The second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, Los Angeles is the unofficial capital city of the West Coast. Claimed by the Spanish in 1542 but not settled until the late 18th century, Los Angeles passed into American hands just over 170 years ago and grew exponentially from then onwards.
Particularly after the beginning of the 20th century, the start of the US film industry in Hollywood, the fame and fortunes of Los Angeles increased even more. Even the Hollywood Sign in the hills north of Hollywood is famous. And that’s just one part of Los Angeles.
Elsewhere, aside from the affluent homes, celebrities’ hand and footprints, and famous faces lurking around town, the greater Los Angeles area is a fascinating and frenetic city to explore. Head west, and you’ll get to the Pacific Coast itself. Famous beaches at Santa Monica and Venice make for a simultaneously lively yet laid-back place to discover.
Map of Los Angeles
1. Hollywood · 2. Downtown · 3. Venice Beach · 4. Santa Monica · 5. Beverly Hills · 6. West Hollywood · 7. Westwood
It’s all these different areas that make liberal Los Angeles what it is – a conglomerate of cultures. LGBT mixes with Hollywood elite; surfers and beach bums mingle with alternative subcultures and cool creatives.
Getting around to see it all in action is easy thanks to a metro system and a vast network of freeways. And though the price tags for places to stay in Los Angeles are pretty high, there are some bargains to be had in the city.
Famous around the world for being the home of cinema, Hollywood has been drawing starry-eyed travelers for decades with its glitzy film premieres and big attractions such as the Walk of Fame and the Chinese Theater.
The iconic Hollywood Hills in the north of town are home to the Hollywood Bowl concert venue and Universal Studios. Take a trip to West Hollywood, and you’ll find the stylish Fairfax District with its museums, and the quirky Melrose Trading Post vintage market.
Connected by the 101 Freeway as well the Red Line Metro, and with its location right in the middle of Los Angeles, Hollywood itself is well placed for exploring the rest of the city.
Accommodation in the middle of the neighborhood is surprisingly affordable, with a selection of hostels on offer alongside more high-end options, while the Hollywood Hills are where you’ll find a wide range of five-star hotels – and the iconic Hollywood Sign.
Where to Stay in Hollywood
- Chateau Marmont – Based on an actual French chateau in the Loire Valley, the sumptuous Chateau Marmont – which dates back to 1929 – is a historic and beautiful place to stay. Inside, it’s part gothic castle, part traditional, with elegant dining areas, retro-modern rooms, and a dark and sultry cocktail bar. For something that isn’t just luxury but also boasts heaps of charm and character, you would do well to stay at this 5-star hotel. As for the location, Sunset Strip is within easy walking distance.
- The Hollywood Roosevelt – Another of Los Angeles’ heritage hotels, The Hollywood Roosevelt opened its doors in 1927 and holds the title of the longest operating hotel in the city. The interiors are impressive; a warm Spanish Colonial Revival style with terracotta tiled flooring, iron furnishings, and plenty of leather. Everything about it feels classic and ornate – that’s excluding the rooms, which are modern, mid-century wonders. And the pool, which is all about its palms and clean lines. You couldn’t ask for a better location: it’s right on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and across the road from the Chinese Theater.
- Loews Hollywood Hotel – With its sleek and stylish monochrome rooms – which you can upgrade to a suite for floor-to-ceiling windows and seating areas – the Lowes Hollywood Hotel brings a contemporary class to the hotel game. Enjoy a dip in its heated rooftop pool and recline in one of the cabanas, indulge in the spa, enjoy food at the funky restaurant, or sip on evening drinks at this 4-star hotel’s cool cocktail bar. If you’re after some shopping, you’re in luck: the Hollywood & Highland shopping mall and entertainment complex is right on your doorstep.
