We all know that tourists flock to Los Angeles, but they’re not the only ones who love the City of Angels. Given the city’s location, climate, and reputation, many immigrants have settled in the area throughout the past 200 years, enlivening the streets with rich culture and tasty cuisine. Here are some of the coolest ethnic neighborhoods to visit around the city.

El Pueblo de Los Angeles

Photo by Britton Perelman

This is an important LA district for several reasons. For one thing, it’s built on the site of the pueblo where 44 settlers built a farming community in 1781 — typically considered the birthplace of the city. But in addition to the site’s historic significance, the city has also transformed it into an enclave of Mexican culture.

Many of the district’s craft shops and restaurants bring a taste of Old Mexico to the neighborhood. Spend an afternoon strolling down Olvera Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare complete with 19th-century buildings and a traditional marketplace, and make sure to soak in your surroundings. If you’re visiting on the weekend, you’re likely to bump into a mariachi band trumpeting away or a group of dancers whirling through the streets. If you love architecture or history, stop by Avila Adobe — built in 1818, it’s oldest residence that stands in LA today.

Photo by Britton Perelman
Photo by Britton Perelman

El Pueblo de Los Angeles is located in downtown L.A., about two blocks northeast of City Hall.

Koreatown

Perfect for late nights on the town, Koreatown is packed with nightclubs and 24-hour businesses. There are plenty of strip malls, as well as restaurants with delicious items on their menus, so remember to bring your wallet and your appetite.

Covering about three square miles, this is a large — and diverse — part of the city. You’ll find Korean signage, karaoke clubs, spas, bars, and other businesses on just about every block, but you’ll also notice that a large Latino population calls K-town home. In fact, this area was once a Hollywood hotspot until the film industry moved on to other parts of town. When that happened, new groups flooded in, bringing many new businesses with them.

K-town is located west of downtown LA and south of Hollywood, in the mid-Wilshire district.

Chinatown

Chinatown is a can’t-miss destination on your trip to southern California. Complete with pagodas, red lanterns, and temples, it’s one of the most picturesque ethnic neighborhoods in LA, and the food is unbeatable.

On 943 North Broadway, you’ll find Chinatown’s main attraction, Central Plaza. With neon lights, shops, restaurants, and souvenirs everywhere, the Plaza is lively and energetic. This corner of Chinatown is even more exciting during major celebrations like Chinese New Year, when you’ll find live music, parades, and firecrackers at the Plaza. And on nearby Chung King Road, you can ogle art in high-end galleries — just beware of thick crowds on opening nights!

No trip to Chinatown is complete without refueling over dim sum; luckily, you can find the tasty dishes on virtually any menu in the neighborhood.

Photo by Britton Perelman

Chinatown is located in downtown LA, just northeast of City Hall.

Historic Filipinotown

This ethnic neighborhood is relatively small and unknown, but definitely merits a visit, especially for art lovers. While only a small percentage of California’s Filipino population actually lives in this area, Historic Filipinotown remains an important cultural site for the group. The neighborhood’s designation is recent, with LA recognizing Historic Filipinotown in 2002, when it became the first official Filipino neighborhood outside the Philippines.

Make sure to check out the large mural — officially titled “Gintong Kasaysayan, Gintong Pamana,” — that celebrates Filipinos and their contributions to the United States. You’ll find the 150-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall mural at Unidad Park on Beverly Boulevard; then you can round out your art tour of the neighborhood by visiting the Filipino-Americans’ World War II Veterans Memorial at Lake Street Park.

Filipinotown is located northwest of downtown LA in Echo Park.

Thai Town

This neighborhood is about as close to Thailand as any traveler can get without leaving the United States. A must-visit for anyone craving curry, satay, or pad Thai, the neighborhood is best known for its food. Some of the most popular stops in Thai Town include restaurants like Jitlada and Ruen Pair.

Drive into Thai Town through its west entrance on Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue, where you’ll be greeted by 16-foot-tall twin statues of a mythical half-lion, half-human creature. On Wednesday and Saturday mornings, Buddhist monks wander the streets in orange robes, but the very best day to visit Thai Town is on the first Saturday in April. On this day, the Songkran Festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors with a parade, handmade goods, food, and entertainment — all to celebrate the Thai New Year.

Thai Town is located in east Hollywood, just north of Little Armenia.

Fairfax District

Photo by Britton Perelman

This neighborhood, located on a few blocks along Fairfax Avenue, is LA’s historic heart of Jewish culture, although recent years have also made it an important hub for streetwear. Here, kosher restaurants like Canter’s serve as the backdrop for pedestrians who stroll past in Yeezys. Stop in at Canter’s for pastrami sandwiches or matzo ball soup, then take a walk through the rest of the neighborhood to soak in the traditional markets and restaurants alongside trendy brands and pop-up stores.

Since the streetwear scene hit Fairfax Avenue, a few Jewish establishments have moved about four miles away to the Pico-Robertson area. There, you’ll find restaurants like the Milky Way, which was owned by Leah Adler — Steven Spielberg’s mother — until she passed away in 2017.

Fairfax District is located on Fairfax Avenue, between Melrose and Beverly, northwest of central LA. Pico-Robertson is located southeast of Beverly Hills.

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Whitney Brown
Whitney Brown is a recent journalism graduate and travel writer based in Utah. She has lived in France and Ireland, and she's always planning her next big adventure. In addition to her passion for travel, Whitney loves archaeology, photography and floral design.