Santa Monica Boulevard has inspired decades of artists. From Nat King Cole’s “Route 66” to Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do,” the street has long been known as a place where one can have a very good time. Spanning nearly the entire city of Los Angeles, from West Hollywood to the Santa Monica Pier, there’s plenty of fun to be had exploring the boulevard.
Santa Monica Boulevard slices a horizontal line through the city, cutting through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, West Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. A drive down the boulevard is a great way to explore Los Angeles—and what better way to end any trip than to dip your feet in the Pacific at Santa Monica State Beach while you watch rollerbladers skate by on the boardwalk?
The cultural center of the street is its westbound terminus in West Hollywood. Here, the busy four-lane road becomes a walkable street full of fun shops, eclectic restaurants, and plenty of culture. Look for iconic Route 66 signs as well as neon artwork honoring the road’s rich history and outposts like Irv’s Burgers serving up delicious nostalgia. The Percent for Public Art initiative mandates that all new development include a form of public art (think sculptures, neon signs, and vibrant murals).
On the east end of the West Hollywood section sits Little Russia. Try the smoked fish and fresh blini from the local deli Kashtan, or unwind at Voda Spa’s traditional banya complete with a dry sauna and cold pool. The west end is the heart of Los Angeles’ vibrant LGBTQ neighborhood. Stop in for a drink at The Surly Goat or Saddle Ranch Chop House. During the day, take a moment to reflect along the West Hollywood Memorial Walk, which honors victims of HIV/AIDS. Rainbow flags and bronze plaques stand in quiet tribute.
West Hollywood has been dubbed “The Creative City,” and for good reason. Bordering Beverly Hills and Los Angeles, WeHo is located in the heart of Los Angeles. It’s easily accessible from anywhere in the city, and the area has plenty to see and do packed into 1.9 square miles.
In the West Hollywood Design District, fashion and the arts rule. This trendsetting area includes intimate galleries and the massive Pacific Design Center, a decorator’s dream, located on Melrose Avenue. More interior design showrooms line Beverly Boulevard, while the highest of high-end boutiques can be found on the ever-stylish Robertson Boulevard. Keep your eyes out for spendy celebrities dipping in and out of shops and head to the fabled Sunset Strip to experience the allure of world-famous music venues, hotels, and nightclubs. Stop in at The Viper Room or The Roxy, where such legends as Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen have recorded live albums.
Santa Monica Boulevard, the center of WeHo’s LGBTQ community, is packed with bars, clubs, and award-winning restaurants. Dance your heart out at Revolver Video Bar, get a fancy cocktail at The Abbey, or enjoy hipster comfort food in Laurel Hardware.
But West Hollywood isn’t all about flash. Tucked away on a quiet side street, there’s an icon of modern architecture: the Schindler House at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture. Tour the stylish structure, which was completed in 1922 and is an early example of California’s indoor-outdoor style of architecture. Another low-key but worthwhile WeHo find is the beloved Book Soup bookstore, with readings and signings by top writers from around the world.
Everything about the sleek Mondrian Hotel Los Angeles screams West Hollywood, from its 30-foot-tall mahogany doors to its sparkling city-view pool that transforms nightly into one of L.A.’s most sought-after lounges.
Perched on the Sunset Strip, this perennially hip high-rise wears a compelling aesthetic—part mid-century modern, part urban-cool. Its minimalist lobby, with a Lucite indoor swing, gallery-sized photographs, and open seating designed for socializing, looks like it's straight out of Architectural Digest. But the Mondrian is more than just a pretty face. The guest experience matters here, as seen in its 236 generously sized rooms (the smallest is 325 square feet) with floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies overlooking downtown’s skyscrapers. King beds are framed by chic white leather headboards. Bathrooms have crisp, ice-white furnishings and rainfall showers. The décor is classy all the way, with a little fun mixed in—like the huge sculptured mirrors that conceal each room’s television.
