Los Angeles Architecture Walking Tour, Los Angeles (Self Guided)

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 famous architecture in Los Angeles.
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Los Angeles Architecture Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Los Angeles Architecture Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Los Angeles (See other walking tours in Los Angeles)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 km
Author: ashley
1
Fine Arts Building

1) Fine Arts Building

The Fine Arts Building on West 7th Street is aptly named. Not because its 12 storeys house Fine Art – they don’t, they are offices – but because the building itself is unique in Los Angeles.

Built in 1926 by the architects Walter and Eisen, the façade is Romanesque Revival with a two storey Romanesque arch over the main entrance with decorative artwork over the doors featuring griffons, gargoyles and birds. On the jambs you will notice carved figures that look like saints so you might be forgiven if you think you are about to enter a church. On each side of the main arch are reclining statues of Architecture and Sculpture. Other sculptured figures can be seen near the top of the building.

The lobby is quite amazing. It is two-storey and decorated in terracotta and tile with a tiered ceiling and arches. In the centre of the lobby is a small fountain with two statues kneeling in the water and another in the middle that reaches towards the ceiling. Around the walls are figures representing architecture, ceramics, painting and textile arts. There are also the original 1928 showcases, which were destined to hold exhibition pieces. Over the three elevators are the original dials to indicate the floor numbers.

The building was renovated in 1983 and carefully restored to its original beauty by the developers Ratkovich and Bowers and the architect Brenda Levin and is classed a Historic Culture Monument.
2
US Bank Tower

2) US Bank Tower

The US Bank Tower isn’t open to public tours, but you should go and see this wonderful building anyway, which is one of the city’s icons and is the 47th tallest building in the world.

The building, also known as the Library Tower, stands on West 5th Street in Los Angeles’ business area. It is 310 metres high, with 73 storeys and two underground parking levels. Built of glass and steel with a white granite curtain wall, it was designed to resist an earthquake of up to 8 on the Richter scale. Its architecture of overlapping spirals and cubes make the building both circular and square. It was built in 1989 by the architects Pei Cobb Freed and Partners.

On top of the building, in accordance with building laws, there is a heliport – the highest in the world. The glass crown on top of the tower is illuminated at night; the colours vary depending on the day, the season and even on which of Los Angeles baseball or basketball teams is playing in the city.

You will probably recognize the tower, as it has been used as the backdrop of various films – it has the distinction of being the first building destroyed by the aliens in Independence Day!

While the tower isn’t open to casual visitors, you can take photos of it, but sometimes the security guards are over-enthusiastic about stopping tourists taking snaps and they are often rather rude.
3
Walt Disney Concert Hall

3) Walt Disney Concert Hall (must see)

No classical music lover should pass up a concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall on South Grand Avenue. It is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. It is considered one of the best concert halls in the world.

The building was built by Frank Gehry and it opened in 2003. $50 million was initially donated by Lillian Disney, Walt Disney’s widow, but sadly she died six years before the concert hall was finished. 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.

The hall’s magnificent acoustics were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota. The sound in the concert hall is so good that during rehearsals the orchestra’s conductor realized that there were printing mistakes in the music scores of “Daphnis and Chloé”, Ravel’s orchestrated ballet. These scores had been in circulation for years, but it was the first time anyone heard the mistakes!

The exterior walls of the Founders Room and the Children’s Amphitheatre once had highly polished stainless steel panels, but refraction caused sunlight to shine directly into surrounding homes, so the panels were sanded down to a matt finish.

Why You Should Visit:
If you are interested in architecture and/or acoustics this is a fun place to go see!

Tip:
The building has a self-guided tour that 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 90 mins taking the tours and enjoying the garden.
4
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels

4) Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (must see)

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and holds the seat of the Archbishop. It is a Roman Catholic Church unlike any other you will see in the city.

The church was built in 2002 to replace the Cathedral of St Vibiana which was damaged during an earthquake in 1994. The plans to demolish the old cathedral to build the new were stopped by conservationists, who wanted the new church incorporated into the old. This was impossible if the building was to meet with seismic laws, so a new site was found.

Built by the architect Rafael Moneo, the church is startlingly postmodern, with no right angles and a base isolated structure. The windows are of alabaster instead of stained glass and the doors are in sculpted bronze. The interior is softly lit and you can admire tapestries of the Communion of Saints by John Nava, a postmodern statue of the Virgin Mary by Robert Graham and a huge pipe organ, 60 ft high and set 24ft off the ground. The 6019 pipes include many from the 1929 organ from the Cathedral of St Vibiana.

The church stands on a 6-acre plaza with gardens, fountains, a mausoleum with 1270 crypts, a gift shop, a cafeteria, and a conference center.

Tip:
Do go in – they have wonderful music, and you might be fortunate enough to have an organist give you a recital!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 6:30am-6pm; Sat: 9am-6pm; Sun: 7am-6pm
5
Ávila Adobe

5) Ávila Adobe (must see)

If you would like to know how the rich lived in Los Angeles in the 19th century, do visit the Ávila Adobe on Olvera Street. As the oldest residence still standing in Los Angeles, it is part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monuments. It was built in 1818 by Francisco Ávila, a wealthy cattle rancher, as a weekend and holiday home. He entertained friends here and traded his hides and tallow for fine furniture and the building’s wooden window and door frames.

The walls, built out of adobe bricks that had been sundried, are three feet thick. Once the floors were of hard-packed earth, but later varnished wooden planks were added. The ceilings are over 15ft high with cottonwood beams and the large rooms have many windows.

