The Best Balconies of New Orleans

Inspired by the new show, Selling the Big Easy, we're sharing the visuals and the histories of New Orleans' best balconies.

September 02, 2020

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Annie Jones

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Jenny Adams

Photo By: Annie Jones

There’s no better way to armchair travel to sunny New Orleans than sitting down to watch Selling the Big Easy. Real estate maverick Brittany Picolo-Ramos (pictured here) and her crew take eager clients on adventures to find a dream home in the Crescent City. Don't miss the series premiere episodes on Friday, September 11 at 9|8c and 9:30|8:30c.

In the meantime, we wanted to highlight the visuals and the histories of the city's best balconies. The balconies of New Orleans are revered; for their history, both in creation and in the moments they’ve witnessed. They have a timeless splendor and add infinitely to the city’s charm. From electric-green ferns to tiny Fleur-de-lis inscribed in shiny black ironwork, from bougainvillea trailing hot pink down the sides to oxidized iron, wearing a gorgeous green patina — they wear every color in the crayon box.

‘Selling The Big Easy’ Is Coming This September!

Know the Lingo

Do you know the difference between a “gallery” and a “balcony” in New Orleans? A balcony has no supports, while a gallery is deeper, and must be supported by posts or columns. All galleries are balconies, but not all balconies are galleries. Here’s a great example of a classic gallery construction.

Imitation Is a Sincere Form of Flattery

Many of the examples of elaborate iron work were created (by hand) to mimic Spanish architecture. They also visually mimic one other product coveted in the mid 1800s — expensive, Spanish lace. You’ll notice a similar pattern in the feminine filigree of the iron. This balcony on St. Philip Street, between Dauphine and Royal Streets, dates to 1850.

The Vampire House

1041 Royal Street is one of the most picturesque balconies in all of the French Quarter, with its lush ferns dangling from a wrap-around, wrought iron gallery that sits above 16-foot windows. It’s also home to local lore. The 5,000-square-foot residence — constructed in 1884­­ and designed by E. Surgi­­­­­­ — was purchased in the late 20th century by a wealthy bon vivant named Jacques St. Germaine.

St. Germaine became famous for throwing lavish parties, until one night, a woman jumped from the balcony. She survived, but at the hospital, she told the police that St. Germaine was a vampire, who tried to bite her. The police went to question St. Germaine, but he had disappeared into the night, never to be seen again. Today, it is privately owned, and is featured on many ghost tours.

The Sultan House

The home at 716 Dauphine was built by Jean-Baptist LaPrete in 1836. The balconies are the French Quarter’s most extraordinary, with three levels of ironwork, surrounding a 7,000-square-foot, pink mansion

This home is another favorite stop on ghost tours. LaPrete rented the home just after the Civil War, to a Turkish man, who claimed to be a Sultan. The “Sultan” arrived with a harem, dozens of house servants and a full entourage. Weeks of parties ensued, until one early morning, when locals saw blood by the front door. The entire group of residents was found dismembered inside. Legend has it that his brother — the true Sultan — was furious at his deceit and ordered the slayings from afar.

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The Soniat House

The Soniat House is a private-home-turned-hotel, with 30 rooms fitted with historic trappings, from gilded mirrors to French antiques. Each of the four grand suites offers a private balcony that you can have all to yourself. Cat lovers are most welcome, too, as Claire — the resident feline — might join you for cocktails. It’s the perfect perch to people watch, amidst the tropical foliage and bright green shutters. You gaze out over vibrant Chartres Street.

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Bird’s Eye View

Gazing upwards will give your neck muscles a wonderful workout in the French Quarter, but it’s also imperative to enjoy the city from her many balconies. Make a reservation for Muriel’s Jackson Square for some of the best vantages of the street performers at sunset. There is no better vista to backdrop the city’s official cocktail, a classic Sazerac.

