Loud, brash and glitzy: these are words long associated with the city of big money, big stars and big movie kudos. LA is the kind of place where people mind their own business, where nobody wants to know yours. The city can be difficult to decode, but to those in the know, LA is best interpreted as a collection of satisfyingly small towns, each with its own distinct character. Getting to know LA as a visitor means exploring it bit by bit, neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Make sure you have a beachside lunch in Santa Monica, go shopping in Beverly Hills, visit the Getty Center and stroll the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but allow one day to explore each area.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
CHAMBERLAIN WEST HOLLYWOOD 1000 Westmount Drive, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 310 657 7400; www.chamberlainwesthollywood.com). The four-storey, 112-room hotel is a part of the LA-based Kor Hotel stable, which includes the Viceroys and the Avalon in Beverly Hills. The Chamberlain was envisaged as a 'residential pied-à-terre' and there is something especially intimate and discreet about it. This is partly thanks to its location, tucked away in a residential area and partly its oh-so-minimalist decor. The feel of a short-let studio, albeit a glamorised version, is maintained in the bedrooms, all of which are suites. The ceilings may be a little low, but even the smallest suite manages to feel spacious thanks to split-level flooring, clever mirror walling and a coolly masculine blue-and-grey colour scheme (the work of designer Kelly Wearstler). All rooms have a balcony, flat-screen television, gas 'log' fire and white Italian sheets on a huge, raised double bed. The only problem is that, even if the hotel is full, you will only ever see a handful of other guests, if any at all, and the bistro and lounge are almost always deserted. The classic Californian/Classic American cuisine is excellent. £££ CHATEAU MARMONT 8221 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 656 1010; www.chateaumarmont.com). A 1929 turreted castle with an aging lobby, quiet gardens with brick paths, and original tiles in nearly every suite. There are 63 rooms, including 48 bedrooms and suites, two penthouses, four garden bungalows and nine cottages. Discretion is the word among the staff, who seem somewhat jaded by the steady stream of celebrity guests. Free phone usage, Frette linens, chenille spreads and refurbished 1950s GE appliances are in all the rooms. The X factor? Bungalow 2 saw the first reading of Rebel Without a Cause; John Belushi OD'd in Bungalow 3. £££ ELAN HOTEL 8435 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 323 658 6663; www.elanhotel.com). Minutes from LA shopping institution the Beverly Center, the 49-room Elan is an exercise is 1960s modernism and was renovated fully in 2008. Room service is from Jan's Diner opposite, and there is a cheese-and-wine party every weekday evening. £ FOUR SEASONS LOS ANGELES AT BEVERLY HILLS 300 South Doheny Drive, Los Angeles (00 1 310 273 2222; www.fourseasons.com/losangeles). Located in a residential neighbourhood a short walk from Rodeo Drive, the Four Seasons is a classically opulent hotel with a landscaped pool terrace with a cabana restaurant. The 285 rooms and suites all have balconies and come with iPod docking stations, laptops on request and thick terry bathrobes. Spa services are available in-room, and the Gardens restaurant serves Californian food with Latin American and Asian influences. £££ HOTEL BEL-AIR 701 Stone Canyon Road, Los Angeles (00 1 310 472 1211; www.hotelbelair.com). The Bel-Air, a paradisiacal walled garden ensconced in the Santa Monica foothills, is without a doubt the most starry and exclusive hotel in the world. Its rooms are not rooms at all, but little chalets and cottages sequestered amid lush bougainvillaea, white azaleas and flowering peach trees. This is where Oscar hopefuls come to dress and preen on LA's biggest night, before heading down the Sunset to the Academy. And it is the place they come back to afterwards, to drown their sorrows or raise a glass to their own glittery wonderfulness. The Bel-Air was featured in the The Gold List 2005. £££ LE MONTROSE SUITE HOTEL 900 Hammond Street, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 310 855 1115; www.lemontrose.com). Le Montrose occupies a converted apartment building on a residential street two blocks from Sunset Boulevard. Chic and understated, it is hard to find and even harder to recognise when you get there. It is the hotel equivalent of a shy celebrity in shades and a hoodie. This is perhaps why Le Montrose is popular with troubled music-industry types. No pap is going to snap you by the rooftop pool - or in Privato, the appropriately named guests-only dining room. ££ SHADE 1221 North Valley Drive, Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles (00 1 310 456 4995; www.shadehotel.com). Manhattan Beach is fast becoming the hippest corner of LA. This is due in part to Shade, the beach's only boutique hotel: its Zinc Lounge is as cool as a superconductive cucumber. The rooms are an amazing mix of hippy-dippy and super-chic, with 'chromatherapy lighting', a Lavazza espresso machine and a hydrotherapy tub behind Japanese screens. ££ SHUTTERS ON THE BEACH 1 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica (00 1 310 458 0030; www.shuttersonthebeach.com). This stalwart hotel overlooks the sea and is how one would imagine Ralph Lauren's beach house to look, or your wealthy grandmother's 1920s beach condo: all dark-wood floors and old leather sofas. There are 186 rooms and 12 suites distributed over seven sprawling floors. The service is gracefully pragmatic; casually dressed doormen are armed with chilled bottles of Evian