City Guide: Downtown LA

Visit DTLA - Rooftop pool at Freehand LA

I worked in Downtown Los Angeles in 2004, back when it was basically Skid Row West. I remember staring out at the Art Deco facades and literally watching them crumble. This could be so beautiful! I thought. Nobody wanted to visit DTLA back then and truthfully, I was so skeeved out by it that I didn’t really want to work there.

But just around that time, things began to change. The real estate boom inspired investors to redevelop entire city blocks, restoring historic banks into lofts for young hipsters. And about five years ago, people stopped asking Why would you want to visit DTLA? when I’d head south for the weekend. What was once LA’s black eye has suddenly become one of its coolest destinations.

Here’s how to visit DTLA my way.

Stay

Freehand

It’s very difficult to bridge the gap between deco and modern in a way that doesn’t feel forced, but with gorgeous woven wall hangings, geometric woodwork, and Picasso-esque art pieces, this warm, inviting space makes it feel effortless. My favorite part of the hotel is the roof deck which includes a gorgeous pool and restaurant area surrounded by sky scrapers. It’s a must-visit on one of LA’s many balmy nights.

NoMad

The historic Giannini Place building – originally HQ for Bank of Italy — been fully restored to its 20’s-era glory, complete with intricate plaster ceilings and luscious upholstery and woodwork. I love sitting at the bar upstairs and watching the bartenders craft deliciously complicated cocktails. With so many reductions and tinctures, I wonder how they remember which goes where!

Visit DTLA - Grand Central Market InteriorEat

Grand Central Market 

Oggle cases of artisanal pastas and chow on authentic burritos at this freshly restored food hall. With top-notch vendors like Eggslut, Horse Thief BBQ, and Belcampo Meat Co., even the pickiest eater will find something to love.

Terroni

We have plenty of great Italian spots in San Francisco, but I still absolutely crave Terroni. The meatballs are tender, delicate perfection and the pasta with black truffles (when in season) gets me every time. Be sure to swing by the attached Italian market to pick up a few delicacies to take home.

Bottega Louie

Just thinking about the beautifully displayed cases of eclairs and cannolis makes me giddy! The patisserie cases are lined with rainbows of macarons, flaky almonds croissants, and crisp and creamy Napoleons, all filling your noise with a bouquet of carmelized sugar and molten chocolate.

But you’re missing out if you don’t sit down for brunch. I’m a sucker for a great eggs Benedict with an expertly-crafted bloody Mary, and Bottega Louie serves up the best of both.

Bestia

You may think your Uber driver is lost as she winds her way through the warehouses of the Arts Ditrict, but when you see the line of cars queing behind a lofty, two-story brick building, you’ll know you’re in the right place.

Bestia is one of those restaurants where pulling up a stool at the counter is almost imperative. There are just so many questions you’ll want answered immediately! Important ones, like Is the pork belly a la plancha truly big enough to share? (Answer: Yes, but you won’t want to.) or Can I order the ricotta dumplings as an appetizer? (Answer: Of course! And you should, because you’ll also want to have the Branzino.) This is forward-thinking, chef-driven cuisine meets LA cool, and it belongs on every visiting foodie’s short list.

Shop

Visit DTLA: Alchemy Works
Alchemy Works in the Arts District

Alchemy Works

Located in the bustling Arts District, Alchemy Works is a chic and airy gallery, retail and events space. It showcases a carefully curated selection ranging from Pamela Love jewelry and Eleven Six textiles, to Ursa Major’s natural beauty products. While the boutique/gallery space definitely skews high end, the Warby Parker store-within-a-store insures that at least the eyewear is affordable.

BNKR

Australian fashion designers are proving they are having more than just a moment. With it’s broad selection of affordable Aussie Brands (CMEO Collective, Fifth Label), BNKR is THE place if you’re looking to sprinkle your wardrobe with down under cool. Among my favorite finds here: a pair of lace-up, block-toed heels by Jaggar perfect for those times when I want to wear a heel but also need to actually walk, and a body-con LBD for when I’m channeling my inner Erika Jayne.

Visit DTLA - Infinity Mirrored Room at The Broad
Infinity Mirrored Room at The Broad

Do

The Broad

At once dazzling and accessible, there’s a reason why this contemporary art museum seems to pop up on every visitor’s Instagram feed. Put Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Rooms on your short list. These LED displays give you the experience of endlessness, making you challenge your cosmic role in the universe and your conception of space.

Arts District

Weaving through this vast network of warehouses on foot yields many colorful discoveries. Street art blooms on brick walls when you turn the corner, music throbs from a gallery in the most unexpected place, and restaurants spring up down narrow, ivy-lined alleyways. Picturesque, it is not, but there’s a reason it’s a weekend destination for locals. On my do-not-miss list: the shops on 3rd street and of course, Bestia, which I mentioned earlier.

Angel’s Flight

Built in 1911, the word’s shortest railway was originally meant to save well-heeled residents the sweaty walk up Bunker Hill. Just a dollar (or 50 cents with a Metro Card) will save you the same 298-foot climb. Touristy? Yes. But I love that this funny little funicular provides a connection between the DTLA that was, and the one that is now, as this formerly depressed area continues its rise from decades of neglect.

 

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