites, or make it a party and work your way through the bar's inventive drink menu—options run the gamut from local craft beers and seasonal daiquiris to inventive creations like the Cat Lady (honeysuckle vodka, chamomile, Lillet Rose, Amaro Nonino, lemon) and Voodoo Child (tequila, grapefruit, gran gala, rosemary, lime juice.)
The restaurant has occupied a prestigious corner of Jackson Square for more than 20 years, but one of its best, relatively unsung qualities is the wraparound outdoor seating upstairs. In addition to tasty cocktails, patrons can order from the equally delicious menu while listening to various brass bands and musical acts busking outside the cathedral. Stop by one of the fortune tellers on the square beforehand and get them to foresee which drink you should order. Oh, and did we also mention that it’s haunted?
Santos is the little sibling to Lower Garden District’s The Saint, with a couple of big distinctions. First, it’s in the heart of the French Quarter—more specifically, on the rowdiest stretch of Decatur Street—and it’s got an upstairs landing to take it all in. Downstairs usually hosts some awesome punk and metal shows, while the second-story bar is often home to DJ nights and just some plain respite. The bar’s got great prices, a raucous atmosphere, and a legendary framed portrait of Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister.
For well-made cocktails with postcard-worthy balcony views, it’s hard to top Tableau. Conveniently positioned in the heart of the French Quarter, this three-story culinary destination is part of Dickie Brennan’s local culinary empire. A grand staircase connects private dining rooms with an inviting balcony that offers lively views of Jackson Square. The kitchen whips up modern takes on New Orleans classics, and the bar churns out fine libations while offering an extensive wine list. So grab a table on the balcony and drink and dine the night away in high style.