water, whirlpool baths come with candles, and every bedside table has a copy of a Hemingway novel. Chef Michael Reardon reigns over upmarket One Pico restaurant; casual dining downstairs at Pedals Café. A vast art collection, including works by Hockney and Lichtenstein, graces the lobby and hallways. £££ SUNSET TOWER HOTEL 8358 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 654 7100; www.sunsettowerhotel.com). The chunky, curvy Art Deco contours of the Sunset Tower Hotel make it look like a giant Bakelite wireless set. It is a striking building by any standard, and Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and Frank Sinatra are among those who once called it home. Back then it was an apartment block; now it is a fine hotel, recently renovated and refurbished by Jeff Klein for a 21st-century clientele. In the basement is the Argyle Salon & Spa, where you can have the Hawaiian 'Organic Renew Ritual' or a long-lasting 'Brazilian Blowout' hair-smoothing treatment. The Sunset Tower Hotel featured in The Gold List 2007 THE AMBROSE 1255 20th Street, Santa Monica (00 1 310 315 1555; www.ambrosehotel.com). The Ambrose is decorated in English country-house style with Asian-inspired elements. There are Italian linens in the 77 rooms and Aveda products in the bathrooms. Breakfasts are delicious, with a huge selection of herbal teas, and a London taxi is on hand to ferry guests around. ££ THE AVALON HOTEL 9400 West Olympic Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 227 5221; www.avalonbeverlyhills.com). A tribute to 1950s Californian poolside living, the Avalon is divided into three buildings: the Beverly (26 rooms, two suites), the Canon (15 rooms) and the Olympic, which has 43 rooms plus the bar, restaurant and hourglass-shaped pool. ££ THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL 9641 Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 276 2251; www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com). Known as the Pink Palace, this gold-leaf adorned hotel has undergone as much cosmetic surgery as the women who stay here. This tranquil enclave has 204 rooms and suites, and 21 bungalows, some with private pools. The service is professional, charming and never obsequious. A coiffed clientele gather in the Polo Lounge; go to the Fountain Coffee Room for burgers. £££ THE CRESCENT HOTEL 403 North Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 247 0505; www.crescentbh.com). A palm-tree-flanked villa on the outside (built in 1926); sleek minimalism on the inside. The retro-modern lounge bar and patio restaurant are popular. All 35 rooms come with selected CDs, iPods and White Company bath products. ££ THE MONDRIAN 8440 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 650 8999; www.mondrianhotel.com). This celebrated Ian Schrager hotel re-opened after an extensive makeover in 2008. The new design was masterminded by Benjamin Noriega Ortiz, and it draws inspiration from the Southern Californian coast. People still flock to the Sky Bar and its huge poolside mattresses are drenched with pretty people, while the Agua Spa has a Zen vibe in the middle of the city. Asia de Cuba serves fusion food in a room designed by Philippe Starck. £££ THE PENINSULA BEVERLY HILLS 9882 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 551 2888; www.beverlyhills.peninsula.com). This 'French Renaissance' palace is well-placed on Little Santa Monica in the heart of the Beverly Hills shopping district, around the corner from Rodeo Drive. There are 196 rooms, including 36 suites and 16 'villa' suites in seven separate buildings arranged around courtyards. The service is efficient and demure, suited pageboys deliver sundries upon request. The spa offers facials, massages and the 'wet room' has a hydrotherapy bath with 150 underwater jets. Repeat guests get monogrammed pillowcases, and everyone gets use of the hotel's chauffeured Rolls Royce. £££ THE STANDARD DOWNTOWN LA 550 South Flower Street, Downtown, Los Angeles (00 1 213 892 8080; www.standardhotel.com). André Balazs (of New York's Mercer hotel, LA's Chateau Marmont and The Standard Hollywood) has given the Los Angeles business district a jolt. This cluster of bank and insurance company buildings has always been deserted after 5pm but now, at around 8pm, LA's beautiful young things begin filling the streets around Balazs' hotel, hoping to be admitted to its roof bar: a playpen complete with infinity pool and movies projected on nearby buildings. Balazs has retained the former office building's 1960s corporate-modern decor and added a few ironic touches: the bedrooms are cheerful and spare (the bed is on a grey-carpeted platform), with floor-to-ceiling glass framed vistas. The staff are California-cheerful and remarkably efficient; call room service and the same person who took your order - this is hotel policy - delivers it. The Standard Downtown was featured in The Hot List 2003. ££ W LOS ANGELES WESTWOOD 930 Hilgard Avenue, Westwood, Los Angeles (00 1 310 208 8765; www.whotels.com). This was the first five-star hotel in lush Westwood and resembles an ivy-covered UCLA dormitory outside, with functional chic decor inside, including a waterfall lit by fibre-optics that flows day and night. There are 258 suites over 16 floors, including 63 three-room office suites, with printer/fax/scanner and high-speed internet access. There are extensive views, north to the Santa Monica mountains and the Getty Center, and south to Culver City. The best thing? The poolside cabanas from where you can order massages. There are cotton piqué bathrobes and Aveda products in every room. ££
