Los Angeles/Downtown

L.A. is a city of diverse cultures, and many are showcased in or around Downtown. While Downtown has been considered primarily a business and manufacturing hub for the last couple of decades, its long-heralded revival has really gained some traction recently, as new restaurants, retail chains, boutiques, and trendy hotels open at a rapid pace. Some highlights for the visitor in Downtown include Grand Central Market, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Olvera Street, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, and some unique and stunning examples of American and international architecture sprinkled throughout.


Bounded by a rough triangle formed by the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) on the south, the Harbor Freeway (CA-110) on the west, and the Los Angeles River on the east, the Downtown area encompasses several neighborhoods that are remarkably varied in character.

The Historic Core lies east of Hill Street and west of Main Street between 3rd and 9th Streets, and was the undisputed center of the city for the first half of the twentieth century. Following the white flight to the suburbs after WWII, the district became a vibrant center of Latino culture. Today, while the area is a little sketchy, a significant amount of redevelopment has occurred here and the neighborhood has many superb examples of early 20th century architecture, including a high concentration of movie palaces along Broadway. South of Pershing Square, the Historic Core overlaps with the Jewelry District, noted for its many jewelry stores. To the north of the Historic Core is the Civic Center complex, which stretches west along Grand Park between 1st Street and the Hollywood Freeway (US 101).

To the west of the Historic Core, sitting between 1st and 8th Streets, are overlapping Bunker Hill and the Financial District, an area that was leveled in the 1950s for the many skyscrapers and plazas that were built here. Because of the numerous office buildings, this area can feel rather sterile in character, but it does hold the grand public library as well as the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. South of this is the rapidly gentrifying southwest corner of Downtown, labeled by developers in recent years as "South Park," home to the convention center, L.A. Live, and the Staples Center, as well as many new hotels and high-end residential developments.

The southeast side of Downtown is more industrial in character. Infamous Skid Row sits east of Main Street and west of Alameda Street between 3rd and 7th Streets, and is generally deemed a place to be avoided. Further east, between Alameda Street and the Los Angeles River, is the Arts District, a neighborhood of old industrial buildings converted to loft and studio spaces. South of Skid Row, roughly between Main Street and Central Avenue, is the Fashion District, a nexus of the West Coast apparel industry with its numerous manufacturers and wholesale stores.

The north side of the Downtown area is home to a few colorful ethnic and historic neighborhoods. Little Tokyo, a cultural center for Japanese Americans, is centered around the intersection of 1st Street and Central Avenue. On the north side of the Hollywood Freeway, across Alameda Street from the Union Station complex, is El Pueblo, the site of the original settlement of Los Angeles and today a Mexican-themed district with some historic structures centered around touristy Olvera Street. Spreading to the north is the sprawling Chinatown district, centered along North Broadway and housing many Chinese and Southeast Asian restaurants and shops.

Get in

Downtown LA is simultaneously the hub of the freeway network, road network, commuter rail network, subway / light rail network, and bus network in the region, and thus very easily accessible. Parking lots are also plentiful, though rising steadily in price.

By freeway

Downtown LA can be accessed directly via the Pasadena Freeway (SR-110), the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10), and the Santa Ana Freeway (I-5 and US-101). Just outside Downtown LA, these freeways connect to the Golden State Freeway (I-5), the Hollywood Freeway (US-101), the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10), the Harbor Freeway (I-110), and the Pomona Freeway (SR-60).

Drive your car to a parking lot and go by foot from then on. Downtown isn't that big. Most likely, a DASH shuttle has a stop where you want to go.

By commuter rail

Union Station

If your point of origin is within the urban and suburban areas of Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, Orange, or San Diego Counties, you may be able to avail of the growing commuter rail network known as Metrolink to visit Downtown LA. Six of the seven Metrolink commuter rail lines terminate at Union Station in Downtown LA's El Pueblo district. Tickets can be purchased from vending machines at each station, and fares are determined by time (peak or non-peak hour, weekday or weekend) and distance:

By subway / light rail

Metro Gold Line leaving Chinatown station

For those visitors coming from within Los Angeles County, local subway and light rail service may be the best option to get to Downtown LA. Five of the six subway and light rail lines in the Metro Rail system terminate in Downtown LA at either Union Station or 7th/Metro Center.

