Watching the Oscar-nominated sequel Blade Runner 2049 put us in the mood to relive the original on a 2.6-mile round-trip cinematic walking tour of downtown LA shooting locations used in the 1982 sci-fi masterpiece.
That film deftly manipulated LA’s existing architecture to evoke the city’s dark future. Case in point, and first stop: the Bradbury Building at Broadway and 3rd Street. Inside, a narrow atrium rises five stories, flanked by two bird-cage elevator shafts. Ornate wrought-iron railings line staircases and tiered balconies. In Blade Runner, the Bradbury is transformed into a derelict apartment building—perpetually dark and dripping wet—and becomes the nexus of action after two runaway replicants seek refuge in its recesses, only to be discovered by LAPD officer Deckard (Harrison Ford). Visitors are only allowed in the lobby and up to the first stair landing, but the vantage points are still inspiring.
As you exit onto Broadway, you’ll notice the Million Dollar Theater marquee across the street, another Blade Runner landmark. The next one is just over two blocks away. Head northeast on Broadway and turn left on 2nd Street to reach the 2nd Street Tunnel, which Deckard drives through in the film. As you wade deeper into the dark, you’ll understand why the production chose it. When cars speed through, their lights reflect in thousands of ceiling tiles, creating shimmering pools of red and white—an undeniably retrofuturistic visual effect.
Double back and head east to the final point on your tour: Union Station. You have a choice of several routes, but heading up Grand and then descending Grand Park to the foot of City Hall is the most scenic. From there, just continue northeast on Main Street and bear right at Los Angeles Plaza Park. The station’s cathedral-like main hall houses a somewhat shoddy LAPD office in the movie. Don’t get too distracted by the marble floors and coffered ceilings; there may be replicants about!
BONUS: When we first meet Deckard, he’s about to pick up chopsticks and dive into a steaming bowl of ramen at a futuristic street stall. So to really get into character, order a bowl of ramen from Ramen Hood in the bustling Grand Central Market opposite the Bradbury. As in Blade Runner, you can’t tell what is real and what is fabricated at this vegan noodle bar. The soft-boiled egg on top is actually made from soy milk and yeast, and the rich broth is flavored using sunflower seeds, not meat.
Navigate to 3rd St. and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. Your best bet for parking is at one of several flat-rate lots in the area ($8 to $10 maximum). Set out in late afternoon for a more atmospheric journey,