Home of famous films and history-making TV series, city of glamour, of Hollywood, of Venice Beach, of the Lakers: we are talking about Los Angeles. Along with New York, it is that iconic US city that we dream of seeing since we were kids, the one that created the ideology of the Californian surfer, the social life of Beverly Hills, shopping on Rodeo Drive and strolling the Walk of fame with the chance of meeting some movie stars.
Yet behind these mainstream nuances lies a city with a thousand faces. On the other hand, the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright wrote ‘Turn the world upside down and everything that is not fixed will end up in Los Angeles’, just to imply that the City of Angels is constantly evolving.
There’s no shortage of activities and attractions in this city, but what to see and how long to stay in Los Angeles? Here’s a little life-saving guide so you don’t miss out on all the great things to do…and maybe even meet your film idol where you least expect it!
In our list of things to see in Los Angeles, we can’t fail to start with one of the city’s most famous and iconic neighbourhoods: Hollywood. Cinema ties all the city’s attractions together like a red thread and this neighbourhood is definitely the emblem of movie culture.
One of the main attractions is precisely the ‘Hollywood walk of fame’. Two kilometres of street visited every year by around 10 million tourists who flock to see the star set in the pavement dedicated to their favourite celebrity. Also not to be missed on a stroll here are visits to the Dolby Theatre, the theatre that for one night a year becomes the centre of the world by hosting Oscar night, and the Chinese Theatre, one of Los Angeles’ historic cinemas that opened in 1927 with the screening of the film ‘The King of Kings’.
For shopping lovers, we recommend Melrose Avenue, one of the most picturesque streets in the neighbourhood. Here you will find restaurants, bars, but above all shops selling everything from luxury shoes to antique furniture.
From here you can also start a tour of the studios, the film studios that have produced our favourite series and films, with Paramount Pictures. Star Trek and Happy Days were filmed here, as well as the more recent Glee, Gracie & Frankie and This is Us.
Continuing on the subject of shopping, in Hollywood you can’t miss the Hollywood and Highlands. It is a gigantic shopping centre in full American style built on several floors from which you will also have a good view of the Hollywood Sign. We are talking about the sign that has made us dream in so many series and one of the best known symbols of the whole of California.
The Hollywood sign is a sign of the unbreakable link that Los Angeles has with the world of cinema. It has dominated Mount Lee since 1923, when it was originally placed there as an advertisement for the new residential district that had just been built on these hills.
Originally the sign was longer, namely Hollywoodland, and was supposed to be a temporary advertisement, however, it has turned into an iconic image of the city and is now a favourite stop for tourists in L.A. Obviously you will be eager to take a picture of this sign and immediately post a photo on Instagram to capture this moment. That said, we suggest one of the best locations to take your shot: Lake Hollywood Park.
It is a green expanse, overlooked by some of the city’s most exclusive homes. There are also other places to view it from, such as: Hollywood Boulevard, one of the most famous streets in the neighbourhood; the Mulholland Belvedere; the Griffith Observatory from which you can enjoy great views of the city.
As a city of cinema, Los Angeles could not lack theme parks dedicated to the seventh art.
In fact, L.A. is home to Universal Studios, but also Warner Studios, Sony Pictures Studios and 20th Century Fox.
Over the years, many cult films have come to life in Los Angeles and countless stories have been told. A tour of the city is not complete without taking time to visit the places that gave birth to the films of our childhood and those we eagerly await today. Visiting a film studio in L.A. is easier than you might think. In fact, almost all studios offer guided tours with the chance to see a set as an insider.
Let’s start with Warner Studios, which is one of the most famous in the city. The studios that produced ‘Harry Potter’ couldn’t fail to have an entire building dedicated to the film and of course a playground that simulates the magical world of the films. Then there are the Sony Pictures Studios, where many recent hits were filmed including ‘Spiderman’, ‘Underworld’ and ‘Men in Black’. Here the tour also takes you to the sets of films such as ‘The Wizard of Oz’, as well as American TV milestones such as ‘Wheel of Fortune’. Then there is 20th Century, which has made some of the TV series that have entered our hearts. We start with The Simpsons and move on to other hit shows such as ‘How I Met Your Mother’, ‘Modern Family’ and ‘New Girl’.