Start your day sipping coffee from a padded teak chaise by the pool, surrounded by oversized flowerpots filled with blooming greenery and L.A. vistas that extend for miles. When the sun heats up the afternoon, cool off with a quick dip accompanied by soothing underwater music. At dinnertime, dine indoors or out at the Mondrian’s celeb-chef restaurant, Ivory on Sunset. An Italian-inspired menu tips the scales with crostinis, pastas, steaks, and seafood. Start with the grilled octopus and work your way down to the European sea bass.
After sundown, hang out with a star-studded crowd in the open-air Skybar lounge. Cutting-edge DJs play deep house and electronic music as twinkling lanterns illuminate the pool’s blue-water glow and vine-covered walls. Skybar is famous for having one of L.A.’s toughest doors—all of Hollywood wants in to this buzzy spot, and yes, you need to be dressed just right—but hotel guests have guaranteed entrance. We’ll have a mezcal mule, please.
In many ways, the Mondrian seems like an extension of its cultured WeHo neighborhood. Across the street is the famous Comedy Store, with live shows on three separate stages. Sunset Plaza, a walkable enclave of 40-plus designer boutiques and eateries including the old-Hollywood-style Sunset Trocadero, is a 10-minute walk from the hotel. And no visit to the Sunset Strip is complete without a peek at the legendary Whisky a Go Go, where Alice Cooper, The Doors, Van Halen, and KISS got their starts.
Famous as a destination for the latest style and design trends, West Hollywood (or WeHo, if you’re in the know) is a haute hangout contained within the much larger boundaries of Los Angeles County. Art-and-culture devotees love its central location near the Miracle Mile museum district and Melrose Avenue’s upmarket shopping nexus. It’s also a highly walkable city with a great live music scene.
Explore the Design District
Design fans find their happy place in the West Hollywood Design District. Stroll along Melrose Avenue, Robertson Boulevard, and Beverly Boulevard to drop in on more than 200 fashion boutiques and galleries. For the hottest shoes, shop Christian Louboutin. For luxury consignment jewelry, browse The RealReal. For modernist furniture, head to Blu Dot. Melrose Avenue is anchored by the shiny blue-glass Pacific Design Center (nicknamed the “Blue Whale” for its immense size and vivid hue). The multi-level structure is crammed with more than 120 design showrooms and high-end home galleries. If you’re in the market for furnishings, fabrics, floor coverings, architectural products, wall coverings, or lighting, you’ve found the holy grail. Some showrooms are open to designers and architects only, but if you’re not in the business (or not traveling with someone who is), contact Pacific Design Services in advance to request admission. The center’s architecture, indoor art, and outdoor courtyards are also worth a look.
Browse Hamilton Selway
Across Melrose and closer to North San Vicente Boulevard, Hamilton Selway Gallery is one of the West Coast’s largest purveyors of pop and contemporary art. Collectors around the world shop here for works by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Longo. Even if you’re not a buyer, visiting this gallery is like a museum trip. Kiss the afternoon good-bye while you stare at all the gorgeous colors and shapes.
Eat at EP & LP
Melrose’s galleries and shops are mixed in with buzzy dining hotspots like fun-and-flirty EP & LP, where Australian master chef Louis Tikaram cooks up Asian-Fijian-Vietnamese-Chinese fusion. Popular dishes include kung pao chicken, vegetable curry, and a delectable mango pudding. EP & LP’s rooftop bar is a West Hollywood standout—and rooftop bars are a thing here—with 6,000 square feet of dazzling city views, luxe daybeds, and warm fire pits. Try the signature cocktail, a zingy bourbon concoction called Where Love Lives.
Stay at the Mondrian Los Angeles
With so much to see and do, you’ll need to stay overnight. The sleek Mondrian Los Angeles is a sought-after spot, with a minimalist lobby that looks straight out of Architectural Digest (picture 30-foot-tall mahogany doors and a Lucite indoor swing). Spacious guest rooms have city-view balconies, glittering chandeliers, and rain shower baths. Dine on Italian seafood with a 360-degree city view at Ivory on Sunset. Hang out in the chic Skybar lounge overlooking the Mondrian’s spectacular pool. On weekends, listen to deep house and electronic music played by cutting-edge DJs.
