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 centre 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 honouring 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 includes 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 neighbourhood. 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 honours 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 interior designer’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 centre 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 is not 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 bookshop, with readings and signings by top writers from around the world.
West Hollywood is a favourite spot among partying celebrities, but this hip little city also packs in a lifetime’s worth of dining experiences. From sushi in shopping parades 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 favourite 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 LA glam-rock scene, try Rainbow Bar & Grill on Sunset Strip, a former hang-out 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 neighbourhood 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 LA experience, get a ticket to raw fish heaven at Sushi Park. This unassuming shop-front located in a shopping square 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 travellers. 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 film-star elegance, the long-time 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 centre 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 streets 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 sure to be something in WeHo you simply must have.
Walk up and down Melrose Avenue for a mix of clothing, design and unexpected gifts. East of Crescent Heights, you’ll find funky gems like Japan LA, featuring Tokyo–style stuffed animals, stationery, stickers, keyrings and the like. Behind a plastic ivy-covered shop-front, Joyrich sells '90s-inspired streetwear, while at Scout you can hunt for vintage finds, carefully displayed below a giant leather chandelier. The closer to Melrose Place, the higher the prices. Labels including Chloe, rag & bone, Alice and Olivia, and A.P.C. all have boutiques here. Just a bit further west, on Robertson Boulevard, sit household-name designers such 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 centre sell to the public, but in the surrounding streets 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 colourful shops and characters. Give your legs and purse a rest at Le Petit Four, right in the plaza’s centre, where you can enjoy California-meets-French cuisine al fresco.
This stylish West Hollywood Design District, roughly defined by the junctions 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 LA apex of interior design, WeHo is home to more than 100 trade-only showrooms inside the Pacific Design Center. While some of the centre’s stores sell only to design professionals, you can still browse the 150,000-square-metre multi-use space. Stop in the designLAb to see the latest exhibition at the rotating gallery, or simply wander through the magnificent complex. Designed by influential Argentine-American architect César Pelli, the centre 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, clothing, furniture, beauty products and gifts. Kelly Wearstler sells architecturally inspired women’s wear, jewellery 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 centre 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 per cent of the 1.9-square-mile community, and the pedestrian crossings 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 everything from go-go dancers to 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 try The Bayou for a late-night happy-hour scene. End the weekend with drag queen bingo nights held every Sunday at Hamburger Mary’s.
Come June, West Hollywood becomes the home base for the LA Pride Festival and Parade. The month-long celebration includes festivities around the city, 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. Additionally, One City One Pride commences in late May, honouring LGBTQ visual and performing arts with free events around the city.
There may be no greater concentration anywhere of the young, hip and beautiful than in the bars and clubs of this infamous stretch of road. 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 swanky 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.
Sunset Strip isn’t just rock and roll. Spend the afternoon shopping at Sunset Plaza, which contains more than 20 stores, including Armani Exchange and H&M. Book lovers, don’t miss the iconic Book Soup, LA’s largest independent bookshop, with floor-to-ceiling shelves that contain more than 60,000 titles, many of which are limited edition. The shop hosts frequent author readings, so check its calendar for a chance to meet your favourite novelist or hear from up-and-coming authors.