A self-guided walking tour of Downtown Los Angeles

Self-guided walking tour of Downtown Los Angeles

I have visited Los Angeles a total of 4 times, and only in my most recent visit did I finally explore Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA).

A few months ago, I purchased tickets for the Museum of Ice Cream – a pop up museum in the LA Arts District which was showing for the summer of 2017. The museum was nearby downtown, so I considered this the perfect opportunity to venture into the city center.

Most visitors will skip Downtown LA in favour of Hollywood, Santa Monica, or the theme parks. It’s understandable – LA’s inner city district isn’t really known for having tourist hot spots, but I believe that it’s worth putting aside a morning or an afternoon to explore.

I did some research before my visit, scouring various internet articles on the best things to see in DTLA. Here’s my self-guided walking tour of Downtown Los Angeles, plus a map I made for your reference!

Self-guided walking tour map DTLA

P – Parking
1 – The Last Bookstore
2 – Angels Flight Railway
3 – Grand Central Market
4 – Bradbury Building
5 – City Hall
6 – Walt Disney Concert Hall
7 – Los Angeles Public Library
8 – Bar with a view

Note: Los Angeles is a driving city. There are some trains and buses, but generally people drive everywhere. We spent at least 20 minutes driving around DTLA trying to find cheap street parking before we gave up and went into one of the paid car parks. I’m fairly sure we ended up parking in Joe’s Garage on the corner of 3rd St and Spring St, which cost us about $11 to park there for a few hours.

Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles
Hollywood Hotel, Los Angeles

Where we stayed:

Rob and I based our stay in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Hotel. This hotel is not actually in the heart of Hollywood as its name might suggest, but on the far east end – much closer to DTLA (which is one of the reasons I wanted to stay there). The location was within 15 minutes drive of Downtown, Griffith Observatory, and Hollywood.

The hotel has a bunch of recently updated rooms, one of which we were lucky enough to get for our booking. If you decide to stay at the Hollywood Hotel, you should definitely ask for one of these rooms if you have the option to choose!

The rooms at The Hollywood Hotel were tastefully decorated with local art, including canvases and framed pictures of Hollywood and Los Angeles, which really got us into the LA vibe.

The hotel also had a truly adorbs inner courtyard with a private bar that was open for 2 hours each evening, and the rates also included a full breakfast with an omelette + pancake bar (booyah!). This was honestly an amazing place to stay in Los Angeles.

The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles
The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles

1. The Last Bookstore

We started our walking tour at The Last Bookstore, a highly Instagrammable book shop in DTLA. This place might seem like a regular bookstore on first glance, but when you look a little closer, you’ll find that it has a wonderous collection of book themed art hidden throughout the shelves.

Upstairs, there are book sculptures like the above magical warped bookshelves, or regular bookshelves with circular holes in the middle, or books ordered not by any particular genre but by the rainbow colours of their covers. It’s what I imagine the mind of Matilda looks like on the inside.

Angels Flight Railway, Los Angeles

2. Angels Flight Railway

Angels Flight Railway is a funicular that opened in 1901. It was originally used to take passengers between Olive St and Hill St to shop in the markets at the bottom of the hill. You can still ride these adorable railway cars for just $1.00.

Unfortunately the railway was closed for maintenance when Rob and I visited, but it was still interesting to see this historic piece of Los Angeles juxtaposed with all the new skyscrapers surrounding it.

Grand Central Market, Los Angeles

3. Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market is another historic point in DTLA. This market has been operating since 1917 (100 years!) and was once the go-to place for LA’s stylish residents to buy their produce, baked goods, flowers, and coffee.

The current market is full of everything you would imagine fancy LA people to be craving, like organic kale salads and freshly pressed fruit juices. If you’re interested in discovering all the best foods in downtown, try this DTLA food tour.

The Bradbury Building, Los Angeles

4. Bradbury Building

I only knew about the Bradbury Building as an architecturally beautiful landmark from a list of things to see in DTLA, but Rob got pretty excited when he realised that this building was a major part of the set of Blade Runner (the old movie, not the new one!).

