New Orleans is home to a famously rich musical tradition. Blues, funk, jazz, zydeco, rock ‘n’ roll, and country – the city can claim at least some responsibility for just about every genre of American music.

Are you planning to hit the Crescent City for a taste of live music, but aren’t sure where to go for the best gigs? Don’t worry about it! A visit to NOLA without encountering live music is practically impossible. You cannot avoid great music here even if you try! But before you get down to boogie, keep these tips in mind:

New Orleans is an all night kind of town. Expect many live performances to start late and go very late.

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While many of the city’s best attractions and activities are within walking distance of each other, be prepared to take cabs and public transport anyway. You’ll save time, and you can never be too safe when gallivanting around a city late at night.

Lots of locals work in the service industry and rely very much on your gratuity to earn a living wage. Be kind and aware when you tip. You may be helping fund the pursuits of an up-and-coming great jazz musician.

Now then, with all that advice in mind, let’s get to the actual music, shall we? Here’s a list of some of the best places to see live music in NOLA, many of which are also considered to be some of the best music venues in the world. You picked the right city to visit, music lovers!

1.) Apple Barrel
609 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116

Curioso / Shutterstock

Curioso / Shutterstock

Chief among the New Orleans epicenters for excellent live music is Frenchman Street. You’ll find tons of awesome bars and venues along this famous street, but chief among them is Apple Barrel.  They’ve got live jazz and blues every night of the week, so expect a great show no matter what day you swing by. You’ll also find a friendly local crowd, cheap drinks, and amazing acoustics. Upstairs and under the same ownership is Adolfo’s, an Italian restaurant with a touch of Creole and Cajun added to the mix. Yum!

2.) Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse
300 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70130

Geoff Goldswain / Shutterstock

Geoff Goldswain / Shutterstock

MORE: Plan your trip to New Orleans!

To hear smoking hot live jazz performed by some of the world’s greatest living musicians, head to the only musician-owned live music venue in New Orleans.The owner is Grammy and Billboard Award winning Irvin Mayfield, so be sure to catch a show at his Jazz Playhouse. The venue is situated within the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Shows start at 8pm. Cocktails and canapés are served.

3.) Maple Leaf Bar
8316 Oak Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118

135pixels / Shutterstock

135pixels / Shutterstock

For rump shakin’ live music done right, head to the Maple Leaf, an uptown bar that’s popular with the university students and famous for its lineup of funk, jazz, blues, and rock. Opened in 1974, the Maple Leaf is one of the longest continually running clubs in New Orleans, and features live performances every night of the week.

4.) Preservation Hall
726 St. Peters Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116

Ysbrand Cosijn / Shutterstock

Ysbrand Cosijn / Shutterstock

If you could only visit one music venue in Louisiana, this historic music hall set in the French Quarter should be at the top of your list. The music here is classic Dixieland played by some of the best musicians in town. It doesn’t get more authentic than this! Take your seats quickly and let the good times roll, and do not even attempt to record a performance when you visit!

5.) Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro

626 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116

Furtseff / Shutterstock

Furtseff / Shutterstock

With NOLA musical royalty such as the Neville and Marsalis families having been known to perform here, this institution still packs ’em in and wows ’em too with a delectable menu and an exceptional roster of performances. If you’re hoping for a table during Snug Harbor’s famous jazz brunch, make your reservation well in advance.

6.) The Spotted Cat
623 Frenchmen Street, New Orleans, Louisiana 70116

Andriy Solovyov / Shutterstock

Andriy Solovyov / Shutterstock

A Frenchmen Street favorite and one of the most fun bars in New Orleans, the Spotted Cat is a friendly place where locals and out-of-towners alike join together to listen to great music. Drinks are cheap – just be sure to save some money for when the hat’s passed around for the band!

What are your favorite live music venues in New Orleans? Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments!

4 Responses

  1. Nino

    Thank you for pointing out the tourists traps.
    Seems you didn’t even listen to WWOZ’s Live Wire

  2. Jackie

    How could you make a list with only 6 clubs on it? Tipitina’s Uptown, Chickie Wah-Wah’s on Canal St, One Eyed Jack’s, Blue Nile on Frenchman, Rock’N’Bowl on Carrollton, Carrollton Station, kermit Ruffins’ Mother In Law Lounge (another musician-owned club), Vaughan’s. Just check’s live wire music calendar. 🙂


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About The Author

Chris Osburn is a freelance writer, photographer, consultant, curator, and the driving force behind the long running and award winning blog, Originally from the American Deep South, Chris has lived and worked all over the world. He's called London home since 2001.