Olvera Street is a famous street in downtown Los Angeles known for its Mexican marketplace and cultural significance. Some quick answers to what makes Olvera Street famous include:
Olvera Street is home to dozens of stalls selling traditional Mexican food, crafts, souvenirs and more. Visitors can shop for pottery, leather goods, woven baskets, paper flowers, piñatas, jewelry and much more. The lively marketplace gives visitors a taste of Mexican culture.
Olvera Street has a rich history and is considered the birthplace of Los Angeles. The street dates back to the city’s founding in 1781. Historic buildings include the Avila Adobe, the oldest existing house in LA, built in 1818.
As one of the top tourist destinations in Los Angeles, Olvera Street draws over 2 million visitors annually. People come for the food, shopping and sightseeing. Major events and festivals are also held here.
Olvera Street is home to famous Mexican restaurants like Casa La Golondrina, La Luz del Dia and Olvera Street Bar and Grill. Visitors line up for dishes like tacos, tamales, enchiladas and more.
Dancing and Music
Lively mariachi music fills the air on Olvera Street. Visitors can watch folklorico dancers in traditional dresses performing regional Mexican dances. The music and dance enhances the cultural ambiance.
The History of Olvera Street
Olvera Street has a rich history dating back to Los Angeles’ founding in 1781. Here is more on the origins and story behind this famous LA landmark:
Early Days: 1700s-1800s
In 1771, Spain established the Los Angeles Pueblo near what is now Olvera Street. This plaza was the center of early life in the city. California was under Spanish rule at this time. In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain. Los Angeles became part of Mexico.
During the Mexican era, the house of Agustín Olvera, then a leading citizen, was built on the adobe where Olvera Street now sits. California became part of the United States after the Mexican-American war ended in 1848.
As downtown Los Angeles grew in the late 1800s, the Plaza area went into decline. Adobes were demolished or moved. By the 1920s, the site was run down with crumbling buildings, except for Olvera’s house.
In the 1930s, there was interest in restoring the Plaza as a tourist attraction and reviving the early Mexican era. Led by activist Christine Sterling, Olvera Street was redeveloped starting in 1929. The street was pedestrianized with a cobblestone road and historic buildings were restored.
New Olvera Street: 1930s
On Easter Sunday 1930, Olvera Street opened to the public with a Mexican marketplace, restaurants, decorations and entertainment. Agustín Olvera’s house was restored as a museum. Shops moved in selling traditional foods and crafts. The brick Avila Adobe was rebuilt. Olvera Street became a major tourist destination.
Later Years: 1930s-Today
Over the decades, Olvera Street became even more popular with tourists and locals. More shops and restaurants opened. Historic buildings were preserved. Festivals, dining and shopping continue to draw crowds today.
Shops and Stalls at Olvera Street
The lively marketplace is one of the main attractions of Olvera Street. Visitors will find dozens of vendors along the brick walkway selling all sorts of traditional Mexican goods. Here are some of the shops and stalls you’ll discover:
Arts and Crafts
Beautiful displays of arts and crafts abound at Olvera Street. Talented artisans sell their creations including:
- Woven baskets
- Wrought iron works
- Paper flowers
- Paintings and drawings
- Leather goods
- Decorative glasswork
- Wood carvings
- Fabric items
Authentic Mexican food is plentiful at outdoor stalls along Olvera Street. Hungry visitors flock here to sample favorites like:
- Tacos and burritos
- Fruit cups
- Aguas frescas (juices)
In addition to food stalls, restaurants line Olvera Street serving classic Mexican cuisine for dine-in meals. Popular spots include:
- Casa La Golondrina – Known for mole, chile rellenos, enchiladas
- La Luz del Dia – Famous for tacos, tamales, carnitas
- Olvera Street Bar and Grill – Casual Mexican dishes and margaritas
Candy and Nuts
Satisfy your sweet tooth at candy shops on Olvera Street selling:
- Traditional Mexican candy
- Caramel apples
- Nuts coated in cinnamon sugar or chili powder
Historic Sites to See on Olvera Street
In addition to shopping and dining, Olvera Street is home to historic buildings and museums that provide a glimpse into LA’s past. Top sites to visit include:
This is the oldest existing house in Los Angeles, built in 1818 by a wealthy ranchero. The restored adobe serves as a museum displaying artifacts from the Mexican era.
