This article sets out a walking tour of the area showcasing many of the major sites and buildings, and sets you up to explore the area fully. So grab your camera and bring some comfy shoes – because this is a big one!


Camera Gear Used

  • Leica MP240
  • Leica 35mm Summilux 1.4 FLE Lens
  • Leica 21mm Super Elmar Lens
  • B&W 0.9 3 Stop ND Filter
  • B&W UV Filter
  • Fuji X100T
  • Fuji XT-1
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Downtown Los Angeles is the city center of LA. It can be accessed by numerous freeways and trains to the Union Station trail terminal.


Sometimes a location is just too big for one article so here are some related articles



When I first moved to Los Angles it took me a while to really understand this city. Firstly, it is huge! But unlike most large international, or even many US based cities, LA is extremely spread out without a true city center hub. Rather, it is made up of lots of mini cites like Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Hollywood and the Glendale / Burbank areas that are interconnected with a continuous urban sprawl.

This however was not always the case. Los Angeles does have a downtown central business district that at one time was home to banks, department store and many amazing movie theaters that drew residents and visitors into the area. However, the area suffered a major economic downturn for decades with much of the area becoming extremely neglected or derelict.

The great news is that in 2013 the city passed a law that allowed many of the amazing older buildings that had just been abandoned and boarded up to be easily repurposed or redeveloped. This has resulted in a huge influx of new apartments bringing more people and in turn, great shopping, dining and  overall restoration of the downtown area.

Thankfully, much of this development has been very sympathetic to original design of the buildings, keeping the facades intact. The unexpected benefit of the city being half abandoned for so long is when looking at vintage photos taken in the 1930’s, many of the streets look almost untouched. This is so rare in any city and it makes for a very unique photographic backdrop.


  • Camera (of course!)
  • Wide angle and normal range lenses. I used both my 35mm and 21mm lenses extensively whilst walking though the city to get both up close details and portraits along with something wider to capture the full buildings and interiors.
  • ND and UV filters
  • Comfy shoes – for a lot of walking!
  • Dollar bills – always good to have if you want to take photos of buskers or homeless on the streets

As a side note, this walk also offers many opportunities for great people and street photos along the way. Feel free to explore off this path and discover the many unique stores and people along the way.

Stop 1: Union Station

A great kick off point as its an easy place to get access to the city itself be it by train to the station, or by parking out front where there always seems to be spots at relatively reasonable prices for a downtown area (approx $15.00 per day).

Union Station was built in 1939 and is an amazing mixture of Mission and Spanish architecture with Art Deco influences. The entire building has undergone a number of restorations, most recently the repainting of the wood mosaic roof and the soon to reopened restaurant.

I have written a full in-depth article on this location which can be found HERE, but it serves as a great photographic location both inside and out along with fantastic people watching.

Stop 2: Olvera Street

Directly across the street from Union Station is the oldest part of Los Angeles. Founded in 1781 it contains some of the oldest homes and buildings in the city, including Avila Adobe built in 1818. The tree-shaded marketplaces is filled with restaurants, shops and even wondering mariachi bands which has been described as a ‘Top Five’ in the “Great Streets of America” journal.

Stop 3: Los Angles City Hall

Los Angeles City Hall is a short walk from Olvera Marketplace down Spring Street. The Grand Park LA sits on the northern side of the street with city hall to the south. Built in 1928 it was the tallest building in Los Angeles until the cities height restrictions were removed in the late 1950’s.

The building is great photographic location in itself, but the observation deck, which is open free to the public on weekdays, gives you access to a fantastic arial view of the rest of the city. It also allows you to explore some of the buildings interiors which are equally impressive.

After visiting City Hall, walk across the street through the park to get some wider shots of the building. It also takes us up to Broadway which we can walk down to get access to our next location.

If you have time, check out the LA Times building across the street from city hall. An amazing Art Deco building with an incredible lobby that is worth a look. It includes a small gallery of great photos describing the history of this major newspaper.

Stop 4: Murals

Whilst walking through the city keep your eye our for a number of fantastic large murals painted on the sides of some of the old buildings. This one can be found at 251 S Broadway just before the West 3rd Street intersection.

Stop 5: Bradbury Building

The Bradbury building is an architectural landmark built in 1893 and is best known for its huge skylit atrium and ornate ironwork. It has been featured a large number of TV shows and movies, most notably the original Blade Runner and The Artist.

When you first see the building, it is quite boring and nondescript from the outside, but once you step through the door you are transported to 120 years ago. Its quite a hard interior to photograph with the very bright light coming from above making much of your photo backlit. I have visited it a number of times and still don’t feel that I have done it justice in a photo.

Stop 6: Grand Central Market

Opened in 1917, Grand Central Market is the oldest market in Los Angeles. Originally opened as a fresh food / grocery market for the well-to-do home owners on bunker hill, it has been since restored and repurposed as a food hall with multiple restaurants and food vendors covering all types of cuisines.

Usually very busy, its hard to position yourself and move around within the market to take photos, but well worth the effort. Great for people photos enjoying their lunches surrounded by the neon signs and stalls in the background. (and a fun place to each lunch too!)

Stop 7: Broadway

Continuing our walk down Broadway you will come across a number of old movie theaters. Prior to WWII, Broadway was considered by many as the center of the city where residents and visitors shopped in the department stores and watched films in the grand movie theaters including the 1918 Million Dollar Theatre, the 1926 Orpheum Theatre and the 1927 United Artists Theatre.

Thankfully these buildings are still here and many are now being renovated or repurposed into apartments and multi use dining / shopping destinations.

Stop 8: The Last Bookstore

This amazing bookstore found on W 5th Street between Broadway and Spring is housed in an old bank built in 1914. Many of the buildings original elements like the tall ceilings and bank vault doors are well incorporated into the store. The crime book section is even housed inside the vault!

In addition to used books, the second floor is also utilized as an art gallery and artists in residence with mini shops and exhibition spaces.

The store also has a fantastic art and photographic sub-store with a great range of photography books.

Stop 9: Cliftons

Only recently reopened, Clifton’s is the last remaining survivor of what was once part of an eight restaurant chain featuring multiple themed restaurants and bars within a single cafeteria.

Opened in 1935 and renovated in 2015 to match the original, the restaurant houses five stores of different bars and themes including a giant sequoia tree, a speakeasy, gothic bar and tiki bar. The place is amazing and well worth the visit.

Stop 7: Biltmore Hotel

Open in 1923, the Biltmore Hotel is still a luxurious hotel that originally hosted the Oscars for a number of years. The interior is beautiful. Make sure you take a wide angle lens to photograph inside.

Many movies and TV shows have been filmed here including the infamous slimer scene in The Ghostbusters. The hotels lobby doubled as a ballroom (it originally was once a ballroom) where they go head-to-head with the green slimy monster!

Stop 8: LA Public Library

Directly behind the Biltmore Hotel is the Los Angeles Public Library. Housed in a beautiful building with Egyptian influences, the main two areas of interest to photograph are the mural room with 4 large painted murals and tiled ceiling and the beautiful children’s reading room.

Stop 9: Walt Disney Concert Hall & Broad Gallery

Walking back towards our starting point along S Grand Ave the Broad Gallery and the Walt Disney Concert hall sit on opposite corners of 2nd Street. Both imposing and very interesting buildings, they offer very different photographic opportunities.

From both the street and closer up, including inside, these buildings are designed to really stand out. Shapes and textures are very interesting to photograph and these building really offer a lot to be explored.

From here we return to our starting location at Union Station. Now take a rest, that was a lot of walking!

Location Images

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