Pacific breeze and the warm touch of sun, palm trees, active seafront, and countless murals were the first things to see in the city of angels, Los Angeles. It was late November, on a Thursday morning, but to me, it looked like an endless summer resort. I started my short stay in Venice area, which now I realize was the best area I could pick: relatively close to the beach, nice to walk among small and nice houses, with a lot of plants in the yards.
Unfortunately, I had only 2 days to explore, but I’ve tried to make the best of it. If you have just started to plan your trip there, my feeling is that 4 to 5 days will make it justice. Consider that this is not a walkable city, distances are pretty long and traffic is as heavy as you saw in the movies.
Here are my picks:
VENICE BEACH AND NEIGHBOURHOOD
Venice and Santa Monica are world-known for their iconic sunsets. You’ll want to spend at least one day here, either walking on the famous boardwalk, lay on the beach, or surf, who knows? It can be a relaxing day or very active, depends on what you feel to do.
Venice Canal Historic District
Before heading to the beach, we stopped at the Venice Canal Historic District, a 20-century man-made area. You may not know, but the Venice neighborhood developed since the beginning as a copy of the Italian Venice, with its canals, gondolas and fancy houses. Although it had a decay period of time, it was renewed in the 1990s and nowadays continues to be an artistic place. I loved the small bridges, the architecture and the green yards. So I recommend this walk and I guarantee you will forget a bit about the traffic and the bustle.
Venice Ocean Front Alley (Boardwalk)
This is an eclectic area, with many shops & souvenirs, street performances, people walking or on bicycles, electric scooters, longboards. Palm trees and large murals complete this scenery.
A few stops to consider:
- Muscle beach – it was pretty empty when I got there, but you can try to pump your muscle or enjoy how others work out.
- Skate park – I was anxious to see it due to its reputation; spend some time to see the tricks in the Pacific sun
- Murals – are almost every corner; you will see a lot “never”, the name of the artist.
- Venice sign & Touch of Venice wall
- Santa Monica
- Venice Fishing Pier & Santa Monica Pier – from one to another you can walk about an hour (approx. 5 km). Santa Monica is an amusement park with a huge colored wheel.
Tip: If you have more time to spend: book a boat trip or take surf lessons.
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES
Hollywood walk of fame
The pinkish stars embedded in the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard honors great names in the entertainment industry, music, films, tv etc. It seems endless, so if you desperately want to see a particular one, you need time and patience.
I arrived there after sunset, and the streets were rather empty, surprisingly. I did not fancy this area; there are a lot of Chinese made souvenir shops and a few restaurants. Still, I had a good pizza there and enjoyed the historic movie theaters on the outside.
If you know me, I won’t waste my travel time on shopping, but the bloc in Los Angeles is a nice visit. Of course, I’ve got there because of the painted walls and the open-air plaza, which hold a WRDSMTH exhibit. He’s a local artist who uses inspirational quotes as written with a vintage typewriter.
Built in 1925, this building is a city landmark. It looks Egyptian due to its architectural style, including the mosaic tiles on the top. You will definitely notice the library since it’s so close to Bunker Hill.
Bunker Hill & Grand Avenue
Previously a neighborhood of Victorian architecture houses, Bunker Hill went through development in the 20th century and modern buildings changed the entire view of the area. Angels Flight funicular (still on today), infrastructure and then tall commercial buildings started to be built here.
Walking up a bit you feel like hiking on a hill, but soon your panorama will turn to the tall buildings of Los Angeles. Part of Bunker Hill’s redevelopment project, Union Bank building was the first skyscraper in the area.
Yet, Grand Avenue hosts now one the greatest places to see in Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), The Broad, the modern art museum (free entrance, but needs booking in advance), Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Grand Park with the City Hall.
Walt Disney Concert Hall or LA Phil
The concert hall is free to visit and you can even get an audio guide for a better understanding. Funded by Walt Disney wife, in his memory, this unusual steel shape of the building is a sign of Frank Gehry architecture and it makes it very special.
Olvera Street & El Pueblo
This rather small historic area was my favorite place in LA downtown. The first Mexicans settled here and formed El Pueblo in the 18th century, which later became a city in California. That’s why this is now considered the actual birthplace of Los Angeles.
What will you actually see there? A bustling market with Mexican inspired crafts and various souvenirs, a vivid plaza, and the last remaining house – the Avila Adobe mansion. It’s a free entry to the adobe and I totally recommend a visit – even 30 min will be enough. Plus you get to see the Union Station from the garden.
As a regular LA scenery, palm trees are standing tall in front of the main railway station in the region. Union Station is worth to mention due to its architectural beauty, a representative for Mission Modern style and art deco interior design. Movie fanatics will recognize some spots from movies as Blade Runner, The Dark Knight Rises, Catch me if you can and others.
Universal and Warner Bros Studios. I heard a lot about it, so many people recommended us to visit. If you love movies, reserve at least half a day and 100$ +, depending on the experience you choose.
Getty Villa. The villa and the garden get more attention than the classical collection in there. This is quite far to reach from Downtown, but easier to reach from Santa Monica. Entrance is free, but you need to book in advance. Please note this is not the J. Paul Getty Museum, also in LA. Tip: read a bit about the famous businessman Getty before going here.