Where to stay in Los Angeles first time: Best areas

The best areas to stay in Los Angeles for first-timers are Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Downtown LA, Westwood, and Venice Beach because they are the most popular areas for tourists that offer a wide range of attractions and amenities. In this post, I will help you to decide where to stay in Los Angeles for the first time, with and without a car, for couples, families, and on a budget, as well as the safest places to stay in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles is generally a safe place to visit, but as in any tourist area, you should alway stay alert, choose the safe neighborhood to stay in such as Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, and Santa Monica. You should avoid some unsafe areas such as Skid Row, West Adams, Compton, Boyle Heights.

Hollywood is the best place to stay in Los Angeles for first-timers due to its close proximity to the top tourist landmarks such as the Hollywood sign, Hollywood Boulevard, TCL Chinese Theatre, and Universal Studios. Hollywood also offers a wide range of accommodations, shopping, dining, and nightlife for all budget travelers. 

Los Angeles is a huge city and it has the worst traffic in America, first-timers are recommended to stay in tourist hubs of LA with easy access to attractions such as Hollywood and Santa Monica. 

It is best to have a rental car, but if you plan to travel without a car, don’t worry, many people do that, you can rely on public transportation, rideshare, and choose the right neighborhoods to book a stay. Hollywood, Downtown LA, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica are some of the best areas to stay in LA without a car.

💖 Best Area for first-timers: Hollywood
💎 Best luxury hotel:Loews Hollywood Hotel
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:The Hollywood Roosevelt
💰 Best budget hotel:Holiday Inn Express Hollywood Walk of Fame, an IHG Hotel

10 Best areas to stay in Los Angeles for tourists

1. Hollywood, where to stay in Los Angeles for first-timers

Hollywood is the best area to stay in Los Angeles for first-time travelers because it is the major tourist hub of the city. If you stay here, you will be located within easy access to the most popular tourist attractions of LA such as Hollywood Boulevard, Griffith Observatory, Universal Studios, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and Hollywood sign. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops here.

Hollywood is the center of the American entertainment industry, home of many movie studios and movie stars. Also known as Tinseltown, Hollywood was founded in 1887 by the Father of Hollywood, H.J. Whitley.

Hollywood is the birthplace of Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, and Universal Pictures studio. Hollywood Boulevard is a famous street, packed with iconic museums, theaters and Hollywood landmarks. 

Start exploring Hollywood Boulevard from the shopping and entertainment center called Ovation Hollywood, formerly Hollywood & Highland, located at the junction of Hollywood Blvd and Highland Ave. Ovation Hollywood is centered around many Hollywood’s attractions.

Ovation Hollywood encompasses two whole blocks that are home to shops, restaurants, TV broadcast studios, a nightclub, Loews Hollywood Hotel, and Dolby Theatre where the Academy Awards are held.

Hollywood Highland Center has multiple viewpoints that offer views of the Hollywood Sign. Other places offer views of the famous Hollywood sign at the Griffith Observatory, Lake Hollywood Park, Hollywood Bowl, or take a Hollywood Sign hiking tour to the top of the hill.

Step away from Hollywood & Highland is the TCL Chinese Theatre, originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where you can see the handprints, footprints, and autographs of the stars at Forecourt of the Stars. 

Another must-see in the 1920’s movie palace at the El Capitan Theatre, operated by the Walt Disney Company.

A visit to LA is not complete without visiting the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stretching 15 blocks of Hollywood Boulevard and 3 blocks of Vine Street. You can see handprints and signatures along the sidewalk of many famous movie stars such as Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, and Walt Disney.

There are plenty of museums worth a visit in Hollywood. Madame Tussauds Hollywood is the world’s most famous wax museum to see your favorite celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Leonardo DiCaprio. 

There are also the Hollywood Museum, Ripleys Believe it or Not, Hollywood Heritage Museum, Museum of Illusions , and the Guinness World Records Museum.

Hollywood is home to numerous parks. Griffith Park is home to the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles Zoo, Sunset Ranch Hollywood, Autry Museum of the American West, and Hollywood Sign. Barnsdall Art Park and Runyon Canyon Park are popular parks in Hollywood.

