The Bywater is a portion of New Orleans down the Mississippi River from the French Quarter and the Faubourg Marigny. Its boundaries are often debated. Most New Orleanians and the city's historic district office describe it as being bounded St. Claude Avenue to the North, the Industrial Canal to the East, Press Street to the West and the Mississippi River to the South. It is also known as the "Upper Ninth Ward" as compared to the "Lower Ninth Ward" which lies East of the Industrial Canal to the St. Bernard Parish line (the downriver limit of the city of New Orleans).
The Bywater is a neighborhood a bit east (down river) from the French Quarter with a healthy mix of blue collar folks who grew up here, and more recent bohemian arrivals. Artists and musicians relocated here when the French Quarter became too pricy. It is primarily residential but undeniably hip; there are lively pubs, restaurants and randomly placed edgy found-object art scattered throughout the neighborhood. Travelers and residents from other parts of the city are steadily discovering this neighborhood's old-time, laid-back charm.
By foot or bicycle
It is a very pleasant stroll down Royal, Dauphine, or Chartres Streets through the historic Faubourg Marigny; approximately 10 blocks from Esplanade Avenue (the downriver limit of the French Quarter) to the Bywater.
From the French Quarter/CBD, the easiest route is down Rampart Street, which merges (via a small connector called McShane Place) to become St. Claude Avenue just before Elysian Fields. St. Claude forms the main thoroughfare passing through the Bywater and Lower Ninth Ward. Parking is a cinch.
Taxis are pretty much a disaster in the Bywater. The cab drivers are under the very much mistaken impression that it is a dangerous neighborhood and won't pick up when hailed (and sometimes even when called). In any rate, calling is really the only option unless you are taking one right in front of Vaughan's Lounge on a Thursday night. Better yet, make friends with a driver, and get his personal number.
The Bywater is served primarily by two bus lines operated by the New Orleans RTA. That bus #5 would be a dream route for visitors, but unfortunately it never runs. You could wait for days. The St Claude route is every half hour, at least, and a much more reliable way to get to the Marigny (if you don't feel like walking), the French Quarter, and the CBD. Fares are $1.25 each way.
- 5, Marigny-Bywater: you can theoretically catch this bus on Canal Street at the corner of N. Peters (right in front of the Canal Place tower, across the street from the casino); it goes through the French Quarter on N. Peters/Decatur Streets before taking Elysian Fields back four blocks to Dauphine, and from there follows Dauphine Street through the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods all the way down to Poland Avenue next to the Industrial Canal. Coming back up the route is the same except the bus follows Royal Street instead of Dauphine.
- 88, St Claude-Delery: you can catch this bus on any corner of St Claude; it runs along St Claude and Rampart through Marigny, French Quarter, and the CBD to the west, the Lower 9th Ward and Arabi in the east.
- St Claude Arts District/SCAD, Multiple venues. New Orleans newest & hottest arts district thats not your usual tourist-centric arts destination. A true "only in New Orleans" experience. Check website for current exhibits, times, and addresses.
- The Great War Memorial, Burgundy St. (between Alvar and Pauline). The first of it kind erected at the end of WWI, this monument pays tribute the fallen residents of the 9th Ward.
- Markey Park. A center of neighborhood activities long hosting many special and recurring events.
- Vaughan's Lounge, 4226 Dauphine St (Corner of Lessesps, a block up from Poland Avenue), ☎ . noon-close daily. Bywater's most famous music venue. Thursday nights when righteous-trumpter/bandleader Kermit Ruffins is in town, he and his BBQ swingers play here; Thursday with Kermit as Vaughan's is a New Orleans favorite. 8:30 PM they say; don't expect shows to start at their clock time in New Orleans, but now that Kermit is a family man, things here tend to start a bit more punctually than they did years ago. Expect crowds and good times. Boiled crawfish or shrimp every Friday. Free Food during Saints games. Following glowing attention in David Simon's series Treme, this place has indeed been discovered by the tourists, but the locals and old-timers don't really care and still show up each Thursdays for some dancing and general fun. Thursdays see free steaming pots of red beans and rice all night long.
- Sankofa Marketplace, 3819 St Claude Ave (at Pauline St in the ARISE Academy Complex). Sa 10AM-2PM. Weekly market with farm fresh produce, prepared food, crafts. The second Saturday of each month also has live music and other special events; sometimes music other Saturdays as well.
