Along with fantastic jazz and food, New Orleans is known for its must-see cemeteries. They’re beautiful, historical, and downright fascinating. They’re stately yet crumbling and filled with history and mystery.
Many know the use of above-ground tombs in New Orleans is due to the high water table. But did you know it's also because of the French and Spanish influence on settlers? This is why this style of tomb is more prevalent here than the traditional mausoleums other regions use.
The best way to visit NOLA’s cemeteries is on a guided tour, especially those in the tourist-filled French Quarter. You’ll learn a lot and stay safe. The tall tombs make it easy to get lost – and for criminals to take advantage of distracted visitors.
Here are 12 must-see New Orleans cemeteries to add to your itinerary. Now grab your beads and a black umbrella and jump into a New Orleans jazz funeral. We’re heading to the cemetery!
1. St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
This is NOLA’s oldest (1789) and most famous cemetery. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It attracts more than 100,000 visitors each year. Like most of the city’s cemeteries, it consists of wall vaults (built into the walls of the cemetery), family/personal tombs, and society tombs.
Part of its popularity is due to its “residents,” current and future. It’s the home of famous Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau, her tomb covered in triple Xs. People seeking her favor also leave offerings of trinkets along the front.
You can also find early civil rights activist Homer Plessy of the US Supreme Court case Plessy v. Ferguson. A bronze informational plaque is on his small tomb. Currently living actor Nicolas Cage owns the conspicuous nine-foot pyramid near the entrance. Also of note is the Italian Mutual Benevolent Society tomb, as seen in the movie "Easy Rider."
You must take an official tour to go inside. This cemetery is accessible only via guided, licensed tours. Don’t worry, you have plenty of options to choose from.
Location: 425 Basin St.
2. St. Louis No. 2
Established in 1823, St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 takes up three city blocks in the Treme.
Named for Claude Treme, whose tomb is located here, this neighborhood was once his plantation. Later he sold lots to free people of color, helping establish one of their oldest neighborhoods. It’s even earned the nickname, the ‘Birthplace of Jazz.’
Until Ernie K-Doe’s hit song “Mother-in-Law” (1961), no black artist from NOLA had number one hits on the pop and R&B charts. He’s interred here along with his mother-in-law.
Location: 720 St. Louis
3. St. Louis No. 3
Located farther away from the tight-fit French Quarter, this is the largest of the three St. Louis cemeteries. It’s more spread out and has a more serene feel. It was established in 1854 and, like the others, has private family tombs as well as large societal ones. Examples are the Slavonian Benevolent Society, Hellenic Orthodox Community, Dante Lodge (Masonic), Little Sisters of the Poor, and two archdiocese priests’ tombs.
People of note include Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief Donald Harrison, Sr. and pianist/singer/bandleader “Sweet” Emma Barrett.
Location: 3421 Esplanade Ave.
4. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
This cemetery is famous for appearances in movies and TV series like “Interview with the Vampire,” “Double Jeopardy,” NCIS: New Orleans, and American Horror Story. Located in the Garden District, Lafayette No.1 is the oldest city-operated cemetery in NOLA. It’s non-denominational and non-segregated, so it’s fitting that Judge Ferguson of the Plessy vs. Ferguson “separate-but-equal” case is interred here.
Society tombs here include those for firemen, The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, The German Presbyterian Community, The Home For Destitute Orphan Boys, The Poydras Orphans Home, the YMCA, and the New Orleans Home for Incurables.
Location: 1416-1498 Washington Ave.
5. Lafayette Cemetery No. 2
Lafayette No. 2 is home to 22 society tombs, including social aid societies like the Société Française de Bienfaisance et D'Assistance Mutuelle and the Butchers’ Benevolent Society.
Here you will also find many society tombs dedicated to African American labor organizations. These include the Coachmen Benevolent Association, the Teamsters and Loaders Union Benevolent Association, the Cotton Yardmen No. 2, and others.
Location: 2801 S. Saratoga St.
6. Greenwood Cemetery and Crematorium
Greenwood (1852) was established by the Firemen’s Charitable and Benevolent Association. Large memorial monuments at the entrance include those for Confederate soldiers, firemen, and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. Nearby are the tombs of former Firemen’s Benevolent and Charitable Association presidents Michael McKay and John Fitzpatrick (also a mayor of NOLA).
Location: 5200 Canal Blvd.
7. Metairie Cemetery
The Metairie Cemetery Association received its charter in May 1872. This large cemetery was built on a former racetrack, and the oval track shape is still there. Like Greenwood, Metairie was part of the Rural (Victorian) Cemetery Movement. It’s landscaped and features elements like lakes and wide roads connecting to footpaths.
Interments of note include singer Louis Prima, 49 kings of Carnival, and numerous Louisiana state governors and NOLA mayors.
Location: 5100 Pontchartrain Blvd.
8. Holt Cemetery
Holt is unique in New Orleans for its below-ground burials. Holt’s beauty doesn’t come from upright tombs or expensive monuments. What makes Holt special is that even though all the plots were sold years ago, it’s a very active cemetery. Family burials still take place with multiple members interred in the same grave. Plus, loved ones continue to decorate the graves. Some have done so for decades.
The majority of grave markers are handmade or put together with everyday items. Some are made from hand-painted wood or whatever was available. Many plots are outlined with store-bought landscape edging. Some are marked off by PVC piping.
