Given its size, Los Angeles isn’t typically considered “walkable.” That said, part of the city’s downtown area (known affectionately as DTLA) is easily traversable by foot. So, find a decent parking garage, venture out with your camera, and use this guide to build your very own walking tour of DTLA.
Note: The landmarks on this list are all within reasonable distance of one another, so it’s possible to start at any and move on from there.
Between Third Street and Ninth Street, 12 historic theaters line the busy lanes of Broadway (all of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places). Once at the center of the Los Angeles entertainment scene, these buildings now stand as a reminder of LA’s opulent past and advancement into the digital film age. Aim your camera up at the classic marquees as you walk along, and try to get a peek inside these former movie palaces if you can.
The Broadway Theaters include (in order, starting at Ninth Street): United Artists Theater, Orpheum Theatre, Rialto Theater, Tower Theatre, Globe Theatre, State Theatre, Palace Theatre, Los Angeles Theatre, Arcade Theater, Cameo Theater, Roxie Theatre, and Million Dollar Theater.
The Last Bookstore
Just off Broadway, at the corner of Fifth and Spring, sits the Last Bookstore. This independent shop was founded in 2005 by Josh Spencer, who was worried about the lasting legacy of the printed word in the digital age (hence the name). Three locations later, the 22,000-square-foot space beckons to bookworms everywhere, as it’s the largest store of used and new books in the state. Additionally, the space is particularly photogenic, with incredibly high ceilings, rows upon rows of books, plenty of “artisan” spaces, a book tunnel, and even a labyrinth.
The Bradbury Building
Featured prominently in “Blade Runner,” along with a whole list of other movies, the Bradbury Building is located on the corner of Broadway and Third Street, making it a no-brainer add to any tour of DTLA. Head inside for a quick poke around — you’ll be relegated to the ground floor and the first landing only, since the rest of the building is still working office spaces. But that’s more than enough room to see the building’s ornate ironwork staircases, skylit atrium, polished wood finishes, and birdcage elevator. Stepping inside this historic structure is like leaving modern Los Angeles for the early 20th century (which is probably why it’s such a popular filming location in the first place).
Grand Central Market
This DTLA staple is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week. Grand Central Market has been in operation since 1917 and has continued to reflect the changes and renovations happening in the surrounding area. Today, you’ll find a hip market clad in neon signage with plenty of varied food options. To get a feel for what’s available, head through the market with your camera first, and then decide what you want to eat. The market also hosts regular events, such as jazz performances, trivia and game competitions, movie night, and holiday marketplaces, so be sure to check their calendar to see if any overlap with your visit.
After getting a bite to eat, head out Grand Central Market’s Hill Street entrance and pop across the street to Angel’s Flight. Though it was closed in 2013 for a redesign and safety update that ended up taking several years, the funicular began welcoming visitors again for rides up and down its 298 feet of track in August of 2017. Though it’s incredibly short, Angel’s Flight is a classic Los Angeles experience — and, for just $2 round trip, how could you resist?
The Broad and Walt Disney Concert Hall
Between Grand Avenue and Hope Street, you’ll find two incredible buildings: the Broad and the Walt Disney Concert Hall. With its honeycomb-like facade and modern art exhibits, the Broad (rhymes with “road”) is a great stop in DTLA. If you have time, add in a visit to the museum itself, which features both permanent and temporary installations. Just across Second Street, you’ll find the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a stunning structure of steel where you can see performances by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and other classical or jazz ensembles. Though you’ll have to pay to see a show, photographing the unique building is totally free.
Just past First Street, Grand Park is a green gathering space for Angelenos in an otherwise completely urban part of the city. This 12-acre park includes fountains, courtyards, performance lawns, and movable furniture. Given L.A.’s near-perfect weather, Grand Park hosts programs and events year round and stands as a completely eco-friendly area. It’s open every day from 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., so grab a chair and relax before heading on to your next stop.
When you’re done perusing Grand Park, head up to the top of City Hall (across Spring Street), where you’ll find an observation deck that overlooks all of DTLA. This free viewing platform is a great spot to snag photos of LA from above, but be sure to check out the interior as well.
Olvera Street and El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Just across the highway is El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument and Olvera Street. This part of town includes some of the oldest buildings in Los Angeles, and is always alive with people. Head up and down Olvera Street, and snap shots of the people, shops, and buildings along the pedestrian-only thoroughfare.
Finally, don’t forget to stop at the historic Union Station (right off Alameda Street). The main train hub of LA, which still serves around 110,000 passengers every day, is a photographer’s dreamland. Combining Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne styles, the station is filled with opulent architecture and massive rooms — the waiting room and ticket lobby being two of the most well-known. Fiddle around with your camera settings and go to town!