Culture, glamour and entertainment, LA's got it all

Everyone’s heard of glamorous Hollywood, but Los Angeles is far more than a celebrity playground so don’t be turned off by the big screen stereotypes. Instead, explore everything from museums to markets in a city that is a hub of culture and entertainment. Just be sure to hire a car – the inefficiency of LA’s public transport will only give you a headache. Choose a hybrid if you want to fit in with the eco-friendly vibe; a Mercedes convertible if you want to be flash. As the saying goes, “Live or die by LA”. Maybe after 24 hours in the city, you’ll agree.

Hollywood signGet up close and personal to the Hollywood sign with a morning hike
Creative Commons / loop oh


People flock to Hollywood to catch a glimpse of the 2,400 brass stars on the sidewalks on The Walk of Fame or take photos with cement handprints of celebrities outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Boulevard). But why not take an alternative route and hike to the heart of Hollywood instead?

Since 1923, the Hollywood sign has been an icon for the city of angels. Featured in almost every movie set in LA and every travel brochure, the sign is indeed a symbol of Tinsel Town that’s well-worth seeing. And while taking photos from afar is a must, with a brief four-mile hike through the mountains, you can see the sign and a view of all of Los Angeles. For more information on the hiking path itself and how to get there visit AllTrails.

If you want to get a view into Hollywood's inner workings, try and nab free tickets to a TV show taping. There are normally 'audience hunters' stationed along Hollywood Boulevard distributing same-day tickets. Keep in mind that recordings will take at least 2 hours, sometimes longer. Your best bet is catching popular late-night show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! filmed just across the street from The Kodak Theatre. If you can’t get a ticket, walk toward Sunset Boulevard and visit Amoeba Music (6400 Sunset Boulevard), a famous music store known for its wide array of vinyl, cassette and CDs. You may even to catch a live show or record signing.

Santa Monica PierTake a lovely stroll along Santa Monica pier


In California there’s nothing like fresh smoothie and crepes to start the day just right. LA is home to countless farmer’s markets that feature everything from produce to floral arrangements. While there are over a dozen in the city, if you are want to get out of Hollywood,  the best choice is the Original Farmers Market (3rd Street and Fairfax Street). The historic market is one of the oldest of its kind and showcases more than 70 stalls, stores, markets and cafes ranging from local, one-of-a-kind stands such as Bennett’s Ice Cream to brand names like Bath and Body Works.

If you’re not a fan of the hustle and bustle of a farmer’s market, drive about 20 minutes (not counting traffic!) or about 15km (10 miles) to Santa Monica for cute café eats at Huckleberry on Wilshire Boulevard or Blue Plate on Montana Avenue. These cafes are perfect for brunch, with salads, soups, sandwiches and pastries to suit every palate.

LACMA lamp post exhibition Chris Burden's antique lamp posts look wonderful at night
Creative Commons / marialgilbert


Drive back down Wilshire Boulevard for about 15 minutes and check out the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for art exhibits ranging from Dali to Frida Kahlo. Don’t forget to take a picture by the cast-iron lamp posts, an exhibit titled “Urban Light” by Chris Burden, which are on from dusk and stay lit until dawn.

Not an art enthusiast? Skip the museum and go shopping. For more affordable, trendy or vintage clothing finds, visit Melrose Avenue where the Melrose Trading Post flea market runs every Sunday 0900 – 1700 and you can find quirky treasures like old typewriters and 1920s rings. If you’re looking to splurge, venture to Beverly Hills and walk down Rodeo Drive, home to luxury stalwarts such as Tiffany & Co, Chanel and Gucci.

Godmother sandwichHungry? Tackle Bay City Deli's Godmother sandwich
Saba Hamedy


A favourite among Santa Monica locals is Bay Cities Italian Deli (1517 Lincoln Boulevard) home to the “Godmother sandwich” (all the meats) and more Italian treats. There’s always a long line and limited seating, so make your sandwich to go and walk a few blocks to the beach to enjoy the view whilst you eat.

For more of a sit-down lunch, walk about 15 minutes to Main Street, which runs parallel to the ocean, and pick from an array of coffee shops, bars and high-end restaurants. Grab a cup of coffee at Urth Caffé (2327 Main Street) which is often featured in popular HBO television show Entourage, snack on some authentic Mexican food at hole-in-the-wall restaurant Holy Guacamole (2906 Main Street). Wherever you end up eating, make sure to stroll around Venice Beach boardwalk afterwards - Muscle Beach is where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work out.

Fancy a juicy burger? In LA check out the recently-opened UMAMIcatessen on South Broadway Street, a hip offshoot to popular chain Umami Burger. Umami burgers, truffle burgers and fried donuts are the highlights, and there are plenty of Kosher options! For a fancier feast, go to Beverly Hills for Il Pastaio (400 North Canon Drive), a popular Sicilian that almost always has a queue.

Getty Museum LAArchitecture-lovers will enjoy the Getty museum (and its view!)
Saba Hamedy


Ride the Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier to marvel at the view of the California coastline. If you’re in LA over the summer, the Pier features free concerts on Thursday evenings as part of the Twilight Dance Series. Otherwise, be sure to visit the small but cute Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, just below the merry-go-round.

If the beach is too cold, catch another great view from the Getty Museum (1200 Getty Center Drive), an all-white modern building located in the Los Angeles hills. Art and architecture lovers flock here for the galleries, garden and of course, the views. It’s free entry, but you have to pay for parking and a tram takes you from the parking lot through the mountains to the museum itself.

If you are an architecture enthusiast, hop on the motorway to downtown LA and check out the historic buildings that date back to 1880. And whilst you’re there don’t miss one of Frank Gehry’s masterpieces, the Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 South Grand Avenue).

LA at nightHave a night out on the tiles, LA-style


Take the motorway and venture back to Hollywood for some five-star eats. It’s not new but Nobu in West Hollywood (903 N. La Cienega Boulevard) is a notorious celeb hangout – come for the scene, stay for the black cod with miso. If celeb-spotting isn’t your thing, try the original Matsuhisa branch (129 North La Cienega Boulevard) instead – it has a more low-key vibe. Alternatively, head to Wolfgang Puck’s flagship Spago (176 North Canon Drive) in Beverly Hills, for some great Italian fine dining. If after all that food, you’re still raring to go, grab some cocktails at the infamous Chateau Marmont (8221 Sunset Boulevard). But be sure to make reservations at all these A-list spots in advance and be prepared to dish out the dollars for your meals.

If you are more into sitting down and soaking in some culture, catch a comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (5919 Franklin Ave), where legendary comedians like Robin Williams, Will Ferrell and Tina Fey got their big breaks. Otherwise outdoor amphitheatre, the Hollywood Bowl (2301 North Highland Avenue), has shows all summer that range from philharmonic performances to concerts featuring indie band The Flaming Lips.

Finally, follow the bright lights and rhythmic beats all the way to Sunset Boulevard for the clubs and bars in Los Angeles. Catch a show at The Roxy (9009 West Sunset Boulevard) or indulge in the opulence of Skybar (8440 Sunset Boulevard) and dance the night away.

To find out more about LA, visit our LA travel guide.

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