Planning to go on a Downtown LA walking tour? There’s no better way to discover the city! Check out this guide to make your self-guided walking tour a total success!
Who says nobody walks in LA? Definitely not me! Walking around is one of the best things to do in Downtown Los Angeles, and in this post, I want to show you how to explore the area on foot with no other guide other than your GPS. Not bad, eh?
In other blog posts, I talked about the perfect 2 days in Los Angeles itinerary for first timers. I also offered tips on how to navigate Los Angeles without a car of your own, and how to explore Venice Beach and Santa Monica.
Now it’s time to tackle Downtown, a diverse LA neighborhood with so much to offer, no matter who you are. I’ve got great tips for foodies, architecture lovers, experienced joggers, first-time urban tourists, professional Instagrammers, you name it! This Downtown LA walking tour is definitely for you.
YOU’D RATHER GO ON A GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF LOS ANGELES?
If the self-guided Downtown LA walking tour sounds a bit daunting, you can always join a guided tour! Here are the best options to suit all tastes and help you make the most of this vibrant city.
➤ The 2-hour Old and New Downtown Los Angeles Tour takes you through the historic part of Downtown LA like no other tour, and the small size of the group allows you to enjoy the guide’s insights in a personalized way. You’ll visit the finest sites from the city’s golden era and even get a Bradbury Building tour that will amaze architecture buffs. This is one of the best DTLA walking tours for first-time visitors and families. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ For the foodies out there, this Downtown Los Angeles Food Tour is calling your name. In this walking tour you’ll not only taste the best food in LA from six different eateries, bakeries and ethnic food shops, you’ll also learn about the dynamic food culture that’s emerging in Downtown LA. The small group will make the experience more intimate, and there are vegetarian options in all of the stops. You won’t be needing lunch after this 3-hour tour! ➥ BOOK IT HERE
➤ Choose the Downtown Los Angeles Architecture Tour to marvel at LA’s magnificent buildings and monuments while you hear the history, architecture and symbolism of the city. LA’s tallest building, the Broadway Theatre District and Central Library are among the many places you’ll visit, and it’s definitely a must for architects, students and enthusiasts. ➥ BOOK IT HERE
DOWNTOWN LA WALKING TOUR ITINERARY
If you’re up to the challenge of doing the Los Angeles Downtown walking tour on your own, let’s begin!
Union Station & Olvera Street
I recommend starting your DTLA walking tour from its northeastern corner, where famed Union Station sits since 1939 (address: 800 N Alameda St).
You can get here easily with a rideshare app, by train or metro (the Gold, Purple, and Red lines all stop here) or by bus. If you ride your own car, this is the moment to leave it behind (parking is available in the El Pueblo parking lots between Alameda St and Los Angeles St).
Once you’re here, make your way into the train station’s iconic interior, wander around, and sit on those comfy chairs. Remember the first Blade Runner? The film’s police station is, in reality, Union Station’s waiting room. Yes, you read my mind, Los Angeles never fails to be an open-air film set.
Your next stop is right across the street from Union station: El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Established by a handful of European families in 1781 on the land originally occupied by the Gabrieleño/Kizh/Tongva native people, El Pueblo is the oldest part of LA and one of the top Downtown Los Angeles places to visit.
🚶 The best way to get here from Union Station is to exit the transportation hub on Alameda St and take a right. Once Alameda St meets Caesar Chavez Ave, stop and turn to your left. You have arrived at Olvera St, namely, the entrance to this 9.5-acre historic district.
But don’t let history haunt you and dig in! While walking through Olvera St, you’ll have the chance to shop in the Mexican market for colorful clothing and leather goods as well as have your first snacks of the day (I don’t know about you, but I can rarely deny myself a steaming churro or an iced orchada).
In between eating and browsing for souvenirs, take a peek into the Avila Adobe, family dwelling of LA mayor, Francisco José Avila between 1818 and 1868. It’s the oldest standing building in the whole city!
➤ Entrance is free, and you’ll be able to see how nineteenth-century rancheros cooked, shared living spaces, and entertained guests (opening hours: 9 AM to 4 PM).
🚶 Now leave the shopping crowd and merchants of Olvera St behind you, pass through the circular square with the elegant, white Pico House on the left and the Our Lady Queen of Angels church on the right, and take Main St towards downtown (look at those skyscrapers!). When Main St crosses Arcadia St, take a left and start walking south.