Play at Whisky a Go Go
While at the Mondrian, you’re within walking distance of rock-and-roll history. Founded in 1964 and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, the Sunset Strip’s famous Whisky a Go Go is where Alice Cooper, The Doors, Van Halen, and KISS got their start. That wild era is long over, but you can still enjoy live music almost any night of the week at this 500-seat nightclub.
Los Angeles’ vibrant restaurant scene is justifiably celebrated for its variety, quality, and innovation. But most observers agree that late-night dining options are in short supply in L.A.—especially if you’re in the market for a thoughtful, composed meal.
Casey Lane is helping to change all of that. The celebrated chef opened the Venice hotspot The Tasting Kitchen in 2009 and now runs three more outposts that cater to night owls: Viale dei Romani in West Hollywood, and Breva and Veranda at the downtown Hotel Figueroa.
“I’m mad when it’s 11 p.m. and I have a group of six friends and we want to go get great food and we can’t,” Lane told Food & Wine. “I’ve always hurt for that kind of place, where six or seven of us can go after an event. And we can hang there for two hours and actually continue our evening with a polished serviced setting.”
Thanks to Lane’s quartet of late-night friendly restaurants, Los Angeles foodies can enjoy Mediterranean-inspired food long after Lebron James has switched into street clothes and Gustavo Dudamel is out of his tuxedo. Here are a few of Lane’s favorite things to do and places to go in the Golden State.
Where do you live? West Hollywood
Why there? Love the inspiration of the community, love being able to walk in every direction and find new, creative, or classic Hollywood staples. Dining, shopping, shows—all right in your neighborhood.
Who or what is your greatest California love? The freedom and spirit people live with. There is a feeling that you can be creative and explore your sensibility everyday.
What is the biggest misperception about Californians? That no one in Los Angeles reads.
What is the stereotype that most holds true? That everyone is a bit soft when it comes to straightforward discussions.
What is your favorite Golden State splurge? Playing golf at Pebble Beach.
Time for a road trip—where are you going? Driving up the coast with no true destination—just a point at which you decide to stop and stay before you turn around.
If you could decree an official state culinary experience, what would it be? The French Laundry
How do you define California style? A laid-back originality with so much style it can be the formal version of yourself—or fit in at the beach.
Best California song? “California Love” [by Tupac]
West Hollywood is a favorite spot among partying celebrities, but this hip little city also packs in a lifetime’s worth of dining experiences. From stripmall sushi to Old Hollywood haunts, West Hollywood has a cure for every craving.
Fashion and design are integral to the WeHo lifestyle, so it’s not surprising that some of the best food is served amidst stunning decor. Long-standing favorite Lucques from famed restaurateurs Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne serves French-inspired food in a gorgeous carriage house. Enjoy farm-fresh fare on Eveleigh’s ivy-covered patio. Lauded for its lobster rolls and oyster platters, Connie and Ted’s Restaurant is also a AIA Restaurant Design Awards finalist.
If people-watching is what you’re after, head to one of Innovative Dining Group’s West Hollywood Trifecta: ROKU, Katana (both serving imaginative Japanese cuisine), or BOA Steakhouse. Real Housewives Lisa Vanderpump’s SUR Restaurant & Lounge (featured on the series) and PUMP Restaurant offer eclectic cuisine with posh backdrops and almost-guaranteed reality-star sightings. For a taste of the L.A. glam-rock scene, try Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip, a former hangout of ‘80s bands Poison and Mötley Crüe, serving American-Italian delights. Dan Tana’s also serves calamari fritti-esque fare, but with an Old Hollywood vibe.
Enjoy excellent eats minus the scene at one of the area’s hidden gems. In the eastside of West Hollywood (a neighborhood known fondly as Little Russia), Traktir boasts some of the tastiest borscht in the city, best enjoyed with a side of black bread and horseradish-infused vodka. Royal Gourmet Deli and Stolichnaya Bakery have all the caviar and piroshki your heart could desire. For a uniquely L.A. experience, get a ticket to raw fish heaven at Sushi Park. This unassuming storefront located in a shopping plaza serves a fixed-price omakase menu with exceptionally fresh and delicately prepared plates.
