17 Best Things to Do in Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Bourbon Street, New Orleans

There's a certain magic in the warm evening air as I meander along the distinct echoes of jazz, spilling from vibrant clubs and bars; Bourbon Street, the pulsating artery  New Orleans.

The kaleidoscope of colors from neon signs, historic buildings wearing a vibrant patina of age, and the intoxicating mix of Creole cuisine bring to life a symphony of street performances that are a feast to the senses.

From the age-old traditions of Mardi Gras to the unexpected serenade by a jazz trio, an amble down this iconic street is a delightful dance with a city that loves to celebrate life.

Let's begin the adventure through the best things to do in Bourbon Street, New Orleans.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Rhea Dunlap, Joseph Martin, Lynda Williams, Samantha Wells, Alayah Hooper, Faye Evans and Willie Medina.

Immerse Yourself in Groovy Music at Fritzel's European Jazz Pub

Signage of Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub
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There's nothing like a sultry Southern night, a chilled glass of Hurricane in hand, and the soulful tunes of jazz enveloping the dimly lit room at Fritzel's European Jazz Pub.

This has become my go-to spot, my refuge from the world after a long day.

The intimate setting of this Bourbon Street mainstay, with its German-themed decor and relics from all over Germany, has a distinct charm that is hard to find anywhere else.

The music flows into the night as the nimble-fingered musicians take to the stage - their excitement palpable, their performances enchanting.

There's not a dull moment at Fritzel's European Jazz Pub, even if you arrive early, like I usually do.

The jazz band starts early, setting the tone for the night's partying.

As the night progresses, the place fills up with jazz lovers, the hum of conversations lacing the air with anticipation and excitement.

A clarinet player in Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub
Ishwar, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One thing that always strikes me about Fritzel's is the respect customers show when the band is playing.

The place hushes down, all eyes and ears tuned to the stage, absorbing the rich soundscapes the band creates.

When they take a break, the buzz of conversations crescendos, creating a warm, lively atmosphere that is simply infectious.

The drinks might lean towards the pricier side, but there's no cover charge, and the experience you get is worth every penny.

I prefer to order beer on draft, it somehow feels right, in tune with the music and the vibe of the place.

And for those warm nights, there's cute courtyard seating outside, where you might even get to pet the friendly orange cat that often hangs around.

Meet Jazz Icons at Musical Legends Park

Entrance arch of Musical Legends Park
starryvoyage / Shutterstock.com

A hidden gem nestled in the heart of the city, Musical Legends Park is my go-to place for a laid-back evening.

With its serene atmosphere, it offers a quaint escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown New Orleans.

A stroll through the park is like a walk down memory lane, with life-sized bronze statues of jazz legends adding a distinctive charm to the place.

It's hard not to feel a sense of pride when you see these figures who've left a lasting imprint on our city's musical heritage.

One unique feature at the Musical Legends Park is the plaque named Edison Place.

It marks the spot where the original electrical distribution center once stood.

It's a fascinating piece of history that often piques the curiosity of those who come across it.

Statues at Musical Legends Park
Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

The café at the park serves some of the most delicious beignets and cocktails in town.

There's also a bar on site that offers a variety of drinks.

I remember one evening when I had the Red Beans and Rice, which was simply divine.

And yes, don't forget to try their Belgian waffles - a perfect treat for breakfast or brunch.

Live local bands play every day, filling the park with music that resonates with the soul of New Orleans.

I had the chance to witness the incredible Steamboat Willie trio performing on the Café Beignet stage.

Their performance was something that just made the whole experience even more memorable.

People at Musical Legends Park
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Drink with the Locals at Bourbon 'O' Bar

Signage of Bourbon 'O' Bar
jejim / Shutterstock.com

There are few pleasures in life that rival spending an evening at the Bourbon 'O' Bar.

This is my go-to place on days when I crave for an elegant combination of fantastic cocktails and vibrant live music, right here in the heart of New Orleans.

Bourbon 'O' Bar is not your average watering hole.

It's far from a dive, the atmosphere is moody and refined, and the drinks?

They serve a range of seasonal and classic cocktails that would impress even the most discerning of palates.

