Planning a visit to the City of Stars? This quick guide on where to stay in Los Angeles will have you falling in love with Southern California and its endless summer.
Movies, music, books, newspapers, and all forms of media paint Los Angeles as the go-to destination where people can turn their dreams into reality. But more importantly, as the second largest city in the United States, Los Angeles is home to a diverse array of vibrant communities, resulting in an eclectic fusion of traditions and inspiration.
In this post, I’ll take you through not only the best places to stay in LA, but also the top attractions, places to eat in each neighborhood, and how to best get around the city.
If you want to soak up the sun and revel in the waves, L.A. is as close to the movies as you’re going to get. So, let’s start planning your vacation by deciding where to stay in Los Angeles!
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Where to Stay in Los Angeles: The Best Neighborhoods
One of Los Angeles County’s defining traits is the sheer diversity of communities across nearly 5k square miles. As a result, you have a healthy smattering of neighborhoods that accommodate all demographics and plenty of options for where to stay in LA.
These are some of the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles for visitors to check out during their stay in the city.
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Perfect for the sophisticated traveler looking to stay lowkey, West Hollywood (affectionately known as WeHo) attracts more than its fair share of visitors with its proximity to the Sunset Strip and stellar nightlife scene.
WeHo is home to meticulously decorated concept stores on Melrose, one of the world’s largest LGBTQ communities, and trendy restaurants.
There’s a reason why famous rock n’ rollers like to hang out in West Hollywood and why it’s seen as one of the best neighborhoods in LA.
Irv’s Burgers serves some seriously tasty burgers and hand-cut fries, attracting the likes of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
If you’re in the hankering for some really intense flavors, the acclaimed Night + Market will have you salivating over its spicy duck rolls and fried chicken sandwich with papaya slaw.
Where to Stay in West Hollywood
Famous for being the previous home of rock legend Jim Morrison, Alta Cienega Motel is a brief walk from Sunset Strip.
Take advantage of its proximity to Sunset Strip by checking out the local rock venues and enjoying some live performances.
Banana Bungalow is a cute mix of dorm and private rooms, with brightly colored decor and huts that you can relax in.
It’s very close to LACMA, which makes Banana Bungalow a popular option for those who want to experience a little culture in LA.
Known as one of the best hotels in LA and located in the heart of the neighborhood, Sunset Marquis offers a quiet stay that is only steps away from one of the most popular things to do in West Hollywood – walking the Sunset Strip. There are two outdoor pools to soak up those LA sun rays and a delicious on-site restaurant, bar, fitness center, and spa. The hotel also houses a popular recording studio and art gallery. You can’t get much more LA than that, right?
Feeling daring and free-spirited? Venice Beach isn’t just perfect for those who are looking to spend blissful days by the ocean, it’s also for anybody who’s a fan of skateboarding.
The Venice Beach Skateboard Park is 16,000 sq. feet of rails, bowls, and snake runs – a dream for anybody who can hop on a board. Even if you’re not into the skating scene, the Venice Canals offer an idyllic escape from the beachfront and upscale Abbot Kinney.
The crown jewel of Venice Beach is the bustling Gjelina, a trendy Italian hotspot where, surprisingly enough, the vegetables are the star of the show.
To add to the stellar vegetarian/vegan scene in Venice Beach, Plant Food and Wine dishes out some amazing vegetable-based fare on a stunning patio near Abbot Kinney.
If you want something heartier, Baby Blues BBQ will hit the spot with its pulled pork and baby back ribs. Or maybe you want to try some tantalizing brews and grilled sausage at Wurstküche Restaurant Venice Beach.
There are plenty of reasons why Venice Beach is seen as the best area to stay in Los Angeles, and the food and funky atmosphere is a big part of that.
Where to Stay in Venice Beach
This cozy hostel is the perfect place to make new friends. Not only can you watch Game of Thrones together on the communal flat-screen TVs, but you can kick a soccer ball outside, play ping pong, or explore Venice Beach with your newfound companions!
There are options for either a single, twin bed, or a queen bed in mixed dorms.
This charming B&B offers much-needed air conditioning, a business center, and a hot tub. You can enjoy the summer breeze on the terrace with a refreshing glass of wine. Several private rooms are available.