- The Spellcaster Lodge, 3052 St Claude Ave. Home of the Amazing Mr. Quintron, Miss Pussycat, and the Drum Buddy workshops. Only open a handful of nights in the year, but this is home to some wild bohemian parties and performances, and, as a visitor, you'll really blow the locals' minds for simply knowing of the place. Stop in if you get a chance. cover: $5-15.
- Alombrados Oasis, 831 Elysian Fields Ave #239, ☎ . This temple of the Ordo Templi Orientis hosts performances of The Gnostic Mass, conducts initiatory ceremonies, seasonal mystery plays, frequent classes on Thelema, Magick, Yoga, Gnosticism, QBL, Hermetic and Rosicrucian Science, and intensive training programs of Scientific Illuminism. The Oasis also hosts occasional art shows featuring local artists. Contact by phone to attend events.
- Chazfest, 3020 St. Claude Avenue. Annual one day music festival held the first Wednesday in April, between the Jazz Fest weekends. (The name is a pun on "Jazz Fest" and popular local bandleader "Washboard Chaz".) 10 hours of great local music on 2 outdoor stages. $25 in advance; $30 at the gate.
- Dr Bob's Art Gallery, 3027 Chartres St, ☎ . Officially open by appointment only, but if you're passing by and see the gates open with the. A small gallery run by local self-taught folk artist, (you'll see examples of his work at local bars, cafes, and restaurants all over town) with eccentric artwork for sale that will immediately conjure New Orleans and the nearby Cajun Country.
- Conrad's Store, 2436 St Claude Ave 70117. 10 am - 6pm. Records, clothes, books, knick-knacks, comics... all sorts of stuff. Antiques, vintage, retro and lots of odds with some ends.
The exotic cocktail of hipsters, long-time locals, and eccentric service industry employees that is present day Bywater has proved a breeding ground for interesting and tasty dining options. In addition to those below, try asking around about the couple of pizza speakeasies lurking in the shadows (that's right, pizza speakeasies). They're not advertised anywhere, and Wikivoyage isn't going to help spoil the fun, so you'll have to talk to locals to find them (if, that is, they indeed exist).
- Bywater Restaurant (Bywater Bar-B-Que), 3162 Dauphine St (corner of Louisa St), ☎ . 11AM-11PM daily. Bar-b-que, sandwiches, seafood in a pleasant little place with a small outdoor courtyard. The debate continues whether Bywater Restaurant has the better BBQ than The Joint—most lean Joint, but if you prefer your BBQ more wet, Bywater might be the right choice. $8-20.
- Country Club, 634 Louisa St (between Royal & Chartres), ☎ . Restaurant: Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-3PM. Upscale and stylish American cuisine at great prices, with dining in a beautiful old dining room or on the veranda overlooking the pool. It's a great brunch place. Gay and straight friendly private club and pool in rear, where you can sip cocktails in the jacuzzi into the night (note that it becomes clothing optional). $10-25.
- Elizabeth's, 601 Gallier St (at the corner of Chartres), ☎ . Tu-F 11AM-2:30PM,6PM-10PM, Sa 8AM-2:30PM,6PM-10PM, Su 8AM-2:30PM. This is a real local favorite, particularly for breakfast/brunch. Creole and southern food dominates the menu, which combines with friendly service and a cute setting to make for a nice meal any time of day, though. If you have a sweet tooth, don't skip the praline bacon! $12-28.
- Frady's, 3231 Dauphine St (corner of Piety), ☎ . M-F 7:30AM-5PM, Sa 9AM-3PM. This is the sort of place you would only know about if you get a local recommendation—it won't be in your guidebook... For the most part, this is simply a corner store, but the po' boys, particularly the oyster po' boy, are some of the best you'll ever eat. The old-timey Bywater feel to the place is an added plus. $5-12.
- The Green Burrito, 3046 St. Claude Ave (between Montegut and Clouet Streets), ☎ . 11AM-3AM daily. Tasty burritos in a very basic setting. Open til 3am, so a good late night option. Also delivers in the Bywater & Marigny area. $8-10.
- Jack Dempsey's, 738 Poland Ave (at lower end of Dauphine), ☎ . This is about as divey and old-school New Orleans as a seafood restaurant can possibly be—you can't be much further from the four star contemporary American dining in Uptown and the Quarter. It's so dark inside, you'll hardly be able to see your big plate of heavily fried seafood and delicious mac 'n cheese (the seafood gumbo and po' boys are decent too). $10-24.
