Think you know Downtown LA? Think again. This once gritty area of Los Angeles has undergone a renaissance, fast becoming one of the city’s trendiest areas.
Downtown (or DTLA as locals call it) offers a buzz, and an exciting undercurrent parallel to the Big Apple. Gone are the days when DTLA was only the industrial heart of Los Angeles: with twenty years of transformation under its belt, the area is barely recognisable to its former self.
DTLA now stands firmly on its own two feet as a vibrant inner-district in the city of Angels, a district filled with art, culture, cutting-edge cuisine and an ever-growing hotel scene. For those looking for a taste of big city life, DTLA is the place to be – and these are the places you need to know in 2023.
WHAT TO PACK
Ace Hotel is a stylish, boutique hotel and (self-termed) creative mothership located in the city’s historic core. Formerly the United Artists Theatre (1927-1990), the building was beautifully restored and transformed, opening as Ace Hotel Downtown in 2014. Look carefully and you’ll see that much of the original Spanish Gothic and Art Deco architecture has been retained – both inside and out. As one of the many ‘lifestyle hotels’ in the district, it features everything you might need in a well-equipped room, plus a whole lot more: most notably, the original 1920s, 1,600-seater theatre (founded by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin), frequently visited by new and upcoming artists on tour.
Downtown LA Proper
Downtown LA Proper is housed in a beautifully-restored, 1926, landmark building. Kelly Wearstler was the interior designer, and her work seamlessly blends the past and present with compelling design, vintage influence and local art. Interiors are inspired by French, Moroccan and Mexican design, with checkerboard tiling on the walls, dark teak furnishings, and finished with cacti and succulents. The hotel also has a number of onsite amenities, including a trio of drinking and dining spots to choose from: the lobby’s Caldo Verde, the ground-floor speakeasy, Dahlia, and – on the roof – the pool and lounge bar restaurant Cara Cara. The 24-hour fitness centre is ideal for jet-lag-induced midnight workouts, while the complimentary bikes are great for heading out to explore everything DTLA has to offer.
Hotel Per La
In the heart of downtown, boutique hotel, Hotel Per La, is housed in a beautifully restored 1920s building. Interiors are spacious and elegant with high ceilings, hardwood floors, and Spanish-inspired decor. It’s very bold and very beautiful, as can be expected of interior designer Jacques Garcia. Each room provides an urban escape decorated with modern features such as brown leather accents, soft sage panelling and warm brass fixtures. Community plays a big role in the hotel too; local food and drink brands can be found on the menus and commissioned artworks show off the lesser-known corners of the DTLA neighbourhood.
EAT AND DRINK
La Lo La
High in the sky – on the 34th floor of the new AC Hotel – is the new spot to watch, La Lo La. Here, enjoy Spanish-style tapas and cocktails while watching the sun drop behind the Hollywood hills in the distance. An ideal spot from day to night, dishes are made for sharing and highlights include ahi tuna tostadas, Marcona almonds sprinkled with rosemary and paprika, and pan con tomate. The cocktail menu offers innovative alcoholic and non-alcoholic options, perfectly paired with their equally-impressive menu.
Bavel is a Middle Eastern restaurant located in the Arts District of downtown Los Angeles. The brainchild of husband and wife team, Ori Menashe and Genevieve Gergis – who together have a combined experience of over 20 years in the culinary industry – it continues to garner praise as one of the best restaurants in the district. The menu features a modern take on Middle Eastern cuisine with dishes showcasing flavours from Morocco to Israel, Turkey to Egypt. It’s no coincidence that the pair have family roots in all of these countries, too. Standout dishes include the Hummus Borlotti Masabacha made with lemon, garlic and zhoug; the Hawaij Cauliflower with mustard seeds, serrano, crème fraiche, curry leaves and rose petals; and the Oyster Mushroom Kebab served with lovage, sumac, lemon, and avocado puree.
Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market has stood the test of time since it opened its doors more than 100 years ago, in 1917. A local landmark in its own right, and the heart of authentic street food in the district, it began its life as a wholesale market selling everything from local seafood to fresh vegetables. Now, the market is home to almost 40 vendors selling a variety of cuisine in a part street-food, part food-hall style. Eggslut is a popular place for breakfast (but be warned, its popularity comes with long lines), or pick up a chop suey at China Cafe, freshly-made pasta at Knead, seafood tacos and La Tostadería, and pastries at Bastion Bakery.
On the rooftop of the Downtown LA Proper you’ll find Cara Cara, a restaurant and bar with a view. Honouring a farm-to-table approach, the menu is made up of small plates – each with fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from local growers. Chef Suzanne Goin is at the helm and focusses on California-inspired cuisine. Highlights include the seafood ceviche and white trumpet mushroom focaccia. Not to mention the views across the Downtown LA skyline.
Tilt Coffee is a small, minimalist coffee bar in the centre of DTLA, but it’s hard to miss with its succulent-lined roof and silver lotus-flower installation hanging above the outdoor seating area. The team at Tilt are proud micro-roasters of their own beans, so have an authentic knowledge of each bean, where it has come from, and its individual notes. If you’re a fan of artisan coffee (or of baked goods) be sure to make this a pit stop.
THE TO-DO LIST
While it may be a newer museum in the DTLA art space, The Broad has quickly gained a cult following since opening in 2015. The museum’s collection focuses on post-war and contemporary art, and includes works by artists such as Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama and Mark Bradford. Recently, the museum has been home to the first showing of a large body of work by pop artist Keith Haring in their Art is for Everybody exhibition, featuring over 120 pieces of his work.
The Row DTLA
The Row DTLA is a hub of creativity and culture, describing itself as a ‘city within a city’. Here, discover more than a few new brands pushing the boundaries of commerce and dining. Look out for ARJ – artisan homeware embodying Californian simplicity with Japanese philosophy. Each piece is made with simple, nature-inspired tones that fuse Eastern and Western design; from rice bowls to ceremonial teapots, you’ll leave wanting to bring each and every piece home.
MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art)
Opened in 1979, MOCA houses a collection of over 7,000 works of art, dating from the 1940s to the present day – and is the only artist-founded museum in the city of Los Angeles. Displays come from a range of contemporary artists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, as well as up-and-coming artists such as New York-based Amy Sherald.
Amidst the metropolis of the inner city lies Gloria Molina Grand Park (Grand Park for short), which spans 12 acres and is an inner urban oasis for city dwellers. The park is named after local social justice leader, the late Gloria Molina; a leader and a fighter for social justice, health and equity. Come weekends, the park hosts yoga and Sunday DJ Sessions where local musicians, dancers, DJs and spoken word artists are given a platform to share their voices with the local community.
Lead image: Downtown LA Proper
We may earn a commission if you buy something from any affiliate links on our site.