LA Downtown Walk, Los Angeles

LA Downtown Walk (Self Guided), Los Angeles

The history of Los Angeles began on September 4, 1781 when a group of 44 Spanish settlers known as "Los Pobladores", trekking north from present-day Mexico, established a pueblo (settlement) in what is now Downtown LA. They called it El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, which means 'The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels'.

Prior to the Europeans, though, there area was occupied by the Tongva (indigenous people of California) village of Yaanga which the Spaniards claimed for themselves in 1542 when they first came to the area. The land became part of Mexico in 1821 following the Mexican War of Independence. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican–American War, Los Angeles and the rest of California were purchased by the United States. This transformation entailed great changes which resulted, in part, from the completion of the Santa Fe railroad which linked Chicago to Los Angeles in 1885 and brought in the flood of "overlanders", mostly white Protestants from the Lower Midwest and South.

Increased land speculation in the 1880s saw the city's population explode from 11,000 in 1880 to nearly 100,000 by 1896. By 1920, LA's advanced rail lines ensured steady influx of residents and aggressive land developers who transformed it into a large metropolitan area, with DTLA at its center. Following World War II, and particularly in the 1960s, the downtown suffered a bit of a decline amid decreased investment and infamous traffic jams.

However, in the early 2000s, the neighborhood picked up again, becoming popular with artists and creatives due to the low rent, open loft space, and numerous vacancies. As of 2009, Downtown LA has been enjoying new life and investment, and is noted as "a neighborhood with an increasingly hip and well-heeled residential population".

The lavish ($1.8-billion) revitalization project along Grand Avenue included the development of Grand Park, a large city park first opened in 1966, and the construction of major city landmarks, such as the striking steel Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry and the cutting-edge contemporary art museum The Broad, opened in 2015.

Traditionally, Los Angeles has had a strong economic base in movies (the motion picture industry is what made the city world-famous) and tourism. Having toured the mind-blowing architectural local landmarks, visitors often stop in for a quick snack at the bustling Grand Central Market or have a cup of coffee at The Pantry Cafe (operational non-stop since 1924!!!), or go up and down Angels Flight Railway, or climb 70 floors up at the iconic OUE Skyspace. Those keen on music also can't pass The Grammy Museum with its interactive exhibits.

If you’re looking for a healthy dose of unique architecture, fantastic food finds, museums, and countless hours of entertainment, you’ll find it all in Downtown LA. Just take this self-guided tour and explore the microcosm of LA’s past, present, and future to your heart's content.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for IOS   Download 'GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities' app for Android

LA Downtown Walk Map

Guide Name: LA Downtown Walk
Guide Location: USA » Los Angeles (See other walking tours in Los Angeles)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: ashley
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Grand Park
  • Walt Disney Concert Hall
  • The Broad
  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
  • Grand Central Market / Homer Laughlin Building
  • Angels Flight Railway
  • OUE Skyspace LA
  • The Bloc
  • Original Pantry Cafe
  • GRAMMY Museum
Grand Park

1) Grand Park

Stretching for 12 acres (4.9 ha) between the Los Angeles City Hall and Grand Avenue, LA's Grand Park, albeit size-wise paling in comparison to other well-established urban parks (such as those in Boston or NYC), compensates it with being part of one of the most architecturally stunning community places in the U.S., with dozens of buildings cascading downhill to create a majestic, almost Roman sense of design and continuity. From the sleek lines of the Water and Power building through the Music Center Plaza through Grand Park to the "Modern American" City Hall, the power, the beauty, the history, and the future of Los Angeles are masterfully represented here.

First proposed as a park by landscape architect Charles Mulford Robinson in 1907, inspired by the City Beautiful movement, it took several years of proposing the clustering of Los Angeles County government buildings in one place before the city finally accomplished the goal and a centralized park came into being in 1957. It was finally completed, as "Civic Center Mall", in 1966 with plazas, fountains and a Court of Flags.