A number of the chicest hotels in Los Angeles can be found nestled between Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Located in the heart of the city, West Hollywood offers an ideal location for travelers. Its centrality makes nearly any attraction easily accessible—but there’s so much to see and do in walkable WeHo, you might never want to leave.
Just outside the borders of West Hollywood sits the infamous, castle-like Chateau Marmont, perched atop Sunset Boulevard. Although the hotel sets the bar high for pure luxury and movie star elegance, the longtime celebrity is hardly the only posh game in town. The London West Hollywood oozes British charm with textured walls, velvet couches, and mosaic-tiled bathrooms. Enjoy a private viewing of works by de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Miró, and more at Le Petit Ermitage, where the owner displays his art collection on the walls—and guests who book suites are treated to their very own butlers. Some of the best views in the city can be found from the windows of the Sunset Tower Hotel, an art deco landmark which also houses Tower Bar.
If you’re in the market for a thoroughly hip experience, there are plenty of boutique options as well. The Charlie Hotel, a garden bungalow that was formerly Charlie Chaplin’s private grounds, is a quiet retreat in the center of the city. In-room fireplaces paired with mod-style decor make The Chamberlain a cozy respite—with a rooftop pool and patrons that like to party. Popular among the younger crowd, the Andaz West Hollywood eschews the standard front desk for check-in tablets, a complimentary wine happy hour, and sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills.
Thanks to an impressive number of distinct shopping districts, West Hollywood is a very easy (and fun) place to spend some serious cash—or even just a little. Boutiques from the country’s most famous fashion designers can be found just a few blocks from an interior design mecca and bohemian-punk gift shops. Whether you’re in the market for $1,200 pumps or $12 t-shirts, there’s something in WeHo you simply must have.
Walk up and down Melrose Avenue for a mix of apparel, design, and unexpected gifts. East of Crescent Heights, you’ll find funky gems like Japan LA, featuring Tokyo–style stuffed animals, stationery, stickers, keychains, and the like. Behind a plastic ivy-covered storefront, Joyrich sells 90s-inspired streetwear, while at Scout, you can hunt for vintage finds, carefully merchandised below a giant leather chandelier. The closer to Melrose Place, the higher the price tags. Labels including Chloe, rag & bone, Alice and Olivia, and A.P.C. all have outposts here. Just a bit farther west, on Robertson Boulevard, sit such household-name designers as Christian Louboutin and Helmut Lang.
On the corner of Melrose and San Vicente Boulevard you’ll find the Pacific Design Center, a massive three-building complex filled with furniture and homewares. Not all vendors in the center sell to the public, but in the surrounding blocks, you’ll find luxury establishments, including RH West Hollywood, Blu Dot, Dao, and Christopher Guy.
If you’re in the mood to people-watch, head to Sunset Plaza. This shopping area on the Sunset Strip dates back to the early 20th century and is full of both colorful shops and characters. Give your legs and wallet a rest at Le Petit Four, right in the plaza’s center, where you can enjoy California-meets-French cuisine al fresco.
This stylish West Hollywood Design District, roughly defined by the intersections of Melrose Avenue and Robertson and Beverly Boulevards, might be one of the best people-watching areas in Los Angeles. It’s where art and fashion aficionados, trend-setters, and in-the-know celebrities pull up in their Maseratis and duck into shops to search for edgy designs at high-end boutiques, including Moschino, Stella McCartney, and Christian Louboutin.
Also known as an L.A. apex of interior design, WeHo is home to more than 100 trade-only showrooms inside the Pacific Design Center. While some of the center’s stores sell only to design professionals, you can still browse the 1.6 million-square-foot multi-use space. Stop in the designLAb to see the latest exhibition at the rotating gallery, or simply wander the magnificent complex. Designed by influential Argentine-American architect César Pelli, the center consists of three notice-me glass buildings—one race-car red, one cobalt blue, and one forest green.