CAFES LUCY FLORENCE COFFEE HOUSE 3351 West 43rd Street, Los Angeles (00 1 323 293 1356; www.lucyflorence.com). This is a great place to hear live music over a slice of moist coconut cake. PARADISE COVE BEACH CAFE 28128 Pacific Highway, Malibu (00 1 310 457 2503; www.paradisecovemalibu.com/beachcafe). Bob Morris's Paradise Cove Beach Café serves vintage diner food. Great for post-lunch walks on the beach. SPRINKLES 9635 Little Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 274 8765; www.sprinklescupcakes.com). Sprinkles bakery only sells cupcakes, but they are by far the most toothsome cupcakes money can buy. These little beauties come in 21 basic varieties, each one decorated with its signature 'modern dot'. They look like something Jasper Johns might produce after a month under the tutelage of Martha Stewart. If you ever tire of flavours such as 'chai latte' or 'red velvet', then try a seasonal pumpkin-flavoured Halloween cupcake topped with an orange frosted ghost, or an unleavened Passover cupcake crowned with a sugar Star of David. THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY 364 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills (00 1310 278 7270; www.thecheesecakefactory.com). This is the original Cheesecake Factory restaurant, which opened in 1978, and is a popular lunch stop with cheesecakes to die for. Try the Chocolate Oreo Mudslide cheesecake. TOAST BAKERY CAFE 8221 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 5018; www.toastbakerycafe.net). As well as doing great pastries, Toast specialises in breakfast served all day, featuring French toast, pancakes and omelettes. There are also salads, sandwiches and quiches and a take-away service. URTH CAFFE 8565 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 310 659 0628; www.urthcaffe.com). Organic café with great people-watching patio for celeb spotting. RESTAURANTS AGO 8478 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 6333; www.agorestaurant.com). At Robert De Niro's restaurant the food is a bit disappointing, but it is good for star-spotting. Read more about Robert De Niro in A-List Approved. CUT Beverley Wiltshire Hotel, 9500 Wiltshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 275 5200; www.fourseasons.com). Wolfgang Puck's CUT restaurant at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel is easily the hottest address in Los Angeles. It calls itself a steakhouse, but that description - like the name of the place - is a deliberate understatement. Everything about CUT declares that it is a huge evolutionary step up from a traditional grill. The interior, for example, was designed by Richard Meier, architect of the Getty Center, and it shares that building's clever juxtaposition of crisp angles and wavy lines. But the real genius is in the menu, a series of virtuoso variations on the steak-and-chips theme. The signature dish, Puck's culinary cadenza, is rib-eye of wagyu beef imported from Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan. HIROZEN 8385 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 323 653 0470; www.hirozen.com). LA is the sushi capital of the western world; nowhere in the hemisphere will you eat better Japanese cuisine. Some of the finest restaurants are so understated as to be practically invisible. Hirozen is hidden like a buried treasure within an anonymous mini-mall, but people come from miles around for its softshell crab tempura. IL FORNAIO 1551 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica (00 1 310 451 7800; www.ilfornaio.com). This airy Italian restaurant has its own deli, which sells a variety of breads and olive oils. IL PASTAIO 400 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 205 5444). This charming restaurant serves spectacular ravioli. KETCHUP 8590 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 310 289 8590). West Hollywood's Ketchup, from the Dolce Group, serves vamped-up classics, Kobe beef burgers, mini fish tacos and mama's meatloaf, alongside soups, salads and seafood. The decor is bright-white with tomato-inspired lighting and artworks. KOI RESTAURANT 730 North La Cienega Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 659 9449; www.koirestaurant.com). Don't be surprised to be dining next to George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Douglas or Cameron Diaz at this dining hotspot with intimately-lit, tropical patios, blazing fireplaces and Buddha statuary. Signature dishes include miso-bronzed black cod, soft shell crab with spicy cream and succulent lobster tail with miso spinach. MATSUHISA 129 North La Cienaga Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 659 9639; www.nobumatsuhisa.com). Chef Nobu Matsuhisa's best restaurant is here in LA. The cuisine has been described as 'Asian food from God' and 'orgasmic'. It's where he started and it's the cheapest of all his places, which is why you'll need to book ahead. MEL'S DRIVE-IN 8585 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 310 754 7201; www.melsdrive-in.com). Mel's Drive-In diner is a juicy slab of America served up with a large side of fires. But this being Hollywood, the shiny counter and cosy booths are a nostalgic illusion. Mel Weiss's original diner - where Harrison Ford hung out in American Graffiti - was in San Francisco; it was demolished as soon as filming ended. The brand was revived by Mel's son in the 1980s and is now thriving. Its success is due to burgers and shakes that are as enjoyably old-school as the jangling guitar riff of 'Johnny B Goode' blaring from the jukebox. MR CHOW 344 North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 278 9911; www.mrchow.com). If you're in LA for one night, go to Mr Chow. Being seated on the left as you go in means you've made it. MUSSO & FRANK GRILL 6667 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles(00 1 323 467 7788). This is the oldest restaurant in Hollywood and has been patronised by A-listers since it opened in 1919. Charlie Chaplin came for dinner in the early days; Harrison Ford, Madonna, Julia