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The Ultimate Travel Guide to Los Angeles

I am the type of person who likes to organise (surprise!) every little detail when it comes to my exchange programs and road trips. Along the way, I create expectations regarding what I am about to discover – and we both know how bad expectations are. And well, if those past five months have taught me something is that “no plan is the best plan”!

All of this to say, I had expectations about Los Angeles – and I was not disappointed. The bright sun shedding its warm light on avenues, the barren and dusty mountains with their monumental glories – a famous big white sign, an enchanting observatory – or the sea, its seducing blue shades and the wind blowing through one’s hair.

If you go to LA, you will get the entire Californian experience (maybe not the evergreen forests cause that’s up north). You actually have so much that it becomes…too much – trying to find your way or to commute within the city takes ages on its own already. So if you are just popping in and not staying for long, you might want to have an idea of the things you’d like to do and the places you’d like to visit so BIG is the city.

So here you are, with the ULTIMATE guide to the city that stole my heart and will probably steal yours too. I am absolutely in love – would most certainly not be able to live there – and cannot wait to go back and spend some sparkly and valuable time in the city of stars. I hope you will enjoy and take advantage of this guide as much as you can!

Note: I have included some indications on the prices below. They might not accurately correspond to your expectations. It is ranked on three $ but Universal Studios are a four since it is very expensive to visit + make sure to click on the (More information) for the locations!

   

DO

Melrose Avenue ($$)

One of the best streets in LA, if not the best one. You’ll not only find amazingly beautiful street art (make sure to show up either early or late if you want to avoid people, especially in front of the famous wings or the Paul Smith Pink Building) but also unbelievably delicious restaurants and lots of shops and boutiques! It is better to do on a sunny day because it has got much more charm with a little sunshine. Most of my best addresses on Melrose are listed below: Crumbs and Whiskers, Café Carrera, Adidas Shop, Reformation, etc. (More information)

Crumbs & Whiskers ($)

This is a MUST GO when in Los Angeles. Open the doors to a fluffy, dreamy, furry and “love-bomby” heaven: A CAT’S PARADISE! You will have to pay a little fee at the entrance – used to buy proper food, toys and other stuff for the cats, to care for them and pay the absolutely lovely staff – but believe me when I say it is worth it. A great initiative that is partnering up with a big shelter to welcome those cats in order for them to get some love and hopefully be adopted (yes, they all are adoptable!). Just go to pet some cats, get some love and make a few furry friends. They are all F******* adorable! Tell me you would not like drinking a coffee while surrounded by lovely cats?! (PS: Ask them to take picture of you with the cats!) (More information)

3rd Street @ Beverly Grove ($$)

This is one of my favourite streets too. You’ll find some of the best restaurants or take outs I have been to while in Los Angeles and there is some great shopping to do to. A nice activity on a grey day or a little less sunny one. But there is definitely room for your wallet to get lost there! (More information)

   

Beverly Hills ($$$)

How can I put this… More than iconic, more than fabulous, it is a MUST SEE while traveling in the city of stars! Park somewhere (ideally where it is allowed or in front of one of those big houses pretending it is yours – yas, that is what I did!) and get lost in those gorgeous streets full of exuberant palm trees and shiny houses; then head over the centre of Beverly Hills to get your shopping cravings fixed (or just some window shopping because obviously this is the place to find all the most expensive brands, all the “grand créateurs”) and eat some delicious food in those fancy restaurants with their posh patios and handsome people sitting outside. If on a budget, there is an big Wholefoods Store round the corner and plenty of benches round! (More information)

Angelino Heights (free)

There are not many particular things to do there BUT to let yourself be enchanted by the gorgeous early 20th century houses. All shapes and colours, they dwell round the entire neighbourhood and it is a pure pleasure for the eye. There is one house that you would particularly want to stop in front of – is that helping if I say magic, witchcraft, sisters? You guessed it: The Halliwell Mansion! Now that you know, you have no excuses but to go! Also, you may find a little hidden passage that will lead you directly to the best Matcha Latte place in LA (find it below). (More information)

The Broad (free)

