Hour to Kill: El Pueblo de Los Angeles and Olvera Street

Have an hour to kill in Downtown LA? Take a walk through the city's original Spanish and Mexican settlements.

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.

Good for: Exploring LA's Hispanic history while munching on a churro.
If you're going to: Chinatown, Union Station
For that moment when: You realize you've lived here for a decade but know nothing about the city's pre-Hollywood history.
In case you're hungry: Philippe the OriginalChego; the many restaurants, food trucks and vendors at Olvera Street
Getting there: Look for metered spots northeast of Cesar Chavez Avenue or park in the lot on Main Street. Alternatively, take Metrolink or the Red, Purple or Gold Lines to Union Station and walk across the street.
RECOMMENDED: See more in our guide to Downtown Los Angeles
Photograph: Michael Juliano

Click through our photos for a brief historical look at El Pueblo de Los Angeles.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

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.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

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.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

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.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

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.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

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.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

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.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

Look for this sign toward the middle of the street for the entrance to Avila Adobe, the oldest surviving residence in the city.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

You can take a free tour of the 1818 house or explore its courtyard and rooms on your own.

Photograph: Michael Juliano

If you're looking for a snack, those $2 churros are awfully appetizing.