top of page
  • Writer's pictureMary Ann Issac

Top 4 things to do in Downtown Los Angeles

Updated: Aug 26, 2020

1. Hunting for Street Art in Downtown LA

There is nothing that brings a smile to my face like spotting a work of art in a place you least expect- the otherwise seedy parking lot, a lonely alleyway, or the back exit of a restaurant or shop. Downtown Los Angeles has artistic surprises for you in the most mundane streets, making it infamously instagramable. I spent an entire day walking the alleyways of downtown LA; got lost, got scared, got found, got surprised, and loved every moment of my quest to find works of art sometimes hidden in plain sight- so much so, that you would miss it if you weren’t looking to find it! So take a day off to get lost in the world, only to find yourself again in the creative expressions of a stranger.

I get asked about my sunglasses a lot-though I couldn't find the exact pair, I have linked a similar pair of sunglasses here!

Geisha on wall in Arts District, Graffiti Los Angeles, Wall art in Downtown LA, Painted Walls in Los Angeles
Hidden wall art in Arts District, Los Angeles

Angel wings graffiti in Los Angeles, Downtown LA wall art, murals in LA, colourful walls in Los Angeles
Angel Wings in Arts District

Hearts graffiti Arts District Los Angeles, Instagrammable Walls in LA, graffiti in LA, explore arts district Los Angeles
Hearts on Walls in Downtown Los Angeles

2. Walk down El Pueblo- Mexican Heritage in Downtown Los Angeles

Cross the street from Union Station, and you have stepped out of California, and into a quaint Mexican town, El Pueblo de Los Angeles, steeped in SoCal History and brimming with Mexican culture.

Olvera Street is lined with colourful shops with vendors enticing you with their exotic wares, most of which are imported from Mexico. A stroll through the busy marketplace abuzz with Spanish music and effusive conversations, the wafting heady scents of freshly fried churros and barbecued meat, and the tinkling of margarita glasses makes you forget that you are in the heart of Los Angeles.

The Avila Adobe, built in 1818, is the oldest house in LA that is still in its original location. A FREE tour of the beloved California Historic Landmark house takes you back in time to the 19th century with its large open rooms, dark wood tables, candelabras, and ornate crosses.

How to Get to El Pueblo Los Angeles:

Take the Metro to Union Station

Houses in Los Angeles, Mexican House in LA, Los Angeles History, LA Museum, Haunted House
Avila Adobe built in 1818- The oldest standing residence in Los Angeles

Old house, Mexican home in LA, Mexico culture Los Angeles, Olvera Street, pico house, haunted museum
Interior of Avila Adobe- Mexican home from 1818

Pico House, ornate gazebo, olvera street, old Los Angeles, Downtown LA, sightseeing in LA
Ornate gazebo with Pico House in the background

Mexican shopping in Los Angeles, little Mexico, downtown LA, sightseeing in LA, leather bags in LA, Mexican market, Mexican clothes, toys for children in LA
Mexican Markets in Olvera Street, Los Angeles

3. Go up to the FREE observation deck at City Hall for a view of Downtown LA

The walk to City Hall from El Pueblo is short, but the gradual change in landscape and architecture is arresting, yet poignant. Gone are the cobbled streets of Olvera Street, and the mariachi music making you want to sway and dance all on your own. Gone are the deep-set, round arched windows and doors of Pico House, and the ornate and whimsical gazebo of Los Angeles Plaza Park.

Now, the dance is a prance to the changing lights of the traffic signal, the angry honks, and screeching tyres of the passing cars.

And then, as though cutting through the lights and sounds of the city, you see the majestic Los Angeles City Hall, standing tall at 454 feet. The noise of urbanization melts away as you ascend the elevator to the FREE observation deck on the 27th floor. The all-seeing bird’s eye view of downtown LA is a great getaway from the world down below. I went back down refreshed and with a clear head, ready to take on the world, yet again.

Check out my guide to Runyon Canyon

3 Top Tips for your visit to City Hall Los Angeles

1. You have to pass through a metal detector and put your bag & things through a scanner – airport style.

2. They ask for a photo ID, and present you with a VISITOR sticker, which you have to have on you till you exit the building.

3. Take the Express elevator to the 22nd floor; change to another elevator to ride up to the 26th floor. Finally, take the stairs up to the 27th floor Observation Deck.

City Hall Los Angeles, Downtown LA tour, bird's eye view of LA, walking tour of Los Angeles, LA city life
View from City Hall Los Angeles

4. Explore contemporary art at The Broad

A contemporary art museum that is a work of art in itself, with its honeycomb-like structure; it piques your interest and almost draws you inside. Riding the escalator up to the gallery, not knowing what to expect, (and maybe already deciding to take a quick tour of the place and head out) you are greeted with a BANG! POP! SPLASH! of colourful art installations, and art so vibrant, that it just takes your breath away!

The best art installations at the Broad

1. Jeff Koons’ stainless steel ‘Tulips’ makes the word ‘vibrant’ seem understated and will captivate even the colour blind.

2. Making the perfect backdrop for the ‘Tulips’ is the intricate, colourful, yet thought provoking 82 ft piece by Takashi Murakami, ‘ In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on a Tail of a Rainbow’. The cartoonish depiction of the spiritual landscape post natural disasters like the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, is a beautiful cornucopia of colours at a distance, but almost eerie up close.

3. Other standouts for me were Andy Warhol’s ‘Two Marilyns’ which depicts the fall from fame of the celebrated actress, by silkscreening her portrait onto a linen canvas; and the ‘Campbell Soup Series’ which turned the everyday, back of the cupboard soup tin into a celebrated work of art.

4. Anselm Kiefer’s chilling depiction of the Third Reich’s reign, and the transitory spiritual heroes of Germany, in ‘Deutschlands Geisteshelden’ are reminiscent of the atrocities of the time.

As a novice contemporary art fanatic, I myself am surprised that I remember so much about the pieces at the Broad. It is all thanks to the most vivacious, passionate guide, Trinity Singer, whose vibrant rendition brings the artwork to life for the non-afficionado. Unfortunately, she has recently left the Broad for greener pastures. I am sure she will be missed!

3 Top tips for your trip to the Broad Museum

1. Entry to the Broad is FREE. Get there early as lines may be long.

2. There are free museum tours that will help you understand the unusual yet beautiful artwork that's on display. Check online or at the museum when you get there for the next free tour.

3. The staff urge you to carry your backpack in front, to avoid any accidental bumping into their artwork.

I had my Herschel backpack with me, which was light & functional. It served me well all through my 5 weeks in the US. I've been getting questions about it, so I'm linking it here.

The Broad Museum, Contemporary art museum, colourful artwork, museum tour, broad infinity room, Jeff koons, American art, European art
The Broad Museum-Downtown Los Angeles

The Broad museum contemporary art in LA, Anselm keifer, Deutschlands Geisteshelden, German artist, holocaust artwork, American artist
Deutschlands Geisteshelden- by Anselm Keifer, at the Broad LA

Tulips, Jeff Koons, Contemporary art, American art, European art, the broad museum, museum tour, stainless steel artwork, balloon dog, Michael Jackson Jeff koons
Tulips by Jeff Koons

Takashi Murakami, The broad museum, contemporary art, art prints for sale, flower ball, yayoi kusama
In the Land of the Dead, Stepping on a Tail of a Rainbow- by Takashi Murakami

Follow me to Venice Beach & Santa Monica Pier in Part 3.

Planning a trip to San Francisco-check out my guide!

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy what I have recommended through my link, I will get a small commission off it, while you don't have to pay anything extra. So if you do plan on buying it, do use my link & help me out :)


Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page