A Guide to Downtown Los Angeles and Koreatown

Fri, 11 September 2015
Palm Trees Downtown LA

Malibu Beach might be the picture postcard of L.A., but two diferent urban communities have been causing a stir. Downtown Los Angeles and Koreatown are undergoing an exciting renaissance, with a young creative community flocking to live in ‘America’s next great city’ and experience the 24-hour K-Town culture.

“The liveliness of the area is undeniable,” says Kelly Sawdon from The Ace Downtown, the hotel that through its impressive renovation of the 1920s United Artists Theatre called much needed attention to the neighbourhood. “It’s like a really fun and culturally engaged block party that never ends,” she muses. But The Ace is only one of many businesses revitalising the art deco buildings of L.A.’s once-thriving Broadway theatre district. Urban Outfitters has moved into the old Rialto theatre and Acne is doors down from a decadent Catholic church proclaiming ‘Jesucristo es el Señor’. DTLA is comparable to Brooklyn five years ago, but residents are hoping to preserve its vibrant Latino community.

A short cab ride away from The Ace, artists have inhabited the district’s old industrial spaces and created a small community with a distinctly slower pace of life than in the rest of the city. In the arts district low-roofed warehouses replace skyscrapers, so that murals and street art are always at eye level and skaters roll past café patios and pop-up juice bars.

Fast establishing itself as the new culinary and nightlife hotspot in L.A. is Koreatown. Once a playground for Angeleno gangsters, the 1992 riots burned down most of the area. Cheap real estate encouraged the Korean population to buy most of the area and begin to gentrify it. This second wave of interest in the neighbourhood comes from figures like the Houston brothers, responsible for transforming Hollywood with their speakeasy-style clubs, and chef Roy Choi of POT at The Line, who are revamping Koreatown classics and creating spaces that encourage visitors rather than just locals. “It’s always been great,” explains Jonnie Houston: “It just hasn’t been uncovered until now.”

What will become of DTLA and Koreatown? Like a true artist, Kelly answers: “We agree with Joan Didion when she said, ‘The future always looks bright in the golden land.’” Of K-Town, Jonnie Houston is a bit more mysterious: “A lot is changing…it’s going to be fun.”

HOW TO GET AROUND Everyone will tell you to get a car in Los Angeles, but if you’re under 25 and don’t feel like paying a hefty insurance bill then stick to Uber X. They are super cheap and will always be with you in under 5 minutes.

Once known as the address of Angeleno gangsters, Downtown LA is now home to a number of new hotels. Stay in the thick of it to experience the 24 hour K Town Culture and the bustling restaurant and nightlife scene in Downtown LA.

To Stay

The Shelter

This hotel is an affordable entry point into K-Town, a stone’s throw away from The Line and The Normandie Club cocktail bar. It has a Mama Shelter vibe with a funky communal area, but it’s a tad too basic to merit the description ‘boutique’. Rooms are spacious complete with double beds, flatscreens and individual desks. There is free parking for guests on site.

Rooms from £72 per night

  • +1 213 380 6910
  • Go to Website
  • 457 South Mariposa Avenue
    Los Angeles

The Line

Following the K-Town hotpot style, The Line has thrown together some of the most explosive minds in Los Angeles to create an urban boutique hotel. Rooms are impressive – the Sydell Group (responsible for The Ace and NoMad in NYC) and designer Sean Knibb have nailed industrial chic with whitewashed concrete walls ofset by small delicate details such as a printed rug and Poketo ceramics. An unexpected feature in the room is that at the foot of some of the beds a floor-to-ceiling window ofers a view of Hollywood, so you can have breakfast in bed while overlooking K-Town. The ‘Jay-Z of the food world’ Roy Choi has planted an enchanting greenhouse on the roof in the form of restaurant COMISSARY, famous with locals for their fruit and vegetable-based menu, and serves serves up modern spins on Korean classics like barbecue pork and hotpots at his restaurant POT downstairs. Nightlife Kings The Houston brothers have an 80s themed lounge Break Room 86 with four karaoke suites, a dance floor, snacks and a mixology programme.

Rooms from £149 per night

  • +1 213 381 7411
  • Go to Website
  • 3515 Wilshire Boulevard
    Los Angeles

The Ace Downtown

The Ace has outdone itself by breathing life into the 1920s art deco United Artists Theatre to create a jaw-dropping, 13-storey high-rise boutique hotel in the heart of L.A.’s Downtown. An architectural marvel, the original cinema now functions as the hotel’s own theatre space and the towering Spanish gothic façade on the roof serves as a backdrop for pool parties and sundowners. Loft style rooms vary in size and you pay for what you get – a standalone bath, a private kitchenette or terrace, an acoustic Martin guitar – but rest assured, design is at the heart of everything at the Ace. Eat at L.A. CHAPTER, the perfect Brooklynstyle brasserie serving up banana pancakes for breakfast and burgers with harissa mayo and pickled beet, or grab a juice at MOON JUICE who have hijacked the ticket booth in front of the theatre.

Rooms from £341 per night

The Shelter

The Line

The Ace Downtown

You May Also Like

City Guides

You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.


Need some inspiration while working from home? Shop 20% off magazines when bundled together.

Download Suitcase App
Learn More