Roberts and George Clooney now make regular appearances, and there is always an assortment of writers, producers and directors. Consistency is the key to its success: the menu hasn't changed since the day it opened, some of the waiters have been there for 45 years and, incredibly, there have only been two chefs. The à la carte menu features steaks, roasts, seafood and salads; specials include chicken pot pie, bouillabaisse and flannel cakes. And the barman mixes a mean Martini. PHILLIPS BBQ 4307 Leimert Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 323 292 7613). Take away some ribs tips or chicken from here, it's the best in town. RITUAL SUPPER CLUB 1743 North Cahuenga Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 463 0060; www.ritualsupperclub.com). Formerly known as White Lotus, Ritual serves Pacific Rim fare in a picturesque oriental setting with tables inside or on a leafy patio. Try the Mystical Chef Andy Roll (named after head chef Andrew Pastore) topped with caviar and goldflake, and the lychee and pineapple Martini. Both the restaurant and nightclub attract a starry clientele including Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Britney Spears. SUSHI NOZAWA 11288 Ventura Boulevard, Studio City, Los Angeles (00 1 818 508 7017; www.sushinozawa.com). This is where chef Kazunori Nozawa (also known as the 'Sushi Nazi') serves up omakase dishes that make his occasional tantrums worth risking. SUSHI ROKU 8445 West 3rd Street, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 6767; www.sushiroku.com). Sushi Roku is stylish, albeit brasher than many of its more minimalist competitors. The food (which includes dishes such as sea bass with truffle-miso glaze) is proof that when it comes to east and west, the chubo kitchen is where the twain shall meet. THE GRILL ON THE ALLEY 9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills (00 1 310 276 0615; www.thegrill.com). This is a Beverly Hills power-lunch spot. Very clubby and elegant with lots of wood and leather. THE IVY 113 North Robertson, Beverly Hills, Los Angeles (00 1 310 274 8303). The Ivy provides a rare outdoor-lunch opportunity. Huge star-spotting potential. THE LOBSTER 1602 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica (00 1 310 458 9294; www.thelobster.com). This is a former fish shack converted into a glass-walled cube overlooking the beach. Excellent seafood and service. YAMASHIRO 1999 North Sycamore Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 466 5125; www.yamashirorestaurant.com). Yamashiro makes searingly powerful cocktails, and the view over Hollywood is unrivalled. ZEN GRILL 8432 West Third Street, Los Angeles (00 1 323 655 9991). This is a secretive lunch spot favoured by young actresses. Sample the blissful Saigon noodles.
The best nightlife in Los Angeles
CRIMSON 1650 Schrader Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 323 960 3300). The smaller - and younger - sister of neighbour Opera, Crimson is an intimate lounge bar with a dance floor that is popular with cool LA-based celebrities, including the Olsen twins. The red lighting makes for a great atmosphere, as does the rock music and the walls lined with fake snakeskin and fur. GEISHA HOUSE 6633 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 460 6300). Geisha House is a bar and restaurant part-owned by Ashton Kutcher. This makes it a good place to spot Mr Kutcher, his wife Demi Moore, his good friend and his wife's ex-husband Bruce Willis, and any number of other Hollywood types. 'Clock the celeb' is a game best played at the 50ft bar while enjoying a Geisha's Kiss (sake, lychee, Chambord and Champagne). And if no one you know from the movies shows up, turn your back on the unreal world of stardom and watch a manga cartoon or a Japanese game show on the flat screens behind the barman's head. MOONSHADOWS 20356 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu (00 1 310 456 3010; www.moonshadowsmalibu.com). Possibly the only thing better than contemplating the vastness of the Pacific is contemplating the vastness of the Pacific with a drink in your hand. Moonshadows, on the beach in Malibu, is the best place to do it. The terrace hangs above the rocky shore, so every table has the sight and sound of the sea. The music is chilled, and the vibe as cool as an ocean breeze. Come for brunch (maple-vanilla crêpes with cinnamon crème fraîche), or for a Mojito at sunset. THE EDISON 108 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles (00 1 213 613 0000; www.edisondowntown.com). An Art Deco-styled cocktail bar with lightbulb as a symbol and a live 'flapper girl' show on Fridays and Saturdays, The Edison is perfect for a spot of modern retro partying. The cocktails - including the house Edison with lavender-and-honey infused bourbon, pear liqueur and fresh pear juice - are very good, too. THE GREEN DOOR 1429 Ivar Avenue, Los Angeles. Trust the coolest venue to not have a sign - just look out for a battered green door on the Ivar Avenue, and you might be in with a chance to party with some Hollywood A-listers. Mischa Barton, Eva Mendes and Leonardo Di Caprio have all been spotted leaving here in the small hours of the morning, and the best chance for mere mortals to get in is to show up pretty early in the evening - so book a table for dinner in the Parisian-style bistro to be on the safe side. THE TERRACE AT SUNSET TOWER HOTEL 8358 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (00 1 323 654 7100; www.sunsettowerhotel.com). The rooftop bar at this Sunset Boulevard landmark hotel (see Where to Stay) is fantastic for some post-dinner drinks as the sun sets over LA. No photographers are allowed, so The Terrace and the adjoining Tower Bar are - unsurprisingly - favourites of some of the most photographed people in the city, including Jennifer Aniston...
