Los Angeles: A neighbourhood guide

By Mark Ellwood

Photography by Getty

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If anywhere needs an area guide, it’s Los Angeles. LA county famously has 88 cities within it – which means there’s no one ‘must-visit’ area. Travel writer Mark Ellwood zooms in on the best neighbourhoods in the city.

Beverly Hills

Welcome to LA’s swankiest district, characterised by upscale boutiques, infamous hotels and that exclusive 90210 postcode.


First opened in 1955 by hotel magnate Conrad Hilton, The Beverly Hilton was destined to be a celebrity hotspot from the outset, with regular visitors including Elizabeth Taylor. It’s also hosted the glitzy Golden Globe Awards for more than five decades at its famous International Ballroom. Enjoy the star treatment at one of the hotel’s nearly 600 rooms and be sure to relax and refresh at the renowned Aqua Star Pool, Beverly Hill’s largest.

Snap a selfie with Robert Graham’s Torso sculpture – the area’s unofficial mascot – you’ll find it on the intersection by cobblestoned Via Rodeo


Head to the original Spago, the first outpost in celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s sprawling empire and a Michelin-starred temple to the modern Californian cuisine which Puck helped shape – see how by sampling one of his signature smoked salmon and crème fraîche thin-crust pizzas. Chef Scott Howard’s new Citizen is a refreshingly relaxed alternative to its somewhat stuffier neighbours around this part of town. Dawdle on the patio over crispy jidori chicken and raw oysters, or sidle up to the bar pick your favourite from mixologist Josh Goldman’s impressive, tiki-heavy cocktail list.

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  • Hit the shops on Hollywood’s famous Rodeo Drive © Alamy

    Pretty Woman

    Robert Graham’s Torso sculpture was unveiled at the opening ceremony for the ‘Walk of Style’, which recognises achievements in fashion, design and costume.

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  • Let the bartenders at Citizen mix you a cocktail  © Wonho Lee

    Quench your thirst

    Make the most of Citizen’s happy hour (Monday to Friday, 14.00-19.00) featuring a range of drinks and nibble from just $7.

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  • Get the celebrity treatment at The Beverly Hilton © Karyn Millet

    Close up

    Don’t be surprised if you recognise the hotel’s Aqua Star Pool; it’s been used for many famous photo shoots, and was inaugurated by actress and swimmer Esther Williams.

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There’s nowhere more glamorous to max out your credit card than the so-called Golden Triangle, anchored by Rodeo Drive and home to flagship stores for Gucci, Louis Vuitton et al. Snap a selfie with Robert Graham’s Torso sculpture – the area’s unofficial mascot – you’ll find it on the intersection by cobblestoned Via Rodeo. If you’d rather focus on culture than couture, opt for an evening at the former Post Office, now repurposed as a gleaming cultural centre known as ‘The Wallis’. The perfectly preserved vintage murals in the lobby are free to view.


With its skyline of squat, Art Deco-era buildings and soaring, mirrored skyscrapers, see where it all started in LA’s oldest neighbourhood.


You can’t miss it. The InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown is the tallest building west of Chicago. The lobby is on the 70th floor, and a glass elevator whisks you up to the uppermost levels. As expected, there are magnificent views. It’s high up – and it’s also high tech. It only opened in 2018, so everything is slick and modern, plus there are Tesla charging points.

  • Discover Downtown’s arty side with its museums and concert halls © Iwan Baan

    Thing of beauty

    Download The Broad museum’s free mobile app for a host of top tips, insider info and audio-visual guides to its exhibits.

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French Laundry alumnus Timothy Hollingsworth’s airy Otium sits in a custom-built home in the heart of Downtown’s new culture district. It’s a temple to his inventive cooking, including the brunch special – a crunchy funnel cake scattered with foie gras and strawberries. Offset the high-end treats with an evening at the saloon-style Cole’s, a century-old institution recently given a hipsterish makeover. It claims to be the site where the French dip sandwich – a baguette filled with thinly sliced roast beef served with a side of gravy – was invented.