Today, gated off and safe to roam, the park features tree-shaded sidewalks, a tropical greenhouse, a radiant colorful water fountain, performance lawns and courtyards, along with restrooms and kiosks to encourage walking and exploration. In addition to beautiful scenic photo opportunities, it is known for seasonal social events, such as summer dancing and movie screenings, fitness boot camps in the summer, plant sales, Día de Muertos displays, concerts, holiday décor, and, of course, the New Year's Eve countdown. And the best of everything is that most – if not all – events are free.

Park programming and entertainment, security and upkeep are maintained by the nearby Los Angeles Music Center. Designed to be pedestrian friendly, the park connects Bunker Hill to the civic center.
Walt Disney Concert Hall

2) Walt Disney Concert Hall (must see)

No classical music lover should pass up a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall – home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Considered one of the best concert halls in the world it was built by Frank Gehry and opened in 2003, following an initial $50 million donation by Lillian Disney, Walt Disney's widow. The building is on six levels and its elegant stainless steel curves are formed to resemble a bowl of white roses as a tribute to its generous benefactress.

Concert hall buffs may find similar vibes between this and the Berlin Philharmonic Hall (Berliner Philharmonie) in both the exterior lines and the internal layout, despite the fact that the two were built 40 years apart and on two continents. The magnificent acoustics, designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, allow for every orchestral sound – including adagios – to be point sharp, even at the furthest point from the stage. In turn, seating is well designed and extremely comfortable, providing unobstructed views of the performance throughout the entire hall, no matter the seating arrangement.

The LA Philharmonic concerts (yes, they are the best in town) would easily cost $100-300 per ticket, but a little research and planning in advance may get you in for ten times less! One way is to look for the $20 tickets that they offer every season – only a few concerts per season, but if you can find them, it's a great deal. Another way to enjoy a decent concert is to look for California Philharmonic events. This smaller orchestra also performs here regularly and their tickets are quite affordable.

Why You Should Visit:
For lovers of architecture and/or art and music, this is an amazing place to go see!
The free self-guided tour is well worth taking if you have time to spare during the day.

Just leave an ID for the audio guide and you can spend around an hour taking the tours and enjoying the lovely little 3rd-floor park with its huge marble lotus flower.
The Broad

3) The Broad (must see)

LA's newest modern art museum, The Broad is definitely worth a visit for an hour or two – just make sure to pre-book tickets online and avoid waiting in the standby ticket line! It is also recommended that you arrive early – especially on peak-time summer weekends and on holidays – in order to see Yayoi Kusama's famous Infinite Mirrored Room installation (walk quick to the right side upon entering and put your name on the wait-list at the kiosk). Although the time inside the room is limited to a maximum 45 seconds, you will be left with the quite exquisite feeling of being alone with millions of stars. And that's not all; there's more.

One of the city's most popular sights, with its distinctive, metallic, "honeycomb-like" exterior part of the attraction, "The Broad" is an apt name for this attraction as it presents a wide array of modern art pieces. Spanning many decades and various disciplines, there is something for everyone – of almost any age – to be seen here. The famous standard names are all in the collection (Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol) but check out the multi-media advance offerings and the special exhibits that change on a constant basis. Look out, also, for some of the coolest elevator and escalator rides in the downtown area.

Another major – and unique to Downtown – aspect of the Broad is its free general admissions policy for the permanent collection, which has resulted in a far younger, and far more racially/culturally diverse audience than any other art museum in Los Angeles. It is bringing people to Downtown from all over Southern California!

The permanent exhibition is free of charge, but tickets are required for the special temporary shows on the first floor.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Wed: 11am–5pm; Thu, Fri: 11am–8pm; Sat: 10am–8pm; Sun: 10am–6pm
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

4) Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

Located conveniently across the street from The Broad, this museum is a bit smaller but with a lot more abstract contemporary art to peruse, including masterpieces by classic contemporary artists, and inspiring new works by emerging and mid-career artists from Southern California and around the world. When visiting both establishments, one may notice that the MOCA is focused not only on the art, but also rather, on the history of artists; as such, learning some background is a big plus.

Some of the things to be seen here will invoke such strange feelings that you've never got from seeing art before, and the exhibits' variation certainly adds to the quality of the experience – from Robert Frank's much-touted photo-series of "The Americans" to "Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–85" with fabulous quilts and more. Other highlight include an entire room of Rothko's compositions and a wonderful interactive art-installation that has you walk through rooms of different colors.