What to see in Los Angeles
BUILDINGS AND MONUMENTS HOLLYHOCK HOUSE Barnsdall Park, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles (www.hollyhockhouse.net). Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House recently reopened after years of refurbishment. It was built for oil heiress Aline Barnsdall, and everywhere in the stonework are stylised hollyhocks, Barnsdall's favourite flower. Wright was inspired by the temples and mausoleums of the Maya, but these did not transpose well to the domestic scale. Barnsdall hated her new home, and immediately gave it away. So this experiment in style Wright called 'California Romanza' is a rare failure - but a magnificent one, well worth a visit. HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles (www.hollywoodforever.com). Hollywood Forever is the place where many a star has chosen to be seen dead. Among its permanent residents are Rudolph Valentino, Fay Wray and Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny) whose headstone reads 'That's All Folks'. As cemeteries go, this is a pretty happening spot. On summer nights Angelenos come to enjoy a picnic amid the gravestones, and to watch classic movies projected onto a large blank wall. Let's hope those flickering images are the only ghostly apparitions you see while you are here. CITY VIEWS MULHOLLAND DRIVE Mulholland Drive follows the ridge of the Santa Monica Mountains, affording spectacular daytime views of both the Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley. The road peters out at Route 101, close to the Hollywood sign. Come here at night and look down on the Hollywood Freeway as it flows like a river of light towards the city. Something about Mulholland Drive evokes weird reactions. David Lynch named a surreal, disjointed cinematic masterpiece after it, and the French thinker Jean Baudrillard was only half joking when he called it 'an entry point for extraterrestrials'. CONCERTS AND LIVE MUSIC WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles (00 1 323 850 2000; www.laphil.com). The Walt Disney Concert Hall, home to the LA Philharmonic, is a Frank Gehry masterpiece. Like many of his buildings, it appears to be in the middle of collapsing or changing shape. Here, the jumbled sheet-metal curves of the façade look like the pages of an excitable conductor's score as they tumble from lectern to floor. The auditorium meanwhile is a still, intimate interior space the colour of ground turmeric. Acoustically as well as visually, it is pure gold. MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES BROAD CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM 5905 Wiltshire Boulevard, Los Angeles (www.lacma.org). The Broad Contemporary Art Museum, a stunning collection of post-war painting and sculpture, has opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The BCAM occupies a new building designed by Renzo Piano to make the most of the pure Californian light. An open-air escalator conveys you to the top-floor entrance. You then wend your way down to the ground, taking in the Lichtensteins and the Beuyses, the Koonses and the Kiefers, as you go. NORTON SIMON MUSEUM 411 West Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena (00 1 626 449 6840; www.nortonsimon.org). This is the area's finest museum, founded by one of America's greatest collectors who amassed works by artists from Raphael, El Greco and Poussin to Rembrandt, Canaletto and Degas. THE GETTY CENTER 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles (00 1 310 440 7300; www.getty.edu). From below it looks like a white-walled post-millennial kremlin; from the air its circular rotundas and sharp-edged pavilions resemble the cogs and escapements of some fantastical clockwork toy. But it is only when you arrive in the courtyard of the billion-dollar Getty Center that you appreciate its sheer architectural brilliance. Each of the four buildings that house the permanent collection is a finely wrought modern masterpiece. They are designated North, East, South and West, and to move from one to the next, through the points of the compass, is to take an enlightening, sunlit journey through the long history of Western art. THE HUNTINGTON LIBRARY 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino (00 1 626 405 2100; www.huntington.org). The Huntington Library, set in handsome gardens, is the former home of railroad baron Collis Huntington and now houses his library and art collection. Some of the rarest and finest American and British manuscripts anywhere in the world are here, including the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a Gutenberg bible on vellum and the double portfolio of Audubon's Birds of America. It also contains Gainsborough's Blue Boy and Sir Thomas Lawrence's Pinkie. PARKS GRIFFITH PARK AND OBSERVATORY Griffith Park, north-west of downtown LA, is one of the biggest municipal parks in the USA - five times larger than New York's Central Park. Most of its 4,000 acres consist of mountainous scrubland given over to hikers, bikers and horse riders. The open space itself is the main draw: from the higher ground you have a grand view of the Los Angeles Basin as it slopes away to the Pacific Ocean. But there are other attractions, too: the Hollywood sign is on the park's western rim; the LA Zoo is tucked away on the east side; and to the south there is the fine observatory with its chocolate-coloured domes. It was here that James Dean wielded his switchblade at the climax of Rebel Without A Cause. SPORTS USC TROJANS Exposition Park, Los Angeles (usctrojans.cstv.com). College football is a serious business in the USA, and no team is more grimly determined than the University of Southern California Trojans. They plan at the Coliseum, a 1920s arena which has hosted two Olympiads, two Super Bowls and a World Series, and their games regularly draw a capacity crowd close to 100,000. Spend a Saturday afternoon here and get to grips with the complex, gladiatorial tussle that is American football. You'll then understand the impossible task facing David Beckham as he tries to wean Angelenos off this man's game and onto soccer's effete spectacle.
