When you need your fix of sun-dappled cityscapes, high-end hotels and celebrity sightings, make your way to Los Angeles for a long weekend escape.
Follow our eventful itinerary to get your culture fix at the wealthiest art institute in the world, be treated to the finest dining, visit a mansion with a celebrated past and take part in a David Beckham-approved fitness class.
And we’re not just talking to domestic travelers when we say that Hollywood is especially enticing right now. Even if you’re in the U.K., you could easily make the trip out on a Thursday and be back on Monday morning, ready for the week ahead. Air New Zealand not only operates daily flights between London Heathrow and Los Angeles International Airport, but it has sleep-friendly options such as the Economy Skycouch that make the trip even more feasible.
Wherever you travel in from, your first stop will be Hotel Bel-Air, a 30-minute cab ride from LAX. Spend as much time as possible soaking up your surroundings in this Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star abode. There’s a reason it has attracted A-list movie stars, British royals, fashion designers, rockers and presidents since its 1946 opening.
If you arrive early enough, start your day with a 20-minute walk through the 12 acres of lush tropical gardens to get your bearings and build up an appetite. Say good morning to the residents of Swan Lake: Athena, Odette, Hercules and Chloe, living representations of the hotel’s official symbol.
Loop round and take a table on the terrace of Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. At the Four-Star spot, you’ll find a broad selection of morning favorites, from blended juices (like honeydew, pineapple and ginger) and fruit platters to a full Bel-Air Breakfast with the works (eggs, roasted fingerling potatoes applewood-smoked bacon, toast).
It’ll be mid-morning by the time you finish and your room probably won’t be ready for a little while longer, so either head to the pool with a good book or take advantage of the house car to visit an excellent nearby cultural spot, The Getty Center.
Get dropped off near the Lower Tram Station, where you then can catch the Getty’s own train up the hill to the museum. Grab a left-hand-side window seat so you don’t miss out on the sweeping Bel-Air views on the way up (that vineyard you see belongs to Rupert Murdoch) . Keep your eyes peeled for the deer grazing on the hillside.
You could pass the whole day at this expansive gallery, but we suggest you allocate two to three hours here. Peruse the vast collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts dating from the ancient world to present day. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Cezanne, David Hockney — they’re all here.
Walk in the direction of the West Pavilion and out to breathtaking panoramic views spanning Bel-Air, Century City, downtown and the San Bernardino Mountains. Even the 405 freeway, the busiest in the U.S., looks aesthetically pleasing (and surprisingly Instagrammable) from this angle. When you’re ready to head back, simply call the hotel to be collected.
Next, check into the property’s Five-Star spa to try the thermal facilities before indulging in a well-deserved treatment. Go all out with the Bel-Air Body Bliss Ritual and enjoy simultaneous facial, hand and foot therapies, or select the Jet Lag Recovery to rejuvenate your body after a long flight and a full day of sightseeing.
After your treatment and a bit of freshening up in the room, whet your appetite for the evening ahead with an aperitif in the hotel’s Bar & Lounge. Cocktail in hand, take in the live music and admire the candid black-and-white Norman Seeff portraits of Mick Jagger, Ray Charles, Tina Turner and the like.
Hold back on the moreish bar snacks, though, for tonight, you’ll have reserved a table at the main restaurant. Sparkling with fairy lights and candles, the terrace where you breakfasted all those hours ago offers an even dreamier ambiance after dark.
The Wolfgang Puck-branded restaurant features a modern Californian menu with a mélange of European and Mediterranean influences, using the freshest, seasonal ingredients from the local farmers market. Whether you’re in the mood for wood-grilled lamb chops or cauliflower steak, housemade tagliatelle with Dungeness crab or the hand-chopped prime beef tartare, you will be taken to the heights of culinary heaven.
After dinner, order a nightcap to sip next to one of the outdoor open fires and bathe in the relaxing scent of burning eucalyptus wood.
Book an early-morning Uber to take you on the 40-minute journey to Venice Beach, where you can pick up a fresh-squeezed juice from Butcher’s Daughter and breathe in the sea air while watching the roller-skaters, runners and dog walkers stride by.