One of the many museums you would actually want to stop at. The tickets are free but you have to book in advance if you want to have a chance to get into it (see the website below). The second option you have is to line up very early in the queue, every morning, and you might have a chance to get some free tickets. The building in itself is already gorgeous, and you may find absolutely fantastic art inside. I am almost sure you have heard about the black room that contains all those lights, which gives you the impression you are just standing in the middle of the milky way. It is really worth a shot if you are in LA for a little while and want to grow some more knowledge and culture. (More information)

The Getty (free)

I do not think I have a word for this place. When you may easily go to other museums on a grey day, I really recommend you to go there when it is all sunny and warm. You may park below the actual museum and will have to take a cable car up the mountain (cute little ride). Once there, you will discover a very modern and futurist architecture, as if immersed in The Hunger Games’ world. Everything made of white marble, sculptures and large flowery man-made gardens – a pure pleasure for the eye. You have literally a thousand options: take a little something to eat/picnic with you and lie down in the fluffy grass, visit the different exhibitions (the entrance to the main museum is free), doing both or simply wandering round. Make sure to go beyond the imposing gardens to get a sense of smallness watching the view over the entire city of LA; if you do not feel small contemplating how spread out it is, I do not know what you need! (More information)

Echopark (free)

There is literally nothing to do there apart from lying down in the grass and reflect about your life. Echopark is a gorgeous little lake with lotus flowers and all, a very delightful place to walk round on a sunny day or eat a take-out at. It is not absolutely essential for you to visit this place but if you happen to be in the neighbourhood, it is definitely worth a detour. (More information)

Little Tokyo (free)

Downtown neighbourhood to wander round and be amazed by the Japanese (or Asian – cause everything is a little mixed-up in there from my European perspective) culture, food places and little boutiques. A little like Echopark, it is worthy it if not far away from it and if you like wandering round instead of being running and active all the time. If you happen to go Downtown, head there! (More information)

Downtown Los Angeles (free)

Despite what many people think, this is not where you will find the best things to do in LA! However, you might still want to go there for the architecture (mostly borrowed from Europe I reckon), the stylish restaurants and to say that you have been in Downtown LA. I would only go if you have time to kill and that the sun’s out because otherwise it is a little gloomy. Again, like Little Tokyo or Echopark, these are lovely places to visit and get lost into but definitely not worth spending too much time in if you are just in Los Angeles for a few days! (More information)

Universal Studios ($$$$)

Who visits Los Angeles without even moving his/her ass to Universal Studios?! (Well, oops, I have to be honest – I haven’t actually been there!) It a little expensive (find the information and prices below) I reckon but if you are really into this movie/stars/shiny/dreamy world, it is totally worth it. From Harry Potter’s world to the set of Desperate Housewives, you would want to stay there for at least five to six hours and make good use of this money you spent. I highly recommend it if you are not a budget or travelling with a family. However, if you want a cheaper option and are more interested in the production and the cinema’s history, I have got just the solution for you – look below! (More information)

Paramount Pictures ($$$)

In the centre of West Hollywood, this is the place where most of the movies we know have been actually shot – those large yellow and white buildings holding many more secrets than one may actually imagine. It is a good thing they open certain areas to the public for daily visits! You will have the opportunity to visit the studios, learn about the history of Los Angeles’ cinema and movie industry and maybe get the chance to bump into one of your favourite stars! It is much cheaper and is really worth it if you have a little less time to dedicate to the dreamy world of movies! (More information)

Griffith Observatory (parking: $$/other: $)

This is THE THING YOU WANT TO VISIT. And yes, capitals are required because I am in love. Make your way up the mountain either with a Uber or with your own car (the parking options are quite limited up there and very expensive so I would recommend the first option). There are different rooms with everything you need to know about The Cosmos, astrology and the universe in general – make sure to take some time to visit them all. Wander round the Observatory to look at the scenic view and take a few pictures with this absolutely gorgeous building. If you have seen LaLaLand, you may be aware that there is a room right under the big dome – and yes, it is open to the public! Buy a cheap ticket to go inside and live a purely magical experience, learning about the stars and the universe. You will get out of there with stars in your eyes and in complete awe – highly recommended. And finally, make sure to hike round the Observatory because there are some pretty good and beautiful paths there. I would not know which one to recommend but they all are amazing, so take some time for this too (and make sure to wear sunscreen and good shoes – just saying). Let yourself be seduced by the 360 views of Los Angeles and by all the ways you can get up and down the mountain – so much you will never get bored! (More information)

