“The weather is always a draw in LA. Probably because in a world that feels increasingly frenetic and fast-paced, the relaxed, outdoor lifestyle is very accessible – and appealing. The city gets 47.3 million visitors each year; many come to feel the allure of Hollywood, but a lot also come from other creative fields: fashion, music, food. The art world, especially, has really exploded here over the past few years. It’s an easy place for different industries to come together – art and film, for example – and foster exciting ideas and emerging talents. In general, the energy, and the spirit, are very compelling.
Because you can spend hours in your car getting from one part of town to another, I recommend hotels based not only on style but also location preference – it is really important. For a true classic with elevated service and excellent people-watching, it has to be The Beverly Hills Hotel. It’s so iconic, so full of old-world glamour, from the pink stucco and Martinique banana-leaf wall covering to the fabulous pool and private bungalows. I love the classic striping of the grand entrance; you feel a true sense of arrival at this hotel, and the coming together of past and present. Those in the market for something a little more hip might prefer the Chateau Marmont, with its incredible views of the Hollywood Hills; I find my London friends like the laid-back, bohemian vibe here – it’s the quintessential LA experience, right down to the veggie burgers and huevos rancheros at brunch. Another favourite is the art deco Sunset Tower; it’s a classic, with great views of the city, and the best bar, serving the best Bellini in town. For a slightly more off-the-beaten-track stay, I like Hotel Covell, near Silver Lake, which opened just over two years ago and draws a younger crowd. It has a lived-in, residential feel with super-thoughtful interiors, from the hardwood floors to the salons with a mix of vintage and new pieces. It’s a place with soul.
For the full LA experience, you might want to start in Malibu, where the beautiful El Matador and Zuma Beaches, and the Malibu Country Mart, are excellent places to spend a day. The Sunday Farmers’ Market is worth a special detour; not only is the produce amazing, it’s a total celebrity bottleneck, which just adds to the fun. One of the best spots for lunch up here is Tra Di Noi, where you can sit on the patio and eat super-healthy versions of Italian classics like the excellent zucchini spaghetti with arrabbiata sauce. Another good lunchtime choice is Malibu Farm at Malibu Pier, where you can watch the sunset over a vegan kale salad or a cauliflower crust pizza. If you decide to make a night of it in Malibu, the new Nobu Ryokan, with its teak wood styling and beautiful, simple design that envelops the natural environment, is transporting – instant peace.
Heading south along the Pacific Coast Highway you’ll hit Santa Monica, and my favourite neighbourhood: Venice. This is the best place to see the real LA, and the way to do it is on rollerblades, skating past the Santa Monica Pier and Muscle Beach before heading on to Abbot Kinney for all the shops, cafés and great restaurants. The Butcher’s Daughter, where they serve really healthy smoothies, is a can’t-miss. I try to eat as many raw foods as possible, and this place makes it easy. So does Erewhon – a health store with an unbelievable juice bar. My favourite is the peanut butter and banana concoction with added kale – it is much more delicious than it sounds. Venice has a few great shopping finds too. Heist is a favourite for both established and emerging local designers.
Working out is a big part of LA life. Walking, biking and just being in nature are all priorities. If you want to go for a great hike, the Inspiration Point trail is a beautiful escape in the Santa Monica Mountains, with views all the way to Catalina island. One of the best ways to get to grips with Beverly Hills is to go for a run here, because the landscaping is so incredible and you miss a lot of it from a car. I recommend heading down Palm Drive and then up to the hills, past Canon, Beverly and Rodeo Drives. This is also an excellent way to scope out the shops before later in the day, when you can lunch at the old-school Fountain Coffee Room at The Beverly Hills Hotel. For excellent Italian food, I send people to Pizzeria il Fico, which has a cool, casual feel and perfect thin-crust pizzas.
It’s also worth exploring West Hollywood, particularly the Melrose area, where you’ll find great smaller shops: there’s The Row, Chloé and Isabel Marant, but also Brazilian designer Martha Medeiros, who specialises in lace dresses. The eating options here are great too. Ink’s Sack is the place for in-and-out creative sandwiches, and my go-to spot is Urth Caffé for either breakfast or lunch. It’s easygoing, with outside seating, and as the name suggests, everything – from the organic oatmeal to the grilled veggie with pesto sandwiches – is made with the freshest ingredients.
For uniquely LA shopping, there’s an outpost of The Future Perfect, which is actually a store within a midcentury house, near the Hollywood Hills; you’ll find all kinds of interesting furniture, design and decorative objects, complete with a backyard pool. And there is American Rag Cie: it has the best denim collection anywhere, as well as an extensive home store next door with beautiful tabletop items. Scout in West Hollywood is excellent for vintage clothing; I bought an incredible 1980s Valentino blouse with really big shoulder pads here.
One of LA’s smallest and most underrated neighbourhoods is Larchmont, situated at the meeting points of Hollywood, Koreatown and Hancock Park – the latter is considered the “first” Beverly Hills, because of the classic homes built in the 1920s and ’30s. Larchmont is a charming, family-friendly area and the restaurant row is great, especially Le Petit Greek Estiatorio – it’s authentic and delicious. For a more traditional meal, I love La Republique, a modern French bistro set in a historical space built by Charlie Chaplin in 1928. And I always send people to Sqirl, on the edge of Silver Lake, a casual brunch spot with lots of filling salads and vegetarian options.
The art scene has changed so much over the past few years, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has led the charge. And its scene keeps growing. The Broad museum, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is architecturally beautiful, as is the collection of contemporary art, while LA’s outpost of Hauser & Wirth has incredibly diverse programmes that support young artists. Honor Fraser is another excellent gallery; her “voice”, so to speak, and her style are singular. If you plan it right, you can see art in Downtown LA followed by dinner at Bestia – the most amazing Italian food in town, in an industrial-yet-chic setting.
What’s unique about LA is the number and variety of experiences you can have in one day – from surfing to visiting world-class museums, to shopping and enjoying a healthy outdoor lifestyle. It’s such an authentic place, and I hope it stays true to itself.”