Explore Global Cultures in Los Angeles

Detail of the Guelaguetza mural by Colectivo LaPiztola | Photo courtesy of Guelaguetza, Facebook

Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in the world, home to vibrant neighborhoods throughout the Greater L.A. area. Even if you’re visiting L.A. for just one day, you can still experience a wide range of cultural attractions and cuisines. Read on for a guide to exploring global cultures in Los Angeles.


An ideal home base for exploring L.A.'s diversity is The Line Hotel in Koreatown. Conveniently located across the street from the Wilshire/Normandie station of the Metro Rail Purple Line, The Line features 388 rooms, a contemporary design that mixes Mid-Century Modern and industrial chic, and two on-site restaurants from acclaimed chef Roy Choi (POT and Commissary).

Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market

Opened in 1917, the landmark Grand Central Market in Downtown L.A. features dozens of food stalls that represent the full spectrum of L.A.’s multicultural cuisines, from old school Mexican to a new generation of artisan vendors. Take the Purple Line to the Pershing Square station and enter the 30,000 square-foot marketplace from Hill Street. Inside, you can start the day by fueling up on G&B Coffee or queueing up for Eggslut. For a hearty German-style breakfast, try Berlin Currywurst items like the breakfast sandwich (sausage with sunny side egg), bauernpfanne (sausage hash), or leberkäse (German-style meatloaf in a bun).

Picture of Timeline at Biddy Mason Memorial Park
Timeline at Biddy Mason Memorial Park | Photo by Daniel Djang


Located off Broadway between 3rd and 4th Streets, in a courtyard across from Grand Central Market, Biddy Mason Park is dedicated to Bridget “Biddy” Mason, a former slave who became a noted philanthropist and a founding member of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. Mason won her freedom in 1856 and settled in Los Angeles to work as a midwife. Ten years later, she bought a house where she operated an orphanage and eventually founded the city’s First A.M.E. Church on land she had purchased and then donated to the church. The park features a timeline that traces her remarkable life.

Taiko drummer at Nisei Week | Photo courtesy of --Mark--, Flickr

JANM - Little Tokyo

 Located about a mile from Grand Central Market, Little Tokyo is a major cultural and civic center for Japanese Americans living in Southern California. One of only three official Japantowns in the United States, Little Tokyo has roots dating to the 1880s and was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1995. A wide range of shops offer everything from cultural souvenirs to vintage clothing.

The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) is internationally renowned for its commitment to exploring America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by presenting and sharing the experience of Japanese Americans with exhibitions, public programs, an award-winning museum store and resource center.

Sushi Gen Restaurant

Lunch options in Little Tokyo include ramen shops like the ever-popular Daikokuya, or head to Sushi Gen in the Honda Plaza strip mall for one of the best sushi deals in L.A. The famed sashimi lunch special is priced at just $15 and includes miso soup, a warm tofu dish, a big bowl of rice, and a large sashimi plate. Note that the special is only available at a table, not the sushi bar, and the line starts to form even before Sushi Gen opens at 11:30 a.m.

Cachetada and vampiro at Mexicali Taco & Co.
Cachetada and vampiro at Mexicali Taco & Co.  |  Photo: Joshua Lurie

Mexicali Taco & Co - Chinatown

A wide range of dining choices await in historic Chinatown, located about a mile from Little Tokyo. There’s a restaurant for every palate in Chinatown, from traditional dim sum at Empress Pavilion to the popular New Orleans deli and market, The Little Jewel. Can’t-miss dishes in this diverse neighborhood include Nashville hot chicken at Howlin' Rays, the Vampiro at Mexicali Taco & Co, and the French Dip at Philippe’s, which claims (along with Cole’s) to have invented the iconic sandwich.

