Steeped in over a century of history, Hotel Monteleone is a testament to New Orleans' enduring charm.
Since its inception in 1886 by Antonio Monteleone, an Italian immigrant, this fifth-generation family-owned hotel has become an integral part of the French Quarter's landscape.
For my fall 2023 trip to the Big Easy in collaboration with New Orleans & Company, I spent three nights in one of the newly renovated guest rooms in the Hotel Monteleone's Iberville Tower.
It was a true joy to have the luxury hotel as a base to continue exploring the dining scene in New Orleans.
Please continue reading to learn about the history of the French Quarter's oldest hotel, including its famous guests (and ghosts) and recent renovations.
In 1880, Antonio Monteleone left a successful shoe manufacturing business in Sicily to immigrate to the United States. Upon settling in New Orleans, he reprised his role in the shoe trade, opening a cobbler shop on Royal Street.
Six years later, he bought the 64-room Commercial Hotel on the 200 block of Royal Street and thus pivoted to a new career as a hotelier.
Antonio Monteleone's hotel grew in popularity throughout the Gilded Age. In 1908, he added 300 guest rooms and changed the name to Hotel Monteleone.
The handsome hand-carved mahogany grandfather clock made its debut a year later. It still stands proudly in the lobby, chiming at the top of every hour.
When Antonio died in 1913, his son Frank Monteleone took over; the hotel continued to prosper during the Jazz Age and Roaring Twenties. By 1926, rooms included ceiling fans and radios, both luxuries.
Frank Monteleone added another 200 rooms in 1928 and continued investing in new technologies despite the stock market crash of 1929.
In 1930, the Hotel Monteleone became the first in New Orleans to offer air conditioning in public areas.
Incredibly, the Grande Dame of Royal Street survived the Great Depression and underwent additional expansions in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Carousel Bar & Lounge, built in 1949, was a hit at the time and remains so today. Over its 74-year history, the rotating bar has undergone several redesigns, with its reputation for a quality cocktail remaining constant.
Despite (or perhaps because of) its novelty, the Carousel Bar served many illustrious guests, including novelists Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and New Orleans native Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany's).
The Sky Terrace and rooftop pool were added in 1964. A venture begun with a small hotel purchase in 1886 had evolved into a world-renowned luxury hotel that occupied an entire city block.
Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire) and Pulitzer Prize-winning Eudora Welty (The Optimist's Daughter) were two more notable writers to spend time there.
In 1929, William Faulkner chose the Hotel Monteleone for his honeymoon with his new wife, Estelle. He used the stay to write his fourth novel, The Sound and the Fury. For his life's work, Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Modern authors to stay at the Hotel Monteleone include New Orleans-born Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire), Stephen Ambrose (Band of Brothers), and John Grisham (The Firm).
In July 2023, the Monteleone family unveiled the results of a two-year, multi-million dollar renovation of the hotel's Iberville Tower. One hundred sixty guest rooms were rebuilt from scratch, 48 luxury suites were added, and the ballroom was redesigned.
Any New Orleans hotel that's been around as long as the Hotel Monteleone will have accumulated a few ghosts.
The hotel's best-known paranormal guest is a toddler named Maurice Begere. During the 1890s, his parents, Jacques and Josephine, would leave Maurice in the care of a nanny when they attended operas on Bourbon Street.
On one such occasion, the boy developed a fever and died in their hotel room on the 14th floor (which, according to the hotel, is really the 13th floor).
Distraught, the parents returned to the Hotel Monteleone every year after that in hopes of seeing the spirit of their son. As the story goes, his mother eventually saw Maurice near the room where he died, saying, "Mommy, don't cry. I'm fine."
In the years since, hotel guests have reported seeing Maurice and other spirits. According to the hotel, "In 2003, the International Society of Paranormal Research investigated the 'haunting' of Hotel Monteleone. They claimed to have made contact with more than a dozen earthbound entities."
Hotel Monteleone was included in the 2023 Top 25 Historic Hotels of America Most Haunted Hotels List.
One of the many reasons I was excited to stay at the Hotel Monteleone is its convenient location in the heart of the French Quarter.
A block to the west on Canal Street, you can board a street car for trips to the Garden District.
While you can often hear live jazz in the Carousel Bar & Lounge, if you want to explore beyond the hotel, the Mahogany Jazz Hall, Jazz Playhouse, and Davenport Lounge are all within a few minutes walk.