Things to do in Los Angeles
BEAUTY TREATMENTS KINARA SPA 656 North Robertson Boulevard, Los Angeles (001 310 657 9188; www.kinaraspa.com). In a starstruck town obsessed with beauty, a beautician can become a star. Olga Lorencin-Northrup has made a name for herself as a skincare guru to the A-List. Kinara Spa, her salon in West Hollywood, is the place where Halle Berry and Natasha Henstridge go when they need to look even more fabulously beautiful than usual. Lorencin-Northrup's trademark 'red-carpet facial' is designed for just such occasions. It involves a dozen separate treatments, culminating in a blue-algae mask and serum of caviar or green tea. Just the thing before an evening out at the Oscars. BUS TOURS THE NEON CRUISE Museum of Neon Art, 501 West Olympic Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 213 489 9918; www.neonmona.org). Just across Olympic Boulevard from the old Packard building is the Museum of Neon Art, which preserves the country's neon heritage, encourages contemporary neon art and - for those with time to kill on a Saturday evening between May and October - runs evening tours of the still neon-rich central area of LA. The 'Neon Cruise' aboard an open-topped double-decker bus, takes in an array of landmarks, from a four-handed Buddha with moving eyes in Chinatown and a flashing sphinx at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard to a sound-activated installation of multicoloured, flashing hops at the International Jewelry Center and the new 'Snow White: An Enchanting New Musical' sign on the rooftop of the Equitable Building at Hollywood and Vine. The museum is open Wed-Sun, except on public holidays. INDOOR SHOOTING LA GUN CLUB 1375 East Sixth Street (00 1 213 612 0931; www.thelosangelesgunclub.com). Currently one of the hippest things to do in LA is to visit the Gun Club, an indoor pistol-shooting range used by both the Los Angeles Police Department and members of the public, gangsters and all. Choose from over 100 different handguns and shoot at paper silhouettes of Mexican baddies. EXPLORE DIFFERENT AREAS BEL-AIR, BRENTWOOD AND WESTWOOD For a taste of how LA's affluent live, spend a day nosing around these three west-side enclaves. When you get tired of Bel-Air's hairpin turns, take a stroll through UCLA (www.ucla.com) in Westwood, an urban oasis with a sculpture garden populated by Calders, Moores and Rodins. Nearby Westwood Village is home to the acclaimed Geffen Playhouse (10886 Le Conte Avenue; 00 1 310 208 5454; www.geffenplayhouse.com) and UCLA's Armand Hammer Museum (10899 Wiltshire Boulevard; 00 1 310 443 7000; www.hammer.ucla.edu), housing the late industrialist's impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Pay your respects to a who's who of the deceased, including Marilyn Monroe and Jack Lemmon, at Westwood Memorial Park Cemetery (1218 Glendon Avenue). On Friday and Saturday nights, Brentwood's Getty Center (see What to See) stays open late, affording panoramic views of the glittering city. BURBANK AND STUDIO CITY Home to Buena Vista, Disney, NBC, Universal and Warner Bros studios, Burbank isn't called the city's media centre for nothing. The Warner Bros VIP Tour (www.warnerbros.com) gives a behind-the-scenes look at moviemaking. At the touristy Universal Studios (www.universalstudioshollywood.com), there are film-themed rides and studio tours which take in sets from past and present films and shows, including Back to the Future and the more recent Desperate Housewives, as well as an impressive airplane wreckage from Spielberg's War of the Worlds. In Studio City, the humble neighbourhood where the Brady Bunch lived, their hardcore fans still seek out the sitcom family's house (11222 Dilling Street). DOWNTOWN Once a ghosttown, Downtown is fast becoming a core of urban chic. Opposite the Museum of Contemporary Art (250 South Grand Avenue; 001 213 626 6222; www.moca-la.org), Frank Gehry's 2,265-seat Walt Disney Concert Hall (see What to See) opened on 23 October 2003, and its ribbons of stainless steel are already making his Guggenheim Bilbao look to its laurels. Three blocks north, Rafael Moneo's ultra-modernist Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels (555 West Temple Street) is another instant landmark. City Hall (200 North Spring Street) - the Daily Planet Building in Superman, is ready for its next close up following a 0-million face-lift. Chinatown's China City is home to acclaimed galleries such as China Art Objects (933 Chung King Road: www.chinaartobjects.com). EAST LA This is home to one of the country's oldest Hispanic communities, and spending time here is a lot like going south of the border. The colours are vibrant and the tortillas fresh; street vendors sell luscious mangoes and the crunchy jicama, and traditional Mexican musicians stroll Mariachi Plaza (Boyle and First Streets). East LA is also the stomping ground for Chicano musicians such as Los Lobos. The hub of this emerging creative scene is the visual-arts centre Self-Help Graphics & Art (3802 Ceasar East Chavez Avenue; 00 1 323 881 6444; www.selfhelpgraphics.com), whose elaborate mosaic façade reflects the calibre of work inside its exhibition space, Galeria Otra Vez. As you drive along, you'll see public art on the sides of buildings that recalls the work of Mexican muralists Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. HOLLYWOOD Hollywood's hippie shops and leather-clad street bums once upstaged its old-time glamour. Now, thanks to civic-minded celebs, many of its golden-age landmarks have been spruced up. At Grauman's now state-of-the-art Chinese Theatre (6925 Hollywood Boulevard; 00 1 323 464 6266), you can still check out Marilyn Monroe's impossibly tiny handprints. Kids flock to Disney's El Capitan Theatre (6838 Hollywood Boulevard; 00 1 323 467 7674; www.elcapitantickets.com), while true film buffs head for the highbrow screenings at the Egyptian Theatre (6712 Hollywood Boulevard; 0 1 323 466 3456; www.egyptiantheatre.com), home to the film-preservation foundation American Cinématique. The Hollywood & Highland shopping centre may be a mundane Academy Awards theme park (its Kodak Theatre is home to the Oscars), but it compensates with peerless views of the Hollywood sign and has boosted the area's celebrity quotient. The Sunday morning farmers' market (on Ivar, north of Sunset) is where the city's chefs get their produce. (See Where to Shop). MALIBU Malibu can be unforgiving: fires burn, mud slides and traffic on the Pacific Coast Highway can be all stop and no go. But it's hard to feel too sorry for its denizens, Goldie Hawn, Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand among them, who enjoy ocean views and bluffs reminiscent of the Italian Riviera. Accommodation is limited to a few dicey motels, so there's rarely a tourist crowd, and no one dresses up. Sunny days call for a drive along PCH to Zuma Beach, one of the road's most alluring stretches. Fans of rare blooms cruise through avocado and orange groves to Zuma Canyon Orchids (5949 Bonsall Drive; 00 1 310 457 9771; www.zumacanyonorchids.com). SANTA MONICA AND VENICE Liberal enough to be dubbed the People's Republic of Santa Monica, this coastal community, with its pier and permanent amusement park, retains an air of affluence with established galleries in Bergamot Station and the Santa Monica Museum of Art (2525 Michigan Avenue; 00 1 310 586 6488; www.smmoa.org). Venice, a 1905 homage to its Italian namesake (replete with canals), remains true to its bohemian roots even though gentrification has set in. Street musicians and greased-up body-builders still work the boardwalk, and the creative spirit that helped fuel LA's seminal 1960s and 1970s art scene endures, especially during May's Art Walk, when artists, architects and collectors open their studios and homes. SOUTH LA Known as the Harlem of the West, this area has famously been the backdrop for riots and gang violence; but jazz enthusiasts know that Central Avenue's clubs once hosted Louis Armstrong, the two Charlies (Mingus and Parker) and their ilk. Today, the cultural centre of gravity has shifted to Leimert Park, where tidy homes line Degnan Boulevard. Visit Eso Won Books (4331 Degnan Boulevard; 00 1 323 294 0324; esowon.booksense.com), where LA's African-American intelligentsia gathers for readings, lectures and browsing. Take in the renovated Watts Towers (1727 East 107th Street; 00 1 213 847 4646), Simon Rodia's Gaudi-esque folk-art masterpiece that took 30 years to build, along with the exhibitions at the adjacent arts centre. PEOPLE-WATCHING VENICE BOARDWALK It might be a people-zoo, or maybe it's a human circus, but Venice Beach is the place to marvel at the unfathomable vanity and variety of mankind. There are jugglers, sword-swallowers and fire-eaters, and every known sub-species of West Coast wacko. But the strangest specimens are surely the obsessive outdoor gym-bunnies, who have bulked up their bodies with lean muscle then roasted them under sunlamps until they resemble doner kebabs on the spit. Hire in-line skates or a skateboard and cruise the boardwalk the Californian way. OPEN HOUSES Slack planning regulations and extravagant residents have given LA a collection of extraordinary houses. At weekends, those for sale are open to the public. Drive along Sunset Boulevard and follow signs to Open Houses for an intriguing peek. SKIING AND SURFING Los Angelinos boast that they can surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Rent surf boards at one of the many shops on the Pacific Highway in Malibu and splash around. The best skiing in California is found at Mammoth Mountain. It is a five-hour drive away, but worth it.
