LA’s iconic hotels

By Sanjiv Bhattacharya, US correspondent for Esquire UK.

Photography by Lauren Coleman

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December 2017

As the world’s glamour capital, Los Angeles is home to some of the most storied hotels, from the boutique to the bold. Check out these City of Stars’ famous sleeps.

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

The lowdown: Once the glittering home of Hollywood glamour back in the pre-talkie era, the Ace Hotel and its stunning 1600-seat theatre next door, have revived the buzz of old. Conceived by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and others as a studio headquarters for United Artists, history emanates from every pore.

Who’s checked in: You’ll see anyone from Michael Douglas to Katy Perry appear at events here, but back in the day Charlie Chaplin was no stranger to the building.

What to check out: Locals know to book ahead at the brasserie downstairs, and expect lines for the rooftop bar. As for the pool, with its spectacular views of Downtown, that’s strictly for hotel guests. Don’t forget to take a peek inside the ornate Spanish gothic-style theatre next door.

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Hotel Bel-Air

The lowdown: Today part of the Dorchester Collection, the exclusive Hotel Bel-Air first opened as hotel in 1946. It was the scene of Marilyn Monroe’s final shoot and Grace Kelly stayed so often a suite was named after her, and its lost none of its lustre of exclusivity. It sits at the heart of the gated mansions and manicured paradise of the foothills out west of Beverly Hills, there are no sidewalks or traffic to speak of.

Who’s checked in: Back in the day, Bette Davies, Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn all stayed. More recently, so did the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Tom Cruise.

What to check out: Stay in to eat at Wolfgang Puck, with its refined dining room, alfresco terrace and seasonal menus – the resident chefs visit the local farmers’ market every week to select fresh produce. Channel your inner film star and relax by the hotel’s famous oval-shaped pool, once the horse-riding ring for the Bell Estate.

Book your stay at the Hotel Bel-Air

The swimming pool is legendary in its own right: old Hollywood swim-star Esther Williams swam through white gardenias to inaugurate it, while in the 1990s a winning Angelina Jolie jumped into it after the Globes.

  • Relax on the rooftop space at Petit Ermitage with its saltwater pool.

    Hidden magic

    The 80 suites may be pretty, but most guests make a beeline for the magical rooftop garden where you can dine amongst hummingbirds and butterflies.

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  • Experience true Hollywood glamour with a stay in Hotel Bel-Air’s sumptuous Grace Kelly Suite.

    Wow factor

    Known for its discretion, three of the Beatles once stayed at the hotel and were blissfully unaware that their bandmates were checked in too.

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  • The 1600-seat 1920s movie theatre is undoubtedly the jewel in the Ace Hotel Downtown’s crown.

    Period piece

    You can’t miss the theatre due to its unlikely resemblance to a Spanish castle – United Artists founder Mary Pickford had a penchant for Spain.

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The Beverly Hilton

The lowdown: They don’t come much more iconic than The Beverly Hilton. Opened by hotel magnate Conrad Hilton in 1955, it has played host to the who’s who of Hollywood and its International Ballroom has been home of the Golden Globe Awards since 1961. The swimming pool is legendary in its own right: old Hollywood swim-star Esther Williams swam through white gardenias to inaugurate it, while in the 1990s a winning Angelina Jolie jumped into it after the Globes, still in her red-carpet gown.

Who’s checked in: Sammy Davis Jr., Lucille Ball, and Cindy Crawford.

What to check out: In-house restaurant Circa 55 has an unpretentious, old school California vibe. Or get red-carpet ready at the spa.

Discover The Beverly Hilton for yourself

The London West Hollywood

The lowdown: To stay on Sunset Boulevard is to tick a box, and why not? With its grand, oversized rooms overlooking the electric tapestry of palms unfurling below, The London West Hollywood is luxe all over. It opened in 2008 but the building’s hotel history goes back further: in the 1970s it was rock-star haunt The Bel Age.

Who’s checked in: You might bump into Samuel L Jackson, Mindy Kahling or Channing Tatum.

What to check out: The beauty of the Boulevard is being able to walk out of the hotel into the action. And the best place to do that is on the rock ’n roll Strip, home to the legendary Whisky a Go Go, the Viper Room and the Roxy, the beating heart of LA’s music scene both then and now.

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  • The Beverly Hilton boasts the largest outdoor heated hotel pool in all of Beverly Hills © Petra Rajnicova.

    Star appeal

    The hotel’s famous Aqua Star Pool is open daily from 05.00 until 20.00 and guests can enjoy signature Beverly Hilton pool rafts.

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Petit Ermitage

The lowdown: The embodiment of all the best qualities of a ‘boutique’ hotel, Petit Ermitage is a small, secluded bolthole where attention has been paid to every detail of the eccentric decor. By some miracle, this hotel manages to create a hushed idyll despite its location, tucked discreetly between the rock ’n roll Sunset Strip and the coursing hubbub of Santa Monica’s Boystown.

Who’s checked in: Victoria Beckham had her baby shower here, and the hotel is a real hideaway for A-Listers, with a member’s club feel and no photography allowed.

What to check out: These aren’t your average hotel artworks: look out for original paintings by Salvador Dali and Robert Rauschenberg. The lush rooftop garden attracts visiting hummingbirds – as well as VIPs. Sit down to a ‘Gypsy Brunch’ at the rustic Private Rooftop restaurant, which has curtain-like cabanas for ultimate privacy.

Plan your stay at Petit Ermitage