The 18 Best Things to Do in Downtown Los Angeles

Art in Los Angeles Art District, California

TripSavvy / Amanda Blackard

Unlike other large cities, many people visit Los Angeles without ever setting foot downtown, preferring to spend their time at the beach near Santa Monica or strolling around Hollywood. And while the downtown area may lack the most iconic attractions that people come to see in Los Angeles, those who venture into this underrated neighborhood know that it's rich with historic architecture, cultural attractions, and some of the best foodie hotspots in the city.

Here are the 18 best things to do downtown, from visiting historic sites, museums, and watching live theater performances, to strolling around the many iconic districts that help shape downtown into what it is.

01 of 18

Eat Sushi in Little Tokyo

Japanese lanterns in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles
Westend61 / Getty Images
Address
Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, CA, USA

There are only three official Japantowns in the United States, and all three of them are in California. The one in Los Angeles, known as Little Tokyo, is the largest of the three and also a National Historic Landmark. Apart from actually going to Japan, it's one of the most authentic Japanese experiences you can have and the perfect place to pick up some typical snacks, flip through some manga comics, or enjoy a cup of matcha tea.

Perhaps the best time of the day to explore Little Tokyo is around lunch, dinner, or anytime you're hungry. Several local eateries offer traditional Japanese and Japanese-American cuisine, from hot bowls of ramen to the fun-to-eat (and say) shabu-shabu. Also, don't miss out on trying a California roll from any one of the sushi restaurants in the area ⎯ it was invented right in the neighborhood.

02 of 18

Take a Ride on the Tram

Angels Flight funicular in downtown L.A.
GC Images / Getty Images
Address
351 S Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA
Phone +1 213-626-1901

It may not have the same global recognition as the San Francisco cable car or the Lisbon tram, but the Angels Flight Railway is still one of the most iconic landmarks in downtown L.A. (and even more so since it appeared in the Oscar-winning Best Picture, "La La Land"). The funicular train has been shuttling passengers one block—albeit one very steep block—since 1901, from Hill Street to Olive Street.

The cost is $1 to ride it one-way, or 50 cents if you have an L.A. Metro pass. You can ride the tram in either direction but enter at Hill Street to ride it uphill and avoid making the steep climb on foot.

03 of 18

Check Out Contemporary Art for Free

The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles

TripSavvy / Amanda Blackard

If you're into contemporary art, two of Southern California's preeminent museums are not just in downtown Los Angeles, but they're across the street from each other and both are free to enter.

The Broad—pronounced like "brode"—is the newer contemporary art museum that opened in 2015 on Grand Avenue, next to the Walt Disney Disney Concert Hall. Built by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, the 120,000-square-foot museum houses their personal and their foundation's art collection of more than 2,000 works by over 200 different artists, including the museum's most Instagrammable exhibit, the Infinity Mirrored Room by Yayoi Kusama.

Walk out of the Broad and cross the street to enter the Museum of Contemporary Art, which locals just call the "MOCA." The MOCA doesn't have any permanent exhibits, so check ahead to see what's on display at the time of your trip.

04 of 18

Visit El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument at Olvera Street

Stalls set up on Olvera Street

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley 

Address
125 Paseo De La Plaza, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 213-485-6855

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, more commonly known simply as Olvera Street, is the location of the oldest remaining structure in Los Angeles, the Avila Adobe. However, it's the Mexican Marketplace running up and down the pedestrian street that primarily draws visitors. The Marketplace started in 1930 and was originally conceived as a way to rejuvenate the dilapidated neighborhood by bringing in the charm of old-world Mexico with locals selling their crafts and hosting vivacious fiestas. Nearly a century later, Olvera Street is still one of the most popular attractions in downtown Los Angeles.

It is also the home of the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a museum that charts Latino history from the arrival of the first 11 Mexican families who were among the earliest settlers in Los Angeles.

Olvera Street is a one-block pedestrian zone across from Union Station, which is served by the red and gold lines of the Metro.

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05 of 18

See a Show at the Disney Concert Hall

Exterior of the Disney Concert Hall

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 213-972-7211

The Los Angeles Music Center consists of a group of original theaters that are home to the city's drama, dance, and opera companies, the most famous of which is the architecturally stunning Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry. It's home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the most celebrated orchestras in the country. The "winter season" of the LA Phil at the Disney Concert Hall typically runs from October to June (in the summer, they play at the Hollywood Bowl).

Even if you can't make it to a concert or tickets are outside of your budget, it's worth visiting the Disney Concert Hall just to appreciate the building itself. Guided tours of the inside are available for free (or you can choose to wander around yourself) but don't forget about the outside of the building. Gehry designed the hall to be explored from all sides and angles, including the exterior staircases that take visitors right up to the roof.

