48 hours in Los Angeles gives you time for a solid introduction to this diverse and fascinating city. The most important thing is to have a detailed plan to make the most of your time here. Here’s a sample of things to do that let you experience a little of everything from the cultural downtown center of the city, to a drive down one of Southern California’s most scenic highways. Follow along to discover what sights you should add to your own Los Angeles itinerary for 2 days.
Where to stay in Los Angeles
The first thing is to decide where in the city you will call home for the next few days. Finding a place within central LA is a wise choice that allows you access to West LA and East LA, without you having to cross town. Urban sprawl and mind-numbing traffic are two reasons why plotting your every move is essential. Areas like West Hollywood, Hollywood, and Fairfax are good spots to start your search for a hotel or Airbnb.
Getting around Los Angeles
The best way to get around Los Angeles is by renting a car. The ideal spot to rent a car is at the airport, since it’s always the cheapest and most convenient. The city’s public transportation system is not very efficient, especially if you want to cover long distances. That being said ride sharing options like Uber and Lyft can be used for short distances and the Metro can be useful depending where your destination is (downtown LA for example).
Los Angeles restaurants are characteristic of their innovation, often borrowing from diverse cultural influences. Kismet in Los Feliz is exactly this, where its Mediterranean/Middle Eastern menu features dishes like the Turkish-ish Breakfast, with comes with tiny dishes that are perfect for sharing. Strongly recommended: finish your meal with strong cups of Turkish coffee.
Alternative: If you want traditional breakfast fare with a Filipino flare, head to Go Get Em Tiger, which offers strong coffee and memorable dishes like the adobe grain bowl and avocado toast.
It’s hard to really comprehend how spread out the city is until you see it from above. The hike from the parking lot to get to this observatory is not difficult. Once you get up to the top you are instantly rewarded with stunning views of not only the city, but the surrounding Hollywood Hills, including a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign. There is nothing more classic LA than being up here, especially at sunset. Make sure to also explore inside the Observatory as well, where you can watch shows in the Planetarium.
You cannot visit LA without stopping by Rodeo Drive, and seeing the over-the-top designer stores and ridiculous wealth on display. When it’s too much sensory overload (fancy cars! designer shops! plastic surgery!) retreated to the Paley Center for Media, a quiet oasis in the midst of all the madness. This space has a beautifully-designed interior and always houses interesting media-related exhibits and events. Best of all it’s free with donations encouraged.
The main drag of Hollywood is anything but glamorous. Instead it’s quite touristy, and a bit rough around the edges. The trick is to just get in and out seeing the most important sights like the Walk of Fame, the famous hand prints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and the Roosevelt Hotel. Extra points if you manage to avoid street performers handling live boa constrictors and the hoards of famous people impersonators.
Grand Central Market
Head to this popular indoor food market for dinner where you can take advantage of a wide variety of food from around the world. A few excellent options are Tacos Tumbras a Tomas for their carnitas, Madcapra for falafel, and Sticky Rice for Thai food. For dessert, check out La Huerta, which is one of the original booths and offers a dizzying array of candy, including a wide range of Mexican sweets.
Alternative: If you’re more in the mood for sausage, Wurstkuche has an impressive array with standards like bratwurst, and more unusual choices like rabbit. There are also vegetarian options as well.
After dinner, walk over to Little Tokyo for dessert from Mikawaya in the form of mochi ice cream. Green tea, plum wine or salt caramel never seem to disappoint. This ice cream shop is located in the decorative Japanese Village Plaza, which has plenty of little shops to explore from beauty to home goods. There’s also Mitsuwa, a Japanese grocery chain that has a decent collection of Pocky and pre-packaged snacks.
Start in Santa Monica and grab brunch at this neighborhood favorite, which has a spacious back patio and delicious boba teas. Afterward, walk toward the Santa Monica beach a few blocks away and watch the bikers whiz by on the biking path and stick your toes in the sand with the iconic Santa Monica Pier to your right.
Alternative: if the line for the Urth Caffe is overwheming, head across the street and go to Shoop’s European Market & Cafe for in-house smoked salmon breakfast sandwiches and giant pancakes. After breakfast, browse their impressive selection of imported groceries.
Pacific Coast Highway
In the late morning, head down this dreamy stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, where you will be treated to ocean views most of the way down. Start in Santa Monica and wind your way down to Laguna Beach. Leave with enough time to stop along the way in places like Long Beach (explore the Queen Mary), Huntington Beach (watch the surfers from Huntington Beach Pier) , or Newport Beach (stroll along Balboa Pier).
Be prepared for serious beach envy with Laguna’s Main Beach, that is framed by rugged cliffs and white sand beaches. Stick around to have dinner (and avoid rush hour traffic if it’s a weekday) at K’ya Bistro, where you can grab drinks on the rooftop and then head downstairs to have a tapas-style meal.
Alternative: for something a bit more casual, try La Sirena Grill for blacken salmon tacos and carne asada burritos.