Los Angeles is a city of spontaneous generation, a vortex of power and flash that draws those seeking a fresh start, unfettered fabulousness, or a place to land a real job adjacent to a surfing beach. Angelenos won't ask where you went to school; rather, they want to know what you're doing now, this very minute—and maybe what car you drive. L.A. is, naturally, most famous for its screen gems, glitter, and glitz, but it's also home to thriving art and fashion scenes, miles of hiking trails and beaches, serious chefs, and even more serious philanthropy.
Yes, Los Angeles is the antithesis of a walking city, but smart retailers have clustered to encourage pedestrian-friendly strips of hard-core consumerism.
Robertson Boulevard L.A.'s trendier stores can be found in this Beverly Hills-bordering shopping zone. Stylists scouting for fashion shoots make a beeline to Lisa Kline (women's: 136 S. Robertson Blvd.; men's: 123 S. Robertson Blvd.; 310-246-0907). Kitson (115 S. Robertson Blvd.; 310-859-2652) is eclectic, with everything from exotically scented Kai candles to Juicy Couture jeans and Nicky Hilton-designed dog carriers. At Clergerie (108 N. Robertson Blvd.; 310-276-8907), fashion and comfort unite in the French designer's shoes for women. C by Karina (116 S. Robertson Blvd.; 310-777-0231) has the latest in eyewear, and Harari (110 S. Robertson Blvd.; 310-275-3211) features floaty, outré, Asian-inspired dresses.
Melrose Place It's easy to miss this offshoot of Melrose Avenue. There are all sorts of well-established antiques and chandelier shops here, such as the Rose Tarlow-Melrose House (8454 Melrose Pl.; 323-651-2202), where this sensational L.A.-based designer sells her furnishings, fabrics, and wallpapers. The glass-fronted Marni (8460 Melrose Pl.; 323-782-1100), ideal for stylish bohemians, laid stakes on Melrose along with a row of ivy-covered boutiques, including those of leather maestro Henry Beguelin (8436 Melrose Pl.; 323-653-1905), surfer turned cult designer Tracy Feith (women's: 8446 Melrose Pl., 323-658-7464; men's: 8428 Melrose Pl., 323-655-1444), and fine jeweler Joann Smyth (8444 Melrose Pl.; 323-951-0635).
West Third Street Of-the-moment shops sit shoulder to shoulder with old neighborhood stalwarts on this West Hollywood street. For styles at once feminine and tailored, shoe lovers visit—and revisit—Sigerson Morrison (8307 W. Third St.; 323-655-6133). Though specializing in shoes, Satine (8117 W. Third St.; 323-655-2142), is also stocked with a variety of clothes from young designers, such as the quirky/sexy blouses of Roland Mouret. Noodle Stories (8323 W. Third St.; 323-651-1782) stocks cutting-edge minimalist clothes for women. At OK (8303 W. Third St.; 323-653-3501), a gallerylike gift shop, head for the hard-to-find Comme des Garçons accessories, and at Puppies & Babies (8363 W. Third St.; 323-653-3995) there's a wide range of offerings, from colorful Italian-leather leashes (yes, for dogs!) to hand-knit children's blankets.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard The Abbot Kinney Boulevard area, in the beach town of Venice, retains its boho vibe even though it's home to the likes of Frank Gehry, Anjelica Huston, and Robert Graham. Pamela Barish (1327 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; 310-314-4490) offers classic silhouettes in exquisite fabrics, jazzed up with offbeat linings and flashy antique buttons. Among the closely edited clothes at Salt (1138 1/2 Abbott Kinney Blvd.; 310-452-1154) are its handpicked contemporary lines—Hussein Chalayan's latest, for one—not seen elsewhere. Tortoise (1208 Abbot Kinney Blvd.; 310-314-8448) sells housewares in an old cottage, presenting beautiful bent cedar bowls and cast-iron incense pots. Within the tranquil tea garden of Jin Patisserie (1202 Abbott Kinney Blvd.; 310-399-8801), shoppers nibble on Asian-style palm-size cakes.
Montana Avenue This Santa Monica strip is where mod Angelenos tote their toddlers and yoga mats—in other words, it's trendy. Along with skin-care shops such as Dermalogica (1022 Montana Ave.; 310-260-8682) and Jurlique (1230 Montana Ave.; 310-899-1923), the street has the casual, funked-up clothing of Planet Blue (800 14th St.; 310-394-0135), the grander styles of Morgane LeFay (1404 Montana Ave.; 310-393-4447), and flirty little frocks by Leona Edmiston (1007 Montana Ave.; 310-587-1100). Susan Stone's Savannah (706 Montana Ave.; 310-458-2095), a mecca for luxe sportswear, offers Jil Sander, Ungaro, Valentino, Lanvin, Alaïa—and fine vintage jewelry.
