Untangling the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, home to almost 19 million people, is a tough task. There’s the wider city of LA but within that are smaller “cities” or regions and inside those are neighbourhoods. While municipal boundaries in the Californian city are distinct, uncovering where one neighbourhood ends and another begins might depend on who you ask. One intricate map suggests there are almost 500 suburbs in greater LA so it’s easy for a newcomer to feel overwhelmed. Here are some notable areas you should get to know if you’re heading to the City of Angels.

West Adams

Alsace LA hotel, Los Angeles

“People are calling West Adams the new Silver Lake but we’re adamant that we don’t want to change the feel of this area,” says Sophie Woodard from the 48-room desert-cool Alsace LA hotel, one of the businesses giving this South LA district, famous for its jazz, 19th-century architecture and Black and Latino cultures, a new edge.

There are plenty of great dining experiences to dive into: eating the house-made cornbread with honey butter underneath the star jasmine trellis at soul food mecca Alta is one, as is the “size of your head” grilled cheese sandwich at Tartine or the tongue-numbing Szechuan noodles at Mian.

But Woodard says you can’t visit the area without trying the food that’s been here for decades, like the Salvadoran pupusas – a sort of grilled flat bread – from Es Con Sabor (5239 W Adams Boulevard; +1 323 939 1458) or what she considers to be the best late-night tacos in the city, from the guy who sets up his truck every day at about 4pm on the corner of W Adams and Alsace. “He blasts his Mexican music into the night but no-one cares, it’s all part of the atmosphere.” But it’s not all about the food. Art and artisans have carved out space here, from handmade jewellery at Antiqua and the curated Fair Trade homewares of The Global Trunk to the Band of Vices gallery, which showcases art from marginalised and overlooked creative communities.

And once your senses have been tweaked and twanged and stretched to their limits, hop on one of the bikes that are available for guests at the Alsace and cycle to the Peace Awareness Labyrinth & Gardens, an unexpected patch of tranquillity in one of the world’s most hectic metropolises.


71 Studio Bar, Los Angeles

Despite its blockbuster name, Hollywood proper hasn’t always had a lot to offer visitors beyond the cheesy tourist box-ticks like the Walk of Fame and Universal Studios. But part of the neighbourhood has slapped a new rockstar name on itself – The Vinyl District, which is bordered by Sunset, Schrader and Hollywood boulevards and Gower Street – and a bit of that La La Land magic dust has returned.

“I think the real Hollywood glamour has started to come back,” says Simone Stack, the restaurant manager at Grandmaster Recorders, the two-storey restaurant and rooftop 71 Studio Bar inside an old recording studio, opened by Australians Monty and Jaci Koludrovic, formerly of Bondi’s Icebergs. But it’s a cooler kind of glamour than the classic Hollywood fever dream; at Grandmaster, patrons are wearing fake fur rather than mink stoles and Harry Styles T-shirts instead of Harry Winston diamonds as they devour Monty’s scampi and basil hand rolls and Jaci’s spectacular record-shaped tiramisu.

the tiramisu at Grandmaster Recorders, Los Angeles

The hotels have led the area’s makeover. First there was the helter-skelter Mama Shelter with its neon colour scheme. Right next door is Tommie Hollywood, its Mid-century Modern lobby filled with house music and laptop-glued creatives lounging by the fire on leather sofas.

Bar Lis at the top of Tommie’s big brother, the Thompson Hollywood hotel, round the corner in Wilcox Avenue, is one of the greatest rooftop bars in a city full of them. Tommie Hollywood’s Yucatan inspired Ka’Teen restaurant takes you out of the urban jungle and into a lush Tulum rainforest. (You half expect a jaguar to drop lazily from a palm.)

You can’t leave without souveniring some tangible evidence of the district’s creativity – after all, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones and countless other artists have recorded music here. Flip through their 12-inches at As The Record Turns, Amoeba Music (amoeba.com) or The Record Parlour (6408 Selma Avenue; +1 323 464 7757).

Culver City

Culver City, Los Angeles

Culver City – not much more than a wedge between two freeways just south of Beverly Hills – is having a moment. Before the pandemic, a number of big entertainment and tech companies, including Apple, Amazon and HBO, announced they’d be moving their LA headquarters to the neighbourhood. Word is it’s aiming to be the next Silicon Valley. While that side of things is downloading, there’s still plenty to see and do in this small pocket of the city. The 148-room Shay is a district centrepiece. Its Etta restaurant, helmed by Chicago chef Danny Grant, is packed with locals laughing over pizzas and creative cocktails like the Fromage Noir, made with goat’s cheese-washed Hendrick’s gin.

Across the road, the Platform shopping precinct is home to American sustainable frock shop Reformation and Monocle, where you can nab travel guides, sleek sunnies and more. A short walk away you’ll find the LA outpost of contemporary art gallery Blum & Poe.

The area also has a surfeit of incredible ice-cream. Coolhaus – owned by two women who first set up their ice-cream van at the Coachella music festival in 2009 – lays claim to LA’s best ice-cream sandwich, while Van Leeuwen makes vegan scoops so good you’d never know they hadn’t been near a cow.

And perhaps most alluring of all in a city that suffers mightily from confusing sprawl, especially for visitors, Culver City prides itself on being a convenient central base to almost everywhere else. Locals brag that they’re all about “business suits to wetsuits” with the Metro E Line dashing you to Downtown in one direction or the Santa Monica Pier in the other, in a matter of minutes.


Malibu, Los Angeles

Spoiler alert: The Beach Boys were using a touch of poetic licence when they sang their odes to Californian beaches, at least the ones in LA, such as Malibu. They’re not exactly the vast, sugar-white sands and crystal-blue waters that anyone who’s used to, say, the Whitsundays or Hawaii might expect. The busy Pacific Coast Highway runs a little too close for starters and many of the multi-million dollar homes that dot the coastline barge their way onto the sand.