Art connoisseurs will appreciate the theme of self-reflexivity ("what and who gets to consider what is art?"), especially from the approach of POC and women artists – but no one risks getting get tired here, since the place isn't so big to begin with. If you luck out, you may even join a very knowledgeable docent's tour (Thursday evenings: 5:30pm and 6:30pm; Saturday and Sunday: 12:30pm and 2:30pm – free; no reservations necessary) that takes you through the permanent collection for about an hour.

Don't miss the very creative gift shop (on the upper ground level) for a great array of local and international magazines, unique art books, and other funky finds!

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed, Fri: 11am–6pm; Thu: 11am–8pm; Sat, Sun: 11am–5pm
Grand Central Market / Homer Laughlin Building

5) Grand Central Market / Homer Laughlin Building (must see)

Grand Central Market (GCM as the regulars call it) is a Downtown LA landmark; a rare place which serves both as a watering hole for locals and as an authentic piece of LA architecture history for tourists. Opened in 1917 and now over a century old, it has been continuously in operation right through this time – that's some record!

GCM's stated mission is lofty: "to celebrate the cuisines and cultures of Los Angeles … to preserve the legacy of a historic downtown landmark … to gather the city's many communities around a shared table" – and it does a very decent job of all that, across 30,000 sq ft that encompass a food emporium and a retail marketplace.

History records that the building housing the market was commissioned by retired Ohio entrepreneur Homer Laughlin and was the city's first fireproofed, steel-reinforced structure. Originally built in the Beaux Arts style, it underwent subsequent modifications that drastically changed its appearance, including the addition of a tile façade in the 1960s which hid the second-story windows. Along with the adjacent Million Dollar Theater Building, it then underwent a major renovation in the 1990s in the course of which residential units were added, creating DTLA's first true mixed-use developments in decades.

GCM's original vendors were Jewish delis, fishmongers, green grocers and butchers, with additional stalls for coffee, cheese, baked products, dry goods, eggs and so forth. As DTLA has continued to evolve, the market has kept pace, now offering a wide range of cuisines, desserts and beverages – Mexican, Thai, Peruvian, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mediterranean, ice cream, coffee, pressed juices, beer, wine, and a lot more.

Why You Should Visit:
Amongst the well-known names at GCM are McConnell's Fine Ice Cream, Belcampo, Roast-To-Go, Eggslut, Sarita's Pupusaria, Horse Thief BBQ, and Wexler's Deli.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am–10pm
Angels Flight Railway

6) Angels Flight Railway

One of LA's most enduring (and beloved) landmarks, the whimsically-named Angels Flight bills itself as "the world's shortest railway" – and indeed, it is quick, lasting about a minute or so. San Francisco's cable cars are roughly from the same era, so this narrow gauge funicular (that is, a cable railway built on an inclined surface) will give you a fun, similar feeling – albeit, admittedly, of a shorter duration. Up and down the two carriages, endearingly named Sinai and Olivet, are almost on a continuous loop. Costing $1 each way, on the ascent journey one pays on alighting at the terminus. A true bargain for a piece of history.

Having opened on New Year's Eve, 1901, the funicular is a centenarian that has carried millions; in fact, it was estimated that by the 1950s, it had carried over a 100 million passengers! With its stately Victorian mansions, Bunker Hill was one of LA's very upmarket neighborhoods, and the area's elite residents apparently rode down on Angels Flight to shop for their groceries in Grand Central Market's open-air arcade. The well-heeled Bunker Hill residents paid a penny a ride in those days!

Apart from taking you up and downhill nice and easy, what Angel's Flight does best is put a silly smile on your face in thirty seconds ;-)

Opening Hours:
Daily: 6:45am–10pm
OUE Skyspace LA

7) OUE Skyspace LA

One of the best ways to see the city from above, the Skyspace is California's tallest open-air observation deck, fitted with both indoor and outdoor lookouts. The views provide a full 360-degree perspective and, on a clear day, it is possible to see the mountains and sea that surround the city – yes, even the Hollywood sign.