The building is mostly closed to the public except for the lobby area. If you enter from 3rd street, you’ll step right up to the most photogenic spot on the first set of stairs. The interior has a huge skylight ceiling, which lights up the wrought-iron balustrades and Victorian-style architecture. You can see this building (along with a few of the others on this list) through a DTLA filming locations tour.

View from City Hall, Los Angeles

5. City Hall

I was desperate to find a place to see views of downtown, so when I discovered that City Hall has a free observation deck, I quickly added it to my tour of DTLA.

It was a little confusing to get up the tower as there is no signage for it. What you have to do is this: Go in the visitors entrance off Main Street, then tell the security guard that you want to go up to the observation deck. They’ll give you some instructions, which is to go up 20 or so floors in one elevator, then switch to another elevator to go up another few floors, then once you have gone as far up as possible you take the stairs the rest of the way.

On a clear day, you’ll get a fabulous view of Los Angeles from this viewpoint! When you’re ready to leave, exit onto Spring Street then walk through the lovely Grand Park.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles

6. Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is known for its unique appearance. Designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry, the concert hall opened in 2003 and has been a center of musical culture in Los Angeles ever since.

While Rob and I just admired the building from the outside, you can actually explore the inside as well. Self-guided tours are available on most days between 10AM – 2PM or guided tours are offered twice daily on most Thursdays to Sundays. Both tour options take 60 minutes and are 100% free!

Los Angeles Public Library

7. LA Public Library

I have a thing about photographing libraries. I just love the towering bookcases, and the architecture of a library is often grand and interesting. The Los Angeles Public Library was no exception.

We initially took the escalators up to the top level for views of the atrium, which was mildly impressive, but the real wow-factor was found in the rotunda. This space has a gigantic dome ceiling, and every surface except the floor has been covered with elaborate paintings, some of which have been there since the library opened in the 1920s.

I really can’t describe how beautiful this room was, you have to see it for yourself! If you want to learn more about the architecture of the Los Angeles Public Library, the building is included as a stop on this DTLA architecture tour.

Los Angeles Revolving Restaurant

8. Bar with a view

In true Rob-and-Ash-style, we wanted to end our afternoon tour at a rooftop bar. Originally my plan was to go to The Standard Hotel for their rooftop bar, but as we exited the elevators, a security guard promptly told me that there were no cameras allowed and that I would have to check it in downstairs before coming back up to enjoy the bar minus my camera.

Now I have no idea why the hotel thinks that banning cameras at the rooftop bar is a good idea. What good is a view without a way to capture it? And wouldn’t people just use the cameras built into their smartphones to take photos instead? Fuming, I left the hotel and looked up another bar which would give us views of the city and allow me to take my camera with me.

We settled on the BonaVista Lounge, located in the The Westin Bonaventure Hotel. From the outside, the hotel appears as a set of golden glass towers. The lounge on the 34th floor is actually a revolving restaurant. The dream of the 70s is alive in Los Angeles.

While this kind of venue isn’t usually one that I would choose to visit on my travels, I have to admit it was satisfying to sit on the puffy armchairs and drink wine while the lounge did a full rotation over 1.5 hours. The view was pretty great – we could even see as far as Venice Beach right as the sun was setting over the ocean!

*I was a guest of Hollywood Hotel during my stay in Los Angeles. I’m proud to be an honest and transparent blogger, so every opinion expressed on AGWT is a true review of my experience!

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24 Responses to “A self-guided walking tour of Downtown Los Angeles”

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I think LA is actually an underrated city – the first few times that I visited I didn’t really enjoy it, but once I got past the generic tourist stuff and started digging deeper into the city’s attractions, I began to love LA! I hope you get to visit the city sometime soon, Charmaine!