After Francisco Ávila’s death, his widow lived in the house until her death and it passed on to her children. Between 1868 and 1920 it was used as a restaurant and a bed and board. The area was a poor one and in 1926 the City Health Department decided to demolish the house. Luckily for history fans, an Englishwoman, Christine Sterling, who was interested in the city’s historical heritage, started a public campaign to save the building. Private donations flooded in from all around the city and the building was restored. The police department organized the prisoners of the county jail into work-groups and they cleaned up the surrounding plaza, turning it into a Mexican-style market-place.

Today only seven rooms remain of the original, larger house. They are open to the public as a house museum furnished as they would have been in Adobe’s time. You can see a four-poster bed, the family dining area, children’s ragdolls and, in the kitchen, an enormous washtub for bathing.

Why You Should Visit:
To see/imagine how life was back in the 19th century in this neighborhood, especially since most other houses have turned into shops/restaurants.

Tip:
The house/museum is free to the public and the public restroom is an added bonus.
You can see the whole place in 10 mins if you walk around, but take some time to also read the description on the wall.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-4pm
6
Los Angeles City Hall

6) Los Angeles City Hall

A lot of tourists visit the Los Angeles City Hall, not to see the mayor, but to visit the observation point on the 27th floor, which will give you a wonderful view out over the city – and even Catalina Island on a clear day.

The building, which stands on North Spring Street, was built in 1928 to designs by Parkinson, Austin and Martin. Its Art Deco/Art Modern façade is 138m high and has 32 storeys. Apart from the mayor’s office, it also houses the Los Angeles City Council Chambers and offices.

The tower is built of concrete symbolically made from sand taken from each of California’s 58 counties and mixed with water from the state’s 21 Spanish missions, which spread the Christian faith among the Native Americans between 1769 and 1823. The topmost part of the tower was inspired by the description of the Mausoleum of Mausolus in Halicarnassus.

In 1994, after the Northridge earthquake, the curtain wall terracotta and granite façade was restored. Between 1998 and 2001, the building was given a seismic retrofit and 526 base isolators were fitted, making it the tallest base isolated structure in the world, capable of withstanding an earthquake of up to 8 on the Richter scale.
7
Bradbury Building

7) Bradbury Building

While you are walking along South Broadway, you might pass the Bradbury Building with barely a second glance at its simple Italian Renaissance Revival façade. If you have, turn around and go back, or you will kick yourself later for missing one of the gems of this city.

The exterior isn’t really very interesting, but the interior is quite simply breath-taking. The building, the oldest commercial structure in Los Angeles, was commissioned in 1893 by self-made mining and real estate millionaire, Lewis Bradbury.

Bradbury first approached Sumner Hunt to design it for himself, but he wasn’t pleased with the results. The project was given to Hunt’s draughtsman George Wyman, who had no architectural experience. According to legend, during a séance on an Ouija-board, Wyman’s dead brother told him to take on the project. Wyman was inspired by “Looking Forward”, a book by Edward Bellamy, who gave his idea of how an office building would look in the year 2000.

The five storey interior is centered round a “courtyard”, naturally lit by the glass roof far overhead. This courtyard isn’t particularly wide, but it is amazing, with its pale brick walls and Mexican-tile floor. There are two open-cage elevators with wrought iron gates. At each end of the building, geometric staircases lead to the floor above. The staircases and walkways overlooking the court are a delight of wrought iron filigree and highly polished wood.

The interior has been used as the backdrop of many TV series and films, notably “Blade-Runner”, as a poster on the wall proudly claims. Visitors are welcome, but only to the lobby and the 1st floor. The staff in the lobby are helpful and will give you details about the building, which is now used as private offices.

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.
Los Angeles Comedy Clubs Walking Tour

Los Angeles Comedy Clubs Walking Tour

Los Angeles is an absolutely perfect place to enjoy comedy performances, as the crowd is especially warm and energetic here. Great comedians from all over the US and the world come to Los Angeles to perform and become famous. Take this self-guided tour to discover LA’s best comedy clubs.

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 9.6 km
Movie Studios Walking Tour in Los Angeles

Movie Studios Walking Tour in Los Angeles

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 obscure. Check out these wonderful movie studios in Los Angeles in the following self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 km
Live Music Venues Walking Tour in Los Angeles

Live Music Venues Walking Tour in Los Angeles

The nightlife in Los Angeles is extremely varied to suit everyone's taste. This is particularly true in relation to the clubs, restaurants and bars that host live music performances. Take the following walking tour if you'd like to see live R&B, rock, jazz or blues concerts.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 km
Hollywood Walk

Hollywood Walk

Hollywood, LA's by far most famous district, is a popular destination for sightseeing and nightlife. It is also a historic center of film making. Paramount Studios, the only large film studio still operational in Hollywood, and the iconic Walk of Fame, are just some of the district's major attractions. To see what else the famous area has to offer, follow this self-guided walking tour...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.2 km
Los Angeles Specialty Shops Walk

Los Angeles Specialty Shops Walk

The Los Angeles shopping scene offers a great variety of big shopping malls, amazing indoor and outdoor stores, as well as beautiful specialty shops. You can find a wide range of outstanding gifts, unique souvenirs and creative pieces of art in these stores. Take the following self-guided tour to explore the gorgeous specialty shops in Los Angeles.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.6 km
Art Galleries Tour in Los Angeles

Art Galleries Tour in Los Angeles

Los Angeles cultural life is rich and features a number of museums, theaters and art galleries, which host a great range of exhibitions. Art galleries in Los Angeles showcase various kinds of art, from traditional fine art to photography, glass art, sculptures and paintings. Take the following walking tour to discover amazing art galleries in Los Angeles.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 km

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Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Los Angeles, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

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