Though his actual gravesite is long-forgotten, Charles “Buddy” Bolden has two gravestones here. He was a cornet player, a New Orleans jazz pioneer, and the first King of Jazz.
Location: 635 City Park Ave.
9. St. Roch Cemeteries No. 1 and 2
St. Roch was established in 1874 by Reverend Peter Leonard Thevis. In 1875, construction began on St. Roch Chapel, which was built in honor of the saint based on a promise years before.
During the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, Rev. Thevis prayed to St. Roch, asking him to protect his congregation at Holy Trinity Church. He’d pledged that he’d build a chapel in honor of the patron saint of protection if his people were spared. Not one of his parishioners died, and the chapel was built. Rev. Thevis is buried in the floor of the chapel before the altar.
There is a small room that’s filled with offerings left in recognition of answered prayers. Offerings include casts of formerly afflicted body parts and tokens of thanks. There are also leg braces and a set of false teeth.
Location: 1725 St. Roch Ave.
10. Charity Hospital and Katrina Memorial
For many decades, the cemetery of unmarked graves was unused. After Hurricane Katrina, the cemetery became a memorial to those lost.
The Katrina monument states:
“This cemetery was purchased by Charity Hospital in 1848 and was originally known as Potter's Field. It has historically been used to bury the unclaimed from throughout the city, including the victims of several yellow fever and influenza epidemics. Presently, the ashes of those who have donated their remains to the Louisiana State Anatomical Board for medical education are buried here also.
“Prior to the construction of the Katrina Memorial mausoleums, the cemetery was one of the few graveyards in the region in which all bodies were buried underground. Charity Hospital Cemetery is one of the most historically significant yet least known among New Orleans famous cities of the dead.”
Location: 5056 Canal St.
11. Cypress Grove Cemetery
Cypress Grove, also known as Firemen’s Cemetery, was built in honor of New Orleans’s volunteer firemen. Philanthropist Stephen Henderson willed his property to the Firemen’s Charitable & Benevolent Association in 1838. They, in turn, sold it to buy land for the cemetery.
During Cypress Grove’s dedication ceremony, the remains of more than a dozen volunteer firefighters who’d been entombed in other cemeteries were moved here. There are many society-style tombs here that house the firemen and pay tribute to those lost in the line of duty.
Here you will find Egyptian-influenced architecture, the Norwegians Rest monument (for seamen who gave their lives during WWII), and the Chinese Tomb (which features a fireplace).
Theater impresario James H. Caldwell is interred here. He built the first English-speaking theater in NOLA. He wanted to light it with gas. The gas machine he ordered from England not only lit his theater but was also able to light the city through his New Orleans Gas Light Company. Caldwell is known as “New Orlean’s Father of Light.”
Location: 120 City Park Ave.
12. Carrollton Cemetery
Established in 1849, Carrollton is one of the seven cemeteries the city oversees. It’s named for the city of Carrollton, which was annexed by New Orleans in the 1870s. It’s also known as Green Street Cemetery.
Carrollton started as a segregated cemetery, with “colored” families in one section and white families in the other. It was easy to tell which side was which. The white side has elaborate above-ground tombs, and the black side has modest grave markers and in-ground burials. It’s the only New Orleans cemetery that was segregated.
Location: 1701 Hillary St.
Complete Your Trip with a Cemetery Tour
If you’re planning a New Orleans vacation, no trip is complete without a New Orleans cemetery tour. These cities of the dead tell the fascinating and sometimes sordid history of America’s most unique city. You’ll find they’re more than just resting places for the dead. They have countless stories to share with the living.
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- NewOrleans.com. St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. www.neworleans.com/listing/st-louis-cemetery-no-3/32184/
- 64 Parishes. St. Louis Cemeteries No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3. 64parishes.org/entry/st-louis-cemetery-no-1-no-2-and-no-3
- Keister, Douglas. Mausoleums.com. Italian Benevolent Society Tomb - Baroque. www.mausoleums.com/portfolio/italian-benevolent-society-tomb/
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- A Closer Walk. St. Louis Cemetery No. 3. acloserwalknola.com/places/st-louis-cemetery-no-3/
- SaveOurCemeteries.org. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1; Greenwood Cemetery; Metairie Cemetery. www.saveourcemeteries.org/
- Atlas Obscura. Holt Cemetery. www.atlasobscura.com/places/holt-cemetery
- NOLA Catholic Cemeteries. St. Roch Cemetery. nolacatholiccemeteries.org/st-roch-cemetery-1
- OaklandLaurel.com. “The Influenza Epidemic of 1918 in New Orleans” Sept. 22, 2018. www.oakandlaurel.com/blog/category/charity-hospital-cemetery
- Greenwood Cemetery. Cypress Grove. www.greenwoodnola.com/cypress-grove/
- NOLA.com. “Familiar names mark tombs in Carrollton Cemetery” R. Stephanie Bruno, Oct. 26, 2012. www.nola.com/entertainment_life/home_garden/article_9c89d51f-4014-544c-bd51-4ea22c683d1a.html
- OaklandLaurel.com. “New Orleans Labor Heritage in Lafayette Cemetery No. 2” Sept. 7, 2015. www.oakandlaurel.com/blog/new-orleans-labor-heritage-in-lafayette-cemetery-no-2