Sleep: Los Angeles

From cosy Hollywood cottages to the faux New England boltholes of Santa Monica and Venice, you'll feel like a star on a stay in LA — the City of Angels

By Nick Boulos
Published 17 Dec 2014, 12:15 GMT, Updated 1 Jul 2021, 15:11 BST


LA's oldest neighbourhood, Downtown was once known as dingy and dangerous, but is now on the up. With striking art deco facades and historic movie theatres  juxtaposed against skyscrapers, Downtown has gone from troubled to trendy. Historic buildings have been given some much-needed TLC and abandoned buildings have been transformed into hip loft apartments, sparking a wave of new hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions.

We recommend: The Line Hotel
Barely a year old, The Line has already won much praise and quite a following. Its 13-storey honeycombed exterior has been used as a canvas for art installations, including a striking mural by Shepard Fairey occupying one wall.

Inside, the 388 rooms are rugged, with bare concrete walls, softened by patterned chairs, colourful textiles and tables of bleached ash wood. The beds are top-class too, not just because they're super-comfy but for the superb view they offer of the distant Hollywood Hills, the Santa Monica Mountains and everything in between.

Other statement pieces are inspired by Korean design — a nod to the hotel's location in buzzing Koreatown. The same applies for the restaurant, Pot, which serves dishes such as Korean hot pot and tacos by celebrated chef Roy Choi. Elsewhere, citrus trees have been planted around the outdoor pool, while Speek, the mid-century lounge bar is a pleasant spot to spend an evening.
- Rooms: Doubles from $240 (£145).

Best for budget travellers: Figueroa Hotel
Casablanca comes to California at this decadent Moroccan-inspired hotel housed in a former YWCA building from 1925. The beautifully tiled bar overlooks the small pool, exotic lamps hang low from the hand-painted ceilings and the rich red walls support intricate tapestries, studded mirrors and glass mosaics, all helping to make the Figueroa Hotel one of LA's most unusual.
- Rooms: Doubles from $149 (£90).

Best for solo travellers: Ace Hotel
Occupying what was once the United Artists building — the tallest in the city when it was built in the 1920s — the new Ace Hotel has breathed fresh life into one of Downtown's most historic addresses. Rooms may be small, with bathrooms barely more than a shower cubicle, but they do the job for solo travellers. Meanwhile, the lively bar and rooftop hot tub attract a friendly crowd.
- Rooms: Doubles from $189 (£115).


The entertainment capital of the world, Tinseltown, is home to LA's most iconic sights — the Hollywood Sign, the Walk of Fame, the A-list cement handprints at the TCL Chinese Theatre. But beyond the attractions along Hollywood Boulevard is a side that takes many by surprise: the boutiques and bars of edgy West Hollywood and the miles of scenic walking trails crisscrossing canyons and hills.

The chances of spotting a celeb here are good but Hollywood's best stargazing spot is the hilltop Griffith Observatory. Stop by after dark to peer through the high-tech telescopes.

We recommend: The Charlie Hotel
The Charlie is tucked among houses on a sleepy street between Sunset Boulevard and Melrose Avenue. Built in 1924 by a local family, the 14 individually decorated English-style bungalows with wooden shingles, ranging from studios to two-bedroom suites with kitchens, are spaced out among gravel pathways, oak and cherry trees, and water fountains.

Most of the rooms are named after the movie stars who once occupied them. Clark (as in Gable) is one of the most popular, with old wooden doors and overhead beams, modern zebra print rugs and black-and-white prints of Hollywood legends on the wall. If you can, book the newly refurbished, cosy cottage, built by Charlie Chaplin. A regular guest at the hotel, the star loved it so much he had his own property erected within the grounds.
- Rooms: Doubles from $250 (£152).

Best for star spotting: Hollywood Roosevelt
The grand dame of Hollywood hotels, the Roosevelt — home of the very first Academy Awards — has been rolling out the red carpet since 1927. Shirley Temple learnt to tap dance on the lobby stairs, Marilyn Monroe, who's rumoured to haunt the hotel, was a regular by the pool, and Brad and Ange are often spotted sipping cocktails in a quiet corner of The Spare Room — the hotel's prohibition-era style bar and gaming parlour.
- Rooms: Doubles from $289 (£175).

Best for style: The London West Hollywood
The British bulldog statuette at the entrance is the first taste of home at this five-star pad off Sunset Boulevard. Elsewhere, there are arty shots of London, a restaurant under the helm of Gordon Ramsay and phones offering free calls to Blighty. Currently in the throes of a $23m (£14m) renovation, the star attraction of this all-suite property is the rooftop pool and Brit Bar overlooking the verdant Hollywood Hills.
- Rooms: Doubles from $400 (£243).

