City Guide

Four hours in Los Angeles 2006

31 Mar 2006 by business traveller
Downtown LA is often overlooked by visitors heading to glamorous Santa Monica, Long Beach and Hollywood. But there is plenty to occupy a first-time visitor, discovers Mark Caswell 1. Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels Start on the north side of Downtown at the enormous Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, a modern 3,000-seater place of worship. Set in gardens with fountains and olive trees, the cathedral is the third largest in the world and the first to be built in the US for more than a quarter of a century. Free guided tours (1pm, Monday to Friday) are available, or you can wander quietly among the pews at your leisure (tel +1 213 680 5200, olacathedral.org). 2. Walt Disney Concert Hall Further towards the centre of the business district, at the top of Bunker Hill, the gleaming Walt Disney Concert Hall is a must-see for aficionados of experimental architecture. The exterior is made entirely from stainless steel, while inside, its acoustically-renowned concert halls are home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Visitors can take an hour-long tour of the building's nooks and crannies from US$12, or have lunch in the cathedral-like surroundings of the Concert Hall Café (tour times vary; tel +1 323 850 2000, wdch.laphil.com). 3. Museum of Contemporary Art A short walk along Grand Avenue is the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). One of two locations in Downtown LA (the other is on North Central Avenue in the Little Tokyo district), the museum houses over 5,000 permanent pieces ranging from colourful pop art to photography by Diane Arbus. There are also temporary exhibitions such as the showing of 45 photography and text pieces plus video installations by Lorna Simpson, from April 16 to October 7 (tel +1 213 626 6222, moca.org). 4. Grand Central Market and Bradbury Building Los Angeles Broadway used to be almost as famous for plays and musicals as its New York counterpart, but most of the theatre halls are now lying empty (although there are plans to restore the famous Palace and State Theatres). The street is still worth a visit though, for the Grand Central Market, with its iconic neon signs - many of which date back to the early 1900s. Straight across the road from the market is the century-old Bradbury Building, the location for some scenes in the futuristic thriller Blade Runner. 5. Pershing Square and the Biltmore Hotel From the market, continue along Broadway and turn right onto 5th Street. On your left Pershing Square is a modernist take on a city park, with concrete water viaducts and a minimal landscape. The nearby Biltmore hotel is an example of former LA grandeur, and was the venue for the Oscars back in 1939 - its commemorative hallway is adorned with photographs of Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Walt Disney to prove it. 6. LA Central Library and the Standard Hotel Further down 5th Street, the famous dome of LA Central Library is visible. Inside, its muralled walls make a peaceful detour. For a taste of what LA is trying to encourage Downtown, head to the Standard Hotel, with its instantly recognisable upside-down sign. On the rooftop there is an ultra-funky bar and restaurant with panoramic views of the city, and a swimming pool for those needing respite from the strong Californian sunshine.
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