Universal Studios Hollywood is one of the top tourist attractions in Los Angeles. This film studio and theme park offers fun experiences for families and children of all ages.

Hollywood is very walkable, you can easily explore the attractions without a car. There is Metro rail connecting Hollywood with Universal Studios and Downtown LA.

Apart from self-exploring you might want to take movie studio tours to visit Paramount Pictures Studio, Warner Brother, Sony Pictures, as well as a Hollywood walking tour.

Hollywood is relatively safe by day, but as in any tourist area, you should alway use common sense, watch out for pickpockets, and avoid walking alone at night. The hillside areas are safest areas because it is where celebrities, and the wealthy live, with well guarded and patrolled by private security.

Hollywood is home to countless restaurants, cafes, shops, pubs, and clubs. The Musso & Frank Grill in a famous restaurant in Hollywood Boulevard has served Hollywood’s finest cuisine since 1919. You can spot celebrities here. Yamashiro Hollywood is another charming restaurant in the hills of Hollywood.

Hollywood offers plenty of accommodations options for all budget travelers. It has a large selection of good 3 star and 4 star hotels.

Best places to stay in Hollywood:

2. West Hollywood, great area for nightlife

West Hollywood, also known as WeHo by locals, is famous for its energetic nightlife, shopping and sightseeing. It has a central location, surrounded by the famous neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, and Hollywood.

Founded in 1984 as the 84th city in Los Angeles County, this 1.9 square mile neighborhood is packed with numerous music venues, eclectic boutiques, trendy restaurants, and bars, especially along Sunset Boulevard, Santa Monica Boulevard, and Melrose Avenue. 

The 2.5km Sunset Strip has a reputation as a hub of Hollywood nightlife. It is home to a clutch of celeb-favorite restaurants. The Comedy Store and the Laugh Factory are two main comedy clubs on the Strip. Some famous nightclubs are The Roxy, Whiskey A Go Go, and Viper Room. 

Santa Monica Boulevar is the heart of LA’s LGBTQ community, packed with fantastic shops and restaurants. Santa Monica Boulevard hosts the annual Halloween Carnaval, the largest Halloween street party in the world.

There are plenty of green spaces to relax, and trails to hike at Plummer Park, West Hollywood Dog Park, Kings Road Park.

West Hollywood offers plenty of shopping opportunities. Sunset Plaza is an outdoor shopping strip that has plenty of boutiques, restaurants, and salons. If you love books, check out Book Soup. 

You can shop at the Melrose Avenue Shopping District. For high-end boutique shopping and dining, head to Beverly Center. The Grove is another must for shopping, home of an outdoor mall and the Original Farmers Market.

The WeHo Design District is a great place for art and fashion aficionados, located at the end of Melrose Avenue. Pacific Design Center has an impressive exterior in red, green, and blue. This luxe shopping district is a prime location for home furnishings and celebrity dining.

West Hollywood is the Most Walkable City in California, you can explore on foot and the public transit, as well as Uber and Lyft!

There are plenty of choices in accommodation in West Hollywood. Some hips hotels here are The Standard, Andaz, Mondrian, Sunset Tower, and Chateau Marmont.

Best places to stay in West Hollywood:

3. Beverly Hills, where to stay in Los Angeles for luxury

Beverly Hills is the best place to stay in LA if you are looking for a first-class experience because it is an icon of luxury, fame and wealth. It is packed with mega-mansions, luxurious accommodations, fine dining and high-end shopping.

Beverly Hills is a haven for up-scale shopping if money is not an issue, or you can do window shopping. There are plenty of luxury brands such as Dior, Gucci, Tiffany & Co on a two-mile long street called Rodeo Drive. The street is also home to famous landmarks like the House of Bijan, Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and statue Torso. 

You can spot celebrities’ homes at Beverly Hills’ Mulholland Drive, which is a 21-mile long road connecting the Santa Monica Mountains to the Hollywood Hills.

If you are tired of shopping, you can take a break at the Beverly Gardens stretching from Wilshire Boulevard to North Doheny Drive. The park is home to the Doheny Fountain, Wilshire Electric Fountain, as well as Cactus Garden and Rose Garden. The iconic Beverly Hills Sign and Lily Pond are in the park, offering good photo opportunities. 

