T+L's Definitive Guide to Los Angeles
Los Angeles has evolved into a stylish collection of urban enclaves, each with its own personality—not to mention to-die-for shopping, art, eating, and, yes, stargazing.
Lay of the Land
Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood still draw shoppers and sightseers, but a new generation of talented young transplants has helped transform Hollywood and Downtown into exciting and navigable playgrounds.
The Beach: Venice has the canals. Santa Monica, the shopping (we're partial to Montana Avenue). Malibu, the legendary beaches with low-key fish-fry shacks.
Beverly Hills: The 90210 has more luxury emporiums than any other U.S. zip code.
Culver City: This once industrial neighborhood is now a thriving design district.
Mid-City: Come here for the shopping meccas of Melrose and La Brea, the Farmers' Market, and the museums on Wilshire Boulevard.
Hollywood: Tacky-touristy by day, the formerly seedy neighborhood blossoms after dark thanks to high-design hotels and nightclubs.
Silver Lake and Echo Park: Head to this area for local fashion, vintage shops, and the best music venue, the Echoplex.
Downtown: A loft boom and new hotels (the Ace Downtown is expected in fall 2013) have fueled a sophisticated foodie scene.
Seeking a beach escape? Or a Beverly Hills hideaway? L.A. has a hotel for every type of traveler.
Fashion photographer Matthew Rolston curated the design of Hollywood's The Redbury, adding English upholstery and Suzani bedspreads. $$
At the new W Hollywood, you'll find shiny white minimalism in a steel-and-glass complex. $$
The Philippe Starck–designed SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills houses chef José Andrés's equally imaginative Bazaar. $$$
Just steps from Rodeo Drive, the Montage Beverly Hills has a courtyard setting that pays homage to Mediterranean architecture. $$$$
On the Beach
Built using only sustainable materials, the Shore Hotel is outfitted with glass showers that look out over the ocean. $$
Cape Cod style reigns at Shutters on the Beach, with interiors by the Obamas' decorator, Michael S. Smith. $$$$
The Art Deco Sunset Tower Hotel has killer city views and an A-list clientele. $$
A hideaway for L.A.'s hip set, Chateau Marmont evokes the noir glamour of Sunset Boulevard. $$$
From the pink exterior to garden bungalows, the Beverly Hills Hotel is a longtime celebrity favorite. $$$$
The stylish new Hotel Wilshire includes a sceney restaurant run by Iron Chef contestant Eric Greenspan. $$
Beige tones are the standard at L'Ermitage Beverly Hills, a five-star addition to the Viceroy Hotels Group. $$$$
The 1946 Hotel Bel Air was just revamped by designer Alexandra Champalimaud and the Rockwell Group. $$$$
Renovated rooms at the Four Seasons at Beverly Hills have private terraces and marble baths. $$$$
Indulge in unsurpassed elegance in a whitewashed mansion at the Peninsula Beverly Hills. $$$$
Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000
Related: T+L's Guide to Hotels in Los Angeles
A neighborhood guide to shopping—don't forget your wallet.
Minnie Mortimer gives East Coast prep a kicked-back California breeziness with shirtwaist dresses and beachy striped tops at the Mini Shop. Nearby is Brentwood Country Mart, a warren of food stalls and shops by stylish clothiers including dressmaker Jenni Kayne, designer James Perse, and queen of Indian prints Roberta Freymann.
Trend-setting jewelry, custom fragrances, international housewares—there's always something intriguing on Venice's Abbot Kinney Boulevard. We love the luxe leather bags at Kendall Conrad (No. 1121), the Danish and Swedish furniture at Huset (No. 1316 1/2), Linus Bikes' (No. 1413 1/2) French-style city cruisers, and ChocoVivo (No. 1504) for stone-ground dark chocolate.
Known for surf/skate brands, the stretch of La Brea Avenue between First and Second Streets has the latest arrivals: Kelly Cole (175 S. La Brea Ave.) sells classic rock T-shirts and unique collector's items, and housewares shop A+R (171 S. La Brea Ave.) is a great source for modern lighting and furniture. The main attraction is Shelter Half (161 S. La Brea Ave.), where you'll find only U.S.-made goods, from Save Khaki men's apparel to Olmay Home accessories.
Some of the world's most coveted premium jeans are produced in industrial neighborhoods just outside Los Angeles. Now downtown L.A.'s Den.m Bar (111 W. Seventh St., suite R3) lets men and women customize their own. The bespoke pants are so popular that customers are encouraged to book an appointment. While in the building, check out Buttons & Bows (suite R11), a vintage shop opened by Bob Marley's daughter Karen.
See + Do
Four simple—and classic—pursuits in the City of Angels.