- Hollywood Historic Hotel – This hotel is set in a building that dates back to 1927, making it true to its name. Aside from the charming structure itself, the interiors are all tastefully classic; the rooms feature patterned carpets and bedspreads, carved wooden beds, and plenty of old school kitsch – there are even original 1920s baths in the rooms! You’ll find plenty of cafes and eateries in the area, plus there are things to see close by, like Paramount Pictures – just a few minutes’ stroll away.
The area of Downtown L.A is amazingly diverse. Set to the southeast of Hollywood, this is where visitors to this sprawling city will find areas like Little Tokyo, with the Japanese American National Museum, the nearby Arts District, and the Fashion District. Even Chinatown with all its incredible eateries can be found just to the north of the Downtown area.
Downtown is well connected, with a number of metro stations and lines serving the area, as well as Union Station – which is perfect for those arriving by Amtrak train services.
It may be a convenient place to stay in Los Angeles, but the hotels here don’t come cheap. However, there are a few budget-friendly hostels in the area. Downtown is also home to El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the site of the original settlement from which Los Angeles grew following its founding in 1781.
Where to Stay in Downtown L.A.
- Hotel Figueroa Downtown – Sultry and boutique style, with retro furniture, modern artwork, and an all-around eclectic but put-together style, the rooms at Hotel Figueroa are polished and match the 5-star rating. The building itself dates back to 1925, making it yet another slice of LA history. When it comes to amenities, you can sip on cocktails in one of two bars, swim in its stylish pool, dine next to the pool itself, and eat delicious Mediterranean food at the restaurant… It’s all here. Location-wise, the Grammy Museum and the landmark Staples Center are within walking distance.
- Hotel Indigo – Within easy walking distance of the Staples Centre and boasting a whole lot of places to eat, drink and shop at in the local area, Hotel Indigo is also a hop, skip and a jump away from the nearest subway station. Featuring its own restaurant – open all day – two bars (one in the lobby, one on the rooftop), and even a fitness center, this 4-star offering packs rooms that are sleek and stylish; it’s all about minimalism and natural tones mixed with muted color pops and stylish furnishings.
Venice Beach is possibly one of the most famous beaches in the world. Merely visiting here is a highlight of seeing Los Angeles.
Just to the north of LA International Airport, and around 15 miles west of the Downtown area, Venice Beach is famous for its namesake – the Venice Canals. These were built in 1905 as part of a plan to develop a “Venice of America.” Today, this historic district is well worth an afternoon stroll.
Elsewhere, you can talk a walk up (or down) the Venice Beach Boardwalk, where you’ll find a multitude of shops and street performers, making for a lively atmosphere. Of course, it wouldn’t be Venice without the world-renowned Muscle Beach, an outdoor gym where oiled bodybuilders lift weights and lounge around.
While there are a few budget-friendly options in Venice Beach, you’re going to find a lot of high-end offerings here, including a few historic B&Bs and boutique hotels.
Where to Stay in Venice Beach
- Inn at Venice Beach – Inn at Venice Beach has some seriously funky interiors going on. With a retro-modern vibe, including 1960s style chairs and black and white flooring, the rooms are a design lover’s dream. These come with coffeemakers, flatscreen TVs, and their very own balconies. As a bonus, guests can enjoy a free continental breakfast in a charming little courtyard area before exploring the city. The iconic beach itself is just a few steps away from this hotel – as are the many vibrant eating and drinking establishments of the area.
- Venice Suites – The clean, minimalist and sea-themed rooms at Venice Suites really make sense when you consider the location of this 3-star hotel: it’s practically on Venice Beach itself. Fans of soaking in the sun, playing around in the sand, and paddling in the sea will love where this hotel is situated. The world-renowned Muscle Beach is just around a 15-minute walk from here, too. There’s a communal rooftop where you can enjoy barbeques as the sun sets – all of that overlooking Venice Beach Boardwalk.
North of Venice Beach lies Santa Monica, connected by the Expo Line light railway as well as the Big Blue Bus. This cool, classic town is where to head if you enjoy a laid-back life by the sea.
