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Best things to do in Los Angeles

Discover what to do and where to stay in the home of Hollywood


Best things to do in Los Angeles© Paul Mounce
Tania Leslau
Lifestyle Writer
Updated: July 13, 2023
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What does every twenty-something-year-old do when they’re craving a taste of the high life? They go to LA - duh. The City of Angels is synonymous with stardom, success, and sunshine. After all, there is a reason the city is the subject of so many songs. 

A visit to the mountain-lined metropolis is the perfect remedy for California dreamin’. A sprawling city of eclectic neighbourhoods, LA offers an overwhelming choice of things to do and see. From the rolling canyons of Topanga to the urban oasis of Downtown Los Angeles, sand-swathed Malibu beaches to hipster hotspot Silver Lake, there’s something for everyone in the land of the stars. 

Planning a trip to such a vast place can be daunting, but we’ve done the hard work for you. Whether you’re an avid hiker, sun seeker, thrift aficionado, or city rat, LA has the answer. Read on to discover all you need to know before jetting off to the largest city in California…

What to see

LA may be the home of film, but there is so much more to the city than star-spotting and red carpets. The city boasts the most exquisite mountain communities that are often overshadowed by the spell of Hollywood. Plus, there are canyons galore to explore, in addition to expansive beaches and the buzz of Downtown. For the adventurers among you, there are a plethora of off-the-beaten-track endeavors to ponder, be it a visit to a haunted hotel or the Church of Scientology.

Griffith Observatory 

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Let’s start with the basics. Griffith Observatory is a popular destination for hikers and visitors to see the most extraordinary panorama of the city. Soak in the views that stretch from Century City to Downtown. Of course, a snap with the Hollywood sign is a must.

Malibu Canyon

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We left our hearts in Malibu Canyon. The winding road through the hills is a truly beautiful experience and not to be missed. Driving is famously a must in the city and while the traffic may be a pain to navigate, a breeze through the canyons makes it all worthwhile. Be sure to explore Laurel Canyon, boho Topanga Canyon, and the Hollywood Hills while you’re at it.

Santa Monica Beach 

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Head to Santa Monica Beach on a sunny day for maximum tanning potential. Santa Monica Pier is a good spot for tourists to check out, but if you’d rather avoid the hustle and bustle, then book a table at Elephante for an experience the locals would approve of.

Downtown

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When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go Downtown! While Petula Clark’s ode to Downtown is based on NYC, the same applies to LA. Yet, while there’s a host of activities to do such as visiting Grand Central Market, it’s essential to keep your wits about you. Downtown is home to neighbourhoods such as Skid Row and other high-crime rate areas, so best to explore during the day via car if you’re keen to unearth the grittier side of the city.

Spahn Ranch 

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Drift through beautiful Box Canyon and wind your way up the Santa Susanna Pass to Spahn Ranch - or what’s left of it. True crime buffs, this is the place for you. While the Chatsworth-based park is saturated with natural wonder, the site was the former base of cult leader Charles Manson and his followers, known as The Family.

Mount Baldy

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Mount Baldy is situated in the San Gabriel Mountains and offers a popular 11-mile for avid climbers. With almost 4000 metres of climbing, the hike will lead to the highest point in LA at 10,064 feet, yet the awe-inspiring views of the city make it all worthwhile.

Where to shop

When it comes to shopping, LA doesn’t play around. Of course, tourist favourites Melrose Avenue and Rodeo Drive are essentials for luxury fiends, yet we couldn't get enough of the secondhand scene. From vast charity shops like Goodwill to the crème de la crème of vintage à la 2nd Street and Wasteland, there are copious treasure troves to delve into. Top tip - leave some space in your suitcase before jetting off as you’ll be coming home with some envy-inducing new finds. 

2nd Street, Ventura Boulevard, Santa Monica and Old Town Pasadena

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2nd Street is a secondhand store that will remain burned in our minds for quite some time. This saturated gem of a vintage/thrift store is bursting with valuable finds. From Supreme to Gucci, Louis Vuitton to Bathing Ape, Ralph Lauren to Miu Miu and so much more, the shop is top of our list to visit when we return to the west coast.

Wasteland, Studio City

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Wasteland is one for designer fashion fiends. The buy-and-sell store houses rare Givenchy pieces, quirky Heaven by Marc Jacobs tees, fresh-off-the-runway Coperni picks, divine Telfar totes, and many other covetable collectibles. 