Like most tower viewing decks, OUE Skyspace is a touch overpriced, but has some cool interactive displays, information and memorabilia a few floors down from the top, as well as a a see-through outdoor "slide" (for an extra fee) which is quite a novel experience. The main viewing deck floor has the standard bar/cafe and some nice sitting areas; it even has TVs showing live sports and, of course, souvenirs. Thanks to timed tickets, the place is never too crowded and there is no waiting involved.

The best feature of this experience, though, is the two fantastic outdoor viewing areas straddling levels 69 and 70, which allow for walking around the building and seeing every part of the city, from Glendale to Catalina. It is even better in the evening, as a nice place for photos and chilling with a drink as you take in the exciting city lights.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-10pm; last ticket is sold at 9pm
The Bloc

8) The Bloc

The Bloc (stylized as THE BLOC), formerly Macy's Plaza and Broadway Plaza, is a nice, clean, modern place with great access to the metro and a thoughtfully curated selection of good restaurants and stores from all price points. Most of all, the outdoor shopping experience is convenient and constantly crowded with residents – people on their meal and coffee breaks, local Angelenos, and visitors from all over the world.

The original Broadway Plaza opened as an enclosed shopping mall in 1973, claiming to be the first enclosed "suburban" type shopping center in a downtown area in the United States. The original enclosed mall included the downtown The Broadway store, the Hyatt Regency Los Angeles, and an Oshman's Sporting Goods, along with an underground food court and several smaller non-chain shops.

After the major renovation in 2015, it has been a center of downtown economy and a pioneer of downtown revival, with tenants including Macy's, LA Fitness, Nordstrom Local, Paper Sources, UNIQLO, and the Sheraton Grand Los Angeles hotel, among others. The new plaza also contains Los Angeles' first Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, an Austin-based movie theatre chain, and Starbucks Evenings, a Starbucks store concept that serves alcohol. Other restaurants include Hatch, Urban Oven, CoffeeWalk YogurTalk, Everytable and District DTLA.

Owners have been working on making The Bloc more social-media friendly, so you're encouraged to stop by and bring your selfie loving cameras, or check the website for concerts/movie screening of interest. The outside seating area is particularly nice and photo worthy, similar to New York's Meatpacking District, with a Cali touch.
Original Pantry Cafe

9) Original Pantry Cafe

Located at the corner of 9th and Figueroa in Downtown LA's South Park district, The Pantry (as it is known by locals) claims to never have closed or been without a customer since it opened in 1924, including when it changed locations in 1950 to make room for a freeway off-ramp; it served lunch in the original location and served dinner at the new location the same day. This claim is also attributed to the fact that Dewey Logan never refused a customer even if he or she was short on money. The iconic LA institution has closed only once since their doors first opened in 1924 – on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The restaurant is currently owned by former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan and has served many celebrities and politicians over the years. Those walking in will be astonished by the restaurant's old feel – from the 1900s paintings to the four different layers of flooring. Their breakfast (available all day) is so big that there is no need for lunch; it features all the usual favorites: wonderful sourdough bread, eggs, omelettes swimming in cheese, French toast and bacon, sausage or a ham steak that doesn't quite fit on the plate. And don't forget the hash browns that have been grilled to greasy perfection.

You won't leave hungry, that's for sure, and with all the cool surroundings, everything tastes better. Comforting comfort food in a timeless and comfortable spot!

10) GRAMMY Museum

Devoted to the history and winners of the Grammy Awards, this museum has interactive touch-screens, videos, recording booths, and a rich collection of historical music artifacts – including costumes and instruments from the Grammy ceremony, along with hand-written lyrics, records, and audio/video recordings.

With exhibits that include behind-the-scenes live performances, seminars, classes, musician meet-and-greets, and interactive recording booths, the museum starts on the 4th floor and continues down to the 3rd and 2nd floors. The Crossroads exhibit, on the 4th floor, features touch-screens to view photos and listen to music of all genres. Another interactive exhibit allows the user to go inside six different sound-proof recording booths as famous performers and producers teach about different stages of producing commercial soundtracks. Visitors can record their own singing and rapping track, and remix it to produce a cover of various pop songs. The museum also has outfits worn by Grammy-Award-winning musicians such as Kanye West, Jennifer Lopez, and Rihanna.

First opened in December 2008 to mark the Grammy Awards' 50th anniversary, the museum has since presented over 300 public programs including educational programs for young students. It regularly updates and displays special exhibits dedicated to iconic names of music industry. Among these are The Beatles, Elvis, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand and other grand performers.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10:30am–6:30pm; Fri, Sat: 10am–8pm
Closed on Tuesdays

Walking Tours in Los Angeles, California

Create Your Own Walk in Los Angeles

Create Your Own Walk in Los Angeles

Creating your own self-guided walk in Los Angeles is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Art District Walking Tour

Art District Walking Tour

The Arts District is one of the hottest neighborhoods in downtown L.A., located between Little Tokyo at Alameda to the west and the railroad yards and Los Angeles River to the east. Formerly an industrial area of warehouses and factories, it has been home to art studios and galleries since the 1970s. Having undergone another downturn in the 1990s, it was officially renamed the “Arts District.”...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Movie Studios Tour

Movie Studios Tour

Los Angeles movie studios are truly star factories, where many great movies are filmed. There are many movie studios in Los Angeles. Some of them, such as Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks, are very famous, while others, like Raleigh and Ren-Mar are lesser known, but they all had their moments in the film history. Check out these wonderful movie studios in Los Angeles in this self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Beverly Hills Walking Tour

Beverly Hills Walking Tour

Undeniably one of the most famous places in the world, Beverly Hills is widely known as the most fashionable destination in Los Angeles county to shop and have fun at. Originally a Mexican ranch where lima beans were once grown, this place has long been a home to many Hollywood stars and other celebrities, luxurious hotels, and high-end boutiques.

Beverly Hills started to gain prominence in the...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 Km or 1.7 Miles
Downtown Architecture Walking Tour

Downtown Architecture Walking Tour

Los Angeles means many things to many people, but it undoubtedly has some of the most significant architecture in the world. The city of LA was one of the centers of the art deco movement and features a great number of amazing historic houses, monuments, as well as modern buildings. Take this self-guided tour to explore the most beautiful buildings in Los Angeles.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
El Pueblo and Little Tokyo Walk

El Pueblo and Little Tokyo Walk

El Pueblo is the oldest district in Los Angeles, centered on the old plaza, once the city's administrative and commercial center under the Spanish (1781–1821), Mexican (1821–1847), and United States (after 1847) rule through most of the 19th century. On this self guided walk, you will have a chance to explore the birthplace of Los Angeles and, with a short detour to the nearby Little...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Chinatown Walking Tour

Chinatown Walking Tour

The only planned Chinatown in the U.S., as compared to other cities where neighborhoods were organically formed by Chinese immigrants, the Los Angeles Chinatown is a blend of Chinese and American architecture. Developed as a tourist attraction in the 1930s, it has its own "Central Plaza," a Hollywoodized version of Shanghai, and features names like Bamboo Lane, Gin Ling Way and Chung...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 Km or 1.1 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

Los Angeles: 15 Souvenir Shopping Tips and Ideas for Travelers

Los Angeles: 15 Souvenir Shopping Tips and Ideas for Travelers

With some many celebrities per square mile, living or just visiting, practically any stone in LA could pass for a souvenir that one time or another was touched, held or walked upon by some of the movie or rock stars, or was filmed in one of the many movies shot in the City of Angels for almost a...
10 Amazing Food to Try in Los Angeles (LA)

10 Amazing Food to Try in Los Angeles (LA)

I love food. You love food too. And because we’re foodies, we want every meal to be as good as if it were our last. So for those few times us foodies sit at a table and unexpectedly strike gold, we must remember, honor and share that memorable meal. Here is a list of affordable LA area culinary...
15 Charming Cafes with Fast and Free Wifi in Los Angeles

15 Charming Cafes with Fast and Free Wifi in Los Angeles

Need to find free wireless connection AND a great cup of coffee? These charming cafes, hot-spots and writers’ hang-outs are scattered across LA but catalogued by neighborhood. These indie cafes cater to screenwriters, students and tourists who want to set up camp with their laptops for a few hours...