Santa Monica & Venice

Framed by the Pacific Ocean and mountains, laid-back Santa Monica is bordered by Brentwood to the east and Venice Beach to the south. Its Bohemian and outdoorsy vibe attracts bikers, rollerbladers and dog joggers to the miles of beachside walkways. The focal point is the pier, with its amusement rides and Ferris wheel. There's high culture, too, with over 75 museums and galleries, plus some of  the best restaurants and shopping in Southern California.

We recommend: Shutters on the Beach
Santa Monica's most luxurious beachfront hotel has a New England beach house vibe, with blue awnings, picket fences and floral trellises. Inside, there are comfy sofas and cashmere throws, old Tibetan rugs on dark polished floors and four-poster beds with ocean views. There's an arty feel, too, with works by Lichtenstein and Hockney dotted around. Elsewhere, you can unwind at ONE the spa or use the new electric house car for free shuttles around Santa Monica.
- Rooms: Doubles from $625 (£379).

Best for design: Palihouse Santa Monica
Housed in a Moorish-influenced building from 1927, the boutique Palihouse Santa Monica opened in 2013, offering a medley of design styles. Think old portraits and antique furniture, cosy Chesterfield chairs and mounted deer heads, which together complement the building's frescoes and Mediterranean courtyard. The 37 rooms, meanwhile, feature Egyptian bed linen, flatscreen TVs and free wi-fi. And it's only a few blocks from the beach.
- Rooms: Suites from $299 (£182).

Best for party animals: Hotel Erwin
Young, hip and fun, the uber-trendy Hotel Erwin is located in the heart of throbbing Venice, no more than a stone's throw from the beach. The 119 rooms are spacious and clean, the decor bright and bold, and there's even an 'honour bar' filled with snacks. The hotel's Barlo Kitchen & Cocktails serves up unpretentious locally inspired and sourced food and drinks. But it's the panoramic High Lounge which makes the biggest impact, with live DJs and innovative tipples up on the roof. Try the Mexican spiced hot chocolate with a splash of tequila.
- Rooms: Doubles from $286 (£174).  

Beverly Hills & Belair

Exclusive, enticing and with the most famous postcode in the US, leafy Beverly Hills was considered desirable long before the rich and famous built their sprawling mansions here. The original residents, the Tongva people, deemed it sacred on account of the water that flowed through it from nearby canyons. They named it El Rodeo de las Aguas ('Ranch of the Gathering of the Waters'). Today, it's better known as a gathering place for wealthy homeowners and luxury retailers along Rodeo Drive.

Further west is the hushed gated community of Bel Air, where the dwellings are even more opulent. Who knows who you might spot…

We recommend: Hotel Bel-Air
This Spanish-colonial-style property, set in 12 landscaped acres, is as popular with showbiz royalty as actual royalty. Rooms are super-chic and high-tech, with limestone floors, iPad controls and heated toilet seats. Elsewhere, you'll find restaurants by star chef Wolfgang Puck and a La Prairie spa, plus The Bar with its pianists and giant celebrity portraits by top photographer Norman Seeff. The service is peerless, too  — heaven forbid you should have to lay your own towel by the pool.
- Rooms: Doubles from $571 (£347).

Best for shopping: Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel
You won't have far to carry all those shopping bags back — Rolex, Patek Philippe and Michael Kors boutiques are just a few of the prestigious outlets located on the doorstep here, situated slap bang in the middle of Rodeo Drive. The 88-room Luxe Rodeo Drive Hotel offers a more scaled-down approach to luxury than most other Beverly Hills properties, from soothing Vicente Wolf interiors of pale grey marble to gold-framed mirrors and bespoke leather armchairs.
- Rooms: Doubles from $279 (£169). 

Best for romance: The Beverly Hills Hotel
Sister hotel to the Hotel Bel-Air, the Pink Palace — as it's also known — has a swimming pool ringed by palm trees and 208 rooms in the main building with bathtubs for two and ornate fireplaces. The 23 garden bungalows offer a dash more privacy — Elizabeth Taylor chose to honeymoon here with six of her eight husbands. Not to be missed is Sunday brunch at the Polo Lounge — the breakfast spot of choice for Hollywood stars and wannabes alike.
- Rooms: Doubles from $450 (£273).

Published in the Jan/Feb 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)


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