Dozens of surrounding shops offer one-of-a-kind home goods, apparel, furniture, beauty products, and gifts. Kelly Wearstler sells architecturally inspired women’s wear, jewelry, and home goods. Part gallery, part shop, Leica Store LA offers some of the most coveted photography equipment in the world, while Duroque, Niche, and Christopher Guy all sell high-end art pieces that also serve as functional furniture.
In line with the designer lifestyle, a strong coffee culture permeates the district. Grab a cold brew and an iced matcha croissant at Alfred Coffee in the Alley to better fuel your window shopping. Or sip a vanilla latte with a raspberry-pistachio doughnut from The Assembly as you enjoy the area’s handful of arresting outdoor murals.
At the base of the Hollywood Hills, the city of West Hollywood is the center of LGBTQ Los Angeles. In 1984, West Hollywood became the first majority-gay municipality in the country, and ever since, its rich tradition of pride and acceptance has been enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Today, LGBTQ residents comprise more than 40 percent of the 1.9-square-mile community, and the crosswalks are painted as welcoming rainbows.
It goes without saying that the entire area is LGBTQ-friendly, with excellent restaurants, hotels, and shopping on every corner. As for nightlife, consider The Abbey as your first stop. One of the most famous gay bars and nightclubs in the world, The Abbey has go-go dancers, high-end cocktails, and surprisingly good food. Turn up the volume at the aptly named Girl Bar, check out Fubar if you’re looking for an underground feel, or The Bayou for a late-night happy-hour scene. Round out the weekend with drag queen bingo nights held every Sunday at Hamburger Mary’s.
In late May, One City One Pride honors LGBTQ visual and performing arts with free events around the city, and come June, West Hollywood becomes the home base for the L.A. Pride Festival and Parade. The monthlong celebration includes festivities around the city, many of them appropriate for kids, but the main event is the two-day festival in West Hollywood Park, which welcomes more than 400,000 people each year. Listen to A-list musicians perform on the event’s three stages and watch the elaborate floats roll by at Sunday’s parade. The festivities are family-friendly, even if they can get a little raucous, but specifically for kids and younger adults 24 and under, there’s the free, circus-themed, and alcohol-free Youth Pride Dance. July brings Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, which showcases the work from LGBTQ filmmakers from around the world.
There may be no greater concentration anywhere of the young, hip, and beautiful than in the bars and clubs of this infamous stretch of roadway. The 1.6-mile strip of Sunset Boulevard is situated in the lively city of West Hollywood and upholds that lively city's reputation as a nightlife hotspot.
From the heights of swank hotel rooftops like the Mondrian’s SkyBar and the Tower Bar at Sunset Tower Hotel, to the glam-grunge of rock clubs like The Viper Room and Whisky a Go Go, there’s a setting to suit your style and mood. In addition to venues that showcase artists ranging from indie singer/songwriters to major-label headliners, there are iconic comedy clubs such as The Laugh Factory and the Comedy Store. Or head to The Roxy—where Rocky Horror Picture Show premiered in 1974—for live music in an intimate, 500-capacity venue.
Grab a fireside cocktail at The Den on Sunset or pair a hand-selected Irish whiskey with sliders at Rock and Reilly’s Irish Pub before or after a show. Hotels aren’t just for sleeping—popular venues like Bar Marmont (at Chateau Marmont) and the super-secret Mmhmm cocktail bar at The Standard are sleek spots to see and be seen.
The Sunset Strip isn’t just rock and roll. Spend the afternoon shopping at Sunset Plaza, which contains more than 20 stores, like Armani Exchange and H&M. Book lovers, don’t miss the iconic Book Soup, L.A.’s largest independent bookstore, with floor-to-ceiling shelves that contain more than 60,000 titles, many of which are limited edition. The store hosts frequent author readings, so check its calendar to meet your favorite novelist or hear from up-and-comers.