Located on popular Jackson Square, the Cabildo has had many uses over the years. It’s been the seat of government in New Orleans, a courthouse, a prison and a city hall. Considered one of the most important historical buildings in all of New Orleans, the Cabildo forms part of the Louisiana State Museum.
Today the Cabildo serves as a monument to the history of Louisiana and its people. Explore the three floors of exhibits, which display the state history from its earliest days through the Civil War. You'll see portraits, engravings, artifacts from the slave period and even the death mask of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The building was designed by French architect Gilberto Guillemard, who also designed the adjacent Presbytère and St. Louis Cathedral. The Cabildo, which is Spanish for city hall, was completed in 1799 during the era of Spanish occupation. It was severely damaged by fire in 1988 but was painstakingly rebuilt and reopened in 1994.
On the second floor, tour the Sala Capitular, the government meeting room where many of Louisiana's important judicial events have taken place. Pay a visit to the central stone courtyard where you'll still see the cannons and stocks from the early days of Louisiana, and artifacts dating from the peak of the plantation era.
It would be easy to spend an entire day at the Cabildo if you read all the documents on display. A quicker stroll through the exhibits can also be made in two to three hours. The museum focuses on local history through the ages and it regularly holds special exhibitions that highlight a particular period of history.
The Cabildo is one of five properties of the Louisiana State Museum that are open to the public and all are within walking distance of each other. Buy a ticket to two or more of the museums to receive a discount price. The Cabildo is open Tuesday through Sunday. It’s on public transportation lines, and also offers free parking.