A piece of advice: hop on the sidewalk closer to the highway, because a surprise is in store for you on the other side of that traffic artery! The street art piece entitled LA Freeway Kids will be visible on the opposite wall of the 101 Highway, eyeing at the ever-present cars as well as the youngest city dwellers. It’s one of the prettiest attractions in downtown LA!
🚶 When you have enough pics and selfies, take your Downtown Los Angeles sightseeing to Arcadia St and take a right on Los Angeles St. Walk on the bridge above the highway and go straight ahead for a few minutes.
Reminder: For this Downtown LA walking tour, a map or GPS might come in handy, so don’t forget to use it to avoid getting lost!
🚶 Once you’re in Temple St, say hello to the City Hall white tower to your right and take a left turn. Go straight until you glimpse on your left Molecule Man, a tall metal sculpture of four men walking into each other. Here, turn right on Aiso St and keep walking. You are in Little Tokyo! From El Pueblo de Los Angeles, it shouldn’t take you more than 20 minutes.
In Little Tokyo, one of the best places to walk in Los Angeles, my absolute favorite spot is the Japanese Village Plaza, encased between 1st St and 2nd St, Central Ave and San Pedro St. It’s rich with shops for all tastes. On your way, make sure to stop by Fugetsu-Do (address: 315 E 1st St). This tiny, sweet shop sells hand-made mochi to die for; perks of doing this Downtown LA tour on your feet!
After exploring around the Plaza, if you’re ready to have a sit-down lunch, I cannot recommend enough the legendary sushi restaurant, Sushi Gen (oh, yes! There’s great food in store for you in this walking tour of Los Angeles). Despite being slightly out of the way, Sushi Gen is especially worth the stop at midday for their extra-tasty sushi and great lunch specials.
🚶 To get there, exit the Japanese Village Plaza on 2nd St and take a left until the unassuming Honda Plaza will show up on your right. Sushi Gen is right there, at 422 E 2nd St.
If, instead, you’re still full of energy from Japanese and Mexican snacks, continue this Los Angeles Downtown tour to see what’s in store next!
🚶 Exit the Japanese Village Plaza on 2nd St, take a selfie in front of the pink-pink-pink wall belonging to the Japanese Swordsmanship shop, Shinkendo on the other side of the street, and take a right. Walk on 2th St for a few minutes until you reach Spring St, then turn right. From Shinkendo, it’s approximately a 15-minute walk until the next destination on your LA walking tour: Grand Park.
This beautiful city park stretches through 3 full city blocks and is literally a breath of clean air in the midst of all the Downtown LA sites. I also love the pink chairs all over the place.
The benefit of starting your stroll on Grand Park coming from Little Tokyo and Spring St (with City Hall behind your back) is that what is coming next will slowly reveal itself in front of you. Grand Park indeed sits directly south of the LA center for live performances and the arts on Grand Ave, featuring concert halls, theaters, and museums. Architecture aficionados come along!
Walt Disney Concert Hall and Broad Museum
The Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, and the Broad Museum, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, are an especially striking view, and one of the highlights of your Downtown Los Angeles walking tour. They are also next to each other (at 111 and 221 S Grand Ave, respectively) and a glance from outside is already worth it.
If you want to dedicate these architectural masterpieces more than a few minutes on the outside, you’re in luck, since The Broad Museum is free for all and the Disney Concert Hall offers self-guided tours at no charge. Definitely one of the best places to visit in Downtown LA, so don’t miss it!
🚶 Continue your walking tour on Grand Ave towards 3rd St, keeping The Broad Museum and the Disney Concert Hall to your right. Now it’s definitely past lunch time and your next stop is a real treat for foodies. In order to get there, here’s a great shortcut: as soon as you cross 3rd St, enter California Plaza to your left (address: 350 S Grand Ave), keep going until you see an orange, old-looking structure.
Angels Flight Railway & Grand Central Market
You’ve found the Angels Flight Railway, the shortest railway in the world, in operation since 1901 (opening hours: 6:30am-10pm). This quick ride is just $1, and it’ll bring you down the hill to your destination. While you’re at it, however, look at the green area to your right.
This hilly park is called Angel Knoll and is where the two characters in 500 Days of Summer meet up! There’s even a bench to commemorate the reference.
