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Olvera Street Walking Tour
You don't have to travel to Tijuana to get a taste of Old Mexico; there's a clean, nicely packaged slice of Mexican California right in Downtown LA at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument also known as Olvera Street. Technically, El Pueblo encompasses the whole block of historic buildings, and Olvera Street is the named alley that was turned into a pedestrian Mexican Marketplace that runs down the middle of the block, but the terms are often used interchangeably. The entire area is usually referred to as Olvera Street.
The famed Mexican Marketplace with its colorful old-world feel was created in 1933 as a way to preserve the surrounding historic buildings, including the oldest structure in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe ranch house, now squeezed between a couple later brick buildings halfway down Olvera Street.
Where is Olvera Street?
Olvera Street is conveniently located across Alameda Street from LA's historic Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, next to New... Chinatown, which was once Little Italy, so there are remnants of all three cultures at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. While most visitors focus on the Mexican Marketplace, there are 27 historic buildings on the site, some of which are open to the public, so it is worth exploring a little further.
The block is bounded by Alameda to the east, Plaza to the south, Main to the west and Cesar E Chavez to the north. Map
The small parking lots at Olvera Street are quite expensive. You can usually find less pricey lots or metered street parking north of Cesar Chavez on N. Spring St. or New High Street in Chinatown just a couple blocks away. Check this Parking List and Map for additional options.
Directly across from Union Station at the southeast corner is the Old Plaza which is a good point to start your exploration.
Click through the photos to take a virtual walking tour of the attractions at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.
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La Placita Olvera
The Plaza was the center of community life for the first settlers in Los Angeles. It is a square space with a circle of shade trees surrounding a bandstand or kiosko (in Mexican Spanish) where events are held.
The Pobladores Plaque in the Plaza is dedicated to those first settlers of the City of Angels. According to the plaque, the original 44 settlers were Negro, Mulatto (Negro and Spanish), Indian, Mestizo (Indian and Spanish), and a couple Spaniards.
The Plaza or Placita is often used for festivals at Olvera Street including Dia de Los Muertos Novenarios, Cinco de Mayo, the Christmas Posadas, the Easter Blessing of the Animals, the Chinese Lantern Festival and many more.Continue to 3 of 19 below.
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Plaza Methodist Church
On the right side of the plaza is the Plaza Methodist Church (1925-26), which replaced an adobe house owned by Augustin Olvera, the first judge of Los Angeles County. The street was named for him in 1877. The church is designated a Methodist Historical Site and a California Historic Monument. Its tower lords over the entrance to Olvera Street, which proceeds to the right. The church is still used by a local congregation. In 2012, the Los Angeles United Methodist Museum of Social Justice also opened on the site.
Next to the church is the Biscailuz Building which was originally the United Methodist Church Conference Headquarters and the Plaza Community Center. It was more recently the Instituto Cultural Mexicano, the Mexican Cultural Institute, and before that was the Mexican Consulate in LA for 30 years.Continue to 4 of 19 below.
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Blessing of the Animals Mural
In 1979, artist Leo Politi painted the mural "Blessing of the Animals" under the archways of the Biscailuz Building at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. It represents the event that happens at Olvera Street every Easter.Continue to 5 of 19 below.
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Leo Politi's "Blessing of the Animals"
Another section of Leo Politi's "Blessing of the Animals" mural on the Biscailuz Building at Olvera Street.Continue to 6 of 19 below.
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The Mexican Marketplace at Olvera Street
Next to the Methodist church is the entrance to the Mexican Marketplace in the pedestrian zone that is Olvera Street proper. You really will find the same touristy souvenirs on Olvera Street that you would find in any marketplace in Mexico. The prices are just a little higher and you don't have to deal with vendors badgering you to buy their wares.
The Mexican Marketplace is bustling in summer, especially on weekends and perks up for holidays throughout the year, but can be pretty calm, if not totally dead on a winter weekday.Continue to 7 of 19 below.
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The Avila Adobe
About halfway down Olvera Street on the right, you'll find the oldest surviving structure in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe. It was built in 1818 by Francisco Jose Avila, who was mayor of Los Angeles in 1810. The Avila Adobe is now a museum furnished in the style of a 1940s rancho. It is free to walk through the house, courtyard, and the additional exhibits in an educational building at the back of the courtyard. These include The History of Water in Los Angeles and a Tribute to Christine Sterling who was instrumental in saving the Avila Adobe and creating the Mexican Marketplace on Olvera Street.
The Avila Adobe is open daily 9 am - 4 pm.
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- More Missions, Ranchos and Adobe Museums around LA
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Inside the Avila Adobe Museum
A bedroom decorated in the style of the late 19th Century inside the Avila Adobe Museum on Olvera Street at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument.
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Food on Olvera Street
You eat at Olvera Street more for the ambiance than the food itself, which is generally decent, if not inspired. La Golondrina and La Luz del Dia are both popular sit-down restaurants in historic buildings with open-air seating. At the outside tables, you have the advantage of people watching as well as enjoying the music from strolling musicians. La Golondrina, in the Pelanconi House, the oldest brick building in LA, is famous for its enormous margaritas.
Churros from Mr. Churro's are an Olvera Street tradition, and the taco stand, Cielito Lindo, at the Cesar Chavez end, is known for its taquitos.
Read Reviews of La Golodrina and Cielito Lindo on TripadvisorContinue to 10 of 19 below.
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Musicians on Olvera Street
Beyond the Avila Adobe, about half way down the street is a gathering spot under a shade tree where musicians often stop to perform. There is a brick archway there that used to be the entrance to a winery. You'll find public restrooms and a gallery through the archway. The musicians are volunteers who play for tips. Only scheduled musicians are permitted to perform.Continue to 11 of 19 below.