But that doesn’t mean you should skip the rarefied Malibu. Forget the Sunset Strip or Rodeo Drive, this is where to come if you’re hoping to star-spot. Look for Bradley Cooper or Taylor Swift trying the oysters with Maui onion dressing, yellowtail sashimi tricked up with jalapeño or signature black miso cod at Nobu Malibu. When you book, make sure you ask for a table on the outdoor terrace where you can see the surf crashing below.

Malibu Country Mart has a twee name but it’s actually the place for some of the best shopping in the city, including contemporary fashion from Vince and surf champ Kelly Slater’s outdoors-wear company Outerknown (its women’s jumpsuits are gaining a cult following).

And despite the beaches not being as beachy as perhaps you’d hope, that Cali surf spirit is still buzzing. Hotel June has chilled-out Mid-century motel vibes; Bob Dylan wrote Blood on the Tracks here in 1974, when it was The Malibu Riviera Hotel. Today, Chaka Khan and Jimi Hendrix are on high rotation in the common garden areas. On the pier, Malibu Farm is where to find freshly squeezed juices and cocktails, as well as cute beach-themed homewares. And there’s no better way to do a Malibu sunrise than takeaway breakfast burritos from Lily’s “Call ahead – the wait times can be crazy,” says Hotel June co-owner Sam Shendow. “Ask for extra habanero sauce; it’s the most flavourful we’ve found outside of Mexico.” Then hike up to Point Dume for a dawn snack with ocean (and maybe even seal, whale and dolphin) views.

More LA neighbourhoods to explore

Downtown LA

Image credits: Adoramassey (Echo Park); Adam Reeder (CC BY-NC 2.0 Pacific Palisades); Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC 2.0 Eagle Rock)

An area of contrasts, DTLA is an industrial-hub-turned-hip-hangout, a lucky dip of artist studios, taco truck pop-ups and bucket-list hotels and bars (see The Standard and Ace hotels’ rooftop bars). Arts District galleries The Broad and MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) are must-sees. Don’t leave the area before checking out Grand Central Market, a food emporium that serves up everything from authentic Mexican to excellent bento boxes.

SEE ALSO: 20 Experiences You Can Only Have in LA


Venice Beach, Los Angeles

People-watching doesn’t get any better than in Venice, where Muscle Beach and a legacy of bohemian living collide in a mesmerising daily performance. Away from the shoreline, Venice retains its free spirit in bright street murals, near-fanatical surf culture and great wholefood cafes. Don’t miss the canals that bisect residential blocks just steps from the beach.

Echo Park

Echo Park, Los Angeles

Known to some as the Williamsburg of LA, Echo Park is a neighbourhood where the cool and creative cluster. It doesn’t have a transitory feel, though – lots of families and long-time locals call Echo Park home, as does heritage architecture. It’s the place to spend sunny days exploring the colourful streets and parks and chillier ones in a trendy indie cafe, of which there are plenty.

Los Feliz

Little Doms restaurant, Los Angeles

Eastside Los Feliz is a neighbourhood best explored on foot, thanks to its shady streets and outdoor dining culture. A wander in this area adjacent to the Griffith Observatory could yield all sorts of discoveries: an Old Hollywood-style Italian diner, a stand-up comic incubator or the breathtaking sight of a Frank Lloyd Wright – the lack of pretence here is lovely and very un-Hollywood.

Silver Lake

Silver Lake, Los Angeles

North of Downtown LA, east-central Silver Lake doesn’t have any bucket-list items to speak of but don’t overlook this little borough – it’s consistently chosen as one of the city’s best thanks to a bustling farmers’ market and the relaxed Silver Lake Reservoir. Eateries here are a testament to this reputation, such as Botanica, where you can order a natural wine alongside a pretty-as-a-picture plate.

SEE ALSO: What Not to Do in Los Angeles – and What to Do Instead

Pacific Palisades

Will Rogers State Park, Los Angeles

Wedged in a western corner of the urban sprawl and in the shadow of Topanga State Park, the picturesque (and affluent) Pacific Palisades unlocks another of LA’s famed drawcards: excellent hiking. Will Rogers State Park is snaked with shaded trails and paths such as the Los Leones trail deliver excellent views of Santa Monica Bay. Be sure to check with local authorities about trail accessibility due to wildfire damage.

Eagle Rock

Cindy’s restaurant, Los Angeles

The joke about Eagle Rock? It’s where hipsters go to have their kids. You’ll likely see families trawling one of the area’s vintage-furniture warehouses or grabbing an evening meal at a pizza joint that’s been around longer than they have. The best way to experience Eagle Rock’s laid-back, small-town feel is to eat your way around – start with breakfast at old-school diner Cindy’s, lunch at the forest-green Peruvian-Chinese fusion Chifa and end at Casa Bianca, a 50-year-old pizzeria.

Santa Monica

This coastal neighbourhood lies north of Venice and is known for its eponymous pier, home to Pacific Park, an admission-free amusement park, and the historic carousel at the Looff Hippodrome. While the pier attracts families looking for a fun day out, back from the beach, the Downtown Santa Monica mall along Third Street has an open promenade for outdoor shopping and dining and farmers’ markets twice a week. For Michelin-starred dining try the tasting menu at Mélisse or stop by its casual sister restaurant Citrin next door. Enjoy a long lunch with ocean views at Élephante’s alfresco Sunset Room, a popular spot with a tempting all-day Italian menu.

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SEE ALSO: 23 Extravagant Hotels to Stay at in Los Angeles

Image credit: Jennifer Johnson

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