Posted on October 18, 2017


Despite moving to LA over two years ago we haven’t spent much time down town (DTLA). It can’t compare to NYC or London and although it’s only a 30min drive from Santa Monica if you travel at the wrong time it can take more than two hours. But comparing DTLA to other major cites is just wrong. DTLA is a totally different beast.

LA is made up of over 80 neighbourboods each with their own identity (side note: Beverly Hills and Santa Monica are cities in their own right). After the attack on Pearl Harbour it was thought that the West Coast could be the next hit so at night the city was blacked out. This attracted unsavoury types and crime went through the roof. A lot of people moved out to more suburban areas and DTLA never really recovered from it’s bad reputation. Over the last three years there has been a stunning amount of redevelopment and renovation of old buildings. The turnaround is incredible. Skid Row still exists but it’s getting housing projects for the homeless and there is a desire to build a real community.  The city as a whole is thriving. It’s still relatively small with around 60k inhabitants plus 500k people coming in every day to work, but it’s getting more buzz to it.

We learnt all this on a 2.5 hour guided architectural tour which I can’t recommend highly enough. From the eccentric Coca-Cola bottling factory to Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Hall, with a little Art Deco in between it was a real eye-opener to the history of this incredible city. Our whole perspective changed and we completely fell in love with it. Below are a few highlights of DTLA, which you could do as a one day walking tour.

We started at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and discovered the quaint rooftop garden housing a delft blue rose created especially for Lilly Disney by Frank Gehry. The garden is open to the public, and amazingly serene considering its location.

The Broad Museum is simply excellent. Tickets are free but book ahead to avoid queues. Don’t miss the infinity mirrors, or Roy Lichenstein and Jeff Koons work. The Murukami room is also quite something. Get the elevator to the top but walk down the stairs for a better view of the intricacies of the building. The MOCA is opposite and meant to be good too, we saved that for another visit.

Take the Angels flight funicular from what used to Bunker Hill, en route to Grand Central Market for lunch. There are so many good food options here. We opted for Madcapra’s ‘Go Big’ which was as good as it’s reputation. Then we stopped at G&B for coffee, always a solid choice.

Pop over the road to The Bradbury building whose interior you will recognize from many movies including the original Bladerunner. Walk a few blocks down to The Last Bookstore making sure you go upstairs to the horror vault and book tunnel.

For a bit of old world publishing history pop into the LA Times reception on Spring and 1st before heading to the City Hall Observation Deck for stunning views over the city.

Then walk over to El Pueblo, the original town of Los Angeles when California was part of Mexico (which reminds me of San Cristobel de la Cases with the small streets and mountains in the background). Lastly head over to Union Station for peek into the stunning interior.

If you have time still hop in an uber and go for a wander in the Arts District where you should pop into Hauser & Wirth, snack in Zinc’s calm garden, pop in for a cold beer at the Arts District Brewery Company, or walk in to get an early table at the fabulous Bestia.

Or just next door is Little Tokyo which has some excellent Japanese food such as Sushi Gen or Daikokuya and, if you need to clear your mind after a busy day, a Buddhist temple with a bonefide zen garden for meditation.

If you are a movie buff you may want to watch Los Angeles Plays Itself which references a number of locations shot in well known movies over the years.

Going for the evening? DTLA has some excellent food spots and to get the views pop into 71Above for a cocktail (in a  building which also boasts a glass slide).

There’s so much to explore, we’ll be going back much more frequently now we know of DTLA’s secrets.