When you’ve had your fill of sights and sand, head back to the hotel for your midday checkout. It’ll then be time to hop in the house car and make the 15-minute drive to Hotel Bel-Air’s sister property, The Beverly Hills Hotel, for the second stop on your tour of the city’s luxurious lodgings.
In direct contrast to the hidden-away Hotel Bel-Air, the Five-Star “Pink Palace” is the place people have come to see and be seen since 1912. Follow in the footsteps of countless household names as you walk up the red carpet and into the cylindrical lobby. See those cute vintage telephones dotted around on the tables? They’re not just for show — pick up the receiver and an operator will be there to connect you to your envious friends back home.
Once you’ve settled in, make your way to the poolside Cabana Café for an iced tea and a casual bite before setting out to tour your chic surrounds.
You have a few choices for the afternoon: follow the Beverly Hills set and head to SoulCycle for a high-intensity spin class by candlelight or partake in a different kind of cardio altogether and do some power walking one block over toward the designer boutiques on Rodeo Drive. (On June 17, Car enthusiasts will want to make a special trip for the 25th Rodeo Drive Concours d’Elegance’s impressive collection of prized vehicles showcased along the famed shopping avenue.)
Either way, be sure to nip into the nearby Beverly Wilshire for a coffee when you’ve exhausted your energy. Not only is this the Four-Star hotel of Pretty Woman fame, its camera-worthy patio offers front-row views to prime people-watching on the popular strip.
Aim to head back to the hotel around 5 p.m. to give yourself time to prepare for the evening.
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining options near this exclusive address. If you don’t feel like the fuss of L.A. traffic, simply head to the hotel’s storied Polo Lounge, where a menu of American fare with an Italian flair is served in ambient surroundings and accompanied by live jazz.
Alternatively, you won’t go wrong trying one of the other memorable restaurants in this star-studded neighborhood. For clever cocktails and inventive Spanish cuisine in a Philippe Starck-designed space, head 2.5 miles over to The Bazaar by José Andrés within Forbes Travel Guide Recommended SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, A Luxury Collection Hotel.
If it’s a Saturday, swing by the hotel’s Polo Gardens for the 9:30 a.m. yoga class. The complimentary hour-long session is suitable for all levels and will set you up physically and mentally for your final day of the trip.
Follow your morning meditation with a breakfast of champions at the onsite Fountain Coffee Room. This 1950s-style diner is an intimate spot with seats perched around the curved soda-fountain counter, filled with the sweet scent of the pancakes, milkshakes and java being made to order.
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Once you’ve had your fill of bacon and eggs, ask the house car to take you to Greystone Mansion. If you can time your visit to coincide with one of the tours, all the better. This imposing limestone manor is an architectural treat, with the added benefit of an interesting past. You’ll likely recognize the house and grounds from one of the many projects filmed there, most notably Ghostbusters, X-Men and The Social Network.
Another popular local pastime is hiking, and you’ll be relatively close to some great trails from the mansion or hotel. We suggest one of the Griffith Park routes, which allow you to take in views of the iconic Hollywood sign and provide ample opportunities for memorable selfies.
While away the rest of the afternoon at The Beverly Hills Hotel pool, among the vertiginous palms, lime trees and white roses. Make time to take a dip, if only for the novelty of hearing the music played underwater.
Then take a cab over to the Original Farmers Market for any last-minute shopping. Open since 1934 at Third and Fairfax, the venue is a haven for foodies, with the colorful Dylan’s Candy Bar and Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market among its highlights.
If fashion is more your thing, shopping and lifestyle destination The Grove is right next door.
Should you make it back to the hotel before sunset, go to the front desk and ask about the secret elevator to the roof. This little-known destination is usually out of bounds to guests, but if you ask sweetly, someone will take you up. As you walk out, turn your head to the right and you’ll spy a similar scene made famous by The Eagles’ Hotel California album — a picture-perfect end to three fabulous days in L.A.