Thinking of visiting the City of Angels? Before heading straight to Hollywood or Santa Monica, make a stop in Downtown Los Angeles to explore.
The once-buzzing city center slumped into decrepitude a few decades ago but is on the rise again. Today, Downtown Los Angeles is slowly regentrifying into a pedestrian-friendly destination with beautiful buildings, interesting museums, and noteworthy restaurants.
Home to Los Angeles’ largest cluster of tall buildings, Downtown Los Angeles has a distinct “financial district” feel. But in between the towering blocks, you’ll find an array of renowned art museums, innovative restaurants, and hip bars.
Wander around Chinatown, explore Little Tokyo, and soak up DLA’s burgeoning cultural scene in the Arts District. Admire striking architectural landmarks like the 1781 birthplace of Los Angeles and the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Head into Downtown Los Angeles with an open mind, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised with what you find!
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What to see & do
Grand Park is an oasis in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Stretching from The Music Center to City Hall, the 12-acre civic park is a wonderful place to escape the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.
Grassy areas throughout Grand Park are perfect for picnics and soaking up the LA sunshine. Vibrant benches and shady nooks offer plenty of places to sit and people-watch. Elegant fountains add an element of romance to the park and offer cool respite for kids in the summer.
Head to the top of the hill in the park, where the kids can splash around in the fountain. Relax on one of the benches and take in some fantastic views of the city.
Grand Park hosts a variety of performances, gatherings, and other community events throughout the year, too. Be sure to check out the park’s events calendar and catch a concert in the park.
Fancy some Instagram-able contemporary art? Head to The Broad on Grand Avenue to explore some incredible collections.
One of the most popular museums in Los Angeles, The Broad is best known for Yayoi Kusama’s immersive, mirror-laden rooms where you can lose yourself for hours. The museum is also home to impressive works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Jeff Koons and is well worth a visit.
Wander through The Broad’s sleek vault-and-veil-designed galleries that feature one of the world’s leading collections of postwar and contemporary art. Marvel at Ragnar Kjartansson’s beautiful nine-screen video piece entitled “The Visitors.” Admire works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barbara Kruger, and Ed Ruscha.
Take a moment to relax in the lovely olive grove in the museum plaza or enjoy lunch at the museum’s signature restaurant, Otium.
Grand Central Market
Take a culinary trip around the world at the Grand Central Market. From slow-cooked pork from Mexico to fried plantains from Salvador, you’ll find every kind of food imaginable – it’s a veritable global feast! Opened in 1917, Grand Central Market is home to 40 vendors providing DLA’s multicultural community with mouthwatering delights.
Figuring out where and what to eat at the market can be overwhelming. Grab a map of the market at the door and go in hungry and with a plan! You’ll find all the usual suspects here—handmade Italian pasta, wood-fired pizza, and Texan-style barbecue.
Why not try something different? Authentic currywurst from Berlin Currywurst or coddled egg on potato purée from Eggslut? How about Salvadorean yuca con chicharron from Sarita’s Pupuseria or a doshirak-inspired Korean lunchbox from Shiku? There are so many incredible spots to try, you’ll find yourself going back again and again!
Angels Flight Railway
Riding the historic Angels Flight Railway is a must on a visit to Downtown Los Angeles. Opened in 1901, the 118-year-old funicular is the world’s shortest railway.
The charming little funicular rides between Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill. It has two funicular cars, named Olivet and Sinai. The two cars run in opposite directions on a shared cable.
You might have noticed the famous orange funicular in the movies, with the 2016 film La La Land being one of many in which Angels Flight Railway has made an appearance. Hop on the historic two-foot, six-inch narrow gauge funicular railway and enjoy the short but sweet ride!
Architectural aficionados, history buffs, and movie lovers alike will undoubtedly recognize this famous building. Set on South Broadway, the Bradbury Building‘s symmetrical design is known the world over. While the exterior of the building draws discernable nods, it’s the interior of the building that’s truly remarkable and worth exploring.
A light-flooded corridor of wood, ornamental cast iron, and brick greets you on entering the Bradbury Building. Geometric-patterned staircases and wrought-iron balustrades abound, with a skylight casting ever-changing accents and shadows. Glazed yellow and pink bricks blend seamlessly with Italian marble and Mexican tile and wrought iron bird-cage elevators add the finishing touch.
Elegant and breathtakingly beautiful, the Bradbury Building’s interior has been hailed as one of Los Angeles’ finest, and it certainly earns that accolade. Not to be missed!
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
Unleash your creativity with a visit to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. From its redesigned home to its impressive collection of contemporary artworks, the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA delivers on every level.
One of three venues of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), the Geffen is the MOCA’s largest venue. Located in the Little Tokyo Historic District, the museum is housed in a police car warehouse that was redesigned by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry.
You’ll need an entire afternoon to wander through the 40,000 square feet of exhibition space at this top-rated LA attraction. Admire works by world-renowned artists like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko or take in contemporary pieces from lesser-known artists.
Don’t miss the giant metal installation in the outdoor lobby and the Barbara Kruger mural on the north façade.
GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live
Pay homage to the best in the music business at the GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live. Tucked into the northeast corner of L.A. LIVE, the museum honors the rich cultural history of music and the enduring legacies of the industry.