I remember sipping on a Louisiana Lemonade on one of my visits - a delightful concoction that was simply fantastic.

The showstopper, however, has to be the live entertainment.

But it's not just any live music.

The bands change every couple of hours, filling the room with an electrifying energy that's infectious.

I've spent countless nights tapping my foot to the beat, lost in the captivating performances.

Friendly bartenders add to the charm of Bourbon 'O' Bar, ensuring that you're well taken care of.

As for the food, I usually grab a bite before I head over - it's the music and drinks that keep me coming back time and again.

Enjoy the Spirits at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar

Exterior of Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
William A. Morgan / Shutterstock.com

Every weekend, after a week's worth of work, I find myself unwinding with a cold drink in one of the oldest bars in the city, if not the country.

Drenched in history, Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar sits there in the French Quarter as a testimony to the good old days.

Walking through its doors is like stepping back in time to the 1700s.

The lights are dim, and the air is filled with the hushed whispers of patrons, some locals, others tourists, all drawn in by the bar's charm.

The brick walls, darkened by time, and the rustic bar have stories to tell.

Stories that can only be heard over strong drinks and the echoing clinks of beer glasses meeting in cheers.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar isn't just about the drinks, though.

It's a place where you can pull up a chair, chat with friends or make new ones, and just soak in the ambiance.

The outdoor bars and sit-out tables are perfect for those warm, balmy nights when all you want is a cool breeze and a chilled beer.

Signage of Jean Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop Bar
Page Light Studios / Shutterstock.com

You can also enjoy the quiet serenity of the courtyard.

It's a bit crowded at times, but it only adds to the charm.

And let's talk about the drinks for a moment.

From classic beers to frozen cocktails and the famous Purple Drinks, you'll be spoilt for choice.

But if you really want to try something special, you must try the cherry bombs.

Trust me, they're an experience.

I haven't seen food being served here, but who needs it when the drinks are this good?

Besides, there are plenty of eateries around if you get the munchies.

Enjoy a Karaoke Night at Cafe Lafitte in Exile

Exterior of Cafe Lafitte in Exile
paulaah293 / Shutterstock.com

You know, there's something about the charm of New Orleans that can be best experienced at Cafe Lafitte in Exile.

Its vibrant atmosphere, warm hospitality, and diverse crowd make it an absolute delight in the heart of the French Quarter.

It's not just a bar, it's practically part of my daily life.

My favorite night of the week to visit is definitely Karaoke night.

People from all walks of life come together, having a blast, adding a unique flavor to the evening with their renditions of popular tunes.

The camaraderie and cheer in the air is palpable, and it's almost impossible not to get caught up in the fun.

The drinks at Cafe Lafitte in Exile are top-notch and the bartenders are nothing short of artists.

Facade of Cafe Lafitte in Exile
paulaah293 / Shutterstock.com

Jeremy, in particular, has an uncanny knack for crafting the best cocktails.

I can vouch for his Hurricanes - they're the best in town.

But the real star is his special recipe Bloody Mary.

Trust me, it is to die for!

And the best part is, the drinks are reasonably priced so you can enjoy a few without burning a hole in your pocket.

But what truly sets Cafe Lafitte apart is its people.

Both the staff and patrons are incredibly welcoming.

Everyone is greeted like a dear friend, creating a sense of community that is rare to find.

Have Mystical Journey in Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo

Signage of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
Page Light Studios / Shutterstock.com

Let me take you on a journey through a mystical nook tucked away in the heart of New Orleans.

Stepping into the Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo feels like stepping into a different world.

The air is thick with mystery and spiced with the scent of incense.

The shop is small, but don't let its size fool you.

It's crammed from floor to ceiling with fascinating items, from voodoo dolls to talismans, spell kits and other curiosities.

As you navigate the shop, make sure to look up, down and all around because you'll find intriguing items in every corner.

It's an absolute visual feast, but just remember, the House of Voodoo has a strict policy against photography and filming, so keep your phone tucked away.

The staff here are warm and welcoming, always happy to help without being intrusive.

Marie Laveau's House of Voodoo is usually bustling with visitors, a testament to its popularity.

But amidst the crowd, there's a serene energy that washes over you, adding to the allure of the place.

Exterior of Marie Laveau’s House of Voodoo
Bart Everson, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I've tried my hand at the on-site psychic readings here.

But let me warn you, if you're expecting a movie-style reading with dramatic revelations, you might be disappointed.

It's more of a light-hearted, entertainment-centric experience.

I once had a reading from an older lady with graying hair who seemed to prefer chatting and doling out generic life advice over interpreting the tarot cards in front of her.

It felt more like a casual conversation than a psychic reading.

But don't let that deter you.

The real gem in this place is their Jasmine oil.

Oh, the scent is just heavenly!

I've tried other jasmine oils, but none of them come close to this one.

It's one of those things that I simply must stock up on every time I visit the shop.

Party at Tropical Isle

Signage of Tropical Isle
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Ah, the Tropical Isle - a staple on Bourbon Street, as vibrant and lively as the city itself.

An evening here is always a fun-filled adventure, with its neon lights casting a party ambiance and Mardi Gras beads draping every corner.

You can check out their full experience at tropicalisle.com.

Venturing inside this festive island-themed bar, you're immediately drawn to their famed Hand Grenade cocktail.

It's a must-try for any visitor, but also a favorite among us locals.

Now, I will tell you, it's quite a sizeable drink - almost like having two cocktails in one, and the flavor is definitely up to the mark.

However, don't expect it to knock you out with its potency.

What really sets the mood at Tropical Isle, apart from the fantastic drinks, is the unique presentation.

You get your drink in a little plastic grenade.

We regulars enjoy a round of shooting these 'grenades' into the nets above, a charming little game that adds to the whole experience.

The staff here is another reason I keep coming back.

They're cool, friendly, and always up for a quick chat in between serving up their delightful concoctions.

Live music is another highlight - the band playing some great tunes to enhance the atmosphere.

If you're on a Bourbon Street walk, it's the perfect pit stop for a drink or two and some good music.

Dance to the Party Spirit at The World Famous Cats Meow

One of my favorite pastimes is hitting up The World Famous Cats Meow on Bourbon Street for a karaoke night.

This place is an absolute riot.

It's not just a karaoke bar, it's a whole karaoke universe where you can be the star.

It's loud, it's rowdy, and it's unforgettable.

From the moment you walk in, you're greeted by the booming subwoofers that are perfectly tuned to jolt you into the party spirit.

And oh, the party spirit indeed runs high here.

The talented in-house DJs keep the beats pumping and the crowds rocking.

The atmosphere infects you, and before you know it, you're queuing up to put your name on the singing waitlist, eager to belt out your favorite tunes to an excited, cheering crowd.

But it's not just about the karaoke.

The balcony area is a gem, providing a bird's eye view of the bustling Bourbon Street.

It's the perfect spot to enjoy a cold drink, take in the vibrant New Orleans vibe, and share laughs with friends and family.

Of course, no place is perfect, and The World Famous Cats Meow is no exception.

The restrooms here leave a lot to be desired.

They're cramped and could definitely use a good scrubbing.

On top of that, the drink prices can vary depending on who's serving you.

It’s a bit of a letdown, but when you're lost in the fun and music, these minor hiccups hardly make a difference.

Indulge in the Cuisines of Olde Nola Cookery

Signage of Olde Nola Cookery
Scott Colesby / Shutterstock.com

"Wow! That was fantastic!" - that’s what I usually find myself saying after a hearty meal at Olde Nola Cookery.

It’s something about the heat of August that makes the flavorful dishes from this vibrant restaurant taste even better.

As soon as you step inside, you are greeted with a refreshing glass of ice water, which is a blessing in the New Orleans humidity.

The staff there are not just attentive but they make genuine efforts to ensure you pick the best dish according to your taste.

If you ask me, I'd recommend their catfish platter without a second thought.

The taste is so amazing, it makes you want to visit again and again, which is what I often end up doing.

However, it’s not just about the catfish.

Their crab cakes with mushroom sauce are a delight to the palate.

