How to spend a day in West Hollywood, LA’s high-energy playground

West Hollywood is one part of LA you can explore on foot  (Visit WeHo)
West Hollywood is one part of LA you can explore on foot (Visit WeHo)

It’s a novel thing to be able to describe a neighbourhood in Los Angeles as walkable. And while West Hollywood and its gaudy, wide main streets flanked by cartoonishly skinny coco palms are still very much on-brand for LA, this corner of the sprawling City of Angels is easily navigable on foot.

Often referred to by its shortened name of WeHo, it’s home to a plethora of seductive arts and design stores lining Melrose Avenue, while the neon lights and rock ‘n’ roll hedonism of Sunset Boulevard are still as alluring today as they were in the 1960s. Yes, there’s Hollywood stardust here, but this neighbourhood feels more accessible than you might expect, with a delightful number of historic pop culture spots to explore. Just remember to stay cool if Al Pacino is sipping coffee at the table next to you.

Here’s how to make the most of your time in West Hollywood.

Sunrise over West Hollywood (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Sunrise over West Hollywood (Getty Images/iStockphoto)


Rock Sunset Strip

Fast-walking and fast-talking, local Jon D’Amico is the gregarious host of the award-winning Rock ’n Walk Sunset Strip tours and there’s no better way of getting to know WeHo’s star-studded past. He leads a three-hour tour up and down the Sunset Strip, with impressive access to myriad landmarks and lesser-known curiosities. Expect wild rock tales, macabre vignettes and quirky facts (he also takes all the photos you could need along the way).

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Take in a show

Is there anywhere in the world with more legendary stages inside a two-mile radius? The Troubadour is where a young Elton John got his big American break, while bands are dramatically revealed from behind a curtain on the Viper Room’s intimate upstairs stage. Further up the Sunset Strip, anyone who’s anyone has picked up the mic at the Comedy Store and big names still play almost every night, even if it’s just a short 10-minute set to polish their act.

The Troubadour has welcomed artists for more than 65 years (James March)
The Troubadour has welcomed artists for more than 65 years (James March)

Hit the hills

LA’s hills tumble down onto West Hollywood and those snaking streets showcase some fabulous views across the city, as well as several iconic filming locations. Bikes and Hikes offers a range of tours from its base on Santa Monica Boulevard, covering everything from grandiose five-hour bike rides across LA to hikes up to the Griffith Observatory, itself a notable part of movies such as La La Land and Rebel Without a Cause.

The view over LA from the Griffith Observatory (James March)
The view over LA from the Griffith Observatory (James March)


Sunset Tower

Rising from the Sunset Strip like an Art deco wedding cake, the Sunset Tower’s entrance is strangely low-key and its elegant dining room is open to the public all week (apart from Sunday nights). Yes, this will be a pricey experience, but the sweeping cityscapes, tranquil atmosphere and old-world walnut-panelled walls are worth it. Order the sublime tuna tartare and definitely ask for the full story of John Wayne’s penthouse here, complete with the balcony milking cow.

Tail O’ the Pup

Few cities do kitsch better than LA. Besides, who wouldn’t want to buy a hot dog from a stand shaped like an actual hot dog? Since 1946, this historic LA spot has lived a charmed life, disappearing and reappearing again at several locations, but Tail O’ the Pup is now settled on Santa Monica Boulevard. The “1976 pup” is their classic dog with ketchup and house mustard, while the fiery “jalapeno pup” will spice up a very affordable Hollywood lunch.

Dan Tana’s

With its unassuming entrance, cosy family atmosphere and red and white checked tablecloths, Dan Tana’s has been serving up some of LA’s finest Italian comfort food since 1964. It’s also been a favourite haunt of the Hollywood glitterati over the years, maybe because they heard over the grapevine about the restaurant’s famously decadent cheese-drizzled chicken parmigiana.

Dialog Cafe

Brunch is sacred in LA and Dialog Cafe is the perfect altar from which to worship. Not only is the food exceptionally well prepared (there’s a reason for the regular line outside), but its Sunset Boulevard street corner location is also an ideal spot to people-watch while listening in on salacious Hollywood stories at the table next to you. The English breakfast muffin is so good, there’s no shame in ordering two.


The Rainbow Bar and Grill

Despite being a favourite rock ‘n’ roll hangout of everyone from John Lennon to Guns ‘n’ Roses, it’s Motörhead’s late Lemmy Kilmister who is most associated with the Rainbow, such was his love of playing the barside video poker machine while nursing several Jack Daniel’s and cokes; he even has his own statue there now. Inside the Rainbow’s low-lit lounge there’s old memorabilia and hundreds of band photographs scattered around the walls, so grab a JD and coke and take it all in.

The Bayou

Nearly 40 per cent of WeHo’s population identifies as LGBT+ and the neighbourhood fizzes with queer nightlife every week between Robertson and La Cienega on Santa Monica Boulevard. Compact but capable of making plenty of noise, New Orleans Mardi Gras-themed The Bayou is a good spot to start (especially with $2 happy hour beers from 4pm to 8pm).

Roger Room

Tucked away near music and comedy club Largo on La Cienega Boulevard, the Roger Room is a low-key bar that’s perfect for a pre- or post-show drink. Not only do they serve some of WeHo’s finest cocktails, they’ve also got a strange affection for absinthe and even have an entire section of the menu dedicated to creative concoctions using the green fairy.

Barney’s Beanery

A big slice of old-fashioned Americana, Barney’s Beanery has been around for over 100 years and its interior is a wild American fever dream. Think neon signs, rainbow-striped booths, historic license plates above the bar, hanging flags, scuffed pool tables, bleeping Pac-Man machines and who knows what else. The absurd number of TVs here also makes it a fine spot for a Sunday afternoon sports escape.


Mystery Pier and Book Soup

Dealing only in first editions, Mystery Pier is a quiet family-run book store in a green cottage featuring some rather eye-popping titles, including the first separate printings of Shakespeare’s plays and 1930s editions of Hemingway classics. More conventional titles and big-name author talks are found next door at the charming Book Soup.

Melrose Trading Post

Got a free Sunday and space in your luggage? The Melrose Trading Post takes place every weekend at Fairfax High School and is a breezy outdoor market, selling everything from artisan pottery to vintage postcards. It’s also a great spot for LA- or California-themed artwork to take home.

Leica Store

The Leica Store’s airy minimalist space is browsing heaven. Celebrating all things photography through coffee table books, retro cameras and sleek bags, the store’s upstairs gallery features a coffee bar, outdoor terrace and revolving collections of work by the likes of Martin Parr.


Petit Ermitage

Lose hours on the rooftop of Petit Ermitage (Visit WeHo)
Lose hours on the rooftop of Petit Ermitage (Visit WeHo)

Masked by lush foliage on a quiet side street off Santa Monica Boulevard, the Petit Ermitage is a plush escape from the Hollywood buzz, with the pièce de résistance being its private French Riviera-themed rooftop. Each of the 80 suites is stylish and airy, but the rooftop is the place to be. With its heated pool, orange and white striped beds, gentle jazz soundtrack, blinking fairy lights and central fire pit, this dreamy space will fill you with lofty LA dreams before the night is out.

Ramada Plaza

With some of the world’s most famous hotels in one neighbourhood, budget hotels aren’t easy to find, but the Ramada Plaza is good value. Sat on the site of the former Tropicana Motel (where The Doors’ Jim Morrison once lived), the Ramada is well-located on Santa Monica Boulevard, and its smart rooms and secluded swimming pool are more than enough for a few nights.

Getting there

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, United and Delta all offer direct flights from London Heathrow to LA.

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