PLACES TO STAY
The best of L.A. is, in many ways, reflected by its hotels: stylish, varied, contemporary, and very much in tandem with what Lawrence Durrell once called a sense of place. Not to say that we love them all. Our hit list has everything from the sensationally glamorous to thoroughly modern.
At Hotel Bel-Air ( rates, $395-$3,500; 701 Stone Canyon Rd., Bel Air; 310-472-1211), discretion is key. This is where the real Hollywood—and anyone else with impeccable taste—retreats for lunch, dinner, or a long weekend, say, in the Grace Kelly Suite ($1,700 per night), which has a lovely private patio and an even more private whirlpool. Regent Beverly Wilshire ( rates, $395-$7,500; 9500 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills; 310-275-5200) couldn't be more different: But then it is also ideal for shopping Rodeo Drive. There's the old-world grandeur of its Presidential Suite and the brand-new Boulevard lobby restaurant, plus Wolfgang Puck promises his first steak house ever this fall.
Ali Kasikci, managing director of the Peninsula Beverly Hills ( rates, $425-$3,500; 9882 S. Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-551-2888), has a collection of 438 Hermès ties—he's absolutely sure; he recently counted. Not only in his personal dress but also in everything he does at the hotel you sense a master hotelier's flawless touch—whether it be the service at afternoon tea or in the choice of staff, like our favorite concierge Maritza Alvarado. Freesia-lined pathways behind the main hotel lead to 16 private garden villas that for some inexplicable reason are a secret to many.
The Beverly Hills Hotel ( rates, $425-$5,620; 9641 Sunset Blvd.; 310-276-2251) is, of course, featured throughout our fashion portfolio "Welcome to L.A." That wallpaper! The coffee shop! The Polo Lounge! The swimming pool is one of the most glamorous ever, and the swanky La Prairie Spa is very 21st century.
Raffles L'Ermitage ( rates, $440-$3,800; 9291 Burton Way; 310-278-3344) has its own very devoted following with a minimalist design best described as luxe Asian and high-tech everything—TVs, phones, and faxes can be found even in the rooftop pool cabanas. The Four Seasons ( rates, $375-$4,500; 300 S. Doheny Dr.; 310-273-2222) is the favored site for studio press junkets; the lively bar attracts celebrities who come to snack on the signature mini Kobe-beef burgers. At the spa, ask for a manicure from Genia Gregorian. Jeffrey Klein (profiled in "Welcome to L.A."), owner of the City Club in New York, is renovating The Argyle (rates, $225-$1,500; 8358 W. Sunset Blvd.; 323-654-7100), an Art Deco landmark. Designer Paul Fortune, who did Marc Jacobs's Paris apartment, is behind the très élégant revamp. Overlooking the sea, Shutters at the Beach ( rates, $445-$2,750; 1 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-458-0030) lends a gracious Nantucket-goes-West feel. The newly opened Ole Henriksen spa within provides Vichy-shower rooms and a trademark Nature Baby treatment that ends with guests coddled in a milk-and-honey wrap.
Diets like the Zone and Atkins have turned the steak house into the culinary health club, and Mastro's Steakhouse (246 N. Cañon Dr.; 310-888-8782) is one of the city's best. Massive cuts, like a 33-ounce rib eye, are broiled at 1,600 degrees and served on 500-degree plates. At A.O.C. (8022 W. Third St.; 323-653-6359), enormously celebrated chef Suzanne Goin of Lucques and restaurateur Caroline Styne give tapas a contemporary sophisticated spin and deliver a top-grade array of wines by the glass. (The charcuterie bar is the prime spot to sit.) Sona (401 N. La Cienega Blvd.; 310-659-7708) is one of the best dining rooms in town, thanks to David and Michelle Myers, who combine produce from the farmers' market with serious culinary techniques in a quiet, elegant atmosphere. Across the street is Michelle's patisserie, Boule (420 N. La Cienega Blvd.; 310-289-9977).
