“Los Angeles does not get the attention it deserves,” wrote renowned architectural critic Reyner Banham in his 1971 book Los Angeles: The Four Ecologies. “It gets attention, but it’s like the attention that Sodom and Gomorrah have received, primarily a reflection of other people’s bad consciences.”
Banham, a professor at University College London, visited Los Angeles and fell into a wide-eyed, blissful romance, later saying he admired the city with “a passion that goes beyond all sense or reason.” He produced a documentary for the BBC tellingly titled Reyner Banham Loves L.A. An accomplished cyclist, Banham even gave up his two-wheeled hobby so he could better explore the city. “Like earlier generations of English intellectuals who taught themselves Italian in order to read Dante in the original,” Banham wrote, “I learned to drive to read Los Angeles in the original.”
Banham’s other proclamations about L.A., such as his waxing poetic about the advantages of the city’s sprawl and his referring to the 10 and 405 freeway interchange as a “work of art,” are quixotic, but still relevant: L.A. is a challenging city. It’s full of contradictions and frustrations, an urban planning whipping boy, and a depository for negative cliches about plastic surgery, traffic, Hollywood dreams, et al. But, there’s still something special that happens on a 70-degree day in January, or on a bike ride along the boardwalk where Venice turns to Santa Monica and Santa Monica turns to Malibu, or when you’ve split a bottle of wine on a summer night at the Hollywood Bowl. It’s time to give L.A. a fresh look.
Where to Stay
The Line Hotel
Roy Choi’s professional roots link back to a single taco truck, the success of which he has leveraged into a fleet of restaurants, a movie adaption (2014’s Chef), and now to this modern, playful hotel owned by the same parent company behind The NoMad Hotel in New York City and the Freehand Miami. Koreatown has a cultural richness that is all too often glossed over, but Choi makes it both accessible and fun here — introducing his culinary heritage with the authentic, approachable POT restaurant onsite and room service items like congee porridge, instant ramen, and spam and eggs. POT Lobby Bar and adjacent Break Room 86 are a full-blown scene at the moment, too. Pro tip: spring $60 extra for one of the Hollywood Hills View Rooms.
Shutters On The Beach | From $489 | ShuttersOnTheBeach.com
Timeless, airy digs a stone’s throw from the Santa Monica Pier. Come here if you spend most of your days landlocked.
Ace Downtown | From $309 | AceHotel.com/losangeles
Witness Downtown L.A.’s renaissance in person at this revamped architectural relic.
Chateau Marmont | From $450 | ChateauMarmont.com
Ride your motorcylce into the lobby a la John Bonham, drink in West Hollywood’s finest, then eat a late-night burger at Bar Mamont to bring you back to earth.
Where to Eat
We go out to dinner because it’s fun, it tastes good, and it feels good to have someone give you service when you need it — and leave you alone when you need that. Arguably more than any other L.A. restaurant, Otium, which fittingly means “to be at leisure” in Latin, embodies all these qualifications.
Former French Laundry Chef de Cuisine Timothy Hollingsworth helms the kitchen and serves unpretentious, elevated New American — like roasted butternut squash with coffee, pepitas and housemade ricotta, or a beef short rib with potato and the “everything topping.” The food tastes like fine dining, but the vibe feels like a cozy mid-century modern living room. The restaurant is also a feat of design, with a geometric, wood-planked exterior standing unashamedly next to the sparkling new Broad Museum.
Bestia | $$$ | BestiaLA.com
Let the waiter take the wheel at this innovative Italian spot in DTLA’s hip Arts District. It’s the hardest reservation in town, but they save spaces for those who call in instead of using Open Table.
Trois Familia | $ | TroisFamilia.com
This is the restaurant equivalent of a supergroup, with rock star chefs Ludo Lefebrve, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo teaming up for a casual French/Mexican-inspired brunch spot in Silverlake. With the big names come big waits, but there’s good people watching and coffee nearby.
Gjusta | $ | Gjusta.com
This Venice nook serves the most Instagrammable, high-class sandos, pastries and bakery fare in town. It’s an all-day restaurant, but best for breakfast or lunch on a sunny day.
Tip from a Local
“If you want to see the sunset in Los Angeles, there’s no better spot than Griffith Park. It’s the largest park of its kind in the US, with five times the acreage of Central Park.” – L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who, according to his well-curated, sunset-soaked Instagram account, knows where to look. Photo: West Side Today
What to Do
See a Show at the Hollywood Bowl
The Bowl’s BYOB policy makes it one of the most relaxed, magical concert experiences anywhere. Bring along a bottle of wine and some cheeses, and enjoy anyone from the L.A. Philharmonic to John Mayer at this open-air Hollywood Hills amphitheater. L.A.’s public transportation is a hidden, underutilized gem, and it comes in handy for concerts here. Take the Metro Red Line to the Hollywood/Highland station and walk past all the suckers paying $40 for stacked parking.
Griffith Park | Free | LApark.org
L.A. is famously park-poor, but this vast network of trails has plenty to uncover. Check out the hike through the ruins of the Old L.A. Zoo.
Lakers game | From $34 | NBA.com/Lakers/Schedule
If you’re really committed to getting a slice of celebrity culture, skip Hollywood and come to a Friday night at Staples Center instead. Losing record aside, the Lakers are still the best sports ticket in town.
The Broad | Free | thebroad.org
Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Ruscha are a few of the headliners from L.A.’s brand-new contemporary art museum. The $140 million building is an architectural feat, situated downtown near the Walt Disney Concert Hall, another iconic structure.
What to Pack
The Gear You’ll Want
Poplin Shorts by Aether $85
Herring Cashmere Sweater by The Elder Statesman $1,240