The City of Angels is really unlike any other city – a sprawling place of cities within a city, and no real heart, it can take a bit of time and patience to really get to know it. Driving is pretty much required here – public transport isn’t quite extensive or efficient enough to be relied upon – but even downtown you won’t find parking too difficult, though do bear in mind that crossing from one place to another, despite seemingly straight roads, can be a rather slow business, especially in rush hour. There’s an unmistakable glamour about the city – unsurprising given its movie connections – and its position, by the sea and surrounded by desert and mountains, is pretty special.
Where to stay
It’s hard to beat Santa Monica in terms of location, being right on the ocean and full of shops and restaurants. From there you can easily walk to Venice, or head up the coast to Malibu, and all of the other major sights are easily accessible. For that real “we’re in LA” feel, you might prefer to stay in Beverly Hills or Hollywood, though parts of the latter can be a little grotty.
In Beverly Hills, the boutique Maison 140 (above) combines Parisian and Oriental styles to create gorgeously decadent surroundings; from £120.
Retro-cool Oceana overlooks the sea at the quieter end of Santa Monica, and is just a short walk from the main shopping area; from £180.
For superlative design and sophistication, try The Viceroy in Santa Monica; from £210.
If you’re after that hanging-out with the stars experience, head to the famous Chateau Marmont; from £240.
The Standard, Hollywood, offers chic on the cheap, right on Sunset Boulevard; from £113.
What to do
Head to Hollywood to pose for the obligatory hands-in-a-star’s-handprints photo.
Shop till you drop –Santa Monica, the rather Disney-like streets of The Grove, or, if you can afford it (or just want to gawk), Rodeo Drive. If you’re into your music, you’ll definitely want to check out the fabulous Amoeba Records.
Check out the art and fantastic views on offer at the outstanding Getty Center, where the striking buildings really steal the show.
Enjoy a malted milkshake and a burger at Mel’s Drive-in (the best is on Ventura Boulevard, but there are locations around town).
Drive the beautiful coast road through Malibu down to Santa Monica, where you can relive your childhood on the pier or sunbathe on the beach.
In my opinion, Universal Studios is the best of the theme parks, but it’s hard not to be infected by childlike glee at Disneyland, and if those two aren’t enough then there’s also Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Explore the quiet canals of Venice, or wander along the boardwalk.
Los Angeles as part of a wider trip
Most people visit LA as part of a longer trip, and there’s a number of good combinations that work with this fascinating city.
Joshua Tree– head out into the desert and lose yourself in the quietness of this amazing national park
San Francisco – drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping off on the way, and then soak up the chilled-out beauty of San Fran.
The Grand Canyon and Las Vegas – helicopter over one of the USA’s most impressive natural wonders, then head for the crazy neon of Vegas.
Hawaii – head out for beach and surf time on the idyllic Hawaiian islands.
New Zealand – LA is an ideal way to break up the long journey to New Zealand, where the great outdoors will provide a fantastic contrast to a few days in the city.
When to go
Los Angeles enjoys good weather throughout the year – winters are generally mild (though a little too chilly for the beach) and bright, while summers can be absolutely scorching. May/June and September/October are particularly lovely times of year, with warm, bright days, and without the crowds of the summer.
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