Apart from Beverly Gardens, you can also find several other parks and gardens such as Franklin Canyon Park, Coldwater Canyon Park, Will Rogers Memorial Park, Virginia Robinson Gardens, and Beverly Cañon Gardens.

Another must-see attraction in Beverly Hills is Greystone Mansion, which was built by billionaire Ned Dohne Jr. in 1927. Greystone Mansion & Park is a filming location of numerous movies.

Beverly Hills is one of the safest areas in Los Angeles, with a big presence of security and police. Beverly Hills is safer statistically than its neighbor, West Hollywood, and it has a good selection of luxury 5-star hotels, and nightlife here is quiet.

Best places to stay in LA in Beverly Hills:

4. Westwood, close to University of California, Los Angeles 

Westwood is anchored by Wilshire Boulevard, bordering affluent neighborhoods such as Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Century City, Brentwood and Santa Monica. 

At the center of Westwood is the Westwood Village, and north of Westwood Village is the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Westwood Village is a hub of shopping and dining with numerous cultural attractions. The Hammer Museum is one of LA’s best art museums. The Geffen Playhouse is a not-for-profit theater company founded in 1995 by Gilbert Cates. 

Fox Village Theatre is an historic landmark with an amazing architecture both inside and out. The 170-foot white Spanish Revival/Modern tower is the most striking feature of the Fox Theater.

Another must-see is the Thursday Farmers’ Market on Broxton between Kinross and Weyburn. The market has over 40 vendors that sell organic fresh food, as well as live musical performances. There are two hours parking nearby.

If you head north of Westwood to UCLA’s campus, you will see Fowler Museum, UCLA Planetarium, Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, and Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Gardens. 

Westwood is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, you can explore local attractions on foot, as well as public transportation like buses which is accessible. You will need to rent a car or Uber, Lift to other parts of LA.

Westwood has several 4-star and 3-star hotels that offer basic amenities such as free wifi, a restaurant, fitness center, a bar and shared lounge. Many hotels provide on-site car parking with a fee between 30$ to 50$.

Best places to stay in Westwood:

5. Santa Monica, where to stay in Los Angeles for families

Santa Monica is the best place to stay in LA if you want to stay right on the beach or you travel with family because this beach city offers plenty of family-friendly attractions and great dining, and shopping opportunities.

Santa Monica Pier is one of the most famous attractions of LA, located at the western end of Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10), where it joins with Highway-1, the Pacific Coast Highway.

Santa Monica Pier is packed with family-friendly activities, snack shacks, restaurants, shops, and street performers. There is an amusement park called Pacific Par, on the right on the pier home to numerous arcade games, thrill rides, and the first solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world.

Families and kids can have a fun day at the Heal the Bay Aquarium, formerly Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, located below the Carousel at the Santa Monica Pier. With more than 100 species of fish and aquatic animals, kids can learn more about marine life.

Ocean Avenue runs along the beach and the pier offers several fine-dining restaurants, cafes, and art galleries. You can have great views of the Pacific Ocean at the Palisades Park along Ocean Avenue.

Santa Monica State Beach is a 3.5 mile beach, and is a prime example of the famed Southern California beaches. The beach covers 245 acres of sand dotted with palm trees. There are a number of beach volleyball courts along the waterfront.

Spanning along the Santa Monica shoreline from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance County Beach is the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. The path is popular with bicyclists, walkers, and runners.

If you head to Downtown Santa Monica, you can find an open-air shopping center called Santa Monica Place, packed with boutique shops and restaurants. There is also a Farmers Market which is held every Wednesday and Saturday in Downtown Santa Monica.

The pedestrian-onlyThird Street Promenade is a shoppers’ paradise and the Main Street is home to lots of restaurants and stores, and the California Heritage Museum.

Santa Monica city is also home to Montana Avenue, home to more than 150 stores and restaurants, stretching from 7th to 17th Street. The Aero Theatre is located here.

Santa Monica offers easy access to Malibu, Westwood, Beverly Hills, and The Getty. The Getty Villa is located near Pacific Palisades, a great place to learn about arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria. 