06 of 18

Feast at the Grand Central Market

Food court in Grand Central Market, Los Angeles

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA
Phone +1 213-359-6007

Grand Central Market is an indoor public market on Broadway between Third and Fourth streets in downtown. The market has been open continuously since 1917 and has always housed a mix of greengrocers, butchers, delis, bakers, and prepared food vendors. The culinary offerings in the market have always been fresh and local, although they have become more "artisanal and gourmet" compared to its early days. The options today also represent the diversity of the local area, including Thai street food, Salvadoran pupusas, and several flavors from Mexico.

The market is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., but individual vendors may set their own hours. If you're arriving by public transportation, take the red or purple line of the metro to Pershing Square.

07 of 18

Explore the Fashion District in Los Angeles

Fashion District in Los Angeles, CA

TripSavvy / Amanda Blackard

The Fashion District is a great place to shop for bargain clothes, textiles, and accessories. Previously known as the Garment District, this expansive neighborhood sits in the southern part of downtown L.A. and specializes in retail and wholesale for all types of clothing. One of the most popular areas is a street of outdoor shopping called Santee Alley, where you can find great deals and cheap knock-off brands.

Many businesses are closed on Sundays, so it's not as busy if you want to roam but there's not nearly as much selection. Aspiring designers will also love The Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising (FIDM) at Ninth Street and Grand, just outside the Fashion District, which has a gallery that features costume exhibits from movies and television.

08 of 18

Get Lost in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District

Downtown Los Angeles Arts District

TripSavvy / Amanda Blackard

4.9

Even though there's an endless option of art museums and galleries to visit around Los Angeles, none of them offer what you can find in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District. It's nestled between Alameda Street and the L.A. River on the east side of downtown, and this industrial area has been a flourishing artist community since the 1970s. Most notable are the larger-than-life murals that dominate the walls and are constantly changing. In fact, it's one of the best places to see street art in all of California.

Apart from the murals, the neighborhood also has a high density of studios and galleries that are free to enter. For an immersive experience and a comprehensive history of the Arts District, several companies offer guided tours of the area, such as L.A. Art Tours.

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09 of 18

Take a Tour of Los Angeles City Hall

Exterior shot of Los Angeles CIty hall

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 213-473-3231

Completed in 1928, the 32-story Los Angeles City Hall was the tallest building in the city until modern building methods allowed taller, high-rise buildings to appear in the 1960s. The building is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and is still home to the mayor and city council office chambers. It is part of the Civic Center district, which also includes county, state, and federal buildings, and has appeared in dozens of TV shows, movies, and video games. You can walk in and explore on your own with the self-guided tour materials available at the information desk on the third floor, but whatever you do, be sure to take the elevator up to the free observation deck on the 27th floor.

10 of 18

Enjoy the Sun at Grand Park

Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles

TripSavvy / Amanda Blackard

Address
200 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012-3012, USA
Phone +1 213-972-8080

It isn't easy finding refuge in all of the commotion of downtown L.A., but Grand Park is a 12-acre oasis nuzzled in between the skyscrapers. It stretches for over three blocks of tranquil green space, making it the perfect location to escape from a day of trekking around the concrete jungle. At the west end of the park, the restored Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain includes a spouted wading area that is a favorite place to cool off on hot summer days. At night, a light show draws romantic strolling couples and photo enthusiasts. The park also includes 24 botanic gardens inspired by the six floristic kingdoms of the world and plenty of green lawn for playing and relaxing.

11 of 18

Browse Around at The Last Bookstore

Aerial photo of the inside of The Last Bookstore

TripSavvy / Christian Hundley

Address
453 South Spring Street Ground Floor, 121 E 5th St SUITE 505, Los Angeles, CA 90013, USA
Phone +1 213-488-0599
4.8

The Last Bookstore, at the corner of Fifth and Spring streets in Downtown Los Angeles, has become an international tourist draw. They don't just sell, buy, and trade second-hand books and records at The Last Bookstore. They've created an intriguing combination of quirky art and wide-ranging literature in a really unique space. The bones of the original architecture are allowed to shine through with a painted beamed ceiling supported by classic columns. The second floor wraps around the open first floor with a balcony walkway, keeping your eyes busy with everything going on above and below. Upstairs houses unique art studios and galleries, a knitting shop, and a labyrinth of more books, including the dollar room with over 100,000 books for $1.

There are some overstuffed sofas and chairs around for reading, but you're just as likely to see people pull up a spot on the floor wherever they've discovered treasure among the stacks. The Last Bookstore hosts a variety of events from book signings, author talks, and art openings to comedy shows, music performances, and open mic nights.