Interactive exhibits at the GRAMMY Museum tell the story of music, its history and development, and the significant role it plays in society. Meander through the gallery spaces and marvel at historical music artifacts, original music scripts, and hand-written lyrics of famous tunes.
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Try your hand at some of the instruments used to make music. Pop into a recording booth and see whether you’ll be the next Beyoncé. Watch videos and listen to audio recordings of musical history in the making. Check out the famous guitars used by legends, and don’t miss the Walk of Fame outside the museum showing Grammy Awards won in the past.
Home to the Clippers, Kings, and Lakers, Crypto.com Arena is where it all happens in the world of sport. Based next to the L.A. Live development, the multi-purpose indoor arena hosts massive games for an array of sports, from basketball (LA Lakers and LA Clippers) to hockey (LA Kings). You can also watch the LA Avengers (football) and the LA Sparks (women’s basketball) at play.
But it’s not the only sport that the Crypto.com Arena is famous for hosting. You can also watch the Grammy Awards ceremony here and if you’re lucky enough to get tickets, the basketball competition during the 2028 Summer Olympics.
Pay tribute to your favorite sports stars in the Star Plaza outside the stadium, where you’ll find statues of famous Los Angeles athletes.
Where to eat & drink
From melt-in-your-mouth Cantonese roasted pork to one of Los Angeles’ most sought-after tasting menus, there’s always plenty to eat in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles.
Elegantly laid back with stylish Nordic touches, JOEY DTLA is the perfect spot for either a casual lunch or a romantic dinner. Grab a morning coffee and watch the world go by from the sun-soaked, street-level patio, or tuck into the globally inspired menu in the exquisitely decorated dining room.
For authentic Italian fare in a warm and convivial atmosphere, head to Bottega Louie on the ground floor of the Brockman Building on Grand Avenue.
Watch the chefs prepare your meal in the inviting open kitchen where aromas of wood-fired pizza and fresh seafood float out into the air. Grab some supplies from the gourmet market or a sweet treat from the French patisserie/café section of the eatery.
Quirky, laid-back, and cool, Strada Eateria & Bar is a great spot for a lazy brunch or boozy lunch. Kick back over Spanish-style tapas, wood-fired pizzas, and hand-made pasta in a creative, contemporary space. Head down on Sundays to hear some live jazz on Strada’s sprawling outdoor patio.
For a glamorous rooftop setting and spectacular views of the city, Perch is a winner. Located atop the Pershing Square Building, the French-inspired rooftop bistro boasts rooftop fire pits, outdoor fireplaces, and designer lounge spaces for the ultimate sundowner setting. Sip Kir Royales and pretend you’re in the movies.
Prefer something less glam? If beers, burgers, and rock ‘n roll are more your style, Yard House will hit the mark. Located in the L.A. Live development, the classic sports bar ticks all the boxes for great pub grub, cool music, large-screen TVs showing the game, and plenty of beer.
When it’s time for cocktails, the Library Bar offers a quiet, relaxing retreat with leather sofas and book-lined walls to cozy up in with a drink.
Another dark, moody speakeasy-style bar is the Varnish, where mixologists create imaginative concoctions and classic drinks. For a louder, wilder vibe, head to the Slipper Clutch for pinball, rock, and highball cocktails served by soda gun.
Where to stay
As it’s the heart of the city, Downtown is one of the best places to stay in L.A. for travelers. Start your accommodation search with a few of these top-notch hotels…
Exuding the timeless elegance and impeccable service Japan is renowned for, the Miyako Hotel Los Angeles is a gorgeous retreat. Located in the Little Tokyo Historic District, the contemporary hotel is just a block from the Japanese American National Museum and a short walk to the closest light-rail station. Unwind in sleek, minimalist quarters with glossy wood furnishings and Japanese-style tubs, and rainfall showers.
Conveniently located within a short walk from the Museum of Contemporary Art and the STAPLES Center, the citizenM Los Angeles Downtown offers a comfortable base for exploring the city. The modern rooms have smart TVs and Wi-Fi, and you can work out in the hotel gym. Relax in the communal lounge and dine on casual fare at the hotel’s hip eatery and bar.
Glamor and sophistication abound at the Omni Los Angeles Hotel at California Plaza. Located on historic Bunker Hill, gorgeous rooms boast breathtaking views and a host of deluxe amenities. Deep granite and marble baths in the huge bathrooms are to die for. Sip signature cocktails and rub shoulders with the rich and famous at the hip Noe Bar downstairs.
Located a short walk from 20th Century Fox and Rodeo Drive, the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown is an upmarket hotel with comfortable rooms. You can enjoy first-class facilities like a whirlpool tub in your room and an outdoor infinity pool. Work out in the 24-hour gym and have dinner with a view at the farm-to-table eatery on the 69th floor.
Italy meets LA in this gorgeous hotel. Based in the historic 12-story former Bank of Italy building, Hotel Per La is a study in European elegance and style. Beautifully appointed rooms have custom-designed furnishings, imported linens, and original artwork. Relax over drinks at the sophisticated rooftop pool and bar and soak up panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles.