LA on a budget

By Eve Barlow

Photography by Sarah Belanger/Alamy

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November 2017

Los Angeles is a city beloved of the rich and famous, but you don't need to have a movie star salary to make the most of it. From parks to museums, if you know where to go, you can even find cheap cocktails.

Things to do

Griffith Park

At 4,310 acres, Griffith Park is one of the largest urban parks in America. Its main entrance is Los Feliz: close enough to central Hollywood to allow you to squeeze in a hike on either side of some urban sightseeing. Or make a day of it, you’ll find picnic areas and a mix of trails suited to all abilities. It’s also the site of the Griffith Observatory – recently seen in the movie La La Land and before that, Rebel Without a Cause. There's also a walking route from here to the Hollywood sign, so you can tick that one off your list.

Plan your trip to LA

  • Set your sights on an architectural icon at The Capitol Records Building © Alamy.

    Did you know…?

    This famous, record-shaped building is topped by a nearly 30-metre spire and a red light that has blinked the word ‘Hollywood’ in morse code since 1956.

    Find flights to California
  • Discover why The Broad has taken LA’s art scene by storm.

    Broad appeal

    Although it offers free admission, you’ll still need to get a ticket to get into LA’s coolest contemporary museum, so book in advance online.

    Discover Los Angeles by car
  • Step inside the historic walls of Cole’s bar.

    Dive bar dip

    Listed as the oldest restaurant and bar in LA, Cole’s is also said to have invented the French Dip Sandwich back in 1908, which today still stands as one of their most popular orders.

    Check out LA’s food trucks

The Broad

In Downtown you’ll find The Broad a contemporary art museum that opened in 2015 and has a stellar permanent collection that’s free to view and includes works by modern and contemporary art big-hitters including Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Cindy Sherman. It’s worth going purely to experience artist Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room, which accommodates one visitor, for one minute at a time – queue on arrival to try to get a same-day slot to enter. Nearby you’ll find the more established Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the urban green spot of Grand Park.

Venice Boardwalk

Street artists, stallholders, buskers and psychics line the famous Venice Boardwalk. There's a basketball and skate rink too if you want to watch local Angeleno kids in their sporting element. Beyond the busy promenade is Venice Beach itself, which offers an ocean breeze and some respite from the city when the LA temperatures are too much to handle. You could join a drum circle or try to join in with the bodybuilders at Muscle Beach.

  • Hit the Boardwalk and mingle with the crowds at Venice Beach © Getty.

    The Italian Job

    Tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney designed California’s Venice as a replica of his favourite Italian city, complete with canals, gondolas, and “pleasure pier” of Venetian architecture.

    Explore things to do in LA

Budget bites

Good Luck Bar

Feel like you’ve been here before? Good Luck Bar, the celebrated dive bar has been popping up in movies and music videos for years – most recently in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! With its chinois décor, it evokes the old-school Hollywood, with good, cheap cocktails, some of which are served in coconuts. And the (very) low lighting means you’re never quite sure who might be in the neighbouring booths.


Renowned for its French Dip sandwiches (it claims to be the originator), Cole's in Downtown is the oldest pub in LA. Order an Old Fashioned for $10 and enjoy the speakeasy. Happy hours vary throughout the week but are all day on Tuesdays. Be sure to order a French Dip on the side to soak up the booze.

The tacos are a winning combination of excellent and cheap, so why not try as many as possible?


With three locations in Downtown, West Hollywood, Burbank and Echo Park, Guisados is among LA’s most beloved Mexican joints. The menu is short, the queues are long, and it's worth the wait. The tacos are a winning combination of excellent and cheap, so why not try as many as possible? Start with the shredded pork in sweet red achiote sauce. Wash it all down with a refreshing cup of horchata. And if you prefer your tacos gluten free, that’s no problem. You’re in LA.

Where to stay

Grafton on Sunset

As the name suggests, Grafton on Sunset has a handy location on Sunset Boulevard close to Beverly Hills and within easy reach of Downtown. The charming boutique hotel is a good place to explore LA’s restaurants and attractions, and its in-house establishments – Bar 20 and Oliver’s Prime Steakhouse – are well worth checking out in their own right.

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