Los Angeles Tour: West Hollywood
Hit the town in this perennially buzzy “playground to the stars.”
West Hollywood got its start as an unincorporated area of Los Angeles, a sort of “Wild West” whose main thoroughfare Sunset Boulevard developed in the 1920’s and '30’s as a freewheeling hub for liquor, gambling, and celebrity antics. Today, the world-famous Sunset Strip remains a playground for the stars, with ultra-exclusive restaurants and lounges side by side with legendary rock clubs. But West Hollywood is much more than just a party. There's a convivial community spirit along Santa Monica Boulevard, where the city's vibrant gay and Russian immigrant communities collide, and some of the world's finest retail treasures can be found on “The Avenues,” the city's art, fashion, and design district. At its most classic haunts, you can still catch a whiff of Golden-Era Hollywood glamour.
1 Voda Spa
Inside the dark-gray, hulking exterior of this 15,000-square-foot facility lies a European-inspired spa with modern luxuries and style. A water-wall and floating staircase greet visitors upon entry, and the spa boasts two Russian saunas, a Turkish wet steam bath, a Finnish dry sauna, and ten treatment rooms. Voda also has a salon and numerous pools, and services all senses by offering the Voda Cafe (serving healthy California cuisine) and the V Room Lounge, with a full bar. Plasma flat-screens illuminate the modernity, while Russian-speaking staff members provide an air of legitimacy to the experience.
2 Ron Herman
L.A.â€™s young and fab make regular pilgrimages to this warren of shops housed beneath a vine-covered roof. Shimmery-blond stay-at-home-moms peruse knit hip-length cardigans, film producers in wrinkled dress shirts pick up Prada ombre loafers, and out-of-work actresses in leopard-print heels stop by Mauroâ€™s CafÃ© for crisp baby-arugula salads.
Tip: Donâ€™t ignore the walls when youâ€™re refueling at the cafÃ©, which moonlights as a gallery; the installations (like a recent series of original black-and-white photos of the Rolling Stones by Philip Townsend) are pretty impressive.
3 Sunset Tower Hotel
Gorgeously revived in 2006 by hotelier Jeff Klein, this 1929 Art Deco landmark was once an apartment building to the stars (John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, and Frank Sinatra all had crash pads here). Though itâ€™s been a hotel since the 1980â€™s, the buildingâ€™s glamorous new incarnation finally does justice to its extraordinary â€œbone structureâ€
4 Bar Marmont
Part of the iconic Chateau Marmont hotel, this restaurant and cocktail lounge is a magnet for Hollywoodâ€™s A-list,Â with former patrons including Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and the cast of Mad Men. The interior blends classicÂ design elementsâ€”such as decorative mirrors and long red banquettesâ€”with unusual touches like faux monarchÂ butterflies pinned to the ceiling. Thereâ€™s also a swanky bar area, with dim red lighting and live DJâ€™s spinning aÂ mix of electro and hip-hop music. In the kitchen, Spotted Pig alum Carolynn Spence prepares Italian-inspired dishesÂ like bacon-wrapped bourbon apples, and tagliatelle pasta with lamb ragoÃ»t.
Agostino Sciandri and actor Robert De Niro teamed to open this Tuscan trattoria in 1997. Out front, there are cypress and olive trees, as well as an enclosed patio to protect against (rare) inclement weather. The dining room itself has an exhibition kitchen andÂ a glass and steel bar.Â The key piece of kitchen equipment is the wood-burning oven, which eschews pizzas in favor of proteins like a 22-ounce T-bone steak and baby rack of lamb. Other choices include the pounded and breaded veal chop, cylindrical paccheri pasta with lamb ragÃº, and tomato-based seafood risotto. Dolci are classic Italian, consisting of cannoli, tiramisu, and gelato.