Los Angeles is a sprawling city with a multitude of different spirits, from the chill neighbourhoods in the hills and along the coastline to the (now often faded) glamour of Hollywood and the corporate towers and plazas of Downtown.
As a result, it can be pretty hard to see without a car (or a lot of Uber-ing), it doesn't exactly lend itself to a break of just a few nights. But that's where we come in.
We've put foot to pavement and braved the infamous LA traffic to round up some of the essentials to see in three of the city's must-see spots, leaving no taco unturned.
This compact guide to a sprawling US classic will give you everything to do on a short stay in LA, from the retro-fied charm of the Venice Beach Boardwalk and nearby Abbot Kinney Bouvelard to Echo Park and Silver Lake just above downtown and – because you're in LA – a little dip into Hollywood itself. Here goes...
Where to eat
All Day Baby
A chicken burger at All Day Baby
Since you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you like yourself a little bit of Americana. Well you’re in luck, because we’re about to hit you with some top-class diners. Our tip is to trade off the old-school mom-and-pop greasy spoon grub of near-iconic LA chains like Mel’s Drive-In and Norm’s for All Day Baby in Silver Lake. There you’ll find top modern takes on all-American classics like fried chicken and biscuits, waffles and wedge salad served in suitably nostalgic (but not kitsch) surrounds. The cocktail list is strong, too.
3200 Sunset Boulevard; alldaybabyla.com
If you could distil the word ‘good vibes’ into a restaurant, you probably wouldn’t land too far from Gjusta – an artisan bakery and all-day eatery in an expansive warehouse (with an equally expansive patio garden) a couple of blocks from the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Slope in at any point between 7am and 8pm and you’ll be confronted with delicious dishes from house-smoked meats and cured fish to pizzas and ‘proper’ meal plates. Put simply, if you're in this part of town it's a must, even if it’s just for a coffee and a signature tahini croissant. Gjusta’s upscale sister restaurant Gjelina on Abbot Kinney Boulevard (more on that later) is also worth a go, but maybe reserve a table for that one.
320 Sunset Ave; gjusta.com
Grand Central Market
If you’re looking to sample some of the cornerstones of Southern Californian (and wider American) cuisine, Grand Central Market is the place – and it’s been tucked right in the middle of downtown since 1917. It’s also only a short drive or cab from Echo Park and Silver Lake. While there are still a few old-school produce stores to pick up things like dried Mexican chiles to take home, these days it’s all about the food vendors. Innumerable taco stands? Yep. A taproom from LA’s largest brewery Golden Road? Sure. Kid-in-a-candy-store vibes when you realise there’s NY-style pastrami, Texas-style BBQ and even classic New England lobster rolls, too? Oh, you betcha.
317 S Broadway; grandcentralmarket.com
What to do
Hang out with cowboys at Desert 5 Spot
Desert 5 Spot in Los Angeles
OK, we lied, not real-life cowboys, more like a young and very, very LA crowd that takes partying in Stetsons and cowboy boots very seriously (or at least surprisingly unironically). This rooftop bar a block south of Hollywood Boulevard gives you a good sightline of the famed sign up on the hill, as well as more live-band country rock than you can shake a lasso at after dark. Whether you love it, or are completely bemused by it, you kind of have to experience it, particularly when you can stagger right out onto the Hollywood Walk Of Fame by the star for Hank Williams when you’ve had enough.
6516 Selma Avenue; desertfivespotla.com
Mooch around Abbot Kinney Boulevard
Pedestrians in Abbott Kinney
This mile-long strip of bars, restaurants and cool shops provides a little bit of relief to the well-touristed onslaught of Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Running diagonally a block away from the beach boardwalk and the Venice Canals, Abbot Kinney is the perfect spot for a morning or afternoon of exploring, eating and shopping: think Redchurch Street in Shoreditch but, you know… sunny. Laidback but buzzy restaurants and outrageously pricey farm shops (see: Erewhon) sit cheek-by-jowl with tons of indie boutiques covering fashion, interiors, beauty and more. Get up early and go check out the beach while it’s quiet, then strap on your sunnies and get your jetlagged head down Abbot Kinney for a mooch, it’s the perfect salve to that 11-hour flight…
LA like a local in Echo Park and Silver Lake
‘Just hang out’: that’s what our restaurant server told us to do when we asked how to spend a Saturday in the quintessential LA spots Silver Lake and Echo Park. So with that in mind, slow down, stop for a bit by Echo Park lake, grab a coffee at Dayglow or Café Tropical, inhale some cheap fish tacos at Playita Mariscos, get tickets to a Dodgers (baseball) game if you absolutely have to: just make sure you don’t overdo it. The neighbourhoods of Silver Lake and Echo Park – east of the drag of Hollywood and north of the towers of Downtown – are famed for their young(ish) laid-back crowd and give you a slice of the kind of LA you see in Netflix sitcoms, the cosy, relaxed, sun-drenched ones with palms and cute bungalows down each street. Just enjoy that.
Where to stay
Silver Lake Pool & Inn
A proper oasis within the cool buzz of Silver Lake, this modern boutique takes the familiar footprint of an American motel and supercharges it for the aesthete in you. Expect laid-back, beachy mid-century-glam, with a cute Italian bar and restaurant serving spritzes by the pool. Ah yes: as you might’ve guessed, the pool is the centre of attention here – on an elevated deck and surrounded by cacti, it gives just enough of a view of the Hollywood Hills to remind you you’re in LA while you sit back and order negroni number two – which is always a win in our book.
4141 Santa Monica Boulevard; silverlakepoolandinn.com
As far as location goes, you can’t really get much better than the Erwin, which sits right on the Venice Beach Boardwalk between the world-famous skatepark, equally iconic Muscle Beach Gym and the surf of the Pacific. It’s also home to the largest rooftop bar in Venice, with quite the view (and therefore quite the queue) come sunset. Rooms are nicely styled but relatively simple, and you’ll be able to haul your jetlagged backside out onto the shore of the Pacific first thing anyway, so it doesn’t matter a bit. You’ve also got the artisan delights of Gjusta Grocer just over the road, Menotti’s coffee on the other side of the block, and a great surf and workwear store called Mollusk in eyeline of the hotel reception. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to California.
1697 Pacific Avenue; hotelerwin.com
The Hollywood Roosevelt
The pool at the Hollywood Roosevelt
A room at the Hollywood Roosevelt
If you’re looking for golden-age glamour, you're unlikely to find too much of it on Hollywood Boulevard these days, but you’re hardly gonna fly all that way and not go and see what is a truly iconic neighbourhood. A stay at the Hollywood Roosevelt is the next-best thing: the property – once frequented by Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin, and home to the first Academy Awards in 1927 – takes its grand old heritage and runs with it, harking back to the glamour of the 1960s. We recommend a Cabana room – fresh and contemporary interiors, and just minutes from the hotel’s Tropicana pool, which is decorated with a mural that was painted by David Hockney in 1988. Extra? Of course it is, but this is Hollywood, after all…
7000 Hollywood Boulevard; thehollywoodroosevelt.com