Moreover, let us not forget that iconic stars of the calibre of Marilyn Monroe or Shirley Temple achieved stardom thanks to Fox. You can find statues dedicated to them here and there among the studios and little insights into their careers. If, on the other hand, you want to relive the magic of history-making sagas like ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Jurassic Park’, you must visit Universal studios. Founded in 1912, these studios have produced some of the most famous films in history such as ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ or ‘War of Two Worlds’.
Your list of what to see in Los Angeles should definitely include at least one of these sets, all of which can be conveniently booked online with a choice of tours ranging from basic to VIP. Plan your visit in advance, as the studios are one of the main attractions in the city, so you won’t risk running out of tickets!
Besides Hollywood, L.A.’s other most iconic district is definitely Beverly Hills. On your list of things to see in Los Angeles, you cannot miss a visit to the area of unbridled luxury par excellence! This district, which together with Bel Air and Holmby Hills creates the so-called ‘Golden Triangle’, is the location chosen as home by many VIPs.
If you are a true fan, you might want to look up the homes of the stars on some special maps (the Star Home Maps) that almost every newsstand in Los Angeles sees. Among the prominent luxury mansions you will certainly find those of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney. Almost all of the 15 km that make up Beverly Hills are dominated by the majestic villas that the stars had built over the years, their luxury cars and shopping streets.
The most famous of all is surely Rodeo Drive. Its glamorous history began in the 1970s, when big luxury brands such as Chanel, Hermes and Dior chose to open their boutiques here. The street, a bit like the Walk of fame, is characterised by engraved inscriptions that are quotes from the world’s greatest designers. Still talking about shopping, we recommend you see ‘The House of Bijan’, the most expensive shop in the world (we are talking about a place where a pair of socks costs about 100 dollars!).
You might run into Tom Cruise or Schwarzenegger, who are two regulars of the shop. Your visit can’t miss the ‘Beverly Gardens Park’, the neighbourhood gardens where you can admire pieces of art such as the ‘Electric Fountain’, the jewel of the park. But while visiting the gardens we are sure you will make one important selfie stop: the one in front of the ‘Beverly Hills’ sign. This is not the original, but a reproduction of the historic arch that is absolutely worth the stop. Taking a photo here will catapult us back into the adventures, dramas and loves of the young people of Beverly Hills 90210!
Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown L.A is very different from the classic concept of the city centre. In fact, we are talking about an area of 12.25 km² that includes very different neighbourhoods. Let us start exploring it from one of its most significant points, Pershing Square.
This square is the demonstration of an urban redevelopment of Downtown that has led it to be a mix of different architectures alternating with green spaces. Prominent in Pershing Square are the purple bell tower and a fountain in the shape of a record player, two examples of modern design. Not far from the square, we find another of the things to see in Los Angeles. It is its Public Library, or rather the library where you can breathe ancient Egyptian vibes. In fact, it was built as a kind of temple with sphinxes, mosaics and even a pyramid-roofed tower that do not go unnoticed in the city’s mix of skyscrapers. To photograph it from afar and capture this mix of unique contrasts, climb the Bunker Hills Step, a beautiful staircase that takes you to the top for a great view of the city.
If you are a music lover, you cannot miss two truly unique Los Angeles attractions.
The first is the Walt Disney Concert Hall, opened in 2003. Right from the start it became one of the most photographed places in the City of Angels because of its light shapes, which almost look like sails. The main hall seats 2265, but there is also a smaller 250-seat theatre. Not bad at all for being the home of the LA Philharmonic and the LA Master Chorale.
The second is the Music Centre Plaza, one of the most important arts centres on the West Coast. The centre also brings together artists, communities and ideas with the aim of enriching L.A.’s city life, with its concerts and dances that are mainly concentrated in the summer. As a final step, we recommend a visit to Union Station, the city’s railway station. The architecture is a mix of Spanish Colonial and Art Deco. It is called Mission Revival Style, an architectural movement inspired by the Spanish missions of the 18th and 19th centuries.