Billionaire collector Eli Broad’s (rhymes with road) newly opened purpose-built museum showcases his world-class contemporary art collection. Entry is free, but to avoid the queues, try booking online a month or so in advance; otherwise, check the museum’s Twitter feed (@thebroadstandby) for current standby times. If lines are too long, venture to the Downtown Arts District, with its emerging art galleries, shops and cafés taking up residence in former factory buildings. Undoubtedly the star attraction here is Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. Straddling the divide between museum and commercial gallery, it’s housed in a vast former flourmill.


Though most movie production now takes place in the Valley, this is the area that gave the City of Angels its wings – and its Tinseltown nickname.

  • Lace up your walking shoes and head up to Griffith Park © Alamy

    Did you know…

    The famous Hollywood sign originally read ‘Hollywoodland’ and it’s about 14 metres tall and around 106 metres long.

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  • Sip to your stardom with refreshments at Alma © Getty

    La La Land

    It costs around $30,000 to have your star put on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame – and only if the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce approves it.

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  • Rooftop Pool at the Andaz West Hollywood. © Hyatt Corporation

    Old-school glamour

    Opened in 1927, The Hollywood Roosevelt might be the only historic Hollywood hotel still in operation, but after a recent $15m upgrade, it’s got all the best of modern day luxury too.

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Just off a hip section of Sunset Strip, the Andaz WeHo is in a lush, leafy part of town, just under the Hollywood Hills – you’d never guess at first glance that Jim Morrison used to live here, or that Led Zeppelin used to ride motorbikes down the corridors. The rock royalty have been replaced by Instagrammers, but the style and service remain top-notch.


Affable Aussie chef, Curtis Stone, opened Gwen to indulge his love of high-calibre meat – come for a tasting menu of game, Wagyu beef and house-cured cuts or snack on so-called ‘butcher scraps’ at the bar in the huge, Art deco-inflected space. Alma earned multiple James Beard Award nominations during its first few months Downtown, before closing unexpectedly. Mercifully, it’s been reborn in Hollywood with the same team, Ari Taymor and Ashleigh Parsons, and an equally delicious menu – get up early and go for breakfast, the Dungeness crab poutine is a must.


Take in the plethora of starry sights jigsawed together in this area, a hop on hop off bus tour, stopping off at Grauman’s Chinese Theater to the Stella Adler Academy (where actors still learn their craft). Expect to see those same celebs – albeit in sweats and shades – hiking Griffith Park nearby. Start at the Observatory on the peak of the hill then stroll down, pausing to snap a good view across to the iconic Hollywood sign.

Santa Monica

This waterfront area, originally a standalone resort town founded in the early 20th century, is now shorthand for LA’s obsession with the beach (and beach bodies).


The Shore Hotel is right by the famous Santa Monica Pier and right at the end of the famous Route 66. Stop here on a sunny avenue in front of the sea, and you might never want to leave.


Sushi maestro chef Nozawa’s Sugarfish is a classic Japanese joint, serving only traditional-style sushi (be gone California rolls!) accompanied by homemade soy and ponzu sauces. It’s affordable and walk-in only, so arrive early or expect a wait. Named after the ideal scent of a Barolo wine, Tar & Roses offers an impressive list of vintages accompanied by irresistible small plate snacks. But be warned: one serving of its caramelised bacon popcorn is never enough.


Channel your inner hard-bodied Hasselhoff or Pamela Anderson on the beach here, the backdrop to the classic Baywatch TV series. Packed on any sunny day, it’s worth detouring to see the original Muscle Beach on weekends, where the acrobatics on the outdoor bars is Olympic-worthy. Otherwise, work up a sweat on the Santa Monica Stairs, a 199-step uphill hike or take the plunge at Annenberg Community Beach House’s pool – the adults-only sunset swim on the second Friday of each month is a treat, right next to the water’s edge.