The Hollywood Sign (free)

I do believe you would want to go there as it is one of the most famous monuments in Los Angeles; read carefully what’s coming up because you really want to have the best tips for this. Your first option is to hike there from Griffith Observatory (good option if you are a good hiker and if you have time!) because the walk is grandiose and the scenery just magnificent. Your second option is to park not too far away from the sign itself and then hike up there; you will find yourself behind it (pretty amazing) and have a fantastic view over most of LA (a much easier and shorter hike). Your third option is to drive right below it. This option is much shorter (there is a very tiny loop hike you can do too) but note that the road is very tricky to access and actually follow. Most of the people who live up there do not like tourists and put unwelcoming signs or are going to point you in another direction (use your GPS). All you need to know is contained in the links to follow!  (More information + where to park for a quick tour)

Runyon Canyon (free)

One of the best hikes in Los Angeles! You really do not need to be highly experienced for this one, even though you might want to be in good physical condition. Of course it is going to require some strength and energy, and it will most likely be a hot one, but accessible to everyone (watch out for children and elderly). Just as a personal note, you might just as well want to ditch dating apps all together and hike there every week… just saying (especially if you are on my side of the street – if you know what I mean!). Admire the beautiful landscapes on this scenic hike just as well as all the gorgeous abs and bod…oops, let me stop there! (More information)

Venice Beach & Santa Monica ($$)

Make your way south-west, down to the coast, on a warm and sunny day. Be sure to take at least an entire day for both. When in Venice Beach, I would recommend going to the well-known canals (it is beautiful to get lost in those), as well as wandering on the beach walk and stop at the bowl to see those fantastic skaters. Take a dip in the not so cold water and be sure to take a picture on the pride (= rainbow) lifeguard tower. When you are done, make your way up to Santa Monica. Enjoy a walk on the pier and the beach (there is a place to work out at on the beach on the south side of the pier just so you know – or if you just want to have a peek at beautifully carved…well you know!), and then get lost in all the different streets! Great for shopping as well as a dinner spot, especially if you find a terrace! (More information on Venice & Santa Monica)

BUY

Melrose Avenue & 3rd Street ($$)

As mentioned above, those two streets are the best ones for shopping. Everything is kind of to walking distance and you have plenty of restaurants to refuel at in-between shops. Also, I would recommend going closer to the western parts of those two streets as you will find much more on those ends.

The Grove ($$$)

I discovered this place totally by “mistake” but it happened to be the best one I have ever made in my life. Like a little city in the midst of LA’s furry, The Grove is a haven for good food, good (but pricy, yes) shopping and great times! I would recommend going there in the late afternoon so that you have time to shop and then stop in one of the delicious restaurants around. You may basically find anything you want, but my personal favourites are Nordstrom and AloYoga! Also, the great thing about this place is that it is right next to the Farmers’ Market – the cutest place to buy some snacks or eat on a budget! My tip would be to park at the Wholefoods next to it so that you will not have to pay for parking (even though the first hour is free at The Grove). What’s more, this is where I met and chatted with Miguel Silvestre (OMG!) so you might bump into some stars in-between The Grove, the Farmers’ Market and Wholefoods, who knows! (More information)

Larchmont Boulevard ($/$$)

A little lost haven in West Hollywood, this is the place to visit for the cutest boutiques and cafes! My friends and I were not meant to get there at all but we ended up going back cause we loved it! What’s even better is that it is a little less expensive from all the other things you might find in the more touristy places in LA. Most of the cafes are listed below in the EAT section. A must “walk in” while being in the city of stars darlings! (More information)

Abbott Kinney Blvd @ Venice Beach ($$)