Olive trees strung with tiny lights dot the patio of Bastide (8475 Melrose Pl.; 323-651-5950), which was designed by Andrée Putman. This very French establishment has, not surprisingly, a deeply Gallic wine list and offers the remarkable talents of chef Ludovic Lefebvre. At Josie, a chic and intimate restaurant complete with a fireplace and sexy bar in the back (2424 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica; 310-581-9888), Josie LeBalch fuses her love of game, such as venison and boar, with a fluency in French, Italian, and California cuisine. Josiah Citrin is well known for his intricate tasting menus at Mélisse (1104 Wilshire Blvd.; 310-395-0881). And Wolfgang Puck's Spago Beverly Hills (176 N. Cañon Dr.; 310-385-0880) continues to defy the odds—after 23 years in business, seven at this location, the restaurant is still at the top of its game with chef Lee Hefter and, on pastry, Sherry Yard.
ART GALLERIES ET AL
The major museums—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the downtown Museum of Contemporary Art, and the UCLA Hammer Museum—are only the beginning. At Bergamot Station (2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; 310-829-5854), once a stop on the Red Car Trolley Line, you will find the Santa Monica Museum of Art (310-586-6488) and 21 contemporary galleries. Start here to get a true sense of the real Los Angeles art scene, second only to New York's. Rosamund Felsen (310-828-8488) has been a key arbiter of the best art for decades. Track 16 (310-264-4678) shows edgier artists (actor Viggo Mortensen is one), and the Gallery of Functional Art (310-829-6990) sells one-of-a-kind wares, from African dolls to mother-of-pearl brooches. Make a point of visiting the Suzanne Felsen jewelry gallery (whose owner is Rosamund's daughter; 310-315-1972) for drop earrings and rings for women; for men there are cuff links in stunning combinations of colored stones. The Margo Leavin Gallery (812 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-273-0603), one of L.A.'s most prestigious, displays works by Jasper Johns, Alex Smith, John Baldessari, and Claes Oldenburg. L.A. Louver (45 N. Venice Blvd., Venice; 310-822-4955) features seminal West Coasters like David Hockney and Ken Price. Newcomer Cartelle Gallery (310 Washington Blvd., #119, Marina del Rey; 310-574-9689) is worth watching for significant up-and-comers.
FITNESS & BEAUTY
Los Angeles is obsessed with wellness and beauty. Two of our favorite insider spots are, luckily, open to outsiders on a day-rate basis. Max Strom, Saul David Raye, and Shiva Rea are the revered talents at Sacred Movement Center for Yoga and Healing ($15 per class; 245 S. Main St., Venice; 310-450-7676), a leader in the packed landscape of yoga studios. Barry's Bootcamp ($18 a class plus an $8 new-member fee; 1106 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood; 310-360-6262) is a military-tough one-hour cardio and strength workout. (No reservation is required at either center.)
For pampering, stop by Kinara (656 N. Robertson Blvd.; 310-657-9188), the ultimate day spa/boutique/restaurant, which is owned by Christine Splichal (wife of chef and Patina founder Joachim) and facialist Olga Lorencin-Northrup. Its dining highlights include salads with goji berries (reputed to turn the clock back, they can also be eaten during your pedicure). For hair: Byron Williams (407 N. Robertson Blvd.; 310-276-4470) gives a great blowout. In the appointment book at Chris McMillan The Salon (8944 Burton Way, Beverly Hills; 310-285-0088) are such names as Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Cindy Crawford. The salon of Sally Hershberger at John Frieda (8440 Melrose Pl.; 323-653-4040) is famous for the breathtakingly priced $600 haircut. For coloring, Nicole Kidman trusts Sigrid Mahan at Jonathan (9681 Wilshire Blvd.; 310-273-9999). Finally, Studio at Fred Segal (500 N. Broadway, Santa Monica; 310-394-8509) delivers some of the best cosmetics, lotions, and bath products—custom-made oils, scented candles, and body butters that you may be tempted to spoon up rather than lather on.
