As a dense microcosm of the city itself, Downtown Los Angeles is of course big, complicated,and completely surrounded by freeways. On the other hand it displays LA at its most vibrant,bustling and historic. It also features numerous transit options, and you can see the forgottenbeauty of the Los Angeles River, which isn’t all concrete. Downtown covers the entire area,about 6 square miles, from Sunset Blvd and the Hollywood (101) Freeway on the north toVenice Blvd and Interstate 10 to the south, Pasadena Freeway (110) and Figueroa Ave to thewest, and the Los Angeles River and Interstate 5 to the east. Working clockwise you begin inthe central business district, on the western edge of downtown, between Wilshire and 3
. Notethat things have changed a lot since this was first written, the gentrification has been dazzling.Visit the beautifully restored Central Public Library at 5
and Hope Street. From there climb thestairs or escalator up Bunker Hill, the historic home of LA’s power elite, and now home toLibrary Tower, the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Mixed in are an attempt at recreatingthe Spanish Steps, and a bunch of bad chain restaurants. To the west lies the permanentcollection of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). Heading further up the hill you reachthe performing arts complex, including the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall. As youlook down the hill towards Chinatown and the old downtown, you see on your right LA’sdramatic city hall looming, as on the start of
Look to your north at the gargantuanbuilding and plaza that looks like a giant yellow armadillo: that’s The Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels, the Catholic Church’s first major cathedral construction project in over 50 years.Hideous on the outside, but go inside and tour the courtyard and the sanctuary, and it’s far moreimpressive.Walking east down Bunker Hill you walk alongside Angel’s Flight, the funicular railroad that wasfound lying in mothballs in a warehouse 15 years ago, reassembled and then closed after itbroke free of its moorings and crashed into a crowd of pedestrians. Across from Angel’s Flightis Central Market, the city’s lively and functioning retail produce and meat market. There’s anarray of high quality, low cost produce, as well as some tasty kiosks selling tacos, pupusas,horchata and other tasty treats. Walking north and east from there you walk through the olddowntown on your way to the old Pueblo, the original 17
century Spanish settlement. Lots of interesting old buildings and missions, as well as the very touristy Mexican cafes and shoppingof Olvera Street. Cross through Olvera Street to Union Station, the restored Art Deco trainstation serving all Amtrak, regional rail, Metro and regional buses. The restaurant inside, Traxx,is both elegant and tasty, if a bit overpriced. Just to the north is Phillippe, which claims to be theinventor of the French Dip (also visit Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet, at Sixth and Spring, whichholds a rival claim to inventing the French Dip).Heading back south from the station you reach Little Tokyo. While not the preferred place to getthe most authentic Japanese food (for that head to Sawtelle Ave in West LA, or the southernsuburbs of Torrance and Gardena), there are still some great restaurants and bars and karaoke joints in the pedestrian plaza and the adjacent Yaohan Plaza Mall, anchored by the largeJapanese grocery chain, Mitsuwa. Try Honda Ya for exceptional Izakaya. North of Little Tokyois downtown’s museum district, including the temporary collections of the MoCA and theMuseum of Japanese American History. Little Tokyo also has a growing group of galleries andlittle clubs hosting poetry slams and multiethnic hip hop and fusion shows. Further east, in theold furniture district, is the fairly recent artists’ loft district, itself rapidly gentrifying. Hang out withthe urban reconquistas at Novel Cafe at 811 Traction Ave and Urth Caffe's urban outpost at 451Hewitt St.