LA’s central districts burst with vintage-inspired drinking dens, glitzy clubs and casual boozers, plus not surprisingly in the home of Hollywood theatres and cinemas galore.
The splendidly restored Pantages Theater is an Art Deco survivor from the Golden Age and a fabulous place to catch a play or Broadway musical. Oscars were handed out here between 1949 and 1959, when Howard Hughes owned the building. Also check out the uber-noir Frolic Room bar next door, which featured in LA Confidential.
An old, shingled Victorian house has been converted into LA’s hottest night out. Even the entrance is theatrical: you follow a rickety staircase into the room of a would-be madame dressed in fishnets, who presses a button to reveal another staircase down into the living room and out into a courtyard. There are bars in every corner, plus burlesque dancers and a tightrope walker. Book a table to ensure entry.
During summer, this pop-up cinema occupies a to die for’ location at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the place of perpetual slumber for a galaxy of old-time movie stars. Classics by Milos Forman, Robert Altman and Alfred Hitchcock are projected onto a mausoleum wall around 9pm, but crowds line up long before gates open for picnics and cocktails while a DJ spins smooth tracks. Winter screenings are hosted by old Downtown LA theatres.
ANGEL CITY BREWERY
On the edge of the Arts District, this wonderful microbrewery has tours running Thursday to Sunday, but you can always stop by its Public House bar for beer, occasional live musk and food trucks that descend with welcome flavours.
A homage to Old Mexico, a chalkboard menu of more than 80 tequilas and mezcals (try a neat highland variety), and friendly bartenders who mix ingredients such as egg whites, blackberries and port syrup into new-school takes on the classic margarita. There are many reasons we love this tequila bar.
Restaurateur and interior designer Dana Hollister has turned a rundown deli in the Arts District into a dark-wood and iron den of bluesy cool. There’s a salvaged bar top, church-pew seating, vintage chandeliers and an open-air patio where live blues rocks the stage. Pub food and late-night snacks to soak up the liquor include corn dogs and nachos.
West Hollywood and Mid-City
Elegant, but not stuck up, the Marmont in has been around but remains a cherished spot. Thanks to high ceilings, molded walls and terrific martinis, all inside the ritzy Chateau Marmont hotel, the famous (and wish-they-weres) still flock here. Reservations are taken for tables; come midweek if you can .EL
A pair of mounted bull heads, black-and-white posters, and lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) masks create an over-the-top ‘Tijuana North’ look at LA’s ultimate tequila and mezcal den, with more than a hundred varieties to choose from. Tacos are served and there’s a happy hour 5pm to 7pm Monday to Friday for snacks and bargain £4 margaritas.
Built in 1937, Mint is an intimate, historic music venue in Mid-City. Legends such as Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder played here on the way up, and axeman Ben Harper got his start here, too. Expect a packed slate of terrific jazz, blues and rock shows, and sensational sound. The best part? You’ll never be more than ten metres from the performance stage.
Air New Zealand, American, BA, Norwegian, United and Virgin Atlantic fly from London to LA in 11 hours. Door-to-door shuttles from Los Angeles International Airport (‘LAX’) are good for getting to the city; Prime Time charges £18, £22 and £14 for trips to Santa Monica, Hollywood or Downtown respectively.
LA is a large city and a lot of people drive, though the traffic is terrible; avoid rush hour. Most public transport is handled by Metro.
WHERE TO STAY
- A retro motel turned hostel near the Hollywood bar scene, Vibe Hotel has wallet-friendly dorms with TVs and kitchenettes, plus private rooms for three. You’ll share space with an international crowd.
- We love the rustic wood-panneled exterior of Palihotel. Inside, 32 contemporary rooms sport two-tone paint jobs and some have terraces.
- It’s hard not to be charmed by Hotel Figueroa, a rambling, freshly updated oasis. Cosy-chic contemporary rooms blend tasteful pastels, exposed wooden beams and patterned carpets with hints of Spanish-influenced style.