Rodeo Address Book
BADGLEY MISCHKA 202 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-248-3750
BALLY 340 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-3310
BANG & OLUFSEN 369 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-247-7785
BARAKAT 405 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-859-8408
BERNINI 344-346 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-246-1121
BIJAN 420 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-273-6544
BOTTEGA VENETA 457 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-858-6533
BRIONI 337 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-1300
BROOKS BROTHERS 468 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-274-4003
BULGARI 201 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-858-9216
CARTIER 401 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-275-4272
CELINE 313 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-273-1243
CHANEL 400 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-278-5500
CHOPARD 328 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-550-7220
CHRISTIAN DIOR 309 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-859-4700
COLE HAAN 260 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-859-7622
DOLCE & GABBANA 312 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-888-8701
ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA 301 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-247-8827
FENDI 355 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-276-8888
FREDERIC FEKKAI 440 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-777-8700
FRETTE 459 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-273-8540
GIANFRANCO FERRE 270 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-273-3211
GIORGIO ARMANI 436 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-5555
GIORGIO BEVERLY HILLS 329 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-275-2550
GUCCI 347 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-278-3451
GUCCI FINE JEWELRY 220 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-6896
HARRY WINSTON 371 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-8554
HERMES 434 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-278-6440
HUGO BOSS 414 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-859-2888
ICEBERG 280 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-274-0760
JUDITH RIPKA 234 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-275-3013
LACOSTE 447 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-385-0655
LALIQUE 317 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-7892
LANA MARKS 465 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-274-5240
LA PERLA 433 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-860-0561
LLADRO 408 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-385-0690
LOUIS VUITTON 295 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-859-0457
MAXMARA 323 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-385-9343
MICHAEL KORS 360 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-777-8862
MONTBLANC 439 1/2 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-275-3665
PERSOL FOR MAX & CO. 256 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-275-1999
PORSCHE DESIGN 236 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-205-0095
PRADA 343 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-278-8661
RALPH LAUREN 444 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-281-7200
SALVATORE FERRAGAMO 357 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-273-9990
SERGIO ROSSI 366 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-0111
STEFANO RICCI 431 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-858-9595
STUART WEITZMAN 437 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-860-9600
THEODORE 453 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-276-9691
TIFFANY & CO. 210 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-273-8880
TOD'S 333 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-285-0591
VALENTINO 360 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-247-0103
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS 300 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-276-1161
VERSACE 248 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-205-3921
VILEBREQUIN 9519 Wilshire Blvd.; 310-205-9087
YVES SAINT LAURENT 326 N. Rodeo Dr.; 310-271-4110
For decades "downtown Los Angeles" was an oxymoron: It looked like a downtown and showed off its share of architectural exclamation points, but the area amounted to little more than an isolated stand of high-rises searching for a soul. Now, however, Frank Gehry's new stainless-steel Disney Concert Hall, its billowing sails glistening in the sun, leads a pack of new recruits to the downtown cause. The Museum of Contemporary Art, designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki in 1986, is at the center of an impressive cross axis of buildings past and present. One axis, north-south, heads along Grand Street, from the mid-twenties Central Library (by Bertram Goodhue), past the art museum, Disney hall, and the Music Center, to Spanish architect Rafael Moneo's luminous Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. The east-west axis takes you from Disney hall down First Street, past two Art Moderne landmarks—the Los Angeles Times building and city hall—to the new CalTrans headquarters by hypermodernist architect Thom Mayne. The Geffen Contemporary, designed originally by Gehry to be MoCA's temporary site, lies just beyond in Little Tokyo.
Besides the old and new architectural specimens there is the sizzle of the rooftop bar at The Standard, a hotel nested in the thick of skyscrapers, and the nearby fifties office buildings that have recently been converted to apartments. But what has really shaken things up downtown is the loft movement taking place in the old business district around Spring and Main streets, now spilling over into the twenties movie-palace district along Broadway. The new residents are accelerating the demand for shops, restaurants, galleries, and cafés. L.A.'s creative classes have finally discovered the urbanity of metro living.
A Secret Garden
The more imposing a work of architecture, the harder it is to plant around it; the shrubs and trees can end up looking like the parsley garnish on a main course. Thus, landscape designer Melinda Taylor faced a daunting challenge when Frank Gehry asked her to create the garden at his downtown Walt Disney Concert Hall, a building many critics—including this one—hailed as the first architectural masterpiece of the new century when it opened in 2003.
The structure's metal-clad forms are so assertive that prim Callery pear trees and mannerly yews were out of the question. Taylor chose 100 varieties of plants that are as bold as Gehry's offbeat materials. To keep the garden—atop a parking garage, roughly 50 feet above street level—in bloom year-round, she chose exotica that flower in nonstop sequence: pink Trumpet trees in spring, Naked Coral trees in summer, orange Chinese Pistache trees in fall, and pink Snowball trees in winter. Free-form flower beds swirl around Gehry's glimmering centerpiece, a fountain shaped like a rose in bloom and encrusted with a Gaudíesque mosaic of blue-and-white china shards. The fountain was built in tribute to the hall's principal donor, Lillian Disney, widow of the legendary animator and lover of delftware and horticulture.
Member of Fine Hotels & Resorts