Ask someone to sum up Los Angeles at its worst and you'll hear something along the lines of a history-bulldozing, pedestrian-unfriendly, car-consumed city. But it wasn't always that way. El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the city's original Spanish-turned-Mexican-turned-American settlement, serves as an example of all Los Angeles can aspire to: a flowery pedestrian plaza filled with beautiful buildings that span over a century of history. Take a seat next to the central gazebo, walk among the bougainvillea and brush up on LA's Spanish and Mexican history with a walk through El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Olvera Street.
The pedestrian streets throughout El Pueblo de Los Angeles, flanked with flowers and covered in stone, feel unlike anywhere else in the city. The 44-acre park is a living time capsule of Mexican culture.
When the original Spanish settlement, founded in 1781, was flooded by the LA River, its citizens were pushed inland. The central plaza was developed shortly after in the 1820s. Though it might not be the civic center it was back then, it's still a shaded, scenic spot to have lunch or meet friends and family.
Some of the site's oldest buildings, like the Old Plaza Firehouse and Pico House, have lived on in the form of museums. Seen here, the Garnier Building serves as the home of the Chinese American Museum.
The settlement officially became a part of Mexico when the country won its independence from Spain in 1821. The Plaza Methodist Church, seen here, wasn't built until 1926, when Los Angeles had long been part of the US already, but the Mexican influence on the area had already been cemented. To its left, you'll find the entrance to Olvera Street.
The neighborhood continued to be the heart of Los Angeles into the late 1800s. Eventually, the population grew and moved into modern day Downtown. When some of the settlement's oldest buildings were set to be demolished, a plan emerged to preserve the area. The result was the establishment of the pedestrian plaza Olvera Street in 1930.
Today, you'll find a mix of restaurants and street vendors on Olvera Street. Though the shops are aimed at tourists, walk through the lush corridors and you'll find plenty of history, from the first adobe house to a former streetcar substation.
Look for this sign toward the middle of the street for the entrance to Avila Adobe, the oldest surviving residence in the city.
You can take a free tour of the 1818 house or explore its courtyard and rooms on your own.
If you're looking for a snack, those $2 churros are awfully appetizing.