As the film La La Land made a splash in cinemas this year, the city of Los Angeles was thrust into the limelight. But finding the glamorous side to LA can be an intimidating prospect, if you don’t know where to go. Here are our favourite places to see and be seen in the City of Angels.
Tucked away in the salubrious foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, the bucolic Bel-Air feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown LA and the beaches. This is the place to come to get away from it all, and many celebrities and politicians do just that. Opened in 1946, notable guests have included Judy Garland, Lauren Bacall, Paul Newman, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, who has a suite named after her. The decor is suitably Old Hollywood, with elegant, airy rooms and studios, a La Prairie spa and a branch of Wolfgang Puck.
701 Stone Canyon Rd
Located bang in the middle of Hollywood Boulevard and the Walk of Fame, the Roosevelt is an iconic LA fixture, brimming with Hollywood history. The very first Academy Awards were held here (they’re now hosted across the road at the Dolby Theatre), and since the hotel opened in 1927, it’s seen the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Prince pass through its doors. Marilyn Monroe lived here for two years, and rumour has it she met Arthur Miller in the hotel’s nightclub. Check into one of the 1950s poolside cabanas for maximum star-spotting and a retro California vibe. Apparently the parties here are legendary, so you’ll be right in the heart of the action.
7000 Hollywood Boulevard
We’re a big fan of the Ace brand, and the LA outpost is no exception. Housed in the stunning Art Deco United Artist’s building in Downtown, this uber-hip hotel has maximum urban edge and A-list ambience. Even if you don’t stay here, pay a visit to the rooftop bar, and enjoy sunset cocktails and celebrity-spotting. Anna Kendrick, Lykke Li, Jennifer Lawrence, Aloe Blacc and Matt Damon have all been here.
929 S Broadway
OK, you might spot a different kind of star from up here (though we did see Ethan Hawke walking his dog when we visited), but Griffith Observatory is a must-see on any trip to LA. Not only is the Planetarium fascinating in its own right, the views from the balconies are some of the best in town. After your visit, take a hike through Griffith Park with the guys from Bikes & Hikes, who can talk you through the slightly chequered history of the park (and infamous Griffith J. Griffith, after whom the park is named). It was also used as a location for films such as Batman (the ‘bat cave’ is, in fact, Bronson Cave) and Julius Caesar. For added La La Land / Rebel Without A Cause reenactment points, pull up in a convertible and have an existential tête-à-tête with a loved one while gazing over the city below.
Griffith Park, 2800 E Observatory Rd
This Gothic-style ‘chateau’ is a Hollywood landmark, and has been attracting A-listers since it opened in 1929. Jim Morrison used to live here, as did Sharon Tate and husband Roman Polanski. John Belushi OD’d in one of the bungalows. Hunter S. Thompson, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tim Burton all created work from here. Book a room, come for a cocktail in the cosy bar or dine in the candlelit courtyard and soak up the never-a-dull-moment atmosphere. If only walls could talk…
8221 Sunset Boulevard
The Hollywood Sign
Is there a sign more famous than this? We doubt it. For the ultimate selfie, book a helicopter tour with Group3 Aviation, who will fly you over the hills in true A-lister fashion.
FIDM Museum & Galleries
Want to know what the costumes of your favourite films look like up close and personal? Or perhaps you’re just curious to know how big/little/tall/short your favourite stars are. Either way, head over to the 25th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition at FIDM, where many Academy Award-winning outfits are currently on display, La La Land dresses included.
919 S Grand Avenue, fidmmuseum.org
Warner Bros Studio Tour
Movie buffs will be in heaven whizzing around the backlots of Warner Bros Studio, where many films such as Casablanca, Batman, Annie and La La Land were shot. The two-hour tour also takes in the sets of Big Bang Theory, Friends, Ellen and Pretty Little Liars. The Batmobile room is a real highlight – especially if you’re a teenage boy at heart.
3400 W Riverside Drive, Burbank
The Smoke House
If all that backlot action has got you feeling peckish, there’s no better place to refuel than the atmospheric Smoke House, which has been feeding actors, producers and industry bods since 1946. The Old Hollywood ambience is something to behold. You can just imagine the conversations that have gone down here in the red banquettes and dimly lit corners. Interesting fact – George Clooney loved it so much he named his production company, Smokehouse Pictures, after it. So, if it’s good enough for George…
4420 Lakeside Drive, Burbank
Cecconi’s in West Hollywood is another LA institution. Attracting a see-and-be-seen crowd, the food, wine and people-watching are first class, so book well ahead and settle in for the night.
8764 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood
A top choice among Angelenos and celebs alike, Farmshop in Brentwood Country Mart does an excellent brunch, and sells locally sourced goodies in its adjoining deli. Book ahead, especially on weekends.
Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St #25, Santa Monica
Tracy Anderson Brentwood Studio
To go full LA on the situation, book a class at Tracy Anderson’s Brentwood studio. Tracy has worked with the likes of J-Lo and Gwyneth, so you never know who you’ll be working out next to. Her multiTAsk class combines dance with focused mat work. Once your session is over, pop next door for a blowout (blow-dry) at the David Babaii Blow-Dry Bar. Or enlist the professional help of the BeGlammed team, who’ll come to your hotel room to spruce you up before you go out. So even if you ache like hell, you’ll at least look fabulous.
11918 San Vicente Blvd
Alfred Coffee & Kitchen
A favourite among screenwriters and fashion bloggers, this Melrose Place institution – not far from Cecconi’s – is a buzzing place to spend the afternoon. If you’re patient, wait for an outdoor table, which affords excellent people-watching on one of LA’s more green and peaceful streets. If you’re a budding writer, don’t forget your laptop. You’ll fit right in.
8428 Melrose Place
The E-Wow Suite at the W Hotel
The E-Wow (Extreme Wow) Suite at the W Hotel in West Beverly Hills is the room to book for a movie-watching marathon or to host a private screening. The all-gold screening room has a wraparound sofa, flat-screen TV and tons of glitz factor.
930 Hilgard Ave
Vintage Los Feliz 3 Theatre
This beautiful retro cinema has an air of faded grandeur that is so very LA. After your film, head over to one of the neighbourhood hangouts, such as Figaro bistro, Bru Coffeebar or Skylight Books for some Los Feliz action.
1822 N Vermont Ave
Grand Central Market
Now in its 100th year, this Downtown food market features more than 40 stalls, with vegan ramen, burritos, pizza, cold-pressed juices, a branch of Eggslut, and one of the best coffee bars in town.
317 S Broadway
Just across the road from Grand Central Market is this historic funicular, which used to transport people up and down the hill from the market. The peachy coloured Beaux-Arts railway opened in 1901, closed in 2013, and will hopefully reopen at the end of 2017 following renovation. The plaque at the top reads: “It is estimated that Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first 50 years.” Pretty impressive, we think.
You can fly direct from London to LAX with Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand, Norwegian Air, Lufthansa and British Airways.
Images courtesy of Discover LA and Katie Monk