  1. Victoria Sarinelli

    Just wanted to say, I’ve been researching online for self walking tours of DTLA and this is by far the best. I’ll take it with me when I visit next week. Thank you!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s so wonderful to hear, Victoria! I actually wrote this post as I couldn’t find much info online for my own visit to DTLA, so I figured it would be useful for other people. I hope you enjoy your time in Los Angeles 🙂

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m so glad that you found it useful, Paula! 🙂

  2. Christy

    Hi Ashlea: Is this recommended as a walking tour? I’m not familiar with the distances between each spot, so am wondering if you access each spot on foot, or by auto? Please let me know. Also, if it is a walking tour, is it appropriate even for Seniors? I would like to come, and bring some friends. Thanks, Christy

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Yes, it’s easy to get between each place on foot 🙂 It would be ok for reasonably fit seniors. I wouldn’t recommend driving around downtown as there isn’t much parking.

  3. Jess Pacheco

    Extremely helpful. Friends are visiting from New Mexico today and I needed to organize a little day adventure for their spur of the moment trip and this just seems perfect. Plus, I live in Koreatown, which is a 20 minute bus ride from downtown. Totally perfect. Thank you!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh that’s perfect! Koreatown is definitely a place that I want to check out next time I’m in LA 😉 I hope your friends enjoyed the downtown walking tour!

  4. Blair Niblett

    This tour made our day, Ashlea. Thanks for such a carefully curated itinerary of the five blocks around our hotel. We’re writing this comment from the lobby bar of the Intercontinental (the lobby is on the 70th floor, so the view is epic). We discovered that both the Standard and the Bonaventure (where we stayed) don’t open the rooftop lounges until 4pm.

    Happy trails!
    Blair & Clayton.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That is great news, Blair! I’m so glad you enjoyed the DTLA walking tour. Good to know about the opening hours of the rooftop bars and the lobby of the Intercontinental – I’m always on the lookout for a nice free view 😉

  5. Ann Boden

    I have about 2/3 of a day here- Sat arrival, 230pm at The LA Downtown Hotel on Figueroa. I’m free til 4pm Sun. Plan to go to 8 am Sun Mass at Cathedral. Need ideas for a drink spot and a dinner spot on Sat eve. Ideas? Can a single woman walk safely in this area on Sat nite? Of course, I’d plan to return to my hotel before 10pm.
    A lot of ques, I know. Any thoughts?
    Thanks so much,

  6. Lesley

    Thanks for this rundown of DTLA. We ares trying here currently and found there’s actually a lot to do round here. I like the same things as you, book stores, libraries, city views. I actually think we will spend all our time here in this area. Many thanks once again. Ps I’m staying at Level Living apartments which is great and near a whole foods store. Regards a New Zealand traveller

  7. Elizabeth

    Thanks for this post, it was really help full to organize my visit and make out the most of it. I only missed the City Hall, because I visited only for the weekend.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m glad you enjoyed your time in DTLA, Elizabeth! You can check out City Hall next time you’re in the area 🙂

  8. Betty Azadeh

    I’m in LA 4 a few days and this was great. The map was most helpful and we did almost all of it except LA Library and hotel with a view. We braved it after The Last Bookstore and caught the 720 bus to La Brea Park and caught the last hour of the tar pit. We are staying near there. Cool museums to see as well.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh wow, I’ve never heard of the La Brea tar pits – looks like a fun activity 😀 I’m so glad you enjoyed my suggestions for DTLA!

  9. Michèle Wilmot-Smith

    A really excellent little walking tour, thank you so much for sharing it. As you can see, it is still being used – we followed it only yesterday!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That is fantastic news, thanks Michele! This is surprisingly one of my more popular posts – it seems there are many people like you who are looking for things to do in DTLA!

  10. Belinda

    We will be doing a lot of our exploring on foot so this is great . Thank you for sharing.

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      No problem, Belinda! Enjoy your time in DTLA 🙂

  11. Queenie

    I used your tour route to do a little DTLA walk about with out of town relatives. It was just perfect and I would recommend that anyone take advantage of this post. All I would suggest is reminders that the Disney Concert Hall has free tours, so check their site to be on time (we missed it) and maybe not hit the Central Market at noon. It was great food but super packed. Thank you!

    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m so glad you enjoyed DTLA, Queenie! That’s a good point about the free tours of the concert hall – it’s always worth checking those times before you arrive. And yes the market can get super busy… I think that visiting on a weekday will be a little quieter than a weekend day.


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