What to see
It’s hard to avoid the movies when you’re in Los Angeles – it’s a city that was built on the industry. Every street looks like a movie set and, chances are, it probably has been one at some point. With every new, self-referential release, there’s a new buzz. These days it’s Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, set in Hollywood Boulevard and the surrounding area. Any first-timer to the city should tick off the main sights such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, the Hollywood sign and the Dolby Theatre, which hosts the Oscars. But one lesser-known spot that I love is the Roosevelt Hotel, which has an original David Hockney mural painted on the bottom of its pool.
Where to stay
Los Angeles is a big collection of neighbourhoods, so if you’re spending a while in the city, I’d stay a few nights in different areas. In Santa Monica and Venice Beach, check into the very glamorous Fairmont Miramar, which is strewn with palm trees, or Shutters on the Beach, with its white picket fence and chic pool right on the sand. In Hollywood, The Hollywood Roosevelt is a boutique hotel with an old-world theme; its rooftop sign is straight from the 1950s Golden Age of Hollywood.
When it comes to cooler places to stay, the new NoMad downtown attracts the creatives, and Soho House is opening in the city soon. For a killer roof terrace, The London West Hollywood has a great 360 view and is the perfect place in Los Angles for a gin and tonic.
Where to eat
The original 1950s diner with chrome bar top and red booths is Mel’s Drive-in on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, but it’s not exactly under-the-radar. I much prefer the hipster favourite 101 Coffee Shop. An old-school diner with 1970s brown leather seats, it featured in Entourage and Gilmore Girls. Order the Rush Hour Special (a huge full American breakfast at just $9) to get the authentic Los Angeles experience. Or head to Swingers on Beverly Boulevard, which inspired the film of the same name. They’re famous for their vegan multi-grain banana pancakes (can you actually get more LA?).
For a classic, celeb-studded night out, head to Craig’s – request a table in the corner to get a perfect full view of the place, and be sure to order the steak. If you want to see an influencer, go to Catch or Tao. Well, when in Los Angeles…
When it gets dark…
For the retro vibe, head up to Griffith Observatory – where they famously filmed Rebel Without a Cause and La La Land – to see the best urban sunset. Or take a drive along Mulholland Drive to see both sides of the valley. The pine trees here give off a sweet scent at dusk.
Just for the bragging rights, you should pop into Chateau Marmont – Sofia Coppola shot an entire film here, Lana Del Rey lived here, F Scott Fitzgerald threw notorious parties here… It’s possibly the most LA of LA’s hotels.
My advice for a first-timer…
In summer, you absolutely must see a concert at the Hollywood Bowl – an open-air stage with a view of the Hollywood sign. In winter, Walt Disney Concert Hall is also an amazing venue with a choppy silver-wave exterior designed by Frank Gehry. The last thing I saw there was a celebration of the film music of John Williams. The scores from Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Jaws, in the city that made them famous – it was electrifying.
Also, a piece of practical advice: as the great Bette Davis said when asked how should an up-and-coming actor get into Hollywood: “Take Fountain, darling.” Fountain is a street that runs parallel with Sunset Boulevard with far less traffic, delays or crazy drivers. I wholeheartedly agree with her.
Where to shop
It all depends on what you’re looking for, but there are a few great vintage stores on La Brea Avenue: Jet Rag, Golyester Vintage Clothing and The Way We Wore. Set aside a whole morning to scour the rails. Melrose (between Crescent Heights and La Brea) and Fairfax (from Santa Monica and Beverly) have new pop-up stores every week, and the very famous pink wall on the side of Paul Smith’s flagship store is on Melrose. For big spenders, no trip to Los Angeles would be complete without a visit to Rodeo Drive, where you’ll also find the Beverly Wilshire hotel, used as a location in Pretty Woman.
My perfect day in LA would include…
A morning hike at sunrise – Griffith Park has some great nature trails. Then, when I’ve walked up an appetite, I’d have breakfast of French toast at the Griddle Café and a delicious coffee from Andante Coffee Roasters on Beverly, before taking in a movie double bill at The Grove – a 14-screen Art Deco cinema. After some movie alone-time, I’d then call up some friends for a cocktail or two while watching improv comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade theatre on Franklin Avenue.
Stuart Fenegan lives in LA and produced the films Moon and Source Code