From your patio seat flanked by Doric-style columns, with a benign ice-to-glass clink in your ears, the Columns hotel invites you to drift back through the decades. This 19th-century pillared pile on one of NOLA’s most dignified avenues offers a colour-rich refurb with many a theatrical wink. From the sensual red and gleaming mahogany of the hallway to the playful wall prints, twinkling period chandeliers and fringed bedside lamps, it’s a makeover that celebrates, rather than masks, the building’s ageing glamour. The prime St Charles Avenue location puts some of New Orleans’s nicest spots within easy reach, allowing you to saunter back into the gloriously restored hotel bar ready to usher in the evening. You’ll be surprised how quickly that clink of cocktail hour comes around here…
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £193.20 ($235), including tax at 14.52 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of $1.00 per booking on check-out.
Rates don’t include breakfast, but you can enjoy pastries ($3) and small plates ($14–20) at the coffee shop from 7am daily.
At the hotel
Free WiFi, umbrellas, robes, patio, landscaped garden with fountains, covered first-floor porch, private gallery/porch area for hire. In rooms: TV, Tivoli radio, selection of spirits, free bottled water, Parachute bed linens and towels, Aesop toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
The rooms are all individually decorated, using items found in the hotel loft, restored antiques, and vintage and modern pieces from around the world, giving it a multi-layered Southern glamour with a global spin. The Premier Avenue Suite is perhaps the most joyful of rooms, a clash-happy riot of colour and preserved features, with heaps of throwback charm, along with extra space and elegant avenue views. If you book room 17, you’ve got the option of also booking the spacious and character-packed guest lounge, which has an additional seating area with sofas, an extra bathroom, a bar and access to the upper outdoor porch.
Your Polaroid camera and your most fearsome print shirts – see if you can outdo your surroundings.
There’s a ramp to access the public areas of the hotel, plus a lift to the upper floors, but due to the age and nature of the building it might not be as comfortable for wheelchair users as some more modern hotels.
The Columns is a particular treat for the gently soused cocktail crowd, but children are welcome to stay here too. Nightly rates are charged per room, so there’s no extra charge for kids to stay. You’ll need to supervise your under-16s at all times.
The highly ornamented spaces of this heritage hotel are lit with LED bulbs, and timers are used throughout to conserve energy. Bathrooms are stocked with large, refillable toiletry bottles containing eco-friendly products. Water comes in glass bottles instead of plastic, and if you want a straw it will either be made of hay or another compostable material. Produce from local suppliers and farmers is used in the kitchen, where the chefs work hard to minimise waste and devise lots of plant-based options. And sometimes it’s the little details that can make a big difference: the hotel patio is designed to be permeable to help conserve water.
The tables on the patio are great for when the weather holds up, and offer a decent view of the passing people and streetcars.
Casual attire, but a bow tie wouldn’t look out of place here.
Chef Paul Terrebonne is at the helm of the casual New American dishes you’ll find at the Columns. The menu changes seasonally, offering plates such as pickled beet salad with cashew butter, pistachio and pecorino, or the Columns burger, served with bacon marmalade, rocket and provolone. Lunch is available on Friday from 11.30am to 3pm and dinner is served Sunday to Thursday 4pm to 9pm, and Friday and Saturday 4pm to 10pm. For brunch (11.30am to 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays), try the breakfast plate of ham, scrambled eggs and biscuits, or the little gem lettuce served with parmesan dressing and bacon. There’s no dedicated dining area; instead, guests can choose a spot anywhere in the low-lit bar, genteel parlour, on the patio or in the garden.
The polished mahogany features of the Columns bar have been carefully restored and are softly lit by a glowing antique chandelier. Take a pew on a plush stool and order your cocktail – we recommend the Gold Rush, made with bourbon, honey, lemon and thyme, or the Columns Bloody Mary.
9pm Sunday to Thursday and 10pm Friday and Saturday.
You can order room service during restaurant opening hours through the in-room ordering platform.
The Columns sits on elegant St Charles Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is around half an hour’s drive away.
If you’re arriving by train into New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, you can reach the hotel by car in about ten minutes or on foot in around 45 minutes.
There’s no car park on site, but you can park on the street.
Worth getting out of bed for
First up, you’ll want a good look at those eye-popping mansions that line leafy St Charles Avenue (you’re already staying in one of them). If you like fancy columns, turrets and brightly painted clapboard, an avenue stroll (or streetcar tour) is just what you need. Head to Magazine Street to shop homewares, jewellery and clothing, followed by coffee or brunch from a whole heap of great cafés and restaurants. It’s a short streetcar ride or drive (or 35-minute walk) to Audubon Park, where you can hit the golf course or relax at the Fly, a popular waterfront stretch of park that’s great for a picnic and glass of something cold at sunset.
Take a seat in the grand, French-style dining room at La Petite Groceryto taste blue crab beignets or shrimp and grits with okra, or try squid ink spaghetti followed by Mississippi blueberry pie in the cavernous, painted-brick environs at Paladar 511. Check out the casual and popular Pêche restaurant for seafood gumbo, whole grilled fish or super-fresh oysters.
Molly's Rise and Shine is a great shout for stuffed breakfast muffins, spicy fried chicken biscuits, black bean and zucchini tamales, and other filling choices. Swing by the Elizabeth Street Café for French-Vietnamese pastries, dumplings, banh mi and macarons. For a taste of old-school Louisiana, try the po’ boys at the Parkway Bakery and Tavern.
If you’ve exhausted the Columns cocktail list, mosey down to the shack-like Barrel Proofbar, stocked with over 300 whiskeys. Choose the rooftop Hot Tinbar, perched on the Pontchartrain Hotel, for 1940s-inspired decor and NOLA views with your Hemingway Daiquiri. A more traditional city favourite is the French 75 bar at Arnaud’s, where you can sip your Creole Fashioned (or indeed French 75) cocktail in refined, 19th-century surroundings.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Southern mansion in the Garden District and unpacked their zydeco vinyl and Mardi Gras beads, a full account of their break in the Big Easy will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Columns in New Orleans…
This New Orleans grande dame is something of a local icon, its robust columns known citywide, and its most recent refurbishment takes the legacy pretty seriously. Yes, you’ll find all sorts of interior shenanigans, with some discordant shades and prints, but it’s all in keeping with the spirit of the place, and very easy on the eye. Rooms are all individually styled, with vintage and antique pieces collected alongside lively patterns, sturdy old four-posters, polished brass and wood, and a few modern artworks to add some contemporary flair. The famous stately frontage with patio, gardens and chirpy green parasols is synonymous with good times, where residents and walk-in guests can linger over casual meals and drinks, and soak up the grand surroundings. Come for whimsical mansion living, with all its charming creaks and buffed-to-a-sheen original features, remembering it’s just one in a long parade of heritage beauties you can ogle on this most genteel of avenues.