This historic district protects LA’s oldest structures, all built between 1818 and 1926. Close to the site where 44 Mexican men, women, and children established El Pueblo de Los Angeles in the name of the Spanish crown in 1781, it also reflects the heritage of other ethnic groups that arrived later, including the Chinese, Italians, and French. As LA grew into a metropolis, businesses relocated and the area plunged into deep decline. Now restored, three of El Pueblo de Los Angeles’ 27 structures contain museums.
El Pueblo Visitor Center: Avila Adobe, Olvera Street; 213-628-1274; open 9am–4pm daily; www.elpueblo.lacity.org
Olvera Street market: open 10am–7pm daily (some shops may open earlier and close later)
Avila Adobe: open 9am–4pm daily
Old Plaza Firehouse: open 10am–3pm daily
Chinese American Museum: 425 N Los Angeles St; open 10am–3pm Tue–Sun; adm $3
Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros’s controversial 1932 mural is a visceral allegory about the exploitation of Mexican workers.
Leo Politi’s endearing 1978 mural shows the old Mexican tradition of thanking animals for the joy and service they provide humans. Celebrations take place in the Old Plaza each year.
Music, dancing, and fun fills the Old Plaza during lively fiestas. It has sculptures of King Carlos III of Spain (1716–88) and Felipe de Neve (1724–84), and a plaque listing the original settlers honors LA’s founders.
Named after LA’s first county judge, this busy, brick-paved lane has been a Mexican marketplace since 1930. Wander past and try some tacos or tortas.
Eloisa Sepulveda built this huge 22-room Victorian house in 1887 as her home, a hotel, and two stores.
Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, built this grand edifice in 1870. It was LA’s first three-story structure and once a hotel.
Worshipers have gathered in LA’s oldest church since 1822. The original was rebuilt in 1861. Features include the painted ceiling and the main altar framed in gold leaf.
The Chinese first settled here in the late 19th century. This museum, housed in the 1890s Garnier Building, traces the community’s history.
This two-story brick building is a must-see. Firehouse No.1 with its all-volunteer crew and horse-drawn equipment was operational until 1897. Check out a small exhibit of memorabilia.
LA’s oldest surviving house, built by mayor Don Francisco Avila in 1818, went through several incarnations as a military headquarters and boarding house. Today, it contains a visitor center.
Had it not been for Christine Sterling (1881–1963), an LA socialite-turned-civic activist, the El Pueblo de Los Angeles area may have been completely different. Dismayed by the seediness of LA’s oldest neighborhood, Sterling launched her 1926 campaign to save it, backed by LA Times publisher Harry Chandler and others. In April 1930, Olvera Street was reincarnated as a busy Mexican market. The Avila Adobe contains an exhibit on her triumph.