Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Cute boutique on one of the French Quarter’s most heavily trafficked streets
Guests will feel far from the French Quarter bustle on the Bienville House’s top-floor terraces, where bright flowers and fluffy palms touch a wide blue sky, and the only sounds you’re likely to hear are birds and the occasional ship’s horn. This is the place to take room service from the Bienville’s adjacent restaurant, Iris, which offers some of the city’s freshest contemporary plates. At Iris’ helm is the Food & Wine-honored Chef Ian Schnoebelen (named one of America’s top new chefs in 2007).
Another cool spot (and a favorite among locals) is the shaded, flowery Bienville House courtyard, complete with a saltwater pool (it's a bit on the small side, but good for a dip). A running fountain remarkably blocks out the noise from North Peters Street. (The hotel’s other side faces Decatur Street, just opposite a fire station).
The building is a nationally registered historic property, and in its early years was the site of a rice and syrup manufacturing plant. Its first incarnation as a hotel came in 1935, and the local Monteleone family bought it in 1972.
In the center of the French Quarter, within easy walking distance of art galleries, boutiques, museums, and world-class dining
The Bienville House Hotel sits in the liveliest heart of the French Quarter, backing onto South Peters Street and within walking distance of streetcars, the Mississippi River and its riverboats, Harrah’s Casino, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the Insectarium, Jackson Square, Preservation Hall, and dozens of world-class restaurants. Locals come to this part of the city for Tipitina’s and the House of Blues, and to eat at Iris.
The French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré, is an historic neighborhood that stretches 12 blocks to the Mississippi River. Originally settled by the Spanish, and then the French, the Quarter features a variety of architecture, including colorful Creole cottages, gorgeous antebellum mansions, intricate ironwork and some buildings that date to the late 1700s.
Today, the Quarter is a mix of private homes, museums, commercial shops, restaurants and hotels, as well as wide open public spaces. Property values in the Quarter have gone up since the 1984 World Fair, driving more tourist-related development but also creating a residential demand among elites and celebrities.
The French Quarter is fairly safe during the day; at night, you’ll be fine in tourist areas. Local cops are experts at crowd control, and it’s rare for a visitor to get into trouble. Taxis are easy to find, except during Mardi Gras and Halloween.
Canal Street is a retail center and the upriver boundary of the French Quarter. Canal is one of the widest streets in the country and a major thoroughfare in the New Orleans, though it’s packed with national retail and souvenir shops that aren’t worth exploring for a visitor with limited time.
Aim for the upper floors, with balcony or terrace access
About a third of the Bienville House’s rooms overlook the blooming interior courtyard, have balconies facing Decatur Street, or open onto the rooftop terraces. The hotel underwent renovations in 2010, freshening up guest room bedding, curtains and carpets.
Standard rooms are on the small side and the baths are very basic, but come decked out with upscale toiletries and bathrobes.
This historic boutique is small, but its sky-scraping terraces and quiet courtyard offer rare tranquility in the city.
One of the city’s best restaurants at your fingertips
Lucky you: Chic, award-winning Iris is downstairs. With a modern menu bright with seasonal ingredients, Iris is a welcome break from the heavy eating you’ll be doing elsewhere. The prix fixe lunch always ends with a scoop of fruity house-made sorbet; at night, try any of the pretty salads or seafood dishes, like Gulf shrimp in a coconut broth with fried ginger. And cap it all with one of the restaurant’s clever signature cocktails, or a cup of sake.
Straddling two busy French Quarter streets, the historic Bienville House is as an urban oasis, with tropical rooftop terraces and a soothing courtyard. This boutique hotel has fewer than 100 rooms, a parlor-like lobby and friendly touches, such as free lemonade and cookies in the afternoon. High ceilings make the rooms feel spacious, but the decor is unremarkable, and Standard Rooms lack windows.