This street is the Californian experience in a nutshell! Let yourself wander round and find the best shopping and the best food you’ll get to taste while in LA. It is a must for any tourist claiming to have been in Los Angeles or local living in the city! My two personal favourites were the Avocado Store (a yoga clothes brand) and the Butcher’s Daughter (the best vegetarian food I have ever had). There are cool bars and the street is always full of life and laughter. (PS: Great shopping in Santa Monica too!) (More information)

The Last Book Store ($/$$)

The most odd and yet cutest bookstore I have ever been into. With two different storeys and even a little labyrinth upstairs, you will find everything from global history to feminist studies, photography to magazines and cookbooks – in a nutshell, a bookworm haven! Make sure to stop and leaf through some books while sitting in those large comfortable settees. A great little getaway when willing to escape downtown’s noise! (More information)

     

EAT

Eightfold ($$)

One of the cutest café I have been to in California; full of locals, they basically serve the best matcha round the entire city (this is not a joke). Take a seat, get a book or your laptop and be ready to spend a little while in this modern and minimalist address you will absolutely fall in love with. They also have a very interesting menu with lots of different toasts and a fantastic chia pudding! The staff is very warm and talkative so make sure to take some time to chat and ask for the best things to do in LA or simply to meet new people! Very good prices for such a good quality! (More information)

Farmers’ Market ($)

Get lost in the very small aisles! Local businesses and traders are selling everything you could think of – from food, candies, nuts to incense and small souvenirs, you will most probably be able to unearth interesting stuff. It is a great place to get something cheap and delicious to eat (there are not that many vegan/vegetarian options but still a few!). If not buying anything, at least try to make a little tour; and the good thing is that it is right next to The Grove! (More information)

Botanica ($$)

This cute little restaurant in the hearth of Silver Lake is a simple treasure. You will fall in love with its high ceilings, the climbing plants on the walls and shelves, its cute food/accessories store and its minimalist/modern vibes. I would recommend going there for dinner (make sure to book a table in advance) as it is quite the address to have a romantic getaway at or meaningful conversations with friends, along with good food and a bottle of wine! (More information)

The Great White ($$)

This is my personal favourite, not only because it gives away special beach vibes and that the location is fabulous but also because this is the first time I have ever tried an iced coffee latte and actually loved it. So I guess I have them to thank for my cravings now… Anyways, head over there for a delicious and filling brunch, making sure to either try the signature iced latte, the matcha latte, the veggie burrito (I guess it’s called like that) or the blue algae smoothie bowl! It is not a “cheap” address but the quantities are quite large. Highly recommended if in Venice Beach! (More information)

The Butcher’s Daughter ($$$)

This is also one of my favourites. Even though you feel like entering some kind of deconstructed vintage restaurant where they hold auctions, you end up totally amazed by the décor’s harmony and the people’s kindness. I am not only saying this because the barman was giving me very flirty looks, but the food was absolutely divine – refined and very well presented. A pleasure for the eyes and the palate. I highly recommend going there if you’d like to take some time and enjoy a cocktail and some delicious dishes – if you have to invest in one night, it should be this one! And for those who have doubts about the vegan/vegetarian menu, well just go, you’ll be amazed! (PS: Their cocktails are to die for!) (More information)

Wholefoods ($$)

It seems a little irrelevant to put it here but I just wanted to emphasise that if you are on-the-go, or ready to take off for a big hike and you know you will not have either the time or the opportunity to stop somewhere to eat, this is THE place to go. They have amazing salads and hot meals bars where you can serve yourself of literally anything your heart desire. Great place to grab some snacks too; and if you have to prepare your own food during your stay, make sure to buy your fresh products there to get the best quality. Also, now that they have been bought by amazon, it is less expensive than it used to be.

Mainland ($$)

This restaurant really is a gem. They serve the best poke bowls in the entire city and have the funniest and most adorable staff ever. The quality is absolutely amazing and the choice very rich – try the black rice and the kelp noodles instead of white rice for a change! Usually very generous in the way they serve you, do not hesitate to ask for a little more or even for some samples – again, they truly are adorable! Highly recommended to eat on the terrace during the day and maybe take it to go if it is dinner. But go! (More information)

The Hummus Republic ($$)

They serve the absolute best Buddha Bowls! Very big portions with a wide range of options and a lovely staff, it is a must go when in LA. Take the falafels – they are to die for – and do not hesitate to ask for hummus samples (I loved the wasabi one – hopefully it will still be there). I would recommend taking it to go and eat either in a park, on a bench or at home just because the restaurant itself is a little small. Pay for one glass of lemonade and you’ll be able to get free refills! (PS: There is a funny “Eat My Balls” sign at the back so that should on its own be worth the detour!) (More information)

Café Carrera ($$)

Right in front of the famous Paul Smith’s pink wall, this hipster’s café is a little treasure. They serve delicious cafes, cold matcha, chai and lattes and also have a great range of healthy snacks if you are not a pastry fan (most of them contain dairy and gluten). Would recommend to sit in as it is quite a lovely place to stay. This is not only the place I got to have a Ryan Gosling on my coffee (OMG YES), but where I randomly met a complete stranger whom I ended up talking with for about thirty minutes. It really gives away those chill and easy going southern Californian vibes we all love. (More information)

Erewon Fresh Market ($$$)

From what I have heard, this is an LA institution. They have the most delicious smoothies, raw vegan desserts, adaptogenic drinks, grain-free granolas and so much more. As it is a celebrity sighting spot, you might see a few wandering round so pay attention and try to keep it cool and casual cause after all, they are just like you and me (kind of). A delicious place to grab a little something, to break a fast, or to brunch/lunch. Be warned that it is a little pricy… (More information)

Commissary at The Line LA ($$$)

I do reckon we struggled for about 15 minutes before actually finding it. But once you understand the trick (which is taking the elevator in the lobby of the hotel – what a trick you will say), you will end up in Alice’s wonderland. A radiant glasshouse on a rooftop, next to an azure blue pool, trees and flowers surrounding the entire place; a haven lost in the midst of those imposing skyscrapers. All the cups are different from each other, so are the plates and the tables. A very surprising a yet charming universe, where you’ll be able to savour the best granola, avocado on toast and mylks! It is a little pricy but is worthy it for a brunch or big lunch. Make sure to stop by, if not for food at least for a drink! Make friends with the gorgeous and lovely pool lady and she might let you take a dive. (More information)

Kreation Kafe ($$/$$$)

I honestly had the best chocolate mousse and veggie wrap I have ever had in my entire life. A shop entirely made of wood and greens, with a very welcoming staff, which is serving lots of healthy plantbased dishes – smoothie bowls, healthy snacks, breakfast puddings and mousses, mylks and lattes, etc. A tastebuds paradise! All containers are made of glass or compostable, just because it is essential to save our planet through little daily actions! It is a little expensive indeed, which would be the only drawback. But nothing prevent you from just buying a little snack (the sweet potato chocolate brownie is to die for!) (More information)

Bardonna Café ($$)

Either on-the-go or to stay, it is the best place to grab a little something as well as a matcha, tea or latte before a busy sightseeing/shopping/hiking day, especially if you are planning or getting a bigger brunch or lunch later. Perfectly affordable, they offer amazing plantbased and vegan alternatives and really accommodate you when it comes to creating your own beverage. I went there three times already and cannot wait to go again! (More information)

Grand Central Market ($/$$)

A total surprise to find such a cute market place right in the middle of downtown LA! Food stalls for all tastes and prices, fresh products and even restaurants, another very typical getaway where you can literally find anything you desire; I would recommend either trying the avocado toasts stand or the Mexican one – both were fabulicious! Very acceptable prices and if not staying for lunch, either go for a late afternoon drink or just to grab a little something on-the-go! (More information)

Moon Juice ($$$)

Have you ever heard of adaptogens? Well if not, this is the place where you would want to go. Their staff is very knowledgeable and their adaptogenic matcha latte is a simple bliss! They have a few locations sprinkled throughout LA but make sure to at least pop up in one. Also, it is quite pricy so I would go once or on a special occasion (if on a budget). You may even leave with one of their amazing powder blends. (More information)

I hope you enjoyed this Travel Guide and that you’ll make sure to visit most of those places! Save this link to have access to all the addresses and locations in one same spot. And share if you liked it. Much love to you! x

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