Soda Fountain Nostalgia

If you’re a fan of old soda fountains and 1950s ephemera, pop by the Royal Street Pharmacy on the corner of Ursuline and Royal Streets. You can take a quick spin on the old soda fountain barstools and snap and Instagram photo beneath the iconic Coca-Cola sign, dangling beside the pretty, white wooden balcony.

The Legacy of Skilled Artisans

The iron scrolling patterns of the balconies of the French Quarter were created by extremely skilled artisans. Black freemen and enslaved people were renowned for their craftsmanship in the city, and their legacy lives on all around you, captured forever in the iron they painstakingly forged and formed by hand.

There are a series of very-old, beautiful, connected balconies worth viewing in the 1100 block of Royal Street.

They're Alive!

Sometimes, the greatest pleasure of a French Quarter balcony is the green thumb of the owner. From gently swaying ferns to dripping lantana to potted Birds of Paradise, there is a lot of friendly balcony competition in this neighborhood come spring time. This balcony can be spotted on Royal Street just past Governor Nicholls Street.

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Shady Respite

Long ago, when the ladies alighted from carriages or doorways, with full skirts and plenty of petticoats, the balconies provided both shade from the sun and protection from the rain. They still keep us shady and dry down here today, even though we are usually in jeans and flip flops.

Home of the Pimm’s Cup

The Pimm’s Cup is one of the city’s famous cocktails, and the best place to sip them is the Napoleon House. The courtyard has misting fans, plenty of umbrellas and one of the city’s oldest wooden balconies, wrapping the second-floor interior. You cannot walk on it without permission, but you might be able to sweet-talk a waiter into letting you up there.

A Re-Fresh at The Ritz-Carlton

The Ritz-Carlton recently unveiled a 40-million-dollar revamp, including 421 all new suite designs and a glittering Champagne vending machine in the lobby. The top-tier rooms feature balconies, giving you a top-down view of this majestic, historic, Beaux Arts Maison Blanche building that faces Canal Street and dates to 1897.

It’s Always Mardi Gras in Our Hearts

New Orleans loves a party. That extends to decorating the balconies for Halloween, Christmas, Easter and especially for Mardi Gras. Some, like this one, stay decorated in the city’s iconic colors of purple, green and gold all year long.

See More Photos: Fun Ways to Celebrate Mardi Gras With Your Pup

Everyday Access

You now know about galleries versus balconies. New Orleans homes commonly also feature side galleries (as seen here) and service wing balconies. A side gallery is a narrow, covered porch that creates an exterior corridor. A service wing balcony is common in a townhouse, used to connect the main home to smaller service wing rooms.

The Greek Revival

If the French Quarter is famous for Spanish balconies, the Lower Garden and Garden Districts are famous for towering Greek Revival mansions. They are surrounded by massive Live Oaks, giving those fortunate enough to grace a second-story balcony, a treehouse feel. The stately salmon-colored home seen here is directly adjacent to Coliseum Square Park, where you’ll find plenty of Live Oaks and plenty of old homes.

See More Photos: Copy the Curb Appeal: New Orleans, Louisiana

Room Enough for 20

Buying a massive, Greek Revival mansion might be tempting, but just remember, you’ll have to heat it in wet winters and cool it in the trying days of August. This gem, which features a mix of Corinthian columns on top and iconic columns on the bottom, has a balcony built for 20. You can check it out at the intersection of Race Street and Coliseum Street.

Greek Revival Architecture

Famous Former Owners

Novelist Anne Rice and Actor Nicholas Cage both called this 1856, Greek-Italianate mansion home at one point. It’s one of the prettiest in the Garden District (and one of the largest, at just shy of 12,000 square feet) and has six bedrooms and eight bathrooms. We love the balcony best. The cast-iron gallery has marble floors and 1,600 square feet of outdoor entertaining space.

Fun Fact: Dean Martin’s pool table was also a resident of this home, at one point. If you want to do a drive-by, you’ll find it at 2523 Prytania Street.

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