- The Joint, 701 Mazant St. (At the corner of Royal. They moved 4 blocks up river from their previous location in early 2012.), ☎ . M-Sa 11:30AM-9PM. Excellent down home barbecue with a casual, wooden picnic table-style dining room. If you are trying to decide between Bywater BBQ and the Joint, they are both great; it's a matter of preference between the Joint's dryer style and Bywater BBQ's more wet slabs. Aim first for the ribs and the pulled pork, but really everything is great here. $7-21.
- Markey's Bar, 640 Louisa St (corner of Royal), ☎ . M-Th 2PM-10PM, F-Sa noon-10PM. Great pub food in what can only be described as a standard, classic neighborhood bar (with a few microbrews on tap). Big juicy burgers, fresh salads, and the best wings in the neighborhood. Daily specials and crawfish on Fridays (in season). $7-18.
- Satsuma's Cafe, 3218 Dauphine St (between Piety and Louisa), ☎ . 7AM-7PM daily. A rather hip spot to get your yuppie-ish fix of "fair trade" espresso, fresh juices, quiches, salads, sandwiches, etc. The popularity means long waits on weekends, but the high quality does actually merit the wait. $6-12.
- Suis Generis, 3219 Burgundy St (between Piety and Louisa), ☎ . Dinner Wed-Sun; Brunch Sat-Sun. Eclectic innovative cuisine in matching decor. Fresh, tasty, and distinctive. mid priced.
- Bacchanal, 600 Poland Ave, ☎ . 11AM-midnight daily. Wine shop, offers wine by the glass—and irregularly has visiting chefs prepare gourmet treats. Now offers lunch too.
- BJ's Lounge, 4301 Burgundy St, ☎ . Lunchtime-very late. Friendly neighborhood dive with a colorful cast of characters. Beer and booze bar-you're not gonna get an apple martini here. Cookoffs and potlucks are fairly frequent, occasional live music. If you are at Vaughan's Lounge, hop on in and get a bit stronger dose of Bywater.
- Saturn Bar, 3067 St Claude Ave, ☎ . M-Sa 5PM-late, Su 6PM-late. This is a strange old bohemian dive with some of the city's funkiest and most bizarre decor-soaked in neon and covered in old-school sci-fi posters (sadly, the old jukebox that only played Frank Sinatra's Witchcraft regardless of what you picked is defunct). Drink cheap beer, whiskey, or Southern Comfort. Don't expect them to know how to make fancy-pants mixed drinks. Occasional live music. Rumored to be the favorite of Nick Cage.
- Vaughan's Lounge, 4226 Dauphine St, ☎ . noon-close daily. Famous as a music venue, but when it isn't hopping with live music a nice place to get a drink and a bit to eat. A good place to watch "New Orleans Saints" football games on TV (as long as you're not rooting for whoever they're playing against!)
- Bywater Bed & Breakfast, 1026 Clouet St, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. This B&B has a nice cheerful interior, decorated head to toe in folk art collected by the expert owners (if folk art is your thing, you will have plenty to talk about!). Each of the large (extremely high ceilinged) rooms has its own folk art theme to boot. $65-175.
- Lookout Inn Bed & Breakfast, 833 Poland Ave, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A very fashionable B&B with modern, trendy decor and a really attractive, small pool in the courtyard. They play up their "hidden" location's appeal to those who want to stay off the beaten path, and for celebrities who appreciate discretion both on the part of the inn and locals around the area. $60-100.
- Maison de Macarty, 3820 Burgundy St, ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, our 1860s Victorian home features five rooms in the main house, two private cottages, private bath facilities, and a comfortable home away from home for your New Orleans adventure.
Tourists use general caution. Know where you're going and don't go exploring unfamiliar areas at night, especially by yourself, as muggings are an occasional problem on some of the quieter blocks.
New Orleans Public Library branch at 913 Alvar Street (between Burgundy and Rampart).
No internet cafes here, but the WiFi at Satsuma Cafe works like a charm.
Bywater is surrounded by interesting neighborhoods. Ever popular Marigny just upriver (west) is probably too obvious to even be worth mentioning to someone who is already in the Bywater. In the other direction, it's just a hop skip and a jump to the famous Lower 9th Ward across the Industrial Canal. Just north of here, the 7th, 8th, and Upper 9th Wards sections are on the "back" (away from the River) side of St. Claude; worth a visit for the intriguing St Roch Cemetery, as well as to explore its emerging bohemian culture.