Additional points of interest with walking times from Hotel Monteleone:
- Woldenburg Park, Audubon Aquarium, and Mississippi River - 8 minutes
- Jackson Square and French Market - 10 minutes
- Louis Armstrong Park - 17 minutes
- Frenchmen Street - 22 minutes (on Royal Street)
- Caesars Superdome - 23 minutes
The Hotel Monteleone is also the perfect location for visitors attending the annual Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.
Rooms and Suites
After Kel and I checked in with reception, we took the dedicated Iberville Tower elevators to the 11th floor, where a Superior King room awaited.
My eyes lit up with delight as I swung the door open to reveal the beautifully designed space. The neutral color palette evoked a sense of calm.
Inlayed mirrors covered the front of the closet, vanity area, and wall space on each side of the bed, reflecting the natural light entering the room.
A lantern-shaped light fixture hung above the king-sized bed, dressed in luxurious white sheets. Lighting controls for the room were accessible near the headboard on both sides of the bed, and outlets were above each nightstand.
The room had high ceilings and, at 250 square feet, comfortably accommodated a reading chair, ottoman, and desk chair by the window. A 55" LG TV hung above the dresser. The free Wi-Fi was easy to access.
Complimentary bottles of Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino were waiting alongside a creamy praline and a note from the Concierge Team. While I didn't call on them during our stay, I appreciated the reminder that the hotel staff were happy to assist as needed.
A few bottles of Amber Lager from Abita Brewing Company, a local craft brewery, were on ice, along with a few bags of Zapp's New Orleans Kettle Style Potato chips.
A single-serve coffee machine with regular and decaf pods and tea was stationed on the granite countertop above the mini-fridge.
From our window on the 11th floor of the Hotel Monteleone, we had a view north across New Orleans' historic French Quarter.
There was some street noise in the evenings, as I expected, given the hotel's proximity to Bourbon Street. But, it did not impact my ability to fall asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow every night.
A modern design touch I appreciated was the motion-sensor lighting under the bed, which activated when your feet hit the carpet. It ensured you didn't bang into anything on your way to/from the bathroom in the middle of the night.
The marble bathroom with electric mirrors and rain shower head was immaculate. I was particularly fond of the floor tiles. Plush white towels were a welcome comfort, as were the bath and body products by Gilchrist & Soames.
The rooms and suites in the Iberville Tower are serviced twice daily by housekeeping. We'd return from dinner and drinks to find bathrobes on the bed, boxed water on our nightstands, and little chocolates by the pillows.
See also: The St. Anthony in San Antonio
Overall, the Superior King room provided a comfortable and relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of the French Quarter.
For guests who prefer a seating area and more space, there are 48 new luxury suites in the Iberville Tower.
Regardless of whether you choose a room or suite, all guests in the Iberville Tower are allowed early access to the Carousel Bar.
A guided tour allows you to sit at the bar at 10 a.m., an hour before it opens to the general public. Learn about the bar's history, famous guests, and mixology over a cocktail. The experience costs $100 and includes one drink.
Royal and Bienville Towers
Guest rooms and suites with more traditional decor, drapes, and furnishings can be found in the Royal and Bienville Towers.
Bookworms with a taste for luxury will appreciate the Literary Suites, of which there are six. Five are named after the hotel's most famous guests, with the sixth and largest dedicated to the Monteleone family.
The design of the 935-square-foot Ernest Hemingway Suite is my favorite. The Hemingway Penthouse is on the 16th floor and includes two balconies.
The 16th floor is also where you'll find the Hotel Monteleone's heated rooftop pool and Acqua Bella bar. Guests have been enjoying this amenity since it was introduced in 1964.
I added my name to the list, going for a swim on my third day. The views are fantastic, so it's worth a look even if you don't get in the water.
There are tables and chairs under a roofed area and a decent number of sun loungers for those who prefer to work on their tan.
The hotel's fitness center is also on the 16th floor. The long, narrow space is chock full of cardio equipment, free weights, and weight machines.
Cardio is lined up in front of the windows, with ellipticals looking north over the French Quarter and treadmills facing south toward the Mississippi River.
The hotel's full-service spa offers nail care, massage, and waxing services.
Dining at Hotel Monteleone
The Carousel Bar & Lounge
During our stay at the Hotel Monteleone, Kel and I queued up at 10:30 a.m., a half hour before the Carousel Bar opened, to ensure we got two of the 25 seats. It was our second time at the bar, which revolves once every 15 minutes.
I prefer to visit during the daytime when the space is full of light and you can appreciate the hand-painted seats. Plus, it's a fun way to start the day.
