Figuring out where to stay in Los Angeles is one of the most important things to sort out when you come to visit this sprawling, yet fascinating city. LA is a car-centric city, where you have to factor in the daily traffic, which can easily double your travel time (especially during rush hour which starts from 7-10am and 3-7pm on weekdays). I’ve definitely learned to plan my time in LA around the seemingly ubiquitous traffic. Whether you want to stay by the beach or head further inland, here’s an in-depth guide to the different popular neighborhoods in the city, and the best places to stay in LA for visitors within those areas.
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Top Places To Stay In LA
From eclectic seaside cities to vibrant neighborhoods in the middle of the city, here’s the best places to stay in LA.
Where to Stay in Santa Monica
This is the ideal home base if you want to be close to the beach and in a cooler area of the city temperature-wise. Santa Monica is also closer to LAX than if you were to stay more inland like downtown. Keep in mind that this area also tends to be more expensive because of its prime location.
Highlights to see:
- Santa Monica Pier – the most iconic sight that should not be missed with its Ferris wheel and Twilight on the Pier-free summer concerts on Wednesday nights from 7-10pm.
- Santa Monica State Beach – great for a beach day in the shadow of the pier.
- Main Street – is located a mere two blocks from the beach, offers locally-run restaurants and boutiques, and stretches all the way down to Venice.
- Third Street Promenade features blocks of shopping, with a huge parking lot available.
Where to eat:
- Bondi Harvest – serves healthy Australian breakfast foods.
- Milo and Olive – for some of the best pizza on the Westside.
- Urth Caffe – ideal for grabbing coffee and dessert and grabbing a seat on their cozy headed patio.
- Cassia – for Southeast Asian inspired-dishes (just make sure to make reservations first).
This hospitable mid-range hotel is less than two miles from downtown and the Santa Monica Pier. Amenities include a garden sun deck, same-day laundry, business center, free continental breakfast, and a 24-hour fitness center. There is also free underground parking, which means you don’t have to worry about circling the block for street parking.
A laid-back boutique hotel that is ideal if you want to be steps away from the beach. Take advantage of amenities like the central garden after a long day of sightseeing or bike rentals for cruising down the boardwalk. The hotel is dog-friendly if you want to bring your four-legged family member along on your trip.
A luxury beachfront hotel that boasts a pool with a front row seat to sweeping views of the beach, and is a quick five-minute walk to the pier. This is definitely the beach hotel of my dreams. Rooms and suites are both available. There is also plenty of dining and lounges on-site, where you can get breakfast or stop by for a sunset drink.
Where to stay in Venice
Santa Monica’s funky neighbor, Venice is a city of contrasts where you will find trendy cafes next to blocks filled with homeless encampments. This city also has a great beach side location, with cooler temperatures, especially during early summer when the infamous June Gloom covers the coast.
Highlights to see:
- Venice Beach Boardwalk – the main stretch right on the beach with plenty of vendors and performers. Most importantly has prime people watching.
- Venice Canals – the opposite of the boardwalk with million-dollar homes and tranquil walkways along the network of waterways. One of my favorite spots in the city to get away from it all.
- Abbot Kinney – a main thoroughfare that is filled with trendy shops and restaurants.
Where to eat:
- Gjusta – trendy counter-service deli/bakery that is worth braving the somewhat confusing ordering system (take a number and wait for it to be called) for their in-house cured smoked salmon and freshly made-salads. If you’re there for just coffee and baked goods there is a separate (usually shorter) line.
- Wurstkuche – a casual spot that has an impressive selection of gourmet sausages, including veggie/vegan options, and Belgian/German beers.
This reasonable property features five apartments located right by the canals and close to the beach. Each space has a kitchenette with a fridge, microwave and stove that is ideal for a home-cooked meal or two. The apartments themselves are spotless with daily housekeeping services and located in a safe neighborhood.
For those who want to be right on the beach, this is a solid choice. The location is on the quieter section of Venice Beach, away from the noise of the boardwalk. Amenities include a rooftop terrace, cozy fire pits, and a free continental breakfast. Rooms and suites are available.
A stylish luxury hotel on the beach that is a great central home base if you want to go all out and have the quintessential Venice experience. The rooftop bar itself is worth fighting for a spot during sunset (and worth checking out even if you’re not staying there). There is a free shuttle available and Abbot Kinney is a 10-minute walk when you want a change of scenery.
Where To Stay In Hollywood
This is as central as you’ll get, with easier access to the west and east parts of Los Angeles, instead of staying on the Westside and having to drive all the way across town to sights on the Eastside or vice versa. You are also located near Universal Studios if that’s something on your itinerary.
Highlights to see:
- Hollywood Walk of Fame – just barely worth braving the chaos of Hollywood Boulevard, to see if you’ve never been.
- Hollywood & Highland – a shopping complex that offers great views of the Hollywood Sign from the upper levels.
- Japan House – a great change of pace from the frantic pace of Hollywood with a free museum, library and cafe featuring Japanese artifacts, books and edible treats.
Where to eat:
- The Spare Room – a hidden bar in the legendary Roosevelt Hotel and boasts an attached bowling alley.
- Pizzeria Mozza – a solid spot for some of the city’s best pies, with memorable options like squash blossom.
- Luv2eat Thai Bistro is located in a non-descript strip mall, but the Southern Thai cuisine more than makes up for it.
- Musso & Frank Grill – where you go to experience old school Hollywood with martinis and fillet mignon done just right.
A smaller independently-owned hotel that is centrally located in Hollywood. Walking distance to Hollywood Boulevard (Hollywood Walk Of Fame, TCL Chinese Theater), but not right on it. A great alternative to the bigger chains in the area. Great value for the location, and amenities.
This reliable hotel chain offers an excellent option in Hollywood, that is a short walk away from Hollywood Boulevard, as well as a short drive (or Metro ride) from other popular attractions like Sunset Boulevard and Universal Studios. The rooms are spacious and a hearty breakfast is included in your stay.
If you want to treat yourself to classic Hollywood glamour, this is the hotel to stay in. Once home to stars like Marilyn Monroe, this 4-star hotel is located right on Hollywood Boulevard, and pulls out all the stops. Highlights include a rooftop terrace, the hotel’s famous outdoor pool, and notable restaurants and bars.
Where To Stay In West Hollywood
Adjacent to Hollywood, this trendy neighborhood is a lot less touristy and much more local. WeHo as it’s called by locals is known for its lively nightlife, including LGBT clubs. It’s one of the best places to stay in LA due to its great central location without the hoards of tourists that nearby Hollywood attracts.
Highlights to see:
- Whisky A Go Go – an iconic night club that open in 1964 and has since hosted rock’n’ roll royality like Led Zeppelin and The Doors. See the current line-up here.
- Chateau Marmont – get a Marmont Mule at this popular celebrity hangout and hideaway.
- ONE Archives – as one of the largest LGBT organizations in the US, the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives has an impressive collection of artifacts including books, art, photos and personal papers. Entry is free, but $5 donations is suggested.
- Runyon Canyon – known for its spectacular views of LA and the occasional celebrity sighting.
Where to eat:
- Night + Market – head over to this popular Thai spot for pork toro and crispy rice salad, just be warned that they don’t hold back on the spice.
- Carney’s Sunset Strip – a solid spot to grab hot dogs or hamburgers in an actual train car when on the Sunset Strip. A bonus is that they’re open until 3am.
- Connie and Ted’s – get your fill of New England-inspired seafood dishesf like Jo’s Wicked Good Chowda’ Sampler and lobster rolls.
This reasonably-priced 3-star hotel is as central as you can get, being on the Sunset Strip. Rooms are spacious with family suites available. The scenic pool area serves as a quiet retreat to recharge at after a long day of sightseeing. A continental breakfast is included.
Located on the the Strip, this modern boutique hotel is an ideal place to call home in the area. The amenities include a restaurant and a bar where there are live performances. Relax at the pool area that boasts one of the largest saltwater pools in the area. Breakfast is included.
If you want to treat yourself to a classic luxury Hollywood hotel, this place doesn’t disappoint. From the panoramic room views of LA to the attentive staff that make you feel at home. The building itself is layered with decades of Hollywood history playing out right on the Sunset Strip. Amenities include a restaurant/bar and an outdoor pool.
Where To Stay In Downtown Los Angeles
This is the historic core of the city, and it’s a lot of fun to stay in. There are various areas to visit, including Japantown, Koreatown, Chinatown, and the trendy Arts District.
Highlights to see:
- Walt Disney Concert Hall – take a free self-guided tour of this architectural masterpiece.
- The Broad – across the street from the Disney Concert Hall, this contemporary art museum has an impressive display of over 2,000 pieces. Admission is free, but doesn’t include entrance into Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room, which requires a separate free ticket.
- LA City Hall – a historic building that is worth visiting for it stunning Rotunda and it panoramic views from the observation deck.
Where to eat:
- Grand Central Market – this food hall has a dizzying amount of good things to eat. Egg Slut may be the stair of the show (with lines to prove it), but don’t overlook other older options, like: Tacos Tumbras A Tomas, Wexler’s Deli, China Café or La Huerta for dessert.
- Bottega Louie – for the ultimate brunch, this is the spot to go for impressive (and pricey) dishes. The bakery itself is worth a stop by itself for a box of macarons.
- Sushi Gen – located in Little Tokyo, this casual spot serves up fresh sashimi and rolls. It’s tiny, so be prepared for a wait.
A great affordable option, that is a great adult-centric hotel with activities like pool parties. There is a rooftop terrace, outdoor pool, as well as 3 restaurants and 2 bars/lounges. Great central location in the historic core. Lodging options include suites, rooms, and shared dorms.
This luxury hotel located in a historical building is reasonably priced for its central location and amenities, which include two restaurants and bars, and rooftop pool. Sights nearby include the Grammy Museum and the Staples Center that are both under a five-minute walk.
This hip, centrally-located hotel is situated right in the historic core of the city, and is walking distance from sights like the Orpheum Theater, the Fashion District, and the Grammy Museum. Highlights include a restaurant/bar/lounge area, a rooftop area, and an outdoor pool.
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Getting Around Los Angeles
The LA sprawl is real, and renting a car at the airport (Hertz is my go-to) is your best bet to getting around with relative ease. There are public transportation options like the Metro, which can be great for getting to various destinations like downtown where it can be difficult to find parking. If braving Los Angeles freeways are not your thing (I hear you) car sharing services like Uber and Lyft, are aplenty and also a great option for when you want to go out at night.