Starstruck travelers aren’t the only ones who love Los Angeles. 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
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 — land that’s 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. And if you love architecture or history, don’t miss an excursion to Avila Adobe — built in 1818, it’s oldest residence that stands in LA today.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles is located in downtown L.A., about two blocks northeast of City Hall.
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 — area 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 (and exciting) businesses with them.
K-town is located west of downtown LA and south of Hollywood, in the mid-Wilshire district.
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 on top of everything else, the food is unbeatable.
On 943 North Broadway, you’ll find Chinatown’s main attraction, Central Plaza. With shops, restaurants, souvenirs, and neon lights everywhere, the Plaza is lively and energetic. This corner of Chinatown becomes even more exciting during major celebrations like Chinese New Year, when you’ll find live music, parades, and firecrackers here. And on nearby Chung King Road, you can gaze at 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.
Chinatown is located in downtown LA, just northeast of City Hall.
This ethnic neighborhood is relatively small and unknown, but it 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 only 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 significant contributions in the United States. You’ll find the 150-foot-wide, 30-foot-tall mural at Unidad Park on Beverly Boulevard; after taking a look at it, you can round out your art tour by visiting the Filipino-Americans’ World War II Veterans Memorial at Lake Street Park.
Filipinotown is located northwest of downtown LA in Echo Park.
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.
For the best experience, 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.
In this neighborhood, located on a few blocks along Fairfax Avenue, you’ll find the heart of LA’s Jewish community, although recent years have also transformed the area into 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 alongside trendy 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.