How to Spend Your Time in Downtown LA

Welcome to the first part of my first ever blogging series, my LA Travel Series. I’ve been very lucky in 2017 that my wonderful fiancé has taken me on a fantastic trip to Los Angeles. In this first part, I’m going to give you a run through of how to spend your time in Downtown LA. If you’re travelling to LA for pleasure, an event or for business, it’s highly likely you’re going to be spending some of your time in Downtown LA (DTLA). I highly suggest that you block out some time to shop, eat and enjoy this amazingly diverse part of the city.

Exploring Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown LA is vibrant and bustling. From amazing eateries to beautiful wall art, DTLA is a wonderful place to visit and should definitely be on your LA bucket list. The architecture is especially interesting. Buildings range from old Victorian-style with corniced roofs to modern skyscrapers, towering above everything else in the skyline. Trust me, you aren’t going to fall short of things to see and do when you visit the area!

DTLA is exciting, beautiful and varied. There are bustling apartment complexes, a thriving financial and business district and so many wonderful shops and eateries. The beautiful thing about the area is that it is so diverse. From lawyers to hipsters, DTLA has people of all sorts going about their business or just enjoying the landmarks.

Our apartment, which we booked on Airbnb, was beautiful and on a busy street (E 6th St & Main). You can find the apartment on Airbnb if you’d like to see the area and pictures. We were just a 5-minute walk from Starbucks for breakfast, 5 minutes to Pershing Square & Metro Station and 10 minutes walk to 7th St Metro Station (links to Santa Monica, Hollywood, Universal City and Union Station). In other words, we were completely central.

I highly recommend Airbnb for your next trip! Live like a local while you visit your next city & get £30 off your first booking when you sign up with Airbnb today.

What to do in downtown LA

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Travel to/from DTLA

We Uber-ed between LAX and our apartment in DTLA. This was the most convenient option for us, as we had to collect/drop off the keys from our Airbnb lockbox and our flight got in later in the evening when we arrived. An Uber to/from DTLA cost around $40 depending on where you’re staying, which is a relatively good pricing for a 35-40 minute journey.

We also used Uber to travel to/from some locations in and around the rest of Los Angeles, if it was slightly later at night or we were quite tired from a long day. There are also plenty of taxis and cabs which you can just jump into, taxi ranks can be found outside most major locations.

The metro system in LA is very easy to deal with, perhaps the easiest that I’ve used when I’ve travelled. A single fare on the Metro is $1.75, with a day pass being $7. A single fare is good for transfers in Metro stations or onto Metro buses within 2 hours of first use. We used the Metro every day and it was safe, very clean and very efficient! LA are currently expanding the Metro system to make it even easier to get around the city, so if you’re visiting from 2018+ there will be even more stations and even more routes to help you get around easier.

If you’re driving or hiring a car, then DTLA is full of car parks which started from $2/hour. Prices will vary depending on where you are in the city and valet parking is available at most hotels and city highlights.

OUE Skyspace LA, LA's tallest building

OUE Skyspace LA, LA’s tallest building

A View of the City at OUE Skyspace LA

On our first day in Los Angeles, we didn’t have any plans so we stuck around Downtown and headed up to Skyspace LA – LA’s tallest skyscraper and California’s highest observation deck. Skyspace actually has a public viewing platform close to the top, so you can get out, walk around and see LA below you for miles. If you are struggling to decide how to spend your time in Downtown LA, this is your one must-do! It really is an amazing feeling to be so high above the city and see everything spread in front of you! Fun fact: I’d never been on a skyscraper before, so the 70th floor of Skyspace LA is actually the highest I’ve ever been in a building.

Another fun fact: Skyspace LA actually has a glass slide on the exterior of the building. I was way too much of a woose to give it a go, but if you want to check it out I highly recommend watching Guillermo from The Jimmy Kimmel Show testing it out.

Here’s our view from the top. We got a warm, clear day for this, thankfully! It made it such a great experience. Pair this with it being first thing in the morning on a weekday, and it was actually really empty, too – so we got to chat to some of the staff who were so knowledgeable about the building and the city, and were able to point us to various landmarks and buildings that could be seen. If you squint really carefully at the pic below, you can just make out the Hollywood sign from this spot!

View from the top of OUE Skyspace LA, LA's Tallest Building

View from the top of OUE Skyspace LA, LA’s Tallest Building

Want to visit OUE Skyspace LA?

I more than highly recommend a visit to Skyspace if you’re in LA. You can spend as much time as you want at the top and enjoy really incredible views! PS, there’s elevators, so you don’t have to walk to the top…

Tickets to Skyspace LA start from just $19.00 per person and can be purchased online. Tickets are sold in 30-minute intervals, so you’ll have a specific time to enter. However, you can spend as much time as you like when you get to the top! There’s a small cafe at the top if you want to grab a bite to eat or drink. We spent at least an hour at the top and even skyped home so our families could see the view!

Walt Disney Concert Hall

This is possibly one of the main attractions and a top ‘thing to see’ when you look at any Downtown LA guide. We didn’t manage to catch a show, though that would have been amazing, but just seeing this iconic piece of deconstructivism was pretty inspiring! You can walk right around the building, and there are a few gardens scattered around, which lets you really feel just how very complex and wonderful this building is.

Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Disney Philharmonic

Walt Disney Concert Hall, home of the Disney Philharmonic

LA Live

LA Live is your spot for food, drink and sports in DTLA. Huge screens, outdoor eating and plenty of drinks to go around, there’s definitely something for everyone. There are restaurants of different cuisines (Chinese, Mexican and American food are just some of your options) so no matter your occasion you’ll find something to suit your needs.