But enough with the distractions. The Angels Flight Railway will drop you off directly in front of the Grand Central Market, aka a food paradise! This centenary food market hosts at least 38 different vendors, where you can choose your food, have it cooked before you, and eat it on the spot (address: 317 S Broadway, with a side entrance on Hill St).
I always make sure to stop by Sarita’s Pupuseria for Salvadorian cuisine or by Eggslut for egg-based sandwiches. Spice lovers anybody? La Huerta and Chiles Secos will amaze you with their spice, dried fruit, mole, nut, and grain display. In the likely case that it’s a sunny day, I advise to take advantage of the open-air sitting areas either on Hill street or on Broadway.
If you enjoy your meal sitting on Broadway, not only will you have the chance to do some good old people watching (Downtown LA is such a melting pot that you can never get bored), but you’ll also be positioned right in front of the Bradbury Building (address: 304 S Broadway).
This historical landmark is the oldest commercial building in the area and is yet again a treat for the eye, both outside and inside (fans of Blade Runner, don’t waste your opportunity here!)
If you feel that you have completed your share of architectural gems for the day, and perhaps have a shopping bug, look to the right. Ross Cutlery is the most complete cutlery store in the western United States and it’s been selling knives since 1930 (address: 324 S Broadway). Who wouldn’t want to see that?!
The Last Bookstore
🚶 Alternatively, take a right on Broadway and keep walking until 4th St, where you’ll take a left turn. Once 4th St meets Spring St, take another right. At the end of the block, two shops are worth your attention.
First is The Last Bookstore, which has become a top destination for LA tourists of all kinds. I can indeed testify to this bookstore’s incredible stock, since it carries a wide variety of both new additions and very old, used books. Do get lost in here (and make sure to check out the second floor, with book-made constructions that are perfect for an Insta post).
Gather DTLA is the second store I recommend. It’s situated at the back of The Last Bookstore and, quite surprisingly, is supply shop for knitting enthusiasts that also offers lessons. The address of this all-inclusive small shopping universe is 453 S Spring St, just 5 minutes away from Ross Cutlery.
🚶You’ll probably find yourself on Spring and 5th St on an early evening. It’s happy hour time! Turn right on 5th Street and walk for two blocks, take a left turn on S Broadway till you see Mezcalero DTLA.
Happy Hour at Mezcalero DTLA
My advice is to spend the next hour (and a few bucks) at Mezcalero DTLA. I love this small and laid-back joint that offers chips and guacamole, tacos, and of course, specialty cocktails made with mezcal. Happy hour is daily from 4 to 7 PM.
How to perfectly end this self-guided tour of Downtown Los Angeles? I know the perfect place!
🚶From Mezcalero DTLA, keep walking down on S Broadway until you cross 7th St. Take a left on 7th St and keep walking for two blocks. The darkest ice cream shop sits right there, at the corner of 7ths St with Spring St.
End Your Tour with a Little Damage
Little Damage offers soft-serve ice cream in rotating flavors and unforgettable black cones, which are colored with activated charcoal (address: 700 S Spring St). It’s the gothic (Insta-perfect) dream you were looking for to conclude your Downtown LA wanderings!
🚶Lick along while you make your way back to your car by Union Station (ca. 30-minute walk) or hop on a metro train at the Pershing Square stop on 5th and Hill St (serving both Red and Purple lines), just 8 minutes away from Little Damage. Otherwise, order another of those stunning black cones while you wait for your rideshare app of choice to drive you home.
DIY DOWNTOWN LA WALKING TOUR FAQ
Yes! Downtown LA is walking-friendly; in fact, it’s likely one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
The Grand City Tour of Los Angeles is the best tour for exploring LA’s main neighborhoods and landmarks, and it’s ideal for first-time visitors or those with limited time in the city. Among the places you’ll visit are Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Griffith Park, from where you’ll get incredible views!
The downtown historic center is one of the highlights of this tour, that will give you more than a glimpse of this magnificent city. Pickup and drop-off at your hotel are included!
The touristy areas of Los Angeles are generally safe, and so is Downtown LA during the day – at night you have to be a little more careful. That said, LA struggles with homelessness, and certain areas of the city, like Skid Row or Hyde Park, are worth avoiding. You’d want to avoid visiting China Town at night time as well.
There are countless fantastic things to do and see in Downtown LA. While this post covers all the best landmarks in the area, there’s always something else to do, like having a picnic at Grand Park, visiting the Grammy museum for some music history, or having your own La La Land moment at the Angels Flight Railway.
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