There is public transportation or a bike to help get around the neighborhood if you travel without a car, as well as a light rail station in Downtown Santa Monica connecting with Downtown Los Angeles. It is best to travel with a car, so you can explore the rest of LA.

Santa Monica has a wide choice of accommodations, ranging from 2-star hotels all the way up to 5-star luxury hotels.

Best places to stay in Los Angeles in Santa Monica:

6. Downtown (DTLA), great for returning visitors to experience city life

Downtown LA, in my opinion, is the best area to stay in Los Angeles for returning visitors who want to experience city life. If you are first-timers, it is better to stay in Hollywood because it is the tourist hub of LA, offering easier access to major tourist attractions. The Metro Red and Purple Lines from Union Station to Vine Station in Hollywood run every 15 minutes.

Downtown LA is bounded by Echo Park, Boyle Heights, Historic South-Central, Pico-Union Westlake. DTLA contains several suburbs including Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Financial District, Fashion District, El Pueblo, Bunker Hill, and Skid Row.

DTLA is the transport hub of LA. Union Station is served by MTA Metro trains, MetroLink, and Amtrak trains. You can easily get around LA county with its four Metro Rail lines – Red, Purple, Gold, and A Line and many Metro bus lines. 

There are also six DASH routes running through DownTown. You can rent a bike through Metro Bike Share at many bicycle stations in Downtown LA. 

Downtown Arts District is packed with murals, graffiti, galleries, and cultural spaces. The district’s art walk is held every second Thursday each month and offers a chance to view galleries, watch street performances, and try food trucks.

Grand Avenue is home to numerous cultural attractions such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, The Broad, MOCA, and Grand Park. 

Koreatown is also in DTLA, famous for its food scene, hip bars, and nightclubs. Olvera Street offers great Mexican food and souvenirs. Another place for food lovers is the Grand Central Market at 317 South Broadway that has been in operation since 1917.

Downtown is relatively safe, and as in any bid city, you should alway practice common sense and avoid the dangerous neighborhoods such as Skid Row, which has a large homeless population, that is packed with tents, trash, drug use, crime, on the sidewalks.

Other places of interest are the Original Los Angeles Flower Market, Observation Deck at City Hall,GRAMMY Museum L.A. Live, and Crypto.com Arena, formerly STAPLES Center.

Downtown LA has plentiful accommodation, and it tends to be a bit cheaper than the touristy Hollywood. Many lofts and residential communities have been converted from century-old buildings.

Best places to stay in Downtown LA:

7. Venice Beach, where to stay in Los Angeles on a budget

Venice Beach is located to the south of Santa Monica beach on the Pacific Coast Highway. While Santa Monica is more upscale, with a collection of high-end restaurants, shops, and hotels, better for families with kids, Venice Beach is more artsy and more budget-friendly accommodations.

Venice Beach is a great base if you are traveling on a budget. It is close to Ocean Front Walk, Muscle Beach, Skate Dancing plaza, tennis courts, and volleyball courts. 

Venice Beach was designed in 1905 by tobacco millionaire Abbot Kinney as a beach resort. Today, Venice Beach is one of the most popular destinations in Los Angeles.

There are many things happening on its iconic beachfront boardwalk and pier. Venice Beach Boardwalk is a part of Ocean Front Walk, where you can find murals, sculptures, shops, and restaurants, as well as street performers, artists, and fortune tellers.

The south of the beach has a Venice Pier, 1,300-foot concrete fishing pier. On the north side of the pier is the Venice Breakwater, which is well known as a surfing spot. You can take a surfing lesson here.

At the end of Brooks Ave on the beach, there is Venice Beach Drum Circle where people gather to play their drums, shakers. It is great to visit on Saturday and Sunday at sunset.

You can visit the Venice Beach Recreation Center, Venice Beach Skatepark, and the Muscle Beach Venice outdoor gym.

If you love shopping head to Abbot Kinney Street, a shopper’s paradise. Spanning from Venice Boulevard to Pacific Avenue, it is home to many boutiques, restaurants, bars, and art galleries. 

Head to the Venice Canal Historic District to see man-made canals, beautiful waterways, quaint beach houses, and arched pedestrian bridges.