By bus

Greyhound has a bus terminal in Los Angeles, and Megabus' terminal is at the Patsaouras Transit Plaza adjacent to Union Station. BoltBus' terminal is on the west side of Union Station. Union Station is also the terminus of the Fly-Away Bus to Los Angeles International Airport.

Metro buses Downtown Los Angeles can be reached by a number of buses to elsewhere in the city. Buses going to/from downtown are numbered 1-99 (local routes with multiple stops, orange colored); 300s (Rapid Ride routes w/ limited stops, red colored); and 400s (downtown Express, blue colored). The Metro Silver Line provides frequent service to Downtown from El Monte, East Los Angeles, South Los Angeles and the Harbor Gateway. Downtown is connected to other parts of Los Angeles County by frequent rapid and local bus service provided by the Los Angeles Metro, including Hollywood (2, 4, 302, 704), West Los Angeles (4, 704, 16, 316, 20, 720, 28, 728), Mid-Wilshire (20, 720), Venice (33, 733), South Los Angeles (40, 45, 745, 51, 52, 352), East Los Angeles (18, 66, 68, 70, 770, 720), the San Gabriel Valley (70, 770, 76, 78, 79), Northeast Los Angeles (81, 90, 91, 94, 794) and the San Fernando Valley (94, 794). The transit agencies of the Antelope Valley, the Foothills, Santa Clarita, Santa Monica, Montebello, Torrance and Orange County provide freeway express service into Downtown.

By air

Los Angeles City Hall

Downtown LA is not directly served by an airport, but can be accessed via public transportation from Los Angeles International Airport (IATA: LAX) in Westchester and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

From LAX in Westchester

From LAX Airport there are two relatively frequent public transportation options to Downtown LA: the FlyAway Bus, and Metro Rail.

From Bob Hope Airport in Burbank

Bob Hope Airport is served by two rail networks, both of which use the Burbank Airport train station - walking distance from the main terminal building.

If you must drive, park at the NE corner of Hill and 9th to check out the Fashion/Garment District. Incredible deals, great restaurants, beautiful architecture (check out the Orpheum and Eastern Columbia Buildings across from the lot). There is also Cliftons further up Broadway, The Arcade Building which, like many of the historic building downtown, is being converted into upscale lofts.

Get around

Downtown is one of the few areas of L.A. that one can reasonably cover on foot.


El Pueblo de Los Angeles

Olvera Street

El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument (between Main and Alameda Streets; across from Union Station),  +1 213 485-6855. This small district is where Los Angeles was founded as El Pueblo de Los Angeles. Today, sandwiched in a few square blocks is a collection of museums and historic buildings centered around the   Old Plaza and   Olvera Street, which is lined with Mexican-themed trinket stands and restaurants.




Inside the ornate Bradbury Building



Various groups offer free or cheap walking tours of Downtown LA.


Magic Johnson keeps court outside the Staples Center


Walt Disney Concert Hall

A number of music, theater, and convention venues are located in Downtown Los Angeles.



The flea market atmosphere of Santee Alley

Downtown's shopping districts are sights in themselves.


This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under $10
Mid-range $10 - $25
Splurge Over $25









Downtown has a plethora of hotels catering primarily to business travelers. While most others have tended to stay further west, the last couple of years have seen the addition of some hipper hotels catering to younger crowds.


The large number of business hotels can be used to your advantage if the timing is right; try for deep discounts on weekend stays.


Stay safe

The area bounded by 3rd Street, 7th Street, Alameda Street and Main Street is often referred to as "Skid Row" or "the Nickel" and has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States. The Greyhound Station is located here, but the area is unsafe for pedestrians regardless of the time of day.


Go next

Arroyo Seco Bike Path
Routes through Downtown Los Angeles (by car)

Sacramento Northwest L.A.  N  S  East LA Santa Ana
Santa Monica Wilshire  W  E  East LA San Bernardino
Pasadena Montecito Heights ← Becomes  N  S  South Central L.A. San Pedro
Santa Barbara Northwest L.A.  N  S  END
Santa Monica Northwest L.A.  W  E  East LA Barstow
END  W  E  East LA Riverside

Routes through Downtown Los Angeles (by public transit)

END  N  S  South Central L. A. Long Beach
North Hollywood/Koreatown Westlake  N/W  S/E  END
Pasadena Highland Park  N  E  East L.A.
Culver City Expo Park  W  E  END
San Pedro South Central L.A.  S  E  East L.A. El Monte

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, April 03, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.