If you’re wondering what to do in Los Angeles for a week, I can help. I traveled to this US destination twice (well, three times if you count that one dinner during a road trip) and have gathered my experiences into a one-week itinerary including places to go, things to see and where to stay.
I wrote about my trips to Los Angeles in the past but as I’d only just started blogging back then, the information was scattered over different articles and so I decided to compile everything in this one-week program for Los Angeles. It talks about all the things I did when I was there in 2012 and 2013, presented in a bit more of a pleasant form than it used to be. At least, so I hope.
- One week in Los angeles – Day 1: Santa Monica
- One week in Los angeles – Day 2: Venice Beach
- One week in Los Angeles – Day 3: Downtown LA Now, you can perfectly walk around Downtown LA, but real Angelenos take the car for everything, and so did we. We drove to Olympic & Figueroa and walked up to the L.A. Live complex where we saw the Staples Center, the Nokia Theatre, the Grammy Museum and so on. We then walked to Figueroa & 9th to have a look at the Original Pantry Cafe. “The Pantry”, as it is called by locals, opened in 1924 and has never closed since, catering customers 24/7, even though it switched locations once. In 1950, the Original Pantry Cafe moved to its current building because the government had acquired the old one to build a freeway ramp there. On the day of the move, the employees served lunch at the old location and dinner at the new one. That’s pretty badass. To be honest, we wouldn’t have checked it out if it hadn’t been so close to where we already were. As we weren’t hungry or thirsty at the time we didn’t go in, which I kind of regret now. We did take a photo (oh yeah, we were that touristy that day): From The Original Pantry it’s only a short drive to Angels Flight. Angels Flight is the shortest railway in the world, covering about 300 feet. It was opened in 1901 to carry prominent citizens up and down the steep hill between Olive and Hill Street. Angels Flight was taken out of use and dismantled in 1969 because the city wanted to renew the Bunker Hill Neighborhood. When it was eventually put together again in 1996, it was moved half a block south so that it could take pedestrians up to the California Plaza. The original station house, rail cars Oliver and Sinai and the station arches are still being used, but the driving mechanism is only there for ‘decoration’. We took the railway up to California Plaza, had a look around and up. It was only after we got back down that we discovered the Grand Central Market right across the street from Angels Flight. Woops! Already indoctrinated by the American way of being on the move (read: never walk, always take the car), we took the car and drove about a block to the Disney Concert Hall (111 S. Grand Ave.), home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The architecture of the building really reminded me of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, which isn’t surprising as both buildings were designed by the architect Frank Gehry. We got up to the little garden on the rooftop but were a little disappointed. The garden was a nice and quiet place in the midst of the city, but we had both expected just a bit more of it. You know, like a green oasis with a pond and ducks. When we left the building, we walked up to the Cathedral on Temple. We first wanted to visit it, but then we got distracted by a frozen yogurt shop. What do you do. One week in Los Angeles – Day 4: Hiking and shopping
- One week in Los Angeles – Day 5: Malibu and the Getty Villa
- One week in Los Angeles – Day 6: The Walk of Fame, Chinatown and El Pueblo
- One week in Los Angeles – Day 7: Festivals and festivities
- Food, accommodation, tours, and our rental car
- How to get to LA
- Pin for later
- Read more about Los Angeles:
One week in Los angeles – Day 1: Santa Monica
I visited Santa Monica on both of my trips to LA and twice on Labor Day in September. All the shops are open then, but it’s best to go early to get a parking spot right next to the Santa Monica Pier ($12 for a day at the time).
We made sure to arrive around 10 a.m. twice and that was fine. It allowed us to wander over the pier and cover a large part of the shopping street Third Street Promenade before things got busy and when they did, we simply headed to the beach.
By the way, a fun place to stop for lunch when you’re shopping is the Pancake House (no idea if it’s actually called that way, sorry) on Third Street Promenade.
The beach, the pier, and the stores really are Santa Monica’s three main attractions. At the pier, you can see street artists performing from early noon until late at night or people trying their hand at fishing.
Santa Monica Place lies adjacent to Third Street Promenade and the entire shopping area is just a 5-minute walk from the pier and the beach.
The beach is so wide that you’ll always find a spot although it can get crowded right along the waterline. If you’re looking for something a bit more active, you can always walk, rollerblade or bike along the beach promenade.
Something strange that I noticed the second time I visited, was that the little beach on the right of the pier was super full with families while it was a lot less crowded on the other side. It might just have been a coincidence, but it was striking, as if all families flocked together there.
Want to take a tour in Santa Monica?
Check GetYourGuide for a selection of tours around Santa Monica.
One week in Los angeles – Day 2: Venice Beach
Venice Beach lies right next to Santa Monica and you can easily walk or bike there, but I twice took a separate day for it. There are several paid parking lots not too far from the beach. We once paid $10/day on Pacific Avenue but saw lower prices elsewhere, so it might be worth driving around a bit if you’re watching your budget.
Now, most people know Venice Beach because of Muscle Beach, the outdoor gym, but what I mostly noticed is how diverse this beach town is. On the one hand, there’s the more touristy part of the beach which has a bit of a more grungy feel to it. There’s graffiti everywhere and street artists share the boulevard with beggars.
You’ll find souvenir shops here as well, but they’re a bit darker and more alternative than the kind you’ll encounter in Spanish coastal towns, for example.
Although we’d seen beggars in Santa Monica as well, the ambiance here was entirely different. I had this feeling that there were two kinds of people living in Venice Beach: the ‘upper class’ that didn’t leave their house too often and went shopping at the more expensive Abbot Kinney Blvd and the artsier and ‘alternative’ people who meet on the streets.
The beach itself is wide like in Santa Monica and in one spot there’s a pretty cool skate park right on the sand.
And then there are the Venice Canals, a beautiful area with big, often very modern houses. In summer, the water in the canals lies low, but we spotted several little boats so I imagine that when it rains for a while, people can actually do a little boat tour here.
It’s a quiet neighborhood without any big roads or lots of people on the street. I even felt a bit like an intruder when I took photos, but I just had to capture some of the amazing houses we saw.
From the Venice Canals, it’s not too far to the harbor of Marina del Rey, but I found that to be a bit disappointing. I’d expected a harbor that would be nice to take a stroll around, but this was more just a collection of boats that you could spot from afar. Maybe my expectations were a bit too European?