And let's talk about the blackened chicken po'boy - it's an explosion of flavors that you just can't resist.

Yet, I should mention, it's not all perfect.

Their gumbo and redfish & crawfish étouffée could use a bit of improvement, but the gator bites they serve more than make up for it.

In the heart of Bourbon Street, this place stands out for its perfect Cajun pasta: Olde Nola Cookery.

The balance of spice, texture, and authenticity is just on point.

It's not just about the food though, the ambiance transports you to a different world, reflective of New Orleans liveliness.

However, when they crank up the music, it can get a bit too loud, especially if you're dining with kids.

Speaking of which, the kids meals might not be the best in terms of taste or price.

But for adults, the freshness and flavor in dishes like the shrimp platter and Cajun fries are worth every penny.

Grab a Late-Night Bite at Clover Grill

Exterior of Clover Grill
William A. Morgan / Shutterstock.com

Ah, the Clover Grill.

It's my go-to spot after a long night out on Bourbon Street.

From the retro vibe to the 24/7 service, this little diner has it all.

It's nestled right in the heart of the French Quarter, just a stone's throw away from the lively gay bars.

When the cravings hit, whether it's for a classic burger or a dose of a hearty breakfast, the Clover Grill is where I head.

Now, don't get me wrong, it does get crowded, especially during peak meal times.

But that's part of its charm.

There's something about the bustling atmosphere, the aroma of fresh burgers on the griddle, and the anticipation of a well-cooked meal that makes the wait worthwhile.

And let me tell you, the food is truly something to write home about.

The waffles are nothing short of heavenly - soft, warm, and melt in your mouth.

And the burgers, oh the burgers!

You can customize it to your liking, and paired with a side of their crispy onion rings and a chilled root beer, it hits the spot every time.

The staff at Clover Grill are a class act.

Always warm and welcoming, they make you feel right at home.

Whether it's a busy Saturday afternoon or a quiet Tuesday night, the service is consistent and reliable.

One thing worth noting is that they do not accept cash, so be sure to have your cards handy.

Discover the Absinthe-Making Process at the Old Absinthe House

People in front of the Old Absinthe House
William A. Morgan / Shutterstock.com

There's something comfortably familiar about stepping into the Old Absinthe House, a landmark saloon nestled in the heart of my city.

The moment I cross the threshold, I'm greeted by the quirky allure that sets it apart from any other bar in town.

You'd be mistaken if you thought it's just about the Absinthe here – it's the experience that makes it noteworthy.

Over time, it has become my go-to spot whenever I need an escape from the regularity of everyday life.

The menu at the Old Absinthe House can seem intimidating at first glance.

The selection of absinthe is vast, varied, and admittedly a bit overwhelming for a first-timer.

But fear not, the informative descriptions make it easier to navigate through the options, and the bartenders are always on hand to guide you through the process.

Their knowledge of Absinthe history and preparation methods is impressive.

Signage of the Old Absinthe House
4kclips / Shutterstock.com

The ambiance is a blend of the historic and the eccentric.

The building itself is a relic, steeped in history, but the decor is decidedly contemporary with a football theme and large TVs.

It might feel a tad strange at first, especially if you're expecting a typical absinthe den.

But there's a certain charm to sipping on your absinthe cocktail amidst the uproar of a sports match.

The only downside – if you can call it that – is the seating.

There never seem to be enough stools around the bar, which often means having to stand until a spot opens up.

But it's a small price to pay for an otherwise great experience.

Taste the Famous Punch of Bourbon House

Signage of Bourbon House
PQK / Shutterstock.com

You wouldn't believe the number of times I've found myself at Bourbon House to experience their famed Bourbon Milk Punch.

There's something almost addictive about it - it's a meal in itself, you might say.

The vibe is always on point and the decor hits the right notes of upscale yet warm.

It's just as perfect for a seated dinner occasion as it is for grabbing a quick bite on a solo trip to the oyster bar.

The servers do a commendable job.

They're prompt, polite and somehow manage to make each meal feel special.

On one of my regular visits there, I had the absolute delight of trying crab claws over garlic bread - a match made in heaven, I assure you.

