From the University of Southern California to Chinatown, Downtown LA plays host to many cultural enclaves, historic districts, and cutting edge architecture.
The Staples Center and LA Live are ideal locations for sports and music fans. Roam to the Civic Center area for architectural gems like the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, or for great music and stage shows at the beautiful Music Center venues. For those out for shopping, don’t forget the Fashion and Jewelry Districts!
To get to the start of the tour:
Use the Metro Trip Planner
Important Note: Please make sure to always check times and schedules for transportation, destinations and events.
From the Pico Metro station, walk one block west on Pico Boulevard to Figueroa Street. Turn right and walk north on Figueroa to 11th Street.
Depending on the time of year, the Staples Center (1111 S. Figueroa St.; 213/742-7340) offers everything from the World Champion L.A. Lakers, to the WNBA L.A. Sparks, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Kings to even watching the Avengers, an Arena Football game. But if you’re not in the mood for a basketball game, music industry greats have performed at the Staples Center, including Janet Jackson, Madonna and have even hosted the Grammys.
Civic Center Station (Metro Red Line)
From the Civic Center/Tom Bradley Metro station, exit at 1st Street. Walk east on 1st Street to Spring Street and turn left.
One of the largest collections of government buildings outside of Washington, D.C., the Civic Center hosts one of downtown Los Angeles’ centerpieces - Los Angeles City Hall (200 N. Main St.). At the cost of $5 million in 1928, this 28-story building was the city’s only high-rise until 1957, when the building codes changed. Take a moment to explore this Art Deco masterpiece.
Walk north on Spring Street to Temple Street and turn left. Proceed on Temple Street to Grand Avenue.
One of Downtown’s latest crown jewels is the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels (555 W. Temple St.;213/680-5200) graces the entire north side of Temple Street between Grand Avenue and Hill Street. Designed by architect Jose Rafael Moneo, the Cathedral utilizes a beautiful desert aesthetic to convey connections between Los Angeles and the Holy Land via palm trees, water, and multi-lingual outdoor engravings. Intended to be "a church for all peoples," the Cathedral is a powerful and transforming experience that should not be missed.
Walk west on Temple Street to Grand Avenue and turn left.
One can always find something of interest at the seven-acre Music Center-Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County (135 N. Grand Ave.;213/972-7211). It is the most well-attended cluster of theatres on the West Coast. Catch a theater performance at the acclaimed Mark Taper Forum (213/628-2772), which specializes in new works, or catch a musical theater performance at the Ahmanson Theatre (213/628-2772). Across the plaza is the The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, (213/972-7211) is home to the L.A. Opera (213/365-3500) and the L.A. Master Chorale (213/972-7282).
Walk south on Grand Avenue to 1st Street.
The LA Philharmonic has its new home at the Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 S. Grand Ave.;323/850-2000), designed by the one and only, Frank Gehry. The steel arched curves of the building are rumored to mimic the movement of the conductor's bow, making the building a true visualization of symphonic performance. Due to such a unique structure, the building is now an international architectural icon.
Walk south on Grand Avenue.
Serving 1500 students, the Colburn School of the Performing Arts (200 S. Grand Ave.;213/621-2200) is often referred to the “Julliard of the West.” Call for performance schedules.
Continue south on Grand Avenue.
Located next door, the Museum of Contemporary Art (250 S. Grand Ave.; 213/621-2766) is the only museum in Los Angeles that is exclusively dedicated to the collecting and exhibition of art from the 1940s to the present. If you haven't had the chance to grab a bite to eat, the Patinette Cafe at MOCA (213/626-1178) offers tasty soups, salads and other unique items to match the great art found next door.
Just south of MOCA, visit the California Plaza (350 S. Grand Ave.) The space features an impressive series of fountains and waterfalls that can be quickly converted into a stage for lunchtime or evening events and performances. During the summer, grab a quick bite to eat while enjoying a lunchtime concerts presented by Grand Performances on the Plaza (concert information:213/687-2159).
From California Plaza cross Grand Avenue to Wells Fargo Center.
As you cross the plaza at the Wells Fargo Center (333 S. Grand Ave.), take note of the fine restaurants and several public art installations, including works by Nancy Graves, Louise Nevelson and Robert Graham.
Continue to walk through Wells Fargo Plaza to Hope Street. Walk south on Hope Street to the back of Library Tower
Behind Library Tower, Robert Graham's Source Figure overlooks a stream that flows down to a small pool on Fifth Street, and marks the beginning of the Bunker Hill Steps. If you stray to your right on your way down, a secondary plaza opens to public art works by Bruce Nauman, Mark Di Suvero, Michael Heizer, Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenburg.
Proceed to the bottom the Bunker Hill steps and cross 5th Street to the LA Public Library.