Plaza Historic District
This National Historic Landmark District encompasses Olvera Street and the Old Plaza. Historic buildings and museums chronicle the city’s development from a Mexican pueblo to thriving American city.
Old Plaza and Statue
The plaza is a central park with a statue honoring the Mexican settlers of 1781. The square has served as a gathering place for the community for over 200 years.
Our Lady Queen of Angels Church
Founded in 1814, this Catholic church is the oldest site of continuous use in Los Angeles. The church has been rebuilt several times over the centuries.
This 1887 Victorian home showcases the history of the Sepulveda family, prominent Californians who lived during Spanish and Mexican rule.
La Placita Church
Originally built in 1822, this church served as a chapel under Mexico. It was restored in the 1930s and today serves the Hispanic community of LA.
Pico House Hotel
Built in 1870 by Pio Pico, the last Mexican governor of California, this historic hotel now contains museums, shops and restaurants.
Festivals and Events on Olvera Street
Throughout the year, Olvera Street hosts colorful festivals and events that celebrate Mexican culture. These popular happenings attract big crowds.
Cinco de Mayo
Held on May 5th, this event marks the Mexican victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The festival features mariachi bands, folklorico dancers, Mexican fare and activities.
Dia de los Muertos
From October 31st to November 2nd, Olvera Street honors the traditional Mexican holiday Day of the Dead with skeletal decorations, music, altars, candy skulls and parade.
This Christmas tradition from December 16th-24th is a nightly candlelit reenactment of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter before Jesus’ birth. Carolers go door to door along the street.
Blessing of the Animals
In January, locals bring their pet dogs, cats, birds and reptiles to Olvera Street for an annual blessing ceremony outside the Old Plaza church.
Mexican Independence Day
On September 16th each year, Olvera Street celebrates Mexican Independence Day with patriotic decorations, mariachi bands and traditional food and dancing.
|Cinco de Mayo
|Mariachi bands, folklorico dancers, Mexican food
|Dia de los Muertos
|Oct 31 – Nov 2
|Skeletal decorations, altars, candy skulls, parade
|Dec 16 – 24
|Candlelit reenactment of Mary & Joseph seeking shelter
Tips for Visiting Olvera Street
If you plan to visit Olvera Street, here are some handy tips to make the most of your experience:
Aim to visit on a weekday when it’s less crowded. Weekends, especially Sundays, tend to attract long lines and big crowds.
Parking is limited on Olvera Street itself. Use nearby lots or public transportation. The Metro Gold Line stops at Union Station.
For authentic food, hit the outdoor market stalls for tasty, affordable Mexican bites like tacos, tamales and churros.
Many vendors sell out of items by afternoon. Come early in the day for the best selection of crafts and goods.
See a Show
Mariachi bands and folklorico dance shows take place throughout the day. Grab a seat early for the best views.
Take a Tour
Go on a free guided tour to learn about the history and architecture. Docent-led tours leave from El Pueblo Visitor Center.
Have departing visitors take an Uber/Lyft directly from Olvera Street to avoid airport traffic. LAX is approx. 30 minutes away.
For over 80 years, Olvera Street has served as a top attraction in Los Angeles where visitors can shop, dine and learn about the city’s Mexican heritage. This lively marketplace lets you experience Mexican culture through arts and crafts, food, music and historic sites. With its festive ambiance and colorful vibrancy, it’s easy to see why Olvera Street remains one of LA’s most famous and enduring landmarks.