The four-mile long Santa Monica State Beach boasts the bustling Santa Monica Pier right in its center; it’s even got its own amusement park, Pacific Park, complete with attractions for all ages.
The pleasant Palisades Park edges the beach, a grassy fringe of walking trails and cycling courses. Hire bikes from rental shops on the beach and pedal along the paved path known as The Strand, running along the ocean for 22 miles south to the town of Torrance.
Make the most of Santa Monica and stay at one of the many luxury hotels that dot the seafront. There is a selection of shopping opportunities to be found along Montana Avenue, where you can also enjoy long lunches at numerous gourmet restaurants.
Where to Stay in Santa Monica
- Casa Del Mar – Set in a Renaissance Revival style building and dating back to 1926, this 5-star hotel is all about old-world luxury. The rooms are plush, comfortable, and feel like something from a design magazine; the windows are arched and look out over the sea; there’s a chilled out Italian restaurant onsite; and there’s a cool bar, where you’ll get to see evening entertainment. Virtually overlooking the main beach, Muscle Beach is also just on the doorstep.
- Huntley Santa Monica Beach – With its smart and stylish rooms – all greys and yellow color pops – a cool penthouse restaurant that serves up contemporary cuisine, a fitness center, a bar, and even valet parking, Huntley Santa Monica Beach is also well located. This elegant and modern hotel is a mere block away from the beach and around a 15-minute stroll away from Santa Monica Pier. Plus, there is a whole lot of shopping, eating, and drinking to be done in the lively surrounding area.
- Shore Hotel – The name of this 4-star hotel says it all; it is just across the road from Santa Monica Beach, Tongva Park, and the Santa Monica Pier. It doesn’t get much better than this. While there is an onsite restaurant at Shore Hotel which serves up Mexican dishes, there’s a lot on offer nearby in terms of food and drink that you won’t want to miss out on – especially if you are a big fan of cuisine. With rooms boasting modern elegance and natural color palettes mixed with turquoise color pops, it’s a cool place to stay.
- Sea Blue Hotel – This is another of Los Angeles historic hotels and has been open for business since 1948. The rooms don’t show it though; they are marvels of modernity, with a calm and cool sea-themed color palette and decor, wooden floors, and big, comfy beds that make it a relaxed and fitting place to stay. It’s also a good budget option; there’s a free breakfast served daily and even free snacks on offer all day! The location can’t be beaten either; it’s right across the road from Muscle Beach.
Everybody has heard of Beverly Hills; this is truly where the rich and famous of Los Angeles live. One of the smaller districts within the larger, and very affluent, Westside region of the city, Beverly Hills is split into two areas, roughly bisected by the northeast-southwest Santa Monica Boulevard.
To the south is where you’ll find most – if not all – the hotels, luxury offerings like the Four Seasons, the Marriott and the Hilton – though there are a few budget guesthouses for the wallet-conscious traveler.
To the north are the ‘Hills’ themselves, where you’ll find no hotels – only very nice houses for the very well-off. You could go on one of many Star’s Homes tours, or you could just make use of the area without celebrity spotting.
You can stroll around the leafy Beverly Gardens Park, go and marvel at the iconic storybook style Spadena House, or for those with young kids in tow, check out the Zimmer Children’s Museum.
Where to Stay in Beverly Hills
- Viceroy L’Ermitage Beverly Hills – The Viceroy L’Ermitage features swanky rooms that mix traditional touches with modern style, all tied up with a neutral color palette for a cool and comfortable place to stay. This 5-star option isn’t just about the rooms though; there’s also a rooftop pool, a gym, and a French restaurant to indulge at. The upscale Rodeo Drive is within walking distance, but there’s a complimentary local car service on offer, which means getting around the area is pretty simple.
- Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel – The clue is in the name: this hotel is right on Rodeo Drive. That means all the high-end shopping you could dream of. Not only that, but there are a whole lot of eateries and bars in the area, so you can shop till you drop and sample what the local food scene has to offer. Rooms are stylish and boast upscale furnishings, large, comfortable beds, and flatscreen TVs. If you feel like staying in, treat yourself to the onsite bistro and lounge, where you can dine and sip on cocktails.