For a culinary break in Downtown, we recommend a stop at the Grand Central Market. It is a large central market that features the typical flavours of the countless cultures and populations that inhabit the city. You will find gourmet sandwiches, bagels, ramen noodles, tacos, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean food: keep a space to sample a little of everything, we assure you it is worth it!
Among the places to visit in Los Angeles, a must-see is Sunset Boulevard. We are talking about one of the most famous streets in the city that seems to connect the dots connecting L.A.’s attractions, linking the oldest part of the city to Malibu, crossing Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills. The part everyone knows about this street is the Sunset Strip, populated by many bars, restaurants and shops.
Among the places to visit in Los Angeles, a must-see is Sunset Boulevard. We are talking about one of the city’s most famous streets that seems to connect the dots connecting L.A.’s attractions, linking the oldest part of the city to Malibu, crossing Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills. The part everyone knows about this street is the Sunset Strip, populated by many bars, restaurants and shops.
Besides its lively nightlife, this street is also famous for the many stories that took place at the Chateau Marmont, a legendary hotel located on this part of Sunset Boulevard. It is a secretive buen retiro of the stars that has often served as the location of the Oscars after-party. It is here that many of the gossips involving our favourite actors and singers originate, so much so that the saying ‘if you’re going to get into trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont’ has been created among the stars over time.
The Sunset Strip was once famous for its gambling clubs and trafficking in illegal substances. In the 1950s it became an arts district and, in the 1960s, the favourite area of hippies, punks, rockers and other alternative groups.
Roller skates, candyfloss, a Ferris wheel overlooking the landscape, luxury shops and bars to enjoy a beer at sunset. Welcome to Santa Monica, the California dream! It is one of the most anticipated destinations for tourists travelling to California. Surely the first stop is its Pier, perhaps the most famous pier in the USA and one of the symbols of Los Angeles.
The main attraction and the most photographed of this place, unmissable among the things to see in Los Angeles, is the sign marking the end of the mythical Route 66, a meeting place for many roadtrippers, although it is only a symbolic indication. The point where the road really ends is in fact Palisades Park, also in the Santa Monica area. We are talking about one of the greenest areas in the district and a favourite spot for those who want to relax while looking at the beautiful view of the beaches below.
In Santa Monica, you can’t miss boarding the Merry Go Round Carousel, a 1920s carousel with wooden horses while you enjoy a multicoloured candy floss as a reminder of your childhood. Also not to be missed is a ride on the Ferris wheel, one of Santa Monica’s most beautiful sights, which you should enjoy at sunset. The light turns golden and you can admire the whole beach from above, while people jog, skate, skateboard, cycle, perhaps to the beat of ‘California dreaming’.
Continuing on our tour of Los Angeles counties, we come to one of the most popular, Venice. It is also called the ‘Venice of America’ because of the artificial canal system that has characterised it since entrepreneur Abbot Kinney won it by flipping a coin. Venice’s first attraction is the Venice Beach Boardwalk, or Venice Ocean Front Walk.
It is the symbol of the district and is a long promenade overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Walking along it is very pleasant, especially to enjoy the somewhat bohemian soul given by the many artists and musicians who populate it. Venice is also famous for its beaches, which are equipped with every comfort and well-being, especially if you are a fitness enthusiast.
Among the most famous is Breakwater, best known for surfing. A perfect place to practice, take lessons or simply be enchanted by the skill of the many local surfers. Then there is Muscle Beach, the favourite beach for bodybuilders who try out new and different workouts here every day. It often happens that Arnold Schwarzenegger is among them.
The fitness spirit is so strong that the local Walk of Fame, dedicated to all the famous faces of the sports and wellness industry, can also be found here. If you want to experience the Venice spirit of the city instead, you cannot skip the Venice Canal Historic District. This is a pedestrian and mainly residential area, made up of luxury buildings and colourful bridges between which small boats sail.
It is also impossible to leave Venice without admiring its street art. Amongst the streets of this county, you cannot fail to be amazed by a reinterpretation of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, or the portraits of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jim Morrison. There is also a modern Venus by Botticelli in roller skates and jeans that seems to embody the spirit of the neighbourhood. Finally, admire the murals at the Venice Beach Graffiti Park or check out the artists showcasing their skills at the Skate Park.