12 of 18

Visit Union Station Los Angeles

Facade Exterior of Union station ,Downtown Los Angeles

Museimage / Getty Images

Address
800 N Alameda St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA

Union Station is still the hub of long-distance and commuter rail transportation in Los Angeles, serving Amtrak, MetroLink, and MTA Metro trains. It's also worth visiting as an architectural landmark, with a gorgeous waiting hall and public areas. The historic station was built in 1939 and is a mix of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, Art Deco, and modern architectural styles.

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13 of 18

Enjoy a Meal at Engine Co. No. 28

Saffron white wine mussels at Engine Co. No. 28

Courtesy of Engine Co. No. 28

Housed in an old fire station, Engine Co. No. 28 serves delicious American-styled dishes inspired by old recipes from firehouses throughout the nation. The building was originally built in 1912 and operated as a full-fledged fire station until its closure in 1967. A little more than 20 years later, the station was renovated and opened as a restaurant.

Their specialties include New York steak, meatloaf, a firehouse chili, and a few other American and Southern staples. You can make reservations for indoor or heated outdoor seating through their website, where they guarantee they can put out your "appetite fire."

Address
644 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017-3411, USA
Phone +1 213-624-6996
14 of 18

Catch a Fly Ball at Dodger Stadium

Twilight at Dodgers Stadium, mid-game

John Liu / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

If you're itching to catch a baseball game while you're visiting L.A., why not stop in at Dodger Stadium? The stadium itself is iconic, it's the third-oldest continually used stadium in the MLB, and even if you aren't a baseball fan, you've probably caught a glimpse of it in one of its many movie appearances. ("Benny The Jet" Rodriguez became a Dodger and played here at the end of "The Sandlot.")

If you're interested in seeing more of the iconic stadium itself, they offer 90-minute tours that cost just $25 for adults.

Address
1000 Vin Scully Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 866-363-4377
15 of 18

Pick Up a Book at the Los Angeles Central Library

View of the top of the Los Angeles Central Library

Jim Winstead / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Considered an architectural landmark, the Los Angeles Central Library (also known as the Richard J. Riordan Central Library) is one of the leading public research libraries located in downtown L.A. Not only is it listed as a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument, but it's also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The main building was built during the mid-1920s and is a beautiful example of the art deco architecture of that period.

Besides the stunning architecture and the flood of knowledge in the building, visitors can also explore the Maguire Gardens on the library's west side.

Address
Central Library, 630 W 5th St, Los Angeles, CA 90071, USA
Phone +1 213-228-7000
16 of 18

Visit the California Science Center

Picture of a space shuttle hanging in the California Science Center

ray_explores / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

If you're looking for hands-on fun for the entire family, what better place to visit than the California Science Center? Open seven days a week with free general admission to four of its main exhibit areas, this is an easy stop on any itinerary.

Become fire safety experts at the "Fire! Science & Safety" exhibit, study where life began and how it changes in the "Life! Beginnings"  exhibit, and live out your astronaut dreams in the "Humans in Space" exhibit.

Their mission is to promote learning and wonder through fun and entertaining experiences, as they believe science is the future.

Address
700 Exposition Park Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90037, USA
Phone +1 323-724-3623
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17 of 18

Explore Music History at the GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live

Front of the Grammy Museum in L.A.

Mario RM / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr

The GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live is dedicated to its mission—cultivating interest and appreciation for music history. Their exhibits range from appreciating what artists wear on the red carpet with their "On the Red Carpet" exhibit to an immersive experience of their "Mono to Immersive" exhibition, where visitors can experience their favorite artists' sound on the classic gramophone.

Adult tickets are $18, and the museum is open every day except Tuesday.

Address
800 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015, USA
Phone +1 213-725-5700
18 of 18

Admire the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels

Exterior view of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels

Clinton Steeds / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

Some of the most impressive pieces of architecture are buildings of worship, and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels is no exception. The building was finished in the spring of 2002 and is said to feature virtually no right angles, as the "geometry contributes to the Cathedral's feeling of mystery and its aura of majesty," they state on their website.

Inside, visitors will find stunning stained glass windows in the mausoleum, tall bronze doors, and beautifully done hanging tapestry, the largest amount in a Catholic church in the United States.

Address
555 W Temple St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA
Phone +1 213-680-5200
Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. National Park Service. "Little Tokyo Historic District." Retrieved April 2, 2021

  2. Britannica. "California Roll." Retrieved April 2, 2021

  3. County of LA. "History." Retrieved April 2, 2021

  4. Arts District LA. "Arts District History." Retrieved April 2, 2021

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The 18 Best Things to Do in Downtown Los Angeles