Few other places on earth can claim a cemetery as both an interesting tourist destination and a cultural icon. New Orleans’ elevation is technically a negative number, so the early settlers to the area had trouble with the bodies of their recently interned washing away come the summer rains. The settlers quickly learned that the only way to properly keep their dead in place was to build raised cemeteries, and thus the tradition of New Orleans’ raised cemeteries took hold. Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, and this nearly 200 year-old attraction has a history that goes beyond the raised cement graves. Ripe with ghost stories and notable New Orleans elites, the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, as any tour guide will tell you, holds the remains of only “Americans,” while the also popular St. Louis Cemetery houses what is left of the Creoles.
The Lafayette Cemetery is free and open to the public year round. Unfortunately, bandits have been known to surprise unsuspecting tourists walking alone at night, so the raised cemeteries of New Orleans are best toured with a guide and as a group.