Los Angeles is mainly known for its stunning beaches, the glamour of Beverly Hills and, of course, Hollywood Hills. Downtown LA is therefore all too often overlooked and yet it has a great deal going for it.
History is not something you immediately associate with Los Angeles. Very few people realise that that the city was in fact founded as early as 1781. The district surrounding Pershing Square is also known as the historic downtown. The streets are filled with notable buildings, such as the splendid Central Library, built in 1926. This gigantic library is a magnificent example of early art deco architecture and its interior is a genuine work of art. Murals and colourful mosaics form the backdrop for the library’s enormous collection of books.
Address: 630 W. 5th Street
Fans of modern architecture (and photography) will be in their element at the Los Angeles Music Center. The complex originally consisted of three theatre buildings but a further focal point was added in 2003: The Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. The wavelike forms of the metallic structure are the brainchild of the architect Frank Gehry, who was also responsible for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Guided tours of the music centre are available daily, while the Walt Disney Concert Hall also offers audio tours.
Address: 135 N Grand Avenue
More information on: www.musiccenter.org
The district of Chinatown surrounds Central Plaza and is a neighbourhood full of shops, souvenir sellers and, of course, Chinese restaurants. The neighbourhood is also known as New Chinatown: The Chinese community first settled at the site where Union Station now stands and moved to Central Plaza in 1938. People visiting this square full of colourful pagodas for the first time often get the feeling that they already know the place. This is not surprising as many films and series have been shot on the square, including Melrose Place, Rush Hour and Beverly Hills 90210. Guided tours of Chinatown are available every first Saturday of the month and a route can be downloaded from the website.
Address: 943 N. Broadway
More information on: www.chinatownla.com
With its large neon displays and flashing billboards, L.A. Live has also been dubbed the Times Square of the west coast. This large entertainment complex opened in 2007, next to the Staples Center (the stadium that is home to the LA Lakers basketball team, among others) and is the place to go for an evening out. As well as restaurants and clubs, it features a cinema and various bars offering live music. But you don’t need to wait until dinnertime to visit: The four-storey Grammy Museum has more than enough to keep you entertained for an afternoon.
Address: 800 W. Olympic Blvd
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Olvera Street is part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument and one of the city’s oldest districts. With its colourful street market, Mexican music and many restaurants serving delicious tacos, fajitas and burritos, visitors are often fooled into thinking they have crossed the border into Mexico. No less than 27 historic buildings are located along this vibrant street, including Avila Adobe. This is the oldest remaining house in Los Angeles and dates back to 1818.
Address: Olvera Street
More information on: www.calleolvera.com