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Italian Hall at El Pueblo de Los Angeles
After exploring the Mexican Marketplace on Olvera Street, take a left at Cesar Chavez and walk left again around the corner to Main Street. The first building on the corner is Italian Hall, once the center of Italian community life in LA's Little Italy. It is now the home of the Italian-American Museum in Los Angeles.
If you turn around and look up after you pass the Italian Hall, you can see the winged canopy covering the restoration of a mural on the side of the second story of the building. Painted in 1932 by David Alfaro Siquieros, it's called América Tropical and "featured an Indian bound to a double cross, surmounted by an imperialist eagle and surrounded by pre-Columbian symbols and revolutionary figures." (lasangelitas.org) About halfway down the street just before the Sepulveda House is the América Tropical Interpretive Center where you can learn more about Siquieros and his work as well as the restoration of the mural. The main entrance is on the Olvera Street side.Continue to 12 of 19 below.
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The Sepulveda House
Continuing on Main Street, historic plaques on sculptural laddered pillars, some free-standing and some around trees, identify the Sepulveda House (1887), now a museum and the El Pueblo Visitor Center with the Interpretive Center for the David Alfaro Siquieros' América Tropical mural next door. On the other side is the Jones Building, which used to be machine shops. Most of what you are looking at are street-front side - which is now the back - of the buildings that show their business side on Olvera Street. There is an entrance to the Visitors Center from the Olvera Street side through a corridor near Casa Flores Imports, opposite El Paseo Restaurant.
The Sepulveda House Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am - 3 pm.Continue to 13 of 19 below.
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Old Plaza Church - Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles - Church
Back at the Plaza, use the crosswalk to cross Main Street to Mission de Nuestra Señora Reina de Los Angeles (Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels). Also known as La Placita and the Old Plaza Church, it is the oldest church in Los Angeles and the only building at El Pueblo that has always been used for its original purpose. The first chapel was built in 1784, but it was damaged in an earthquake. The current church was dedicated in 1822, but it too sustained earthquake damage and was rebuilt in 1861. The church is an active Parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles.Continue to 14 of 19 below.
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LA Plaza de Culturas y Artes
LA Plaza, a museum about the history and contribution of Mexicans and Mexican culture in Los Angeles, occupies two historic buildings on Main Street near La Placita Old Plaza Church, directly across the street from the Pico House.
The two-story Plaza House was built in 1883 as part of the Carnier Block by Frenchman Philippe Carnier. It was designed by architect Octavius Morgan to replace a previous residential adobe structure at the site. The lower level has been occupied by a variety of shops, saloons and restaurants while the upper floor was residential.
The 5-story Vickrey-Brunswig Building next door was constructed in 1888 to house the Eastside Bank. It was purchased by the F. W. Braun Drug company in 1897 for its wholesale pharmaceutical operations, and taken over in 1907 by one of the partners, Lucien Napoleon Brunswig, who, among other significant renovations, added his name to the top of the building. In 1930, the building was purchased by the County of Los Angeles and used for... various offices including a courthouse and crime lab.
Both buildings suffered damage from earthquakes and fires and sat vacant for decades before being completely retrofitted and renovated for their current use as a museum.
Read more about Visiting LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the Museum of Mexican American History in Los Angeles.Continue to 15 of 19 below.
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Crossing back to the Plaza side of the street, you'll see the Pico House, a grand hotel opened in 1870 by Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California. On the Main Street side of Pico House, it abuts the Merced Theater (1870), one of LA's oldest theaters; and the Masonic Hall (1858), which after various other uses over the years is once again an active Masonic Hall, home to LA City Masonic Lodge 841. It is currently used as a special event space.Continue to 16 of 19 below.
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Las Angelitas del Pueblo
Around the corner, the opposite side of the old hotel faces the offices of Las Angelitas del Pueblo (Little Angels of the Pueblo) in the Hellman-Quon Building (1900) between the firehouse and the Chinese American Museum. Las Angelitas is a group of volunteer docents who lead free, 50-minute tours of El Pueblo historic site. Their office also includes exhibits and is sometimes used for workshops during El Pueblo events.
Days Offered: Tuesday through Saturday
Times: 10 am, 11 am, 12 noon
Meeting place: at the office of Las Angelitas del Pueblo on the south side of the Plaza, between the Firehouse and the Hellman-Quon Building Website: www.lasangelitas.orgContinue to 17 of 19 below.
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The Chinese American Museum
To the right of Las Angelitas is the entrance to the Chinese American Museum in the Garnier Building (1890). The museum, which focuses on the Chinese American experience in Los Angeles, occupies two buildings that were originally Chinese businesses. The last remnants of LA's original Chinatown that was razed to build Union Station.
Although there is a façade with a sign for the museum on Los Angeles Street (which is the official address), the museum entrance is on the other side of the building in the pedestrian area, facing the back of the Pico House.
425 N. Los Angeles Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(The cross street is Arcadia)
(213) 485-8567Continue to 18 of 19 below.
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Engine Company No 1 - Plaza Firehouse Museum
Retracing your steps back past Las Angelitas around the corner to the right, on the southeast side of the Plaza you'll find Engine Company No 1, the first fire station in Los Angeles, built in 1884. It was operated by volunteer firefighters at this location for only a short time before a legal dispute made it necessary to relocate the firehouse in 1892. Other tenants of the building over the years included a saloon, a boarding house, a drugstore, and vegetable market. Firehouse No 1 is now the Plaza Firehouse Museum exhibiting fire-fighting equipment from the late 1900s.
The Plaza Firehouse Museum is open Tuesday thru Sunday, 10:00am to 3:00pm.
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Holiday Events at El Pueblo de Los Angeles
The Plaza at El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Site with it's Kiosko (gazebo), hosts festive events for many holidays, including: