Where to eat, shop, play and stay in the heart of LA…
If you land in LA for the first time without a local to drive you around and show you the ropes, it can be a daunting experience. It’s hard to know where to begin exploring in this sprawling city, but for a taste of LA local cool, make a beeline for West Hollywood. Considered by many to be the cultural and geographical heart of Los Angeles County, West Hollywood is a city buzzing with activity, a stone’s throw from Los Angeles city. Its petite, five kilometre frame makes it a dream to explore by foot – aimlessly or with purpose, either will do – with both over-the-top decadence and mellow, laid-back vibes ultimately casting a spell over even the fussiest traveller.
WeHo’s iconic Sunset Strip is a bastion of fashion stores, nightlife and extremes, while down the hill is Santa Monica Boulevard – the heart of Southern California’s LGBT community and home to dozens of restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms and shops. Then there’s the design haven that is the three soaring pavilions of the Pacific Design Center and of course, those other famous shopping strips – Melrose Avenue and Robertson Boulevard.
So without further ado, here’s where to eat, shop, play and stay in the heart of LA…
Eat and Drink
Want to go where the celebs go? Head to Craig’s, Tesse and Catch to catch a glimpse of your favourite star. But if you’re more interested in settling in to those spots that embody the WeHo community, head to our picks below:
New to the West Hollywood café scene is Madison & Park, which opened this year on Santa Monica Blvd. Its living room-style interior is all about making you feel at home, and with its long sofa and chairs positioned around a Persian rug, it’s the place to go to while away the hours chatting and drinking coffee within the close-knit local community. Dig into the pastries, created by Cake Monkey daily and sample a Rose Latte (yes, it tastes as floral as it sounds).
Located on iconic N. Robertson Blvd in WeHo, The Assembly is a specialty coffee shop and community space serving Counter Culture Coffee, with curated retail offerings by Poketo and a focus on sustainable and ethical sourcing.
This neighbourhood hot spot opened in 2007 as a simple, family-run operation and has become steady favourite among West Hollywood residents. The coffee is top-notch, and all syrups are made in-house. Be sure to try a Honey Oat Cappuccino, too – an espresso-based coffee made with oat milk and raw honey, and topped with cinnamon. Take it hot or iced – whichever floats your boat.
This café may as well be owned by Australians, its avocado toast is so good. Creamy and rich, topped with cultured butter, sliced shallot, chives and radish, it’s a must-stop for avo-loving Aussies in WeHo. Have it with a cup of their single-origin coffee, or choose the more adventurous Honey Lavender Draft Latte and enjoy the light and airy surrounds that will tick the boxes for any Scandi-obsessed interiors lover.
Often regarded as the home to the best burgers in the city, Italian restaurant Cecconi’s is an institution with a celebrity following. Choose the signature Fontina Black Truffle Burger, grab a seat at one of the comfy, leather barstools and enjoy a meal while people-watching.
This one’s for the fine diners. A low-lit and romantic establishment that has been wowing customers since 1983, Cafe De’toile is a solid fine-dining option for those seeking an upmarket yet cosy atmosphere. Classic menu items include Duck Paté with crackers and glazed pearl onions and the oversized braised Lamb Shank with wild mushroom risotto.
Palihouse West Hollywood’s beautiful courtyard restaurant Mardi is a botanical sanctuary specialising in California fresh and seasonal cuisine. It offers brunch, drinks, dinner and an all day menu. For a tipple, try the citrusy Throw Back, punctuated with melon liquor and rhubarb bitters.
This vegan Mexican restaurant serves up incredible food, as well as amazing paired tequila and mezcal – a spirit distilled from agave, not dissimilar to tequila, which is taking off in the mixology world.
U.S. MasterChef judge Christina Tosi’s new 4,000 square foot West Coast flagship of Milk Bar opened on Melrose Avenue in September 2018. As part of Momofukku restaurant group that opened in NYC in 2018, Milk Bar serves up insta-worthy desserts and more.
You’ll find this shopping mall next door to the farmers market in West Hollywood & Mid-City, built around a central plaza with a musical fountain that prettiest when the sun goes down and a real treat at Christmas when the lights and decorations are out. Hot tip: Head to the top floor of the parking structure at sunset for beautiful views of the city and Hollywood Hills.
The luxury consignment experience that started online is now on Melrose Avenue, and is worth a visit just for the visual spectacle. There’s a men’s store complete with a “sneakerdome” and a rare watch bar, and for the ladies: a 1,500 square foot handbag vault.
This “skincare first, makeup second” shop is positioned in the ultra-stylish and culturally iconic enclave of Melrose Place at the Sunset Strip end of Melrose Avenue and features a millennial pink, desert-inspired interior, with skylights and selfie mirrors galore.
Still in Melrose Place, no trip to LA is complete without a visit to the 900 metre-squared concept store known for its unparalleled suite of services. We’re talking personal stylists, shoppable mood boards, green juice, alterations and mani/pedis, and even free dedicated parking, handily located behind the store.
West Hollywood’s Design District is anchored around the Pacific Design Center and boasts the highest concentration of design showrooms on the West Coast. It’s a place that is continually buzzing with innovations and hot new trends, and a stroll through the showrooms will see you coming across high-end furniture stores and designer fashion and vintage boutiques, as well as noteworthy dining destinations.
Nike x Melrose
This retailer is hot property, in part because it’s a pop-up and therefore only in operateion for a limited time, and in part because it’s a cutting-edge retail space The shopping experience is brought into the 21st century at this Nike Live pop-up, which stocks its inventory based on consumer data from the surrounding area, and is constantly refreshed to suit the data. Pretty nifty, right?
Opening its doors in April 2018, Employees Only LA is the sole west coast location of the world-renowned, award-winning “speakeasy” cocktail bar and restaurant Employees Only. The West Hollywood location not only offers EO classics from the New York menu, but also features many new cocktails available only in Los Angeles. This super popular establishment will be opening a Sydney property next month in a CBD basement.
This cosy ‘micro-boutique’ winebar specialises in ultra-boutique California producers, small allocation international Wines, local microbrews and international cheeses and offers on site wine and cheese catering, wine education, and tasting events. You can expect over 70 wines by the glass and more than 200 bottles to choose from.
The impressive poolside skybar at this boutique hotel has DJ sessions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 1-6 p.m, and on Sundays hosts the XIV Summer Sessions daytime pool party. Make sure you try the Mondrian’s recommended summer cocktails – frozen Piña Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiri.
This Spanish restaurant oozes a California cool vibe, drawing inspiration from the long-vanished artistic community that was the famed Laurel Canyon bungalows of Joni Mitchell and “Mama” Cass Elliot. Its indoor/outdoor vibe is the perfect spot to enjoy a Flower Child (vodka, hibiscus agave, elderflower liqueur, yuzu juice and cold-pressed cranberry juice) or a Mr. Tambourine Man, which leads with pisco, a South American brandy.
Those who love a brunch cocktail session, make a beeline for Laurel Hardware, a former hardware store with a fun drinks menu and shared food made with local and organic produce. A place to see-and-be-seen, its menu features quirky drink options like I hear she does car commercials…in Japan – a sparkling wine, fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, Fortaleza blanco tequila and Cynar concoction that sounds positively delicious.
The Jeremy Hotel on the Sunset Strip is considered West Hollywood’s biggest and boldest boutique hotel and embodies everything people love about WeHo. The hotel’s elegant yet artistic design includes a seven-story dream catcher public art installation that connects the hotel’s two sky-high room towers and lights up when the sun goes down.
Its 286 room offering includes 50 suites and two Penthouse Suites, and amenities include a pool, fitness centre, conference rooms and event spaces (totalling approximately 10,000 sq. ft.), a casual café and a beautiful lobby bar, JOAO, that overlooks the entire city. It’s Cali cool through and through.
Nestled between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood’s trendy Design District, La Peer Hotel opened at the beginning of this year and is a boutique oasis, its personality reflecting the local neighbourhood’s thriving art, architecture and fashion scene. With 105 guest rooms and suites, a rooftop event space, pool and plenty of outdoor dining and lounge spaces, La Peer is the epitome of WeHo-style unbuttoned luxury.
This fine art-fuelled sanctum of a boutique hotel is one of our favourite picks for your stay in LA, and a true hidden gem in West Hollywood. Its bohemian, gypsy energy is best showcased in its private rooftop replete with a heated saltwater pool, tropical garden, two cocktail bars and sunken outdoor fireplace deck.
Dine amongst hummingbirds & butterflies in the garden, recognised by the National Wildlife Federation, and with curtains that enclose candlelit cabanas for complete privacy, it’s as magical as it sounds.
Seasonal cocktails are called Spirited Love Potions, all created by the Spirit Master, whose created ingredients are carefully selected at farmer’s markets or directly from a local farm. A sanctuary of calm in a sprawling metropolis.
The Hollywood landmark on the Sunset Strip that is the Sunset Tower is as iconic as it is romantic. Heralding back to 1929, its Art Deco halls have been walked by the likes of Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Billie Burke, Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra among others, and it’s just been renovated to bring it firmly into modern luxury territory.
Expect a new dark and sexy bar, a reimagined restaurant and updated pool area surrounded by leather booths and sofas with its quintessential LA vista. There’s also a new dedicated bright and airy new 650 metre gymin John Wayne’s former apartment, and the Joanna Vargas Spa one level above offering expert facials and massages. Dusty pinks, soft creams and bespoke wallpaper abounds in the rooms, making it a veritable Millennial-friendly interior.
Like the idea of Sunset Tower, but just too big for you? Its newly opened chic sister property, 850, could be for you. Located in the heart of WeHo, this residential- style hotel feels like a home away from home and offers a mere 23 stylish and comfortable rooms, a communal living room, large rooftop terrace and a modern pantry where guests can enjoy meals by chefs from across the city. This is true boutique at its best.
Positioned in a pocket of prime real estate at the crossroads of Beverly Hills and central LA, The London West Hollywood is a slick and luxurious addition to the LA hotel scene. Its all-suite accommodations are sophisticated and offer great LA views, while that LA hotel must-have: the rooftop pool, is exclusive to hotel guests and features a sundeck, private cabanas and panoramic vistas. You can also enjoy all-day rooftop dining and cocktail service , and get your pamper on at the Alex Roldan Salon, which offers hairstyling, nail, and makeup services in the salon as well as in-suite.