Venice Beach is safe for tourists but avoids walking alone at night. Use common sense and be aware of the surroundings as you travel to any tourist city.

Venice Beach can be reached by Metro Rapid 733 from Downtown LA or Metro Bus 108, as well as a Metro Expo Line to Santa Monica. There is also paid parkings if you travel by car.

Venice Beach has a good selection of mid-range and budget hotels ranging from 2 -star to 4-star hotels.

Best places to stay in Venice Beach:

8. Silver Lake, best place to stay in Los Angeles for local vibe

Silver Lake is a great base in LA if you have a car, or you want to experience local life. Silver Lake is a great area for hipsters, artists, families, foodies, and boutique shoppers because it is packed with trendy restaurants, indie stores, hip coffee shops, especially along Sunset Boulevard.

While in the neighborhood, you can explore the secret stairs. The Micheltorena Heart Stairs are beautiful painted stairs, a great place to take a photo for your Instagram.

Silver Lake Reservoir has a 2.2-mile walking and jogging path, a dog park, walking trail, a basketball court, and a playground. 

For shopping lovers, you can shop in Sunset Junction, Silver Lake Blvd, and Rowena that offer a wide range of shops, restaurants, cafes.

The nearby Echo Park is where you can find Dodger Stadium, the home of our beloved Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as Echo Park Lake, and Baxter Street Stairs.

Silver Lake is pretty safe, and quite walkable with a local feel. If you want to stay here, you can book a room at Silver Lake Pool & Inn . This 4-star hotel has a restaurant, outdoor swimming pool, a bar and garden, and a private car parking with fee.

9. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the main airport in LA, and one of the LA airports along with Long Beach Airport, Ontario International Airport, Hollywood Burbank Airport, and John Wayne Airport. 

LAX is located in El Segundo, south of Marina Del Rey. If you want to catch an early flight, this is a great place to stay for a night.

You can visit the Flight Path Museum & Learning Center, in the LAX Imperial Terminal. This is a small aviation museum to learn about commercial aviation throughout history.

If you are a golfer, Westchester Golf Course is an 18-hole, par-64 golf course, which can be found north of LAX. Car fans can visit Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum.

Dockweiler Beach, Venice Beach, and Marina del Rey are both nearby. Marina del Rey is a great place for foodies. Manhattan Beach Pier and Roundhouse Aquarium are also worth a visit.

Being the main airport of LA, there are plenty of hotels around Century Boulevard and around The Zimmerman Automobile Driving Museum.

Best places to stay in LAX area:

10. Pasadena, peaceful and safe area

Pasadena is located just 10 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Known as the city of Roses, it is famous for the Tournament of Roses, Propulsion Laboratory, and Rose Bowl.

Old Town Pasadena is packed with restaurants, pubs, and shops. Other attractions are:

  • USC Pacific Asia Museum
  • Norton Simon Museum 
  • Pasadena Museum of History
  • Gamble House
  • Huntington Library
  • Descanso Gardens

Pasadena is a walkable area, with a good public transit system. There are Shuttles, buses, and light rail to help to get around the neighborhood and the greater LA.

Pasadena is safer than the California state average with low crime rates and a high police presence. It has a wide range of accommodations for all budget types.

Best places to stay in Pasadena:

Where should I stay in Los Angeles for the first time?

Hollywood is the best area to stay in Los Angeles for first-time visitors because it is the major tourist hub of the city. If you stay here, you will be located close to the top tourist sights such as the Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood sign, and Universal Studios Hollywood, as well as many choices of restaurants, bars, and shops.

Is it better to stay in downtown LA or Hollywood?

Hollywood is better than Downtown LA if you are first-time tourists wanting to be located within walking distance to the most popular tourist attractions of LA such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Griffith Observatory. Downtown LA is quite centrally located, but it is the commercial hub of Los Angeles, great for business travelers or returning visitors.

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Overall, Hollywood is the best area to stay in Los Angeles for first-timers due to its close proximity to top tourist attractions such as Hollywood Boulevard, Griffith Observatory, Universal Studios, Hollywood sign. There are also plenty of restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops here.

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