Avila Adobe dining room | Photo courtesy of Flannery626, Flickr

Olvera Street

Located adjacent to Chinatown, Olvera Street is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Los Angeles, located in the oldest district of the city as part of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument. The colorful Mexican marketplace opened on Easter Sunday, April 20, 1930 following a preservation campaign that was spearheaded by Christine Sterling. Several of L.A.’s most historic buildings are located at Olvera Street, along with dozens of craft shops, restaurants and other businesses.

Olvera Street highlights include Avila Adobe (L.A.’s oldest house still standing in its original location), América Tropical (the only U.S. public mural by famed Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros), and the Chinese American Museum. For more info, read our detailed guide to Olvera Street.

California African American Museum

California African American Museum

Located a few miles south of Downtown L.A. at historic Exposition Park, the California African American Museum (CAAM) exists to research, collect, preserve and interpret the history, art and culture of African Americans. The museum conserves more than 3,500 objects of art, historical artifacts and memorabilia. CAAM maintains a research library with more than 20,000 books and other reference materials available for limited public use.

Eastern oysters at EMC Seafood & Raw Bar | Courtesy Photo of Bill Esparza

EMC Seafood & Raw Bar - Koreatown

Located a couple of blocks from The Line Hotel, the sleek, modern EMC Seafood & Raw Bar offers one of the best Happy Hour deals in L.A. Every day from 4-7 p.m., EMC offers oysters for $1 each, and draft beers, house wine (red and white) and well drinks are just $5. It’s tempting to go overboard with oysters - especially when you see the hip, young K-town crowd happily slurping away - but remember you’ve still got dinner ahead! And if you’re still in the mood for mollusks later on, EMC’s late night Happy Hour starts at 10 p.m. with oysters priced at a wallet-friendly $1.25 each.

Festival de Moles at Guelaguetza | Photo by Joshua Lurie

Guelaguetza Restaurant

One of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country, the James Beard Award-winning Guelaguetza is renowned for its tamales, memelas, unstuffed enchiladas, and especially their superb moles. One of the most popular items is the Festival de Moles, a tasting platter with black mole, red mole, estofado and coloradito that’s served with sliced chicken breast, a side of rice and hand-made tortillas. In addition to its award-winning moles, Guelaguetza also offers nightly live entertainment and its mezcaleria, a lively bar that features one of the largest mezcal collections in the country.

Ribeye at EsCaLA | Photo by Joshua Lurie


Bogota native Chino Lee, who also produces art and music, recruited Seoul Sausage chef Chris Oh to bring a taste of Colombia to Chapman Plaza. The street-side space now features a lowrider bicycle above the door, communal wood tables and a Gramophone chandelier. Enjoy bold flavors in multicultural dishes like Manila clams, which rest in a heavily spiced chorizo coconut bisque, and deep-fried empanadas with crisp masa shells cradling juicy ground meat. Other dishes are designed for sharing, including a fried striped bass spooned with tropical salad - basically a sweeter papaya salad. Ribeye is another star; 12-ounces of bone-in steak are marinated for 24 hours with balsamic vinegar and Colombian spices, seared and served with pico de gallo, thrice-fried papas and aioli. EsCaLA features a full bar with cocktails and 15 beers on tap, many from craft breweries.


SoopSok - Karaoke

Sing the night away at one of Koreatown’s karaoke spots. Cafe Brass Monkey is one of the most popular, with a funky, high-energy vibe and diverse crowd. Another option is SoopSok (pronounced “Soup Soak”), which touts itself as the biggest karaoke studio in Los Angeles since 1986. Each of their 20 Karaoke rooms are equipped with light-up tambourines, surround sound and plasma screens, making it a good choice for small get-togethers and big parties alike.

The Normandie Club

The Normandie Club

Sip craft cocktails at the Normandie Club, located in the Hotel Normandie in Koreatown. Settle into a black leather booth in the dimly-lit, handsomely designed lounge area, or pull up a stool at the curving bar and enjoy the Normandie Club’s modern variations on classics like the Martini, Manhattan and Daiquiri.