The cemeteries of New Orleans, referred to as “cities of the dead,” are an important part of the city’s unique history and a popular tourist attraction in their own right. Due to common flooding in the city, most of the cemeteries were built above ground — giving these graveyards a unique and beautiful twist.
Whether you want to explore a haunted graveyard, or visit the resting place of famous names from the past, these cemeteries of New Orleans offer a unique day out for anyone not afraid to mingle with the dead.
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
The oldest, and arguably most famous, cemetery in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, dates back to 1789. Many prominent families have been laid to rest here, and the resulting mausoleums and gravestones are as impressive as you would imagine. According to local legend, the remains of Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau are on the grounds — the plaque that marks her supposed resting place is one of the most famous attractions at the cemetery. Visitors should note that it is against the law to tour St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 without a licensed guide —check out Voodoo Bone Lady Tours for an in-depth tour of this popular New Orleans site.
Built on a former race track in 1872, Metairie Cemetery is one of the largest graveyards in the city. Metairie is especially popular with history buffs as several former governors of Louisiana, Confederate generals, New Orleans mayors, and kings of Carnival are buried on site. Look for the many immense monuments built across the grounds, including a huge Egyptian pyramid, complete with a sphinx.
St. Roch’s Cemetery
Once in the center of New Orleans’ German quarter, St. Roch’s Cemetery is widely considered to be the most unusual cemetery in the city. While the cemetery itself is worth a walk through, it is the St. Roch Chapel that brings visitors to the grounds in spades. The cemetery’s namesake, St. Roch, is the patron saint of good health, and the chapel has become a kind of shrine over the years. Believers have left their prosthetic legs, eyeglasses, and all sorts of odd knick-knacks in the hopes they would be healed from their ailments. A visit is interesting, to say the least.
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Built in 1833 on the former grounds of the Livaudais Sugar Plantation, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 has a unique history that sets it apart from the other cemeteries in New Orleans. The majority of those buried at Lafayette died as a result of several epidemics that swept the city at the time, in particular Yellow Fever. This resulted in the cemetery quickly filling to full capacity. Interesting detailed epitaphs describing the short lives of those buried on the grounds.