Where to shop in Los Angeles
ANTIQUES ABBOT KINNEY BOULEVARD Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach is the best place for cheap and quirky antiques as well as old maps. JF CHEN 941 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles (00 1 323 466 9700; www.jfchen.com). For the best quality antiques and interiors, those in the know go to JF Chen. If staff ask, 'Are you an interior designer?' reply with a confident 'Yes' and explore the five giant rooms where designers come to source goods for Jack and Barbra's new homes. FASHION BARNEY'S NEW YORK 9570 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 310 276 4400; www.barneys.com). Browse handbags, jewellery, clothes and beauty products from the world's finest designers, and then head straight to the Barney Greengrass restaurant for lunch. Wear sunglasses: you'll fit in and it's easier to stare. NEIMAN MARCUS 9700 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 310 550 5900; www.neimanmarcus.com). If star-spotting is your thing, there are plenty of skinny actresses trying on sexy shoes at Neiman Marcus. Visit the bar on the top floor for good Bloody Marys and Martinis. The shopping is great, too. RESURRECTION 8006 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles (00 1 323 651 5516; www.resurrectionvintage.com). This has a fantastic selection of second-hand designer clothes for men and women, from Pucci and Oz Clarke to classic 1960s Gucci loafers. SAKS FIFTH AVENUE 9600 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 310 275 4211; www.saksfifthavenue.com). Get the five-star treatment by booking a personal shopper to get your through all of Saks floors and departments. You'll leave with a brand new designer wardrobe, which - thanks to currency rates - will be cheaper than if you did the same at home. SUNSET PLAZA 8635 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. This is worth a gander. Catherine Malandrino and Tracey Ross are here (see below), as is the excellent Calypso. TRACEY ROSS 8595 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 310 854 1996; www.traceyross.com). This tiny, two-roomed boutique is located in the middle of Sunset Boulevard's five blocks of designer stores. It is next to the best-known branch of the ubiquitous Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf cafés; actresses and wannabes pop in after a 'low-calorie ice blended' at the café. The decor is eclectic: leopard-print carpets, star-and-moon murals and chandeliers, and there is a day bed on which customers such as Brittany Murphy, Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek can recline if the shopping becomes too strenuous. There are choice pieces from labels including Chloe, Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo and Karen Zambos Vintage Couture, and appointments with a manicurist can be arranged. INTERIORS JANE MOUFFLET 8840 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles (00 1 310 275 3629). This is the place for vintage film posters. PACIFIC DESIGN CENTER 8687 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, Los Angeles (www.pacificdesigncenter.com). The vast, shiny blue shoebox of the Pacific Design Center contains 130 showrooms displaying every conceivable resource for interior decorators: fabric and furniture, antique statues and audio-visual systems, bar stools and bath taps. Right next to 'Center Blue' is the equally gleaming 'Center Green'; and 'Center Red' - a new building as glossy and shapely as one of Dorothy's magic slippers - opens in 2009. Also on the campus are two Wolfgang Puck restaurants, a branch of the Museum of Contemporary Art, a spectacular cinema and some great Oscar-night party venues. MARKETS FARMERS' MARKET 6333 West Third Street at Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles (00 1 323 933 9211; www.farmersmarketla.com). This is LA's original market, where the best butchers and greengrocers in town have been selling their produce since 1934. There are plenty of restaurants and non-food shops, too. ROSE BOWL FLEA MARKET The monthly Rose Bowl Flea Market, held in Pasadena on the second Sunday of every month, is the Portobello Road of the USA. It costs to get in, but that buys access to mountains of Californian bric-a-brac and kooky Americana. What better souvenirs of the United States than a 'Nixon for President' badge, a peanut-butter jar filled with antique buttons, and original 1958 LA Dodgers baseball jacket, a box of clockwork Stantas, or a vintage flower-power minidress? MEMORABILIA CHRISTIE'S 360 North Camden Drive (00 1 310 385 2600; www.christies.com). Christie's salerooms often hold interesting sales of Hollywood memorabilia. SHOPPING CENTRES THE GROVE 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles (00 1 888 315 8883; www.thegrovela.com). The Grove, between Beverly Boulevard and West 3rd Street, is LA's cheeriest mall. Its unique selling point as far as Angelenos are concerned is that it has no roof: The Grove provides purchasing opportunities in an alfresco environment where a reproduction vintage tram ferries customers along the walkway between the shops. It's a radical retail concept, known in Britain as 'the high street'. And you know what? It works. The quaint double-decker and the sunshine put a smile on people's faces, and the farmers' market next door lends an almost authentic air to it all.
How to get to Los Angeles
AIRPORT Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is situated 17 miles southwest of Downtown LA. AIRLINES FROM THE UK British Airways (0870 850 9 850; www.british-airways.com), United Airlines (08458 444 777; www.united.com), American Airlines (0845 7789 789; www.aa.com), Virgin (08705 747 747; www.virgin-atlantic.com) all have direct flights from London to Los Angeles. HIRING A CAR Avoid renting a convertible; only tourists choose convertibles and, in certain parts of LA, having the roof down will actually be hazardous. Make sure you bring an EU photographic license. It makes renting a car easier and constitutes a very useful piece of ID. Rent a car with a satellite navigation system (an extra , but worth every cent) and make sure you have a Thomas Guide street map.
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