I'm not one to consume bread at restaurants normally, but the sublime mix of garlic, the perfect soft-crisp ratio, and that mouthwatering sauce, it was simply impossible to resist.

Each dish at Bourbon House comes with its own charm, not to mention the reasonable pricing.

I remember taking my niece there once, and our waitress, Renee, was nothing short of splendid.

She went out of her way to interact with my niece and ensured that everything was to our absolute satisfaction.

It's the personal connection that makes this place stand out.

That being said, I have had a few 'just OK' experiences there as well.

On a particularly busy day, the service felt a bit off - we had to ask for water multiple times and a couple of our drink orders never made it to our table.

The food was good but didn't particularly stand out - the Redfish On The Half-shell was flavorful, but the blackened shrimp jambalaya and the Apple Bread Pudding were just OK.

Don't let that deter you though, because Bourbon House, with its stellar location right on the iconic Bourbon Street, is a gem that deserves your attention.

It's not just about the food and drinks, but the whole experience that keeps me coming back time and again.

Enjoy the Flavors of New Orleans at the Legendary Galatoire's

Exterior of Galatoire’s Restaurant
Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If someone asked me to describe a quintessential New Orleans dining experience, I'd have no choice but to point them in the direction of Galatoire's.

A century-old institution, Galatoire's effortlessly combines the elegance of fine dining with the rich flavors of French-Creole cuisine.

And trust me when I say, it's all about the experience at Galatoire's.

When you walk into this grand establishment, you're instantly taken back to a time when dining was more than just a meal—it was an event.

Every detail, from the crisp white tablecloths to the impeccably dressed staff, speaks of a bygone era of sophistication and flair.

Jackets are required for gentlemen after 5:00 PM, adding to the timeless charm.

But don't worry if you arrive unprepared—they have a few spares to lend.

Dressing up for Galatoire's is all part of the tradition, and it's one I personally relish.

Interior of Galatoire’s Restaurant
Bobak Ha'Eri, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The real magic begins when you sit down and sample their heavenly French-Creole fare.

I've lost count of the times I've eaten here, but each time feels like the first.

The food, simply put, is a revelation.

I still remember my first bite of their signature dish—it was nothing short of life-changing.

The staff at Galatoire's is another integral part of the experience.

Our favorite server, Kenny, has been with Galatoire's for years.

His knowledge of the menu is extensive, and his recommendations are always spot-on.

His attentiveness ensures that our glasses are never empty and that our experience is nothing short of stellar.

Catch a Drag Show at Oz New Orleans

Signage of Oz New Orleans
JackKPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Every now and then, there's a call for a night of fun and dancing.

The call of the vibrant lights, the booming music, and the magnetic pull of the lively crowd at Oz New Orleans is impossible to ignore.

This cool, late-night gay dance club is the perfect place to quench your thirst for an exciting nightlife adventure.

Showcasing the best of the best from DJs to drag shows, the club also sets the stage for go-go dancers to charm their way into your heart.

One of my favorite times to visit is on a Sunday for the drag show.

The bar is always well-staffed with friendly bartenders who make sure you're not left waiting for your drink.

As the anticipation builds up and the crowd thickens, the stage lights up with the show you've been waiting for.

The queens are not only stunning, but they are hilarious, making the whole experience a riot of laughter and cheer.

For the best views, you might want to stay close to the balcony area, which they open right before the show starts.

Another worthwhile show to catch is the Ladies of Oz drag show.

I remember the first time I stumbled upon it.

I was walking by with a friend who had enjoyed it the previous night, and his enthusiasm was contagious.

The performances were impressive, and the drinks were reasonably priced.

Being a frequent visitor to Oz New Orleans, I've also been lucky enough to catch their boylesque show on a Tuesday night.

My husband and I were swept away by the spectacular performances, and the drinks were just as great as the entertainment.

We always end up having so much fun that we lose track of time!

Whether you're looking for a memorable night out, or just want to take a break from your routine, Oz New Orleans is the place to be.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Stroll through Jackson Square

Daytime view of Jackson Square
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Every morning, I'm drawn to Jackson Square like a moth to a flame.