- Hotel Beverly Terrace – Simple but stylish rooms are the name of the game at Hotel Beverly Terrace, a boutique hotel situated on Melrose Avenue right next to Santa Monica Boulevard, around a mile from the glitzy shopping of Rodeo Drive. There’s an Italian restaurant on site, as well as a rooftop pool. You’ll be treated to a complimentary welcome cocktail on arrival, plus you can wake up to a free continental breakfast, which makes for the best fuel to explore Los Angeles.
Known by locals as WeHo, the area of West Hollywood is popular for its energetic nightlife and cool comedy clubs. Hugging Beverly Hills in the west, and neighboring both the Hollywood Hills and Hollywood itself, West Hollywood is famous in its own right for the Sunset Strip.
Making up a section of the Sunset Boulevard, Sunset Strip is the mile-and-a-half stretch that runs between Hollywood and Beverly Hills.
West Hollywood is also well known for its colorful LGBT scene and has even been labeled ‘Gay Village’ due to its openness to LGBT culture and communities.
You can spend time strolling around 3rd Street, delighting in the aroma from the array of independent coffee houses, check out fantastic bars and restaurants, and admire the cool interior design in this area. Accommodation in West Hollywood is mainly centered around Sunset Boulevard, with a lot of luxury lodgings on offer.
Where to Stay in West Hollywood
- The Jeremy Hotel West Hollywood – The Jeremy Hotel features bright and airy rooms with floor to ceiling windows, plenty of white linen, and a calm, minimalist decor scheme that makes for a relaxing and comfortable stay. The compact rooftop pool here makes for some great views of the city below, while there’s also a restaurant and a couple of bars to enjoy onsite. There’s a free shuttle that can take you to hotspots around the local area, which is always a plus, but this hotel is practically on the famed Sunset Boulevard anyway.
- Petit Ermitage – With just ten rooms, the Petit Ermitage is a pleasant place to stay where guests can enjoy sultry, antiques-filled, Moroccan-themed suites just off the famous Santa Monica Boulevard. On site, you’ll be able to enjoy Mediterranean cuisine at the restaurant, but there are also many eateries spread out along the Boulevard in the vicinity. Other amenities at this 4-star option include a saltwater pool and a funky little bar for evening drinks. Sunset Boulevard is also just a couple of blocks to the north, boasting more drinking and dining options.
Westwood is sandwiched between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills; it definitely features as much prestige when it comes to affluence and famous residents. The Playboy Mansion is located here, after all.
Westwood is also the location of the University of California, Los Angeles – also known as UCLA. The fact that this famous institution is here means there are students in the area, which means good eats and fun things to do.
Head along the Westwood Boulevard towards UCLA to find a whole lot of things to eat and some interesting sights, too.
Elsewhere, there’s the Hammer Museum – filled with cool modern art, the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, and even the impressive Mormon Los Angeles California Temple.
This is a cool place to stay, though there aren’t a great many lodgings to choose from; expect a handful of mid-range and high-end hotels and boutique offerings.
Where to Stay in Westwood
- Hotel Angeleno – Set in a unique tower of a building, Hotel Angeleno boasts rooms shaped like slices of pie, making for a different room arrangement! The decor is simple but stylish, with a mature, natural color palette. In terms of amenities, there’s a heated outdoor pool, and on the top floor, guests will find a restaurant that boasts not only locally sourced ingredients, but incredible views of the glittering city at night.
- Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel – This 4-star lodging boasts not just a high-end restaurant, but also a fancy cocktail bar; here, you will have your evenings completely planned out in a sleek, stylish setting. There’s also a chic pool surrounded by white draped cabanas, and the rooms are just as elegant in a muted, neutral way. Located just off the San Diego Freeway, getting out and about on road trips from here is relatively simple.