We particularly loved Smashburger here at LA live. Smashburger is something we don’t have in Scotland and I highly recommend trying the food here if you haven’t already! It’s quick, inexpensive and perfect for tourists. You get the LA Live experience without the price tag and the food is great. Aidan really loved their strawberry milkshake, and we may have eaten here more than once on our 2 week trip!

There is a bowling alley, shows almost every evening and nightclubs for your nightlife needs here. LA Live is right next to the Staples Center and the LACC so if you’re visiting a game or a show it will be perfect for relaxing or partying before and after your event.

LA Live is also home to the Grammy Museum, which just like the Hollywood Walk of Fame actually has the names of Grammy-winning musicians, songs, soundtracks and albums on the ground around here. We didn’t actually visit the museum, just the names, but if you’re a music buff then this is a must-see for you!

Cocktail platter from Tom's Urban, a bar in LA Live

Cocktail Platter from Tom’s Urban, a bar in LA Live

Wall Art

Scattered all around LA are murals and art pieces that both inspire and pull on the heartstrings. I really appreciate beautiful graffiti and street art, and if you’re like me in that aspect then you’ll find DTLA such a beautiful place. Pieces varied from intricate advertising murals to extremely artistic pieces to inspirational quotes. Here’s a snap of my favourite piece, which reads: You are a Goddess living in a city of Angels. You can find it on the back of The Bloc in DTLA and is the perfect photo op!

You are a Goddess living in a City of Angels

You are a Goddess living in a City of Angels – Find it at the back of The Bloc, around 700 Flower St

How to spend your time in Downtown LA

There’s so much to do here! You’ll probably want to plan in advance how to spend your time in Downtown LA! To summarise, here’s my top to-dos:

  • Amazing wall murals
  • Shopping
  • Food, drinks and entertainment at LA Live
  • The Grammy Museum
  • Amazing views from OUE Skyspace LA

Your Travel Checklist

If you’re travelling to Downtown LA, don’t forget to check out the following!

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26 responses to “How to Spend Your Time in Downtown LA”

  1. Love how much detail and effort you put into this post! I’ve always wanted to visit the states and LA is up there on my list of places to go now x

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks love! It’s my first travel post so I struggled a little with getting across all the detail I needed without droning on too much! You’ll love LA, promise! x

  2. Krista says:

    I stayed in LA for a few months last year and this guide makes me wish I’d spent more time in DTLA!! Beautiful pictures Gemma! xoxo

    • Gemma says:

      Thank you so much, Krista! I’m soo jealous that you got to spend a few months in LA, I just loved it so much and would love to live there for a bit! DTLA isn’t super ‘touristy’ but there’s still plenty to see and do! xx

  3. Char says:

    This is brilliant! I’m staying in Downtown LA when I visit this year and I’ve seen so many things that say it’s ‘sketchy’. But reading this has reassured me! Definitely bookmarking this – thanks for sharing <3

    Char xo ||

    • Gemma says:

      Hi Char! I was a little worried about the same thing because I’d read the same! In honesty, LA does have a massive housing crisis and there are a lot of homeless. Most people are harmless, they’re just living their lives. I found it more upsetting than sketchy. Just be aware of opportunists and know your way from A to B. Enjoy your trip! xx

  4. WOW! I have been to LA before but never downtown! I wish I would have taken the time to visit there!

  5. Delphine says:

    I wouldn’t have thought Downtown LA had anything to offer but you’ve proven me wrong! Great post!

    • Gemma says:

      It’s true, it’s definitely not the most tourist-y of the LA areas, but it is beautiful in its own way! For us it was a nice break from the heavier tourist areas, especially for food in the evening!

  6. Great article and great pictures !! I have never been to LA yet but I’ll keep your tips in mind 😉

  7. Barbara says:

    Such fun! I haven’t been to L.A. in years. This brings back good memories. Excellent post. 🙂

    • Gemma says:

      Thank you for reading, Barbara! Glad I was able to stir up some memories for you. Perhaps you’ll visit again soon! xx

  8. Kelly says:

    Hey love! Adore your posts, I don’t know how I wasn’t subscribed before, but I just did! This post was definitely informative, being that I want to go back and visit L.A. so I’ll definitely keep these places in mind on my next visit there! By the way, I nominated you for a Blogger Recognition Award! If you wouldn’t mind checking out my latest post on, that’d be lovely. xx

  9. Great ideas! I haven’t made it to LA yet. Gonna pin this for when I make it out there. Aloha!


    • Gemma says:

      Hey Ariana, thanks for stopping by! The weather was amazing while we were there which is something we aren’t used to in Scotland! We actually did manage to get out of the city, we only spent about a day and a half in downtown out of our two weeks – more posts to come on what we did on the rest of our trip!

  11. This looks gorgeous! You took some awesome pictures. LA is on the top of my list. I went in middle school but I know now that I would enjoy it so much and have such a different experience now. Great work!

    • Gemma says:

      Thanks so much, Lexi! I found LA to be very adult oriented, especially when we were outside of typical tourist areas, so you’d definitely enjoy it more now! x

  12. Sazra says:

    Wowzers, sounds like a beautiful place to visit. 🙂

  13. What a great list! Those views are amazing!

  14. Love this, we’re going to LA in April for the 6th time. I’ve saved this post as there are some great places mentioned that we’ve never even thought of going.

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