El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument

Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights

LA didn’t spring from the head of Hollywood directors; it was a full-blown community a good century before DW Griffith showed up. A short stroll northwest of Union Station, this compact, colorful district, located near the spot where LA’s first colonists settled in 1781, harbors the city’s oldest buildings. Grab a map at the visitor center inside Avila Adobe then wander through narrow Olvera St’s vibrant Mexican-themed stalls. Guided tours leave from beside the Plaza Firehouse; no reservations necessary.

The district is home to a number of museums, including the Italian American Museum. A few doors down, the América Tropical Interpretive Center is where you can view Mexican artist David Alfaro Siquerios' celebrated (and once-controversial) rooftop mural. Tip: to make the most of the area, avoid visiting on Monday, when many of the museums are closed.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Downtown Los Angeles & Boyle Heights attractions

1. Avila Adobe

0.01 MILES

The oldest surviving house in LA was built in 1818 by wealthy ranchero and one-time LA mayor Francisco José Avila. After subsequent lives as a boarding…

2. América Tropical Interpretive Center

0.02 MILES

Everyone from Hollywood stars to LA intellectuals attended the 1932 unveiling of América Tropical, a rooftop mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros, one of…

3. Italian American Museum of Los Angeles

0.03 MILES

Aptly located inside Italian Hall – built in 1908 as a social hub for the area's Italian community – this small, interactive museum sheds light on the oft…

4. Olvera Street

0.03 MILES

The block-long, pedestrianized 'birthplace of Los Angeles' (circa 1781) may now be a festive Mexican marketplace with gaudy decorations and souvenir…

5. La Placita

0.09 MILES

Founded as La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles (Our Lady the Queen of the Angels Church) in 1781, and now affectionately known as la…

6. Plaza Firehouse

0.13 MILES

The city’s oldest fire station (1884) is now a one-room museum filled with dusty old fire-fighting equipment and photographs.

7. Old Plaza

0.13 MILES

El Pueblo’s central, magnolia-shaded square is crowned by a pretty wrought-iron gazebo. Sleepy and a little sketchy during the week, it often turns into a…

8. Chinese American Museum

0.14 MILES

Follow the red lanterns to the small 1890 Garnier Building, once the unofficial Chinatown ‘city hall'. Changing exhibits highlight various historical,…