Go for a nighttime top-down drive on winding Mulholland Drive, from Interstate 405 to Laurel Canyon Boulevard. Take in the magical lights of the city and the San Fernando Valley.
Hike through Griffith Park. Start at the Los Angeles Zoo and head to Griffith Observatory, made famous by Rebel Without a Cause. Stop at Trails Café ($$) for lunch.
Related: T+L's Guide on Things to Do In L.A.
The hottest new tables in L.A. dish up a meaty selection of fusion cuisines.
A-Frame: In a former IHOP, Roy Choi of Kogi food-truck fame recently opened this lively ski-chalet-style restaurant, serving up such inventive dishes as beer-marinated crispy chicken with kimchi and two salsas. 12565 Washington Blvd. $$
Bottega Louie: You'll swear that the Parisian patisserie Ladurée had launched in L.A. when you walk into Bottega Louie. The restaurant is a morning pastry shop and market, lunchtime café, and all-day dining room decked out in white marble and gilded French antiques. Go for the perfect pizzas, pastas, and mâche with chicken—and macarons. 700 S. Grand Ave. $$$
Ink: Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio takes an arty approach to food, piling sugar-snap peas up like a Jenga puzzle surrounded by nitrogen-cooled coconut. A penchant for molecular gastronomy doesn't distract from triumphs such as egg-yolk gnocchi, but does make Ink as serious as its sexy, all-gray space. 8360 Melrose Ave. $$$
Umamicatessen: L.A.'s craze for gourmet ground beef has pushed the delectable Umami into the forefront with 12 SoCal locations. Its latest success combines 11 types of burgers, classic deli sandwiches, pork treats, and fried-to-order German chocolate doughnuts. 852 S. Broadway. $$
Sotto and Picca: Stacked atop one another in a New York–style town house, these two restaurants couldn't be more different. Sotto specializes in Italian-accented cocktails and Neapolitan pizzas. Upstairs, Picca is run by Ricardo Zarate, a trained sushi chef who incorporates his Peruvian roots and the region's tangy ají amarillo pepper into small plates that are even more delicious than they are gorgeous. 9575 W. Pico Blvd. $$$
Tar & Roses: This boisterous gastropub in Santa Monica focuses on farm-to-table vegetable dishes such as wood-roasted peas with mint, plus charcuterie and plates of rib-sticking braised lamb belly. 602 Santa Monica Blvd. $$
Want to spot a celebrity? Nightlife impresario and VIP events producer Bryan Rabin tells T+L where to find them.
Have breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel's Fountain Coffee Room or lunch at the hotel's Polo Lounge.
Pretend not to notice regular Jon Hamm at Little Dom's, in Los Feliz. Other star supper haunts: Il Covo, Bouchon in Beverly Hills, and Tower Bar at Sunset Tower Hotel.
Sip late-night drinks in the living room at Chateau Marmont.
Mingle with the fashion crowd on the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel, in Beverly Hills.
Shop at Fred Segal on Melrose or Kitson and Chanel on Robertson Boulevard, and search for vintage finds at the weekend Malibu Country Mart.
Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150
Three Angelenos share their favorite places in the city.
Executive chef, Ray's & Stark Bar
A Drink: La Descarga (1159 N. Western Ave.; $$) is a bar with an Old Havana vibe and a major focus on agave and tequila.
Inspiring Architecture: LACMA is one of my go-to spots.
President & CEO, J. Paul Getty Trust
A Good Read: Santa Monica's Diesel, a Bookstore (225 26th St.) has a well-curated selection.
Exercise: I bike the Pacific Coast Highway. The light and views are restorative.
Actress, producer, star and co-writer of Celeste and Jesse Forever
Where I Go For...
A Light Lunch: The Vietnamese dishes at the low-key Gingergrass (2396 Glendale Blvd.; $$), in Silver Lake, are always delicious.
The Basics: Broome Street General Store (2912 Rowena Ave.) sells the best of everything—artisanal coffee; toothpaste; organic beauty products.
A Relaxing Afternoon: Raven Spa (2910 Rowena Ave.) gives wonderful traditional Thai massages.
Along with the Getty, MoCA, and LACMA, check out these venues.
Culver City: More than three dozen contemporary art galleries are packed into an easy-to-stroll triangle.
Downtown Art Walk: Don't miss this monthly event that showcases new painting and photography by emerging artists.
Bergamot Station: In an eight-acre industrial tract, 40-plus galleries and shops display anime, sculpture, and more.