Hide & Seek, Studio City

Hide & Seek is the sweetest homeware store nestled in Studio City. The spacious, airy shop offers trinkets galore, including vintage candle holders, Moroccan glassware sets, French ceramics and retro floral prints. Adorable.

Silver Lake Flea Market, Silver Lake 

Y2K girlies listen up. Head to TikTokker favourite Silver Lake Flea Market on Sundays and sift through copious amounts of ditsy print camis, silky negligees, printed cowboy boots, and other thrift haul must-haves. 

Wilder, Echo Park

Wilder in Echo Park offers a more earthy experience to the noughties nostalgia of LA’s fleas. The musky store is lined with rails of dark wash denim, true vintage silk slips, and bed jackets that will make for cherished forever pieces.

Hidden Treasures, Topanga 

Kate Hudson’s go-to haunt for boho babe pieces, Hidden Treasures in Topanga mirrors the town’s hippie aura. A colourbomb of antique garments and knick-knacks, the store will help you curate your Age of Aquarius wardrobe of dreams.

Boot Barn, Simi Valley

When we say we died and went to heaven at Boot Barn, we really mean it. Cowboy boots are back baby and we could not be happier about it. Kick back in a pair of classic knee-highs or opt for some girlish glamour with a sprinkling of floral embroidery or rhinestones. Be sure to check out the baby cowboy boots which will make the least broody of beings melt. 

Where to dine

Fussy eaters rejoice! The food in LA is exceptional and, being a cultural melting pot, has an array of cuisines to taste. Tasty Mexican tacos, indulgent Italian dishes, classic drive-in diners, and cool-girl Californian flavours will delight the palate.

Inn of the Seventh Ray

Topanga Canyon is one of our favourite spots in the city. Why? The secluded, leafy landscape, the vibrant Great Wall of Topanga, the charming hippie aura - we love it all. Yet the community's hottest spot to check out is the Inn of the Seventh Ray. Nestled in the idyllic Santa Monica Mountains, the rustic restaurant is the most romantic date night find. Relax under the twinkling fairy lights and indulge in creamy truffle risotto, char-roasted chicken, and yellowfin tuna crudo.

Cara Hotel, Los Felix

Cara Hotel resides at the foothill of Griffith Park in Los Feliz and has quickly become a modish hotspot. The hotel features a serene courtyard setting complete with a sleek pool and delicious Californian dishes to choose from. Cali Cobb salad, black truffle pappardelle, and charcoal mushrooms to name a few.

Geoffrey’s, Malibu

For a true A-lister experience, head to Geoffrey’s in Malibu. Diners can feast upon classic Californian dishes as they gaze out to the Pacific Ocean. The oceanside experience is elevated by golden fairy lights that graze the restaurant foliage and thirst-quenching cocktails.

Mel’s Drive-In

Mel’s Drive-In is a classic American diner dotted across the city. Take a perch in a leather booth and pick a classic tune from the jukebox beside your table. We recommend the Lana Del Ray shake - yum. 

Bacari, Silver Lake 

An upmarket, open-air location with a Venetian twist, Bacari is regularly rammed with the trendiest figures in town. Dine under the stars at this uber-Instagrammable spot and be sure to book a beautiful courtyard table in advance. 

Where to stay

A jam-packed stay requires a slice of tranquility at the end of the day. From iconic landmarks such as the Beverly Hills Hotel to the exclusive mecca offered up by celeb-favourite Hotel Bel-Air, ensure your stay is as smooth as can be with these luxurious choices.

Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills

Is there a hotel more iconic than The Beverly Hills Hotel? We think not. Immerse yourself in some Hollywood history and trace the steps of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Howard Hughes who all stayed at the famous Pink Palace. Dine at the Polo Lounge or enjoy a coffee at the breakfast bar. Plus, the hotel has partnered with Dior for a takeover of the poolside area which is open for all to experience.

Hotel Bel-Air, Bel-Air

Hotel Bel-Air is considered to be the introverted sister of The Beverly Hills. While the latter is where visitors supposedly go to be seen, the Bel-Air is where you go for a private hideaway. The gorgeously earthy grounds boast tropical greenery, complete with a large oval palm tree-lined pool, fairytale fountains and swathes of pink walls - the signature style of the luxurious hotel duo. 

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