Downtown Los Angeles Is Having a Moment — Here’s What to Experience in the Booming Neighborhood

Downtown LA Proper Hotel roof
Photo: The Ingalls

Dubbed DTLA, downtown Los Angeles has established itself as not just one of the most talked-about neighborhoods in the City of Angels, but the entire country.

The transformation kicked off in 1999, when a city-approved adaptive reuse ordinance was passed — permitting the neighborhood’s abandoned, but historic Art Deco and Beaux-Arts structures to be revitalized into stylish residences and commercial spaces. (Coincidentally, the STAPLES Center was also unveiled in October of that year.) In following years, additional splashy openings (including L.A. Live in 2008, Ace Hotel in 2014, and The Broad in 2015) continued to build momentum and interest in the area.

While many bemoan the need to drive to navigate much of Los Angeles, that’s not the case with DTLA. “You can walk everywhere,” explains Stephane Lacroix, General Manager of the Downtown LA Proper Hotel, which is set to open next spring. “You can’t do that anywhere else in LA.”

Womenswear designer Heidi Merrick — she’s been headquartered in DTLA in for 12 years — says the neighborhood’s ability to support businesses both small and large also solidifies its appeal: “It’s exciting, because it really represents the most unique and best of the city.”

Add to that DTLA’s unusually diverse makeup — Little Tokyo, the Fashion District, and Chinatown all call the area home — along with plenty in the pipeline for 2020 (including restaurants Damian and Ditroit by celebrated chefs Enrique Olvera and Daniela Soto-Innes), and you’ve got all the makings for the quintessential urban neighborhood.

Here, where you should stay, eat, and shop when visiting DTLA.

Bon Temps Downtown LA Food
Sierra Prescott

Where to Stay

Opened in October, and set in the former Los Angeles Railway building, The Hoxton, Downtown LA, is the newest outpost by the hip, London-based hospitality brand. Despite its status as a neighborhood newcomer, the hotel is already luring in the creative set with 174 chicly appointed rooms — imagine rattan headboards, velvet seating, and chevron wood floors — contemporary diner Sibling Rival, and scenic rooftop bar, Pilot.

Down the street on South Broadway is The Ace, the hotel that sparked the destination’s boutique hotel boom in 2014. Perched on the corner of 7th and Olive Street, The NoMad Hotel Los Angeles marries a luxe, layered aesthetic by French interior designer Jacques Garcia with refined, yet approachable food menu by Daniel Humm. For a more intimate stay, book one of the nine cozy suites at the Arts District Firehouse Hotel, with a restaurant led by chef Ashley Abodeely.

In addition to the Downtown LA Proper Hotel – which is occupying a storied Curlett & Beelman red-brick building adjacent to The Hoxton – there’s other new accommodations to look forward to in 2020. Come February, guests can hunker down at the Wayfarer DTLA. Socializing is a priority here, as evidenced by the communal kitchen, subterranean lounge, and Gaslighter Social Club — where visitors can customize beverage flights from a tap wall in the lobby. And later in the year, Mexico City-based Grupo Habita is planning a 66-room boutique property on South Alameda Street in the Arts District.

Proper Hotel Downtown LA Room
The Ingalls

Where to Eat and Drink

If you want to dine at a more established spot, there’s plenty of options. Bestia, by husband-wife duo Ori Menashe and Geneieve Gergis, fires beautifully blistered pizzas in a roaring wood oven, while its sister restaurant, Bavel, serves up exemplary Middle Eastern cuisine (think silky hummus, earthy tagines, and juicy shawarmas) in an light-flooded, greenery-accented room. At Rossoblu, Steve Samson turns out Bologna’s crowd-pleasing comforts — the egg-based pastas, like the tagliatelle and tortellini, are standouts — in a sleekly renovated warehouse decked out with a jaw-dropping mural by art collective Cyrcle. Though it opened back in 2011, Bäco Mercat remains a local favorite with its signature, hearty flatbread sandwiches. And at Otium, Timothy Hollingsworth’s globe-trotting small plates are as creative and eye-opening as its arty neighbor, The Broad.

Seeking something new and noteworthy? In just a few short months, Bon Temps has garnered plenty of critical acclaim, thanks to chef Lincoln Carson’s thoughtfully crafted, French-inspired menu. (The sparkling raw bar and whimsical desserts further solidify its winning status.) Chef Mei Lin whips up unforgettably imaginative Asian dishes — her shrimp toast and mapo tofu lasagna are musts — at the always lively Nightshade, while the just-opened Yapa brings the best of Peruvian bites and sips to Little Tokyo. ROW DTLA, a whopping 32-acre, multi-use complex, continues expanding its culinary buzz, with M.Georgina by Melissa Perello being the latest addition.

Short on time? Pop by the legendary, open air Grand Central Market for Egg Slut’s coddled egg and potato puree cups and Kismet’s falafel sandwiches. Though there’s almost always a queue at KazuNori, the famed hand roll spot, don’t be thrown off. It moves quickly, and your patience will be rewarded with efficient service, pristine fish, and gratuity-inclusive pricing. Need to soak up the excess of a late night? The Tijuana-style carne asada tacos at no-frills Tacos 1986 have you covered.

Wide shot of books at The Last Bookstore

Christian Hundley/Travel + Leisure

Where to Shop

There’s no shortage of big brand retail in DTLA, but doesn’t it feel better to shop locally? With that in mind, head first to Heidi Merrick’s flagship boutique on West 9th. It It embodies California cool — coincidentally, Merrick is the daughter of legendary surfboard shaper Al Merrick — and is stocked with sophisticated, yet easy-to-wear jackets, dresses, and jumpsuits. Even better? All of Merrick’s garments are manufactured downtown. Bibliophiles will flip for The Last Bookstore, the aptly named shrine selling new and used tomes (vinyls, too) that’s dramatically set in a historic, two-level bank. Since launching in 2003, husband-and-wife team Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung have steadily grown Poketo into a reputable, one-stop shop dedicated to accessible art and design. And located in the Arts District, Alchemy Works is an airy emporium purveying stylish goods, ranging from Apolis tote bags to vintage bronze heads, to help add a little more joy to everyday life.

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