Hotel Erwin offers guests stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and direct access to the Venice Boardwalk. It’s one of the best hotels in Los Angeles if you’re looking for a stellar open-air rooftop lounge and sleek midcentury decor.
A little out of the way of Los Angeles proper, Pasadena is a dazzling neighborhood to visit and stay in if you want more of a local feel and a good jumping off base for day trips from LA.
Ideal for couples and families, Pasadena is an epicenter of local history, art, and dining.
You can visit the nearby Norton Simon Museum, stroll down the streets of Old Town Pasadena for a whiskey nightcap at the Blind Donkey, or check out the Rose Bowl flea market on the weekends.
Even better, Pasadena is a stone’s throw distance from other lovely neighborhoods such as San Marino, Glendale, Burbank, and Arcadia.
It’s a blessing how many excellent restaurants are packed in Pasadena’s vicinity.
Dine on some seriously tasty Greek cuisine at the beautifully lit Cafe Santorini or pick up some of Green Street Tavern‘s famous zucchini bread. And, you definitely can’t go wrong with high-quality, local Japanese tapas at Osawa.
Where to Stay in Pasadena
A short walk from the Rose Bowl and a 20-minute drive from Hollywood, Rodeway Inn & Suites provides quaint and quiet accommodations. Queen and king rooms are available.
The floral arches of this B&B makes it look like a mansion straight out of a fairytale. The Victorian-style manor was built back in 1887 and offers breakfast, a library, and shared lounge for its guests.
Rooms are themed and beautifully decorated.
This upscale resort takes pampering to a whole new level with its outdoor saline pool, tennis courts, and on-site spa.
The Langham Huntington is home to refined dining establishments, with steak and afternoon tea being the highlights on their menus.
If cheap and amazing food, alcohol, and partying are must-haves on your Los Angeles itinerary, Koreatown is by far the best place to stay in Los Angeles.
Not only are you getting the best Korean BBQ in the country (it’s practically mandatory to make a trip to Kang Ho-Dong Baekjeong), but the plethora of nightclubs and 24-hour restaurants are nothing short of astounding.
Plus, you have unlimited access to the diverse Korean malls, full of skincare products, home goods, and unique groceries.
The best part about Koreatown is the sheer number of late-night eats. BCD Tofu House is a beloved institution open until the wee hours of the morning, and Sun Nong Dan will make you weep tears over their braised beef short ribs, available 24 hours.
If you and your friends are looking for a guaranteed crazy time, look no further than Arena Ktown. It’s a nightclub, bar, lounge, and local hot spot all crammed into one entity.
Where to Stay in Koreatown
Don’t be fooled by its unassuming exterior, Libra Hotel boasts some tastefully furnished rooms (both private and dorm-style) at very affordable prices. We’re talking $25-30/night for bunks in female-only, male-only, and mixed dorms, and $89 – $119 for larger rooms.
Just a short walk away from the center of Koreatown, Hotel Aventura is a stylish boutique hotel with sleek rooms and upgraded amenities – an on-site fitness center, business center, and plenty of Nespresso machines to go around.
This fresh and funky hotel will delight your eyes with its assortment of candy-colored rooms. You can tell that this hotel was designed with a strong aesthetic in mind, as it is also home to a store run by Poketo, a design and art collective.
Weezer just said what was on everyone’s mind – “Beverly Hills, that’s where I want to be.”
This star-studded neighborhood of Los Angeles will dazzle you with its rows of palm trees, shopping & dining scene, and the world-famous Rodeo Drive. It’s easily considered one of the most safe neighborhoods in Los Angeles and a great option if you’re looking for a luxurious weekend.
Visiting Beverly Hills is all part of the L.A. experience, so live your best bougie self by spending a couple of days in the area!
If you’re looking for a more intimate, tailored experience, Somni offers an open kitchen where you can watch a world-class team prepare your tasting menu up close.
And can you even say that you sipped on a cocktail in Beverly Hills if you didn’t do it at Wolfgang Puck’s CUT Lounge?
Where to Stay in Beverly Hills
Staying in one of the most bougie neighborhoods in the country might not command the most forgiving of prices, but Hotel 8757 is a reasonably priced stay for their private double rooms, starting at only $80/night.
A 5-minute walk away from Beverly Shopping Center, the Orlando Hotel is a quiet and brightly-colored oasis that offers relaxation and shade after wandering around Beverly Hills all day.
Relax by the outdoor saltwater pool, get a hard workout in at the gym, or go shopping at the Original Farmers Market!
As if Beverly Hills wasn’t ritzy enough, you also have the Waldorf Astoria in the neighborhood in all its 5-star glory.
Expect the royal treatment if you’re a guest here, with spectacular food, service, and amenities such as a beauty salon, spa services, and rooftop pool. Prices are steep, but well worth it for the experience of staying here if you can afford it. Plus, you can say that you experienced a stay at the best hotel in Los Angeles.
How to Get Around Los Angeles
Now that we’ve covered the best places to stay in Los Angeles, let’s talk about a trickier subject – how to get around the city efficiently.
Frankly, Los Angeles isn’t known for its public transportation. There’s even a running joke amongst the residents that it’ll take you 20 minutes to get anywhere in the county – and by car.
Since driving is the most efficient way to get around the county, you may strongly want to consider renting a car or driving into LA as part of a road trip.
However, Los Angeles has been working hard to increase the number of public transit options that residents, commuters, and tourists can take to get around the city.
While the transit system might not be as good New York, or even San Francisco, in terms of convenience, public transit in LA has improved remarkably over the past few decades.
For the vast majority of public transport in LA, you’re going to need a Metro TAP Card (durable plastic that you can reuse!) or cash.
If you go the route of the TAP Card, make sure that it’s compatible with the transportation method you plan to use. For example, a TAP card with only a Metro day pass won’t work for the DASH buses, and vice versa.
So far, here’s what Los Angeles has available:
Metro Buses: If you want to hop on the bus, rest assured that there is at least one out of the almost 200 bus routes available that will take you anywhere you need to go.
While Metro Rapid (painted red) and Commuter Metro Express (painted blue) buses are better for getting on and off an established route, plenty of Metro Local (painted orange) buses are available to take you throughout the city.
Metro Rail: 6 color-coded lines that will take you across the Los Angeles neighborhoods, including (but not limited to): Koreatown, Pasadena, East LA, Culver City, and more.
The Red Line is the most visitor-friendly, connecting you from Downtown LA’s Union Station all the way to North Hollywood.
While it might not be as speedy as San Francisco’s BART or New York’s MTA, the Metro Rail certainly makes up for it in terms of idyllic scenery.
A single ride will cost you $1.75, but you can buy an all-day pass for $7.
Municipal Buses (all three accept TAP)
- The Big Blue Bus: One of the cheapest ways to get to Santa Monica and enjoy the beach, the Big Blue Bus will take you through western LA, including LAX, for a steal at $1.25. If you want to take a straight shot from Santa Monica to Downtown LA, the one-hour trip will cost $2.50.
- The Culver City Bus: A popular commuter option for those living in Culver City, this bus runs throughout Westside and can connect you to the Metro Green Line. From there, you can take a free shuttle over to LAX.
- Long Beach Transit: This bus will take you around Long Beach and nearby neighborhoods.
DASH Buses (accepts TAP)
In an effort to provide more clean transportation, the LA Department of Transportation operates the DASH buses for an incredible price: 50 cents per adult and 25 cents for seniors and those with disabilities.
However, they only run on weekdays until 6:30 – 7 PM and have limited service on the weekends.
If you don’t mind exploring the city during the weekdays, the DASH buses can take you up close to the Hollywood Sign, near Melrose, Beverly Hills, Los Feliz, Little Tokyo, and all the Downtown districts.
Top 10 Sights to See in Los Angeles
The great (and terrible) thing about Los Angeles is that the list of sights to check out is endless.
It’s a huge “if” if you can squeeze all the tourist attractions into your itinerary, and now you have to contend with all the hidden gems you’ll discover on this blog too.
Luckily, there’s a flavor for every type of visitor in Los Angeles, so here are my top picks for this sprawlingly gorgeous city in terms of the top 10 must-see attractions in Los Angeles.
There’s a reason why Griffith Observatory keeps showing up in popular films like “La La Land” and “Rebel Without a Cause.” Griffith Observatory gives you one of the best views of the LA skyline, especially at night. Don’t miss out on the cool exhibits and planetarium as well.
Related: 101 Things to Do in California
It’s hard to pick a favorite beach in LA. After all, you’ve got Venice, Redondo, Santa Monica, and the list goes on.
No matter which beach you pick, it’s impossible to feel like you’re not part of some sun-kissed SoCal music video, complete with roller skaters, surfers, and a lot of denim cutoffs.
Although LA might not have the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest, people love hiking in the canyons and cliffs of the city.
While Runyon Canyon Hike is a popular choice for people actually looking to get some walking (and celebrity spotting) in, it’s always worth making at least one trip to the iconic Hollywood Sign to get a good look at the cityscape.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
The thought of visiting a cemetery on vacation sounds unsettling at best, but don’t pass up the chance to watch a Cinespia film at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. I promise you, it’s gorgeous to watch a movie underneath the swaying palm trees.
The Grove/The Original Farmers Market
Since shopping on Rodeo Drive can be somewhat cost-prohibitive, instead get a flavor of the outdoor shopping malls that SoCal loves so much with the Grove at Beverly Hills!
If you’re feeling peckish, you can easily head over from your favorite brands to the Original Farmers Market – a bazaar of delicious artisan goods.
Getty Center & Villa
If you’re looking for a museum with an ocean view, look no further than the Getty Center & Villa. The Getty Center has an impressive art collection and charming gardens, whereas the Getty Villa is a stunning tribute to Greek, Roman, and Etruscan architecture and artwork.
La Brea Tar Pits & LACMA
La Brea Tar Pits & LACMA combine two of the best things in the world – free fare and cool outdoor exhibits.
You can wander through the La Brea Tar Pits and learn about what Los Angeles was like way back in the day, then make your way through the Urban Lights and Levitated Mass installations on LACMA’s property. Levitated Mass is usually a big hit with the kiddos as well if you’re traveling with kids in Los Angeles.
It only costs money if you want to go inside LACMA.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
Los Angeles is home to many beautiful unique buildings, but the Walt Disney Concert Hall stands out with its graceful metal arcs and shapes reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House.
Designed by the famous Frank Gehry, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is home to the LA Philharmonic and hosts concerts throughout the year.
The Arts District
What used to be a scattered mess of warehouses has transformed into a haven for young creatives and professionals of the city, with brimming energy and plenty of ways to spend the night.
Particular standouts include Bestia, Angel City Brewery, and the barcade EightyTwo.
This vibrant community and cute plaza sit near the Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown LA and is home to some of the best Japanese food in the city, especially if you love ramen.
Get your grub on at In-n-Out. Don’t try to argue with any Californian that Shake Shack, Five Guys, etc. is better than In-n-Out. In-n-Out is a religion to those who worship the Double-Double.
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Top 3 Day Trips from Los Angeles
The fun doesn’t stop at just the perimeter of Downtown Los Angeles. There’s plenty to explore and see (especially if you have a car), so don’t be afraid to drive out and explore the wonders of Southern California!
Santa Monica Pier & Venice Beach Boardwalk
You can easily spend an entire day at the neighboring Santa Monica and Venice Beaches. Go on a ride at Santa Monica Pier or shop at the Third Street Promenade before making your way to Venice Beach Boardwalk to enjoy a sunset stroll.
Disneyland: The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom isn’t technically in Los Angeles County (it’s in Anaheim), but a visit to the iconic amusement park is well worth the drive if you want to indulge in your childhood nostalgia. Get your fix of beignets and rides on Space Mountain while interacting with all your favorite Disney characters!
Want to experience the beauty of Spanish-mission architecture while drinking lots of wine? Drive up the world-famous PCH to Santa Barbara, where there are plenty of wineries, mom-and-pop shops, and lush gardens to make you feel like you’re on the Mediterranean Coast
PRACTICAL INFO FOR LOS ANGELES
Book a vacation rental on AirBnB (and get $40 off your first booking).
Buy your Los Angeles Guide here.
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