Covering more than 500 square miles, Los Angeles is as vast as it is diverse. While the Californian city is renowned for its iconic tourist destinations such as Hollywood and Beverly Hills, it also boasts dozens of unique neighborhoods with strong and distinct local identities, each offering their own fascinating glimpse into LA’s past, present and future.
Here at TravelMag.com we invited 50 professionals with links to the city to participate in a survey in which they voted for what they consider to be Los Angeles’ most charming neighborhoods. Those surveyed came from a range of professions, including photographers, real estate agents and film industry professionals. After compiling their votes, we totted up the numbers to come up with the following list, which appears in alphabetical order, of the ten most charming neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
Echo Park traces its roots back to the early days of Hollywood. Several film studios based here in the 1910s still stand today and their legacy has been recognised by being officially designated with ‘cultural monument’ status. These days, Echo Park also draws sports fans to Dodger Stadium, home to the LA Dodgers baseball team, as well as visitors to the neighborhood’s charming eponymous lake, which is known for its swan pedal boats and annual Lotus Festival, a two-day celebration of Asian Pacific cultures. Just a short walk from the lake are several excellent restaurants along Sunset Boulevard.
Dating back to the 1920s, when it was developed by the Hancock family with profits earned from oil drilling, the central LA neighborhood of Hancock Park positively exudes charm. Despite LA’s growth over the past 100 years, Hancock Park has retained its neighborhood feel, and is today renowned for its liberal sprinkling of well-preserved, architecturally-impressive mansions. A walk along the neighborhood’s sidewalks offers a chance to admire these Italian Revival and Tudor mansions – complete with sprawling lawns – in all their glory.
Located northeast of downtown LA, the historic neighborhood of Highland Park has experienced rapid change and growth in recent years. It is now easily accessible via the Metro Gold Line and has several quaint, pedestrian-friendly areas that are ideal for a casual stroll. Notable spots to visit include a number of mid-century modern furniture stores, a retro bowling alley and several local breweries. The neighbourhood is also home to an eclectic array of restaurants, including El Huarache Azteca, a local favorite for over 20 years.
Larchmont Village packs a lot of charm into its half-square-mile confines. Its main thoroughfare is Larchmont Boulevard, a tree-lined street ideal for an afternoon walk, perhaps with an iced coffee or gelato in hand. In addition to coffee and ice cream vendors, Larchmont Boulevard also has a range of eateries and shops. A weekly farmer’s market along with the oldest independent book store in Los Angeles are also major draws.
Located in central Los Angeles and bordered by the glitzier and more famous district of Hollywood, Los Feliz has a charming neighborhood feel. Most of its restaurants, shops and vintage stores can be found along the pedestrian-friendly Hillhurst and Vermont Avenues, and the hillside neighborhood is also home to popular outdoor spaces including Griffith Park, the Greek Theater and Barnsdall Art Park. Los Feliz is also known for its residential homes designed by world-renowned architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House and Richard Neutra’s Lovell House.
Less than a 10-minute drive from the center of Hollywood, the size of North Hollywood makes it more akin to a city suburb than a humble neighborhood. Its main draw is the charming NoHo Arts District, an artsy, pedestrian-friendly urban village that’s teeming with cafes, shops and art galleries, as well as over 30 theaters. North Hollywood is also known for having one of the largest concentrations of recording studios west of the Mississippi.
Home to Sunset Junction, a hub of unique shopping and dining venues at the intersection of Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards, Silver Lake combines authentic local charm with plenty of amenities. Turn a corner and you may find yourself on one of the neighborhood’s hidden staircases, an ode to Los Angeles’ streetcar past. Centered around a reservoir of the same name, Silver Lake is also rimmed by a 2+ mile loop and is a popular hangout for couples, friends and exercise buddies.
Just over the hill from Hollywood, Studio City dates back to the early days of film. Indeed, the neighbourhood itself is named after a studio lot that was built here in the silent film era. Now, Studio City is almost as well known for its shops and restaurants that line the iconic Ventura Boulevard. It’s also where you can see one of Los Angeles’ most distinctive street features: winding streets that meander up into the hills, lined by beautiful houses and affording stunning views of the San Fernando Valley. While such neighborhood streets aren’t really walkable, they are worth a drive for the vistas alone.
Nestled between Burbank and North Hollywood lies the small, but charming neighborhood of Toluca Lake. Th neighborhood was established back in 1923 and has a natural spring-fed lake and golf course. Toluca Lake is centered around a small strip of shops and restaurants on Riverside Drive, most notably what is said to be oldest remaining branch of Bob’s Big Boy – a chain of diners serving American comfort food. Numerous celebrities, including Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Justin Bieber, have called Toluca Lake home over the years, with its residential streets lined with impressive homes and beautiful gardens.
Last but not least is Venice Beach, a buzzing bohemian beach town with no shortage of attractions. Its vibrant oceanfront boardwalk, skatepark and bike path are a hub of activity seven days a week, while Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a mile-long stretch of shops and restaurants, offers plenty of high-end retail therapy. The Venice Canal Historic District, modeled after the city of the same name in Italy, is a delightful place to stroll and admire the canals and houses.