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The Best Things to Do in L.A.'s Koreatown

The Best Things to Do in L.A.'s Koreatown

La La Land might be lacking in the snow department, but in an area like Koreatown, exploring is a sport all on its own. Team


5 min read

December 01, 2023

Can't get to Seoul? Los Angeles offers an incredible alternative. While it may not boast snowy landscapes, Koreatown in the City of Angels is a bustling enclave filled with extraordinary dining spots, markets, spas, bookstores, and much more, making exploration an adventure in its own right.

Home to the largest Korean population in the United States, Los Angeles prides itself on a culinary scene that swiftly adopts trends from Seoul, often just months after they emerge. A single visit to the vibrant Koreatown reveals that this area transcends the typical ethnic neighborhood. It serves as a cultural bridge that not only celebrates the Korean immigrants who have made California their home but also their descendants. These newer generations have infused Koreatown with innovative and thrilling activities, cementing its status as a dynamic extension of Seoul right in the heart of Los Angeles.

Despite the name evoking a traditional ethnic enclave, Koreatown's community is complex and impacts on areas outside the traditional boundaries.

Brief History of L.A.’s Koreatown

The origins of Los Angeles' vibrant Koreatown can be traced back to the arrival of Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, a prominent Korean independence activist, and his wife, Hye Ryeon (Helen), who moved to the USA in 1902. Following their pioneering journey, the first significant group of Korean immigrants made their home in Hawaii in 1903, setting the stage for subsequent migration to Southern California. Many of these early immigrants turned to agriculture, finding new beginnings and opportunities in the farming communities of Riverside and Claremont.

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Koreatown's expansion owes a great deal to the entrepreneurial spirit of Lee Hi Duk, a businessman with rich experiences in both the USA and Germany and a deep appreciation for Korean heritage. Upon relocating to the United States, Lee noticed a void in the availability of Korean-oriented shops and eateries, prompting him to take action. In response, he established the Olympic Market at 3122 West Olympic Boulevard, diligently filling it with a wide array of Korean goods. This market quickly became a cornerstone of Koreatown, catering to the needs and tastes of approximately ten thousand Korean residents in the Los Angeles area.

The Koreatown community is highly diverse ethnically, with half the residents being Latino and a third being Asian.

Your Ultimate Koreatown Guide 

If you’ve been craving Korea’s famous buckwheat noodles or daydreaming about the local trout farms, you are definitely not alone. Korea is one of the most captivating food countries on the entire planet, with regional dishes that seem to change block over block, transporting you to a mind-blowing world of flavor and fermentation; not a bad way to jolt the pleasure center of your brain. Koreatown L.A. is bound to leave you with similar sensations.

The fact that there are over 100 different types of kimchi should tell you something about the pride Koreans have in their food.


Sulga House of Bone Soup

This stunning restaurant has been blowing up recently due to the power of social media app TikTok. They are open daily starting at 11 a.m. The manu stands out for its delicious organic beef bone soup and the interesting and must-try Acord Noodle meals. There is also a load of hot pot, stew, and grilled dishes available for you to try. The prices of the food are affordable and as the name would suggest, the beef broth is out of this world.

Chunju Han-il Kwan

The story of budae jjigae might seem like a culinary tall tale at first glance. This spicy Korean stew brims with unexpected ingredients such as hot dogs, instant ramen noodles, and other foods that found their way from American military bases in Seoul, blending two cultures in a single pot. But the myth becomes a mouthwatering reality at Chunju Han-il Kwan, a refined restaurant celebrated for its diverse selection of banchan, generous seafood offerings, and of course, the standout level-10 budae jjigae. This dish, always a hit among diners, proves that some legends are not only true but also irresistibly tasty.

Dan Sung Sa 

Stepping into Dan Sung Sa is like walking onto the set of a classic Asian film, with an ambiance that feels almost surreal. The low lighting, wooden decor, and lively atmosphere, combined with booths adorned with an eclectic mix of graffiti, transport guests to another world. This establishment draws inspiration from the traditional pojangmacha, a type of orange-tented street pub once common in Seoul but now fading from the urban landscape. At the heart of Dan Sung Sa's menu are soju and an assortment of grilled skewers, offering a variety of meats, seafood, or the uniquely shaped seaweed laminated doughs affectionately dubbed “dumbbells.”

Experience Los Angeles' version of a traditional Asian night market at Koreatown right in the heart of the City of Angels.


Feeling motivated to whip up some Korean cuisine in your own kitchen? Exploring local markets is a top activity in Koreatown, Los Angeles, for good reason. These markets are treasure troves of ingredients, offering everything from pre-marinated meats and a variety of kimchi to ready-made banchan and essential kitchen gadgets. Here are a few markets you'll want to include in your culinary adventure.

Kae Sung Market 

Chances are, you've come across Kae Sung kimchi on the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store, a testament to its status as one of Los Angeles' favorite kimchi brands. At the helm of Kae Sung is Sook Jae Cho, the family matriarch, who has been perfecting the art of kimchi making for nearly fifty years. The Cho family's dedication to tradition and quality was evident at the Kae Sung Market, where they offered an extensive range of kimchi flavors, all crafted without the use of artificial ingredients.

Choice Meat Market

For aficionados of carnivorous delights, Choice Meat Market is a haven nestled on the ground level of a bustling shopping plaza. Renowned for its sumptuous offerings such as beef shabu-shabu, rib-eye, and Kobe-style pork collar bulgogi, available both in prime and choice cuts as well as pre-marinated selections, this market has been satisfying meat lovers for nearly a quarter of a century. Additionally, it offers tailor-made gift sets, making it an ideal stop for those looking to treat the meat connoisseurs in their lives.

There's no shortage of spas in Koreatown, with many offering extended hours, an on-site restaurant and co-ed jimjilbang for men, women, and children.


After all that munching, your best bet is going to be finding a Korean spa to soothe what ails you. Here are just a few faves from a vast, vast network:

Crystal Spa 

The entrance to the Crystal Spa is actually through an Aveda shop, which explains the pleasant odors of jasmine and citrus—a far greater alternative to chlorine, don’t you think? This spa offers a salt room that melts your worries away, as well as a procedure during which a trained professional nimbly walks across your back.

Century Day and Night Spa 

Boasting a range of one-stop opportunities, the Century Day and Night Spa comes with a produce stand, a golf driving range, and a swimming pool in the basement. There’s also jimjilbang—a set of co-ed baths and saunas perfect for a relaxing afternoon.

With its compact three square mile territory, Koreatown boasts more big-box stores than any other neighborhood of comparable size in the country.

Hidden Gems 

The streets of Ktown L.A. are like an eclectic urban bouquet where neon signs mark buildings with various architectural styles, hiding clues of rich history. You’ll find multi-level shopping malls between small shops and boutiques—but not everything is as it seems. For that, you’re going to have to explore on foot and pop into as many gems as possible; intrigue and wonder awaits.

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