Los Angeles, CA Neighborhood guides

Downtown Los Angeles: Cutting Edge Living in LA’s Historic Core

Downtown Los Angeles, known by its hip acronym DTLA, is an emerging hotspot located in one of the oldest parts of the city of Los Angeles. An area that used to be lifeless after dark now explodes with the hustle and bustle of clubs and restaurants frequented by its younger, creative, upscale residents.

Where is Downtown Los Angeles?

Essentially, Downtown LA is bound by 3 freeways and a river: the 110 in the west, the 101/5 junction in the north, the 10 freeway in the south, and (also featuring plenty of concrete) the Los Angeles River in the east. Downtown LA apartments are available in both the newest high-rise buildings and oldest hotels, often nestled in formerly industrial or low-income areas.


Downtown Los Angeles was part of the City Of Angels when it was founded in 1781. Its (first) heyday peaked in the 1920s, when large movie palaces, 5-star hotels, banks and department stores reigned supreme in the area. After World War II, the suburbs beckoned and most professionals and families flocked to greener pastures. It wasn’t until the so-called Loft Law passed in the 1999 that the housing stock was allowed to rise, with the number of DTLA rentals particularly escalating in the last 10 years.


It’s a young, hip and modern neighborhood. To accommodate the younger demographic that lives here, there are many cafes, restaurants and boutique shops opening literally everywhere.

What to Do

The area approximately centered on 4th and Main, known as the Old Bank District, was part of the initial wave of live/work spaces. Catering to this highly-educated community is The Last Bookstore on the corner of 5th and Spring with 250,000 new and used books and records filling 22,000 square feet.


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A post shared by The Last Bookstore (@lastbookstorela)

The Arts District near 3rd and Alameda was established in the 1970s; some of its warehouse spaces have been converted into condos, artists lofts and offices while others remain. On the 2nd Thursday of every month, the entire area comes alive with the DTLA Art Walk, which attracts tens of thousands from across the city. A double-decker bus is provided to shuttle you around.

Although Downtown Los Angeles is better known for its skyscrapers, there is a small amount of outdoor/green space around and about. One of the newest and most impressive open spaces is Grand Park, a 12-acre slate of green that extends from City Hall to Disney Hall and also includes a Starbucks.

Other green areas are tucked away, like the 2.5-acre Grand Hope Park and also Spring Street Park (between 4th and 5th), which has a playground for kids. DTLA is extremely dog-friendly, with many indoor dog runs and day care facilities available to pamper your pooches.

Where to Eat and Drink

Areas like Little Tokyo thrive with noodle parlors, sushi and karaoke, and South Park has the Staples Center and the 14-screen LA Live just down the way. Across from the former punk rock dive Al’s Bar is Wurstküche, a brats and beer hall that often has a queue outside.


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A post shared by Wurstküche (@wurstkuche)

If you need more options, head on over to Baco Mercat where you can nosh on Spanish fusion dishes or enjoy more traditional comfort food at Nickel Diner.


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A post shared by Bäco Mercat (@bacomercat)

Moving to Downtown Los Angeles

Real Estate Snapshot

All the beautiful Victorian homes are gone and so are the cheap artists’ lofts. What is left in Downtown LA are the renovated and/or brand new luxury units that mostly only the well-to-do can afford. If you start renting an apartment in Downtown Los Angeles, you’ll be paying some of the highest rents in the city. Food runs a similar gamut. However, there are mid-range meals besides fast food, as well as recently opened Whole Foods and Ralphs supermarkets to stock up on groceries.


DTLA is the one place in Los Angeles where it may actually be a disadvantage to have a car. The majority of residents live as well as work here, and many opt for a DASH, MTA or Metro (all the major lines converge at Union Station) instead of paying for a parking space.

Because the area is generally flat and its population relatively young, many choose to get around by bike or foot, or when all else fails, they use Uber.

Schools & Employment

Downtown LA is still a relatively new residential destination, so there aren’t a lot of elementary or secondary schools to choose from within its boundaries. Still, quality options are available such as Tenth Street Elementary School, Belmont High School or Metropolitan High School.

The Arts District has been a very popular spot for companies looking to settle in a more modern Los Angeles office space, but there are multiple firms around the neighborhood that offer plenty of job opportunities. If you’re looking for something in tech, this neighborhood is definitely where you’ll find your dream job.

If you are young, affluent and have a sense of adventure, you may find DTLA appealing and even welcoming. Take a look at the exciting offerings we have listed on RENTCafé today!

Check out more Los Angeles neighborhood guides:

Living in Van Nuys, Los Angeles: Where You can Enjoy the Glitzy LA Life on a Budget
Wilshire – Montana, Santa Monica: Beach Living with a Touch of Class
Westlake, Los Angeles: A Low Cost Alternative to Downtown Living
Living in Palms, Los Angeles: A Historic Neighborhood, Populated by Millennials
Hollywood – a Vibrant LA Neighborhood with Celebrity Status
Koreatown – The Little City That Never Sleeps
Westwood – Live Large in the Center of It All
Sherman Oaks – Timeless Elegance in the Heart of the Valley
Sawtelle – A Walkable, Culture-Filled Enclave Bustling with L.A. Charm

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About the author

Florentina Sarac

Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 9-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email.

Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and Realtor.com. She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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