LA can be an intimidating beast to tackle when you first visit, but its gems can be easily uncovered if you know where to look.
The regeneration of Downtown has brought a surge of new energy and blood to LA’s centre, and tourists are rightly making time to explore it. If you don’t have a car, it’s still accessible on Metro, bus or by Uber. Head to Pershing Square and walk from there.
A concentration of some of the finest Art Deco buildings in America can be found here, invoking the spirit of Old Hollywood and the Jazz Age. Some lie in disrepair, some renovated, and it’s now possible to take a walking tour of them with the LA Conservancy.
Downtown is a very different scene from Hollywood and the beaches. The Ace Hotel, housed in the 1927 United Artists Building, is well worth a visit, if only to catch sunset from its rooftop bar. As is the LA Public Library and the stunning Biltmore, where the Academy Awards used to be held. Try and sneak a peek into the ballroom.
Alongside the Art Deco are some more modern, avant-garde creations. The futuristic-looking Broad museum showcases contemporary art from famous names such as Jeff Koons and Cindy Sherman, and, unlike many galleries in America, is free (though go early to avoid queuing).
Next to that is the silver wave-form, Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall – home to the LA Philharmonic. And across the road from that, the MACMA. All very accessible from Grand Central Market, open since 1917 and serving everything from vegan ramen to craft ales. It also contains one of my favourite coffee shops in the city – G&B. The market’s open until 10pm, so you can easily tag it on to your day.
LA’s Fashion District is around the corner from the Ace hotel, and a visit to FIDM museum is a great way to get up close to some of the incredible costumes worn movies including La La Land, Captain Fantastic, Batman and Zoolander.
Old Hollywood glamour abounds in LA’s famous hotels. One of my favourites is the Hollywood Roosevelt, which saw the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe grace its doors. But also the Bel-Air, whose hillside setting makes for a great base, almost like a retreat.
Los Angeles has a top-class food scene – not just the healthy places and the fast-food joints, but the bistros, cafes, restaurants and hotel eateries. You really can eat like a king or queen here.
What I also noticed was that the price didn’t seem to vary a whole lot between high-end and medium-end, so you get a lot of bang for you buck.
Here are some of my favourite places to dine in LA:
- Brunch. Brunch is as big in LA as it is in New York. And one of the best places to experience it is at Farmshop in Santa Monica. The French toast is to die for (huge chunks of brioche drizzled with maple syrup, crispy bacon, berries), and we loved the baba ganoosh, which had a good kick to it. Add to that mimosas, cappuccinos and egg-white omelettes and you’ve got yourself some serious brunch heaven. Book ahead as it gets very busy, especially on weekends.
Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th St, Santa Monica, www.farmshopca.com
- Lunch. Gjelina has been making a splash on Abbot Kinney ever since it opened in 2014. So much so, it now has a sister deli, Gjusta, up the road on Sunset (which does great pizza slices), so if you can’t get in at Gjelina’s, go here instead. I recommend the charred brussels sprouts with walnut at cilantro, the mushroom, thyme and fontina pizza, and the midday reviver. But literally all the dishes are exquisite. Think Ottolenghi meets Hollywood. Veggies will be in seventh heaven. You can buy the cookbook here too – highly recommended. People start queueing around midday, so arrive early or book ahead.1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, http://www.gjelina.com/
- Dinner. You can’t come to LA without visiting the Chateau Marmont. You’re guaranteed a good time here. The food is excellent (as is the wine), and you’re guaranteed to spot someone famous. Which is part of being in LA, isn’t it?8221 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood, www.chateaumarmont.com.
- Hotel. We love the bungalows at the Chateau Marmont, the Grace Kelly suite at Hotel Bel-Air, the cabanas at the Hollywood Roosevelt, the loft at Ace hotel Downtown, the WOW suite at the W in Beverly Hills, and the ocean-facing suites at Shutters on the Beach.
- Coffee. We recommend Menotti’s in Venice Beach, Bru coffee bar in Los Feliz, Alfred in West Hollywood (the alley is good for a grab-and-go, the other cafe is good for a sit-and-chat (or work), and G&B in Grand Central Market (Downtown). Oh, and Toms in Venice. It may ostensibly be a shoe shop, but they do great coffee and let you chill in their backyard all day.
For more LA tips, visit www.discoverLosAngeles.com.