The Carousel Bar's signature drink is a Vieux Carre, created by one of its bartenders, Walter Bergeron, in 1938.
This Crescent City cocktail is made with Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Angostura, and Peychaud Bitters.
Other classic cocktails include the Sazerac and Pimm's Cup. The French 007 was created by Marvin Allen, the Carousel Bar's current mixologist.
Since it was early and I had a lot planned for the day, I ordered a non-alcoholic Italian Spritz ($16). Kel got the Pink Fizz made with Henry Ramos Gin ($18). I enjoyed sips from both as we sat at the bar for about two rotations.
The last time we were there, we sampled gourmet treats, including blue crab beignets ($26) and French Market-style beignets ($12).
Oysters Rockefeller, deviled eggs with pancetta, and caviar service are available. For a heartier meal, there's a Cuban sandwich, sliders, and mussels with white truffle fries.
Acqua Bella Bar
I went with another non-alcoholic drink, a mango daiquiri, for my rooftop pool session.
When I asked the Acqua Bella bartender why he used two plastic cups, he told me that freezing water between them helps the frozen drinks stay cold longer.
The pool bar serves drinks and food from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Daiquiries and margaritas are $18 each (or $14 without the alcohol). Cocktails like a Hurricane, Aperol Spritz, Sangria, or Bloody Mary are also $18. Wines are $14 per glass, and beers are $10.
The food menu, which I didn't try, features a shrimp cocktail, hummus, and a few options for sandwiches, tacos, flatbreads, and salads. Food items are priced from $10 to $18.
The Hotel Monteleone's Criollo Restaurant offers seasonal menus emphasizing New Orleans and Gulf Coast cuisine.
Additionally, if you order room service or something to eat in the Carousel Bar & Lounge, it's coming from Criollo's kitchen.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are available daily, and there's a jazz brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Brunch with live jazz sounded like the perfect sendoff after our stay at the Hotel Monteleone, so that's the meal I picked for us to experience Criollo.
We passed a pair of jazz musicians at work as the hostess led us to our table near the open kitchen. An advertisement for 75-cent French 75s was on the table, a deal too good to pass up.
For a boozier brunch, you can order "endless" glasses of Veuve Clicquot Champagne for $95 (per person). And there's always the incredible cocktails from the Carousel Bar to consider.
The brunch menu is full of Southern favorites. Starters include sweet and savory beignets, fried green tomatoes, and jumbo lump crab cake.
The honey-baked brie and strawberries with marcona almonds, Grand Marnier flambe, and sea salt crackers had my mouth watering.
Diners can choose from ten egg dishes, including egg Sardou (invented at Antoine's Restaurant) and egg Tchoupitoulas.
There's the standard eggs Benedict made with Canadian bacon, or you can kick it up a notch with lobster Benedict.
Under entrees, you'll find heartier dishes, such as an apple smoked bacon cheeseburger, NY strip steak and eggs, and fried chicken with sausage gravy and a jalapeno cheddar biscuit.
After three days of eating my way through the city of New Orleans, I thought I'd go light with the Orchard Harvest, a fruit salad with Greek yogurt and banana bread ($15).
What arrived was the most generous plate of fresh fruit I've received in recent memory. I took leftovers to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport so they wouldn't go to waste.
Meanwhile, Kel had ordered the Criollo Omelet with ham and cheese, which was also massive and came with hash browns. We shared a side of smoked bacon for good measure.
Lunch and Dinner Options
The weekday lunch menu offers some of the same dishes as you'll find on the brunch menu, such as the cheeseburger and blackened ahi tuna, plus unique options like southern fried chicken and caviar ($95).
Aside from the caviar-related items, most brunch and lunch dishes are between $15 to $30. Special offers like the 3-course prix-fixe lunch for $35 are a good value.
Dinner is available a la carte with entrees ranging from $24 for braised pork belly to $75 for a bone-in Kansas City strip steak. Or, you can choose a 5-course prix-fixe menu for $95 from Thursday to Monday between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
As my stay at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans came to a close, I was left with an indelible impression of a place where history and luxury intertwine.
From the elegance of the lobby to the whimsical Carousel Bar and attractively renovated rooms in the Iberville Tower, time spent in every space was memorable.
Whether you're drawn by the literary legacy, haunted tales, or the allure of staying in historic accommodations dating to the late 1800s, the Monteleone offers guests an extraordinary experience.
214 Royal Street
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
My complimentary stay at the Hotel Monteleone was organized in collaboration with New Orleans & Company.