In the heart of the Financial District, is the Los Angeles Public Library (630 W. 5th St.; 213/228-7000). Constructed in 1926, and restored in 1993, the library houses murals and sculptures dating from the 1920s and '30s, as well as recent works by prominent living artists. In addition to the 2.1 million books, 10,000 magazines, and over 2 million historic photographs, the library presents fabulous exhibitions in the Annenberg and Getty galleries, and presents the popular Zocalo Public Lecture series, hosting various noteworthy public intellectuals and artists.
Pershing Square Station (Metro Red Line)
From the Pershing Square Metro station, proceed to street level at the 4th Street exit. Walk one block north on Hill Street to 3rd Street and turn right. Walk one block on 3rd Street to Broadway.
Wind your way through the Bradbury Building (304 S. Broadway). Designed by George Wyman in 1893, it is a five-story atrium, roofed by a wall-to-wall skylight framed by French-made wrought iron.
Next door, in an adjacent courtyard, is Biddy Mason Park (331 S. Spring St.). Here a public art installation by Sheila Levrant de Brettville and Betye Saar honors Biddy Mason, an African American pioneer who was born a slave and walked from the South to freedom in Los Angeles. A historical timeline is artfully crafted into a wall to honor Biddy Mason (1818-1891), one of LA's first African American settlers.
Overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables and offering an abundance of fragrant spices and seasonings for authentic Mexican meals, Grand Central Market (317 S. Broadway;213/624-2378) is a great place to find an early morning treat.
Walk south on Broadway.
Stroll down Broadway between 3rd and 9th streets, a center for Latino commerce. Explore the avenue's primo botanicas, over-the-top bridal gown showrooms and the façades of once-grand, historic movie palaces, including the Orpheum and the Roxy. Guided tours of the historic theatres along Broadway are offered by the Los Angeles Conservancy (213/623-2489 or http://www.laconservancy.org, reservations are required).
As you continue south on Broadway, you will begin to walk through the Jewelry District (between Hill Street and Broadway, from 5th Street to 8th Street). Here, the streets are lined with jewelry stores from the very tiny to the very large. Gems, rings, bracelets, precious stones, gold chains, watches, pearls - one can find just about anything. If you're willing to spend the "big bucks," the more upscale stores are along Hill Street between 6th and 7th streets.
From the 7th Street Metro station proceed to street level and walk south on Hope Street to 9th Street. At 9th Street and Grand Avenue you will see Grand Hope Park.
One of the earliest beautification projects in the South Park community of Downtown Los Angeles, Grand Hope Park (9th Street and Grand Avenue) features a clock tower, decorative fountain, playground, and neighbor to the Museum of Neon Art and the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) (919 S. Grand Ave.;213/624-1200) is a private college campus in Downtown Los Angeles, offering advanced degrees in fashion and design. As an added bonus, FIDM’s Museum Foundation presents exhibitions regularly in their galleries. Every year the museum presents “The Art of Motion Picture Design,?featuring the best costume designs from the year previous in films.
For something electric, just next store to FIDM, the Museum of Neon Art (501 W. Olympic Blvd.;213/489-9918) exhibits, documents and preserves works of neon, electric and kinetic art as the only permanent institution of its kind in the world.
9th/Los Angeles bus stop (E DASH)
Board DASH E at 7th and South Spring streets at the southwest corner or (7th Street and Grand Avenue). Depart at 9th and Los Angeles streets. Walk west on 9th Street to the California Mart.
Venture over to LA's famous Fashion District (between Broadway, Wall Street, 7th Street and Pico Boulevard). One can find any and everything all within a couple of blocks. California Mart (9th between Los Angeles and Main streets), though only open to the public once a month, is composed of 4 buildings containing 2,000 showrooms. Directly across the street on 9th Street, check out the New Mart (127 9th St.) where one may "window shop", and find out when the next sample sale will be.
From 9th and Los Angeles streets, walk east on 9th Street to Santee Street and turn right. Walk south on Santee Street one block to Olympic Boulevard and turn left. Walk a half a block to Santee Alley, located on the south side of the street.
Maybe one of the most famous alleys anywhere, Santee Alley (east of Santee Street between Olympic and 12th Street) is filled with tiny shops in an open-air market with items ranging from hard to tell "knock off" designer sunglasses to evening wear. Small retail shops between Los Angeles and Wall streets between 9th and Pico Boulevard carries discount clothes, fabrics, costume jewelry and other accessories. Be ready to bargain and haggle for hours!
From Olympic Boulevard and Maple Avenue, proceed north on Maple Street to 8th Street. Walk one block east on 8th Street to Wall Street and turn left.
If you're one of those dreadfully early risers, or still in a time-zone warp, hit the Southern California Flower Mart (742 Maple Ave.;213/627-2482). Buy armfuls of flowers at rock-bottom prices. Call ahead for hours of operation and public hours.