This historic spot, which was built in 1721, has been an integral part of our New Orleans culture for centuries.

Surrounded by enchanting historic buildings, the square is more than just a park - it's a vibrant canvas of local life.

Nestled by the Mississippi River's edge, the square offers a breathtaking view of the iconic St. Louis Cathedral and the Andrew Jackson Equestrian Statue.

It's a sight that never gets old.

An early morning stroll around the park, with the sun peeking from behind the Cathedral, is a serene experience I recommend to everyone.

The square truly comes to life in the afternoons.

Aerial view of Jackson Square
Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock.com

Artists and performers of all kinds transform Jackson Square into a lively open-air stage.

You'll see painters capturing the essence of the city on their canvases, musicians serenading passersby, and street performers adding a dose of whimsy to the atmosphere.

There's always something new to discover, and the artistic energy is infectious.

On weekends, I often find myself sitting on a bench, with a beignet from the nearby Café du Monde in one hand, watching the world go by.

Or sometimes, I join the crowd watching a festival or a show right in front of the park.

The creative spirit of our city is truly on display here at Jackson Square.

Watch Concerts at the Historic Preservation Hall

Preservation Hall
Page Light Studios / Shutterstock.com

Jazz music, as we all know, is the soul of New Orleans.

And no other place represents the heart and soul of this city's music than  Preservation Hall.

I've lived here in New Orleans my entire life and the sheer amount of talent that I've seen perform in this intimate, rustic setting is astonishing.

The first thing you'll notice when you walk into the hall is the lack of any frills or modern amenities - there's no air-conditioning!

But don't let that sway you away; the heat only adds to the authenticity of the experience.

It's like stepping into a time machine, back to the roots of jazz, in a space that's been home to some of the best jazz artists since the 1960s.

You'll want to secure your tickets in advance, trust me on this.

The hall is a cozy place, can only hold about a hundred people.

Entrance to Preservation Hall
starryvoyage / Shutterstock.com

But regardless of where you're seated, the energy in the room is palpable and the music... it's like nothing you've ever heard before.

Talented musicians who live and breathe jazz, pouring their heart and soul into every note they play.

One piece of advice, be sure to arrive at least half an hour before the show if you're not a VIP, as they fill the rows from front to back.

And remember, there's no bathroom or drinks available at the hall, so make your pit stops before.

But the slight inconvenience is more than worth it for the magical experience that awaits you inside.

If you're planning a visit to Preservation Hall, do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in the unique ambiance, rich history, and world-class music.

It's a must-visit destination for any music or history enthusiast.

Just remember to bring a bottle of water to beat the heat and enjoy the musical extravaganza!

Immerse in History at The National WWII Museum

Exterior of the National WW2 Museum
PauloAlmeidaPhotography / Shutterstock.com

Here in New Orleans, we've got culture and history around every corner.

But there's one destination that always has me coming back for more: The National WWII Museum.

It's not your average museum, it's an experience that you really need to immerse yourself into.

Be ready to spend an entire day here, it's like being transported back in time.

This place is massive – vivid displays, interactive exhibits, an engaging 4-D theater, and a collection of World War II memorabilia that you just can't breeze through.

Something that makes this place unique is its interactive submarine exhibit, it's truly one of a kind.

Its 4-D theater is far from your usual movie experience.

Interior of the National WW2 Museum
Theodore P. Webb / Shutterstock.com

The special effects make you feel like you're right in the middle of the action.

There's a small additional cost, but it's absolutely worth it.

The National WWII Museum also offers a unique photo opportunity where they take your picture as you enter, which can be later transformed into a keepsake with various backgrounds.

So maybe think about striking a pose rather than your usual ID photo face.

If you're keen on souvenirs, don't miss out on the gift shops.

They are three in number, including a standalone store right next to the museum.

You can find the perfect memento of your visit there.

Final Thoughts

Bourbon Street is much more than a night of fleeting revelry.

It's a melting pot of history, culture, music, and incredible gastronomy, boldly blended into one lively strip.

As we say in New Orleans, "Laissez les bons temps rouler" - Let the good times roll.

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