Built around the 1960’s Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, the legendary ArcLight cinemas returns the glitz and glamour to the movie-going experience with 15 state-of-the-art screens, top-quality sound systems, assigned armchair-like seating with plenty of leg room, and spoken movie introductions that are occasionally given by the movie’s director. ArcLight also has a gift shop, costume displays, and a restaurant and bar that features regularly scheduled 21+ screenings for those who prefer to watch movies with a martini in hand.
The Farmers Market has been a favorite gathering place in L.A.—hence the saying, “Meet me at Third & Fairfax”—since the Great Depression. The market, which includes more than 100 stalls selling everything from poblano chiles to homemade cashew butter and fresh oysters to organic produce, is big enough and fascinating enough to get lost in. In recent years, the throngs of fans have only increased with the opening of the alfresco Grove shopping center next door. The market also includes a culturally diverse selection of casual eateries, including the Gumbo Pot, French Crepe Company, and ¡Loteria Grill!—famous for Chilaquiles, Mole, and Yucatán-style pork tacos.
Tip: There’s no better time to enjoy the market than morning, when crowds are thin and you can hang out at Bob’s Coffee and Doughnuts with the Times.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
With more than 128,000 pieces of art in their encyclopedic collection including David Hockney and Vincent Van Gogh, it can be a task navigating a day at LACMA. After stopping for obligatory selfies in front of Chris Burden’s iconic cast iron street lamps known as Urban Light, be sure to check out the artist’s lesser-known but equally impressive Metropolis II, where every hour, approximately 1,000 toy cars race through the dense network of buildings, giving you a playful simulation of what it’s like to deal with L.A. traffic on a daily basis.
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 it’s been a hotel since the 1980’s, the building’s glamorous new incarnation finally does justice to its extraordinary “bone structure”—which includes dramatic cast-concrete exterior friezes and curved floor-to-ceiling windows. The décor in the 74 rooms pays tribute to the Deco era, but subtly: dark walnut furnishings are trimmed in glass and polished brass, and the bold-patterned fabrics and wallpaper are softened by deep tones of chocolate, gold, and rust. The iPod docking stations, plasma-screen TV’s, and glass shower stalls stocked with Kiehl’s products don’t seem out of place—but somehow the rooms, as well as the common areas, hark back to a distinctly more elegant time.
Possibly one of Hollywood’s most iconic hotels, the Chateau has been the hideaway for celebrities and the entertainment elite since it officially proclaimed itself a hotel in the 1930s—the property was initially built as apartments and bungalows. Since then, it’s been the spot where stars retreat and cut loose (sometimes too freely, as was the case with Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan). Expect to do some star gazing by the pool, but be aware that it’s not the most kid-friendly of destinations.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Rising dramatically over downtown Los Angeles, the colossal stainless steel curves that comprise the exterior of this world-renowned concert hall create an immediate and powerful impression. Endowed by Lillian Disney and designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall opened in 2003 as the fourth hall of the Los Angeles Music Center, home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Built to look and feel like the hull of a ship, the concert hall features a radically advanced acoustical design and a hardwood-paneled auditorium that houses an enormous Gehry-designed concert organ.
L'Ermitage Beverly Hills
Minutes from Rodeo Drive, this sleek, residence-style hotel is a favorite with visiting fashionistas (no less than Giorgio Armani stays here when he’s in town, and Julia Roberts makes appearances, too). A streamlined, uncluttered aesthetic prevails in the newly minted 116 suites, some of the most spacious in town. All have platform beds and fluffy duvets, flat-screen TVs, surround-sound Bose speakers, and personal lighting and temperature controls. The rooftop pool, with its teak chaises and panoramic views over the Hollywood Hills, is a scene unto itself; if you’re a VIP (or want to feel like one) book one of the two Moroccan-style cabanas, which come with stereos and drink-stocked fridges.
Shutters on the Beach
This sprawling beach-house-style inn looks like it was airlifted from Nantucket and dropped on the Santa Monica shore. Inside, the common areas (like the fireside lounge with chairs and sofas upholstered in seashell colors) and the 198 rooms (all with subtle blue and yellow accents, four-poster beds, walnut furniture, and custom linens) reinforce the laid-back, summer-house vibe. But there’s real luxury here, too: The on-site spa offers organic body treatments by Red Flower and facials by Omorovicza, and the nautically themed One Pico restaurant serves exceptional seafood dishes that reflect the oceanside vibes and coastal California produce.
The Peninsula Beverly Hills
When it comes to luxury, the opulent Peninsula Beverly Hills has it honed in. The five star property is right in the heart of all of the high end shopping and dining the 90210 has to offer, but you needn’t leave your room to feel like you’re living in the lap. Upgraded rooms and suites boast patios, hot tubs, and kitchenettes, some including verdant garden views. There’s also a rooftop restaurant and garden, a super-chic swimming pool with panoramic L.A. views, and a spa offering gemstone facials.
Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills
The $38 million facelift this Beverly Hills classic completed in 2012 may just be the best cosmetic work to come out of La-La Land. The complete renovation aimed to combine the hotel’s signature floral motifs with a new sense of California cool–natural elements and hues, added privacy for events and celebrity guests, and a bit more whimsy. The spectacularly huge floral arrangement that dominates this hotel’s small lobby hints at the opulence of the 285 rooms and suites, which have a glamorous 1940’s vibe, tempered by pops of teal or coral. Most have spacious marble bathrooms and balconies big enough to read the morning paper on. There’s a see-and-be-seen scene at the rooftop pool, where Hollywood bigwigs review scripts over Bellinis and divas disappear into poolside cabanas for their afternoon massages. If you don’t run into your favorite star while waiting for an ultra regenerating facial, you probably will at the lavish Sunday brunch at Culina, Modern Italian, the hotel’s new restaurant.
Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows
Also known as the “Pink Palace,” this landmark hotel is housed in a pale-pink stucco building surrounded by tropical gardens. Originally built in 1912, the property is a gathering spot for the Hollywood elite, with former patrons ranging from Elizabeth Taylor to Paris Hilton. The hotel has 185 guest rooms—many with fireplaces and views of Beverly Hills—as well as 23 garden bungalows with extra amenities like outdoor lounges and plunge pools. The property also contains a cocktail bar and three dining options: the star-studded Polo Lounge, a poolside café, and a coffee shop with a vintage soda fountain.
Montage Beverly Hills
On a prime swath of Los Angeles real estate, this Spanish-style 201-room hotel mixes old-Hollywood touches with modern glam. Mediterranean elements skip from star lanterns and hand-painted tiles to lacy grillwork and brawny furniture with dark wood frames and nailhead trim. Plush and persuasive as they are, Montage’s visuals are not considered to be its sharpest weapon. Neither is the 20,000-square-foot spa, with its sensual whiff of a Moroccan hammam; three restaurants; or 44-foot rooftop pool, which is attended by eight cabanas and faced with approximately 1.32 million individually hand-set mother-of-pearl mosaic tiles. The hotel’s success is based on its impeccable service and amenities. All guests have access to the hotel’s fleet of GPS-equipped Mercedes-Benz cars. The hotel also offers flexible round-the-clock check-in and checkout.
The 156-room resort is an oasis of calm away from the crowds of central Cancún. The minimalist design sets it apart from other area hotels: gauzy curtains line the lobby, and whitewashed rooms are filled with fire engine–red chairs. Outside, the white-sand beach is punctuated by crimson loungers and white umbrellas.
Don't MissA 50-minute waterside massage by torchlight.
Grauman's Chinese Theatre
Original Debut: In 1927, theater developer Sid Grauman set out to do no less than create the most opulent movie palace the world had ever known. America’s fascination with the Orient led him to adopt a Chinese theme, with authentic temple bells and pagodas imported from the country itself and a 90-foot-high entryway guarded by a giant hand-carved dragon.
Now Showing: Some four million annual visitors still come to pay their respects to the theater’s glitzy Chinese statuary, copper-topped turrets, and infamous Walk of Fame (where Marilyn Monroe’s delicate pump-prints, Brad Pitt’s handprints, and scores of others are preserved in the cement outside). Its iconic status makes it a shoo-in for film premieres (He’s Just Not That Into You, The Wrestler, and Che all had their first showings there).
SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Combine Philippe Starck’s exuberant interiors with the genius for tapas of chef José Andrés and the retail vision of design curator Murray Moss, and you have a hotel unlike any other. Though the lobby scene may border on chaotic, the guest rooms are whisper-quiet and American Gigolo–minimalist, with peekaboo sliding doors between the bath and boudoir. But God help you if you have self-esteem issues: virtually every surface in the rooms is reflective. Ultra-trendy though it may be, SLS delivers service that is doting to a fault.
JW Marriott Hotel Los Angeles at L.A. LIVE
Attached to the L.A. Live sports and entertainment complex, the JW Marriott Hotel is located in the heart of downtown just minutes from the Staples Center, Los Angeles Convention Center, and Nokia Theatre. Occupying a 54-story tower shared with a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the Marriott has 878 rooms and suites between floors four and 21, all of which have either city or mountain views. On-site dining includes LA Market Restaurant, which serves New American cuisine, and Wolfgang Puck’s WP24 Restaurant & Lounge, which specializes in modern Chinese food. There's also a rooftop pool, and guests have access to the Ritz-Carlton Spa.