Los Angeles is like the happy-go-lucky, surfing little brother of sophisticated New York – just as capable of upscale class and sass, but on the whole just more laid back, with sand between its toes.
And like NY, each part of LA has its own distinct flavour and identity. Beverly Hills is all-go and all-glam, while Santa Monica is all about fun in the sun. Silver Lake has been called “the best hipster neighbourhood”, while The Valley is Suburbia and Venice is Bohemia with an edge.
You haven't really “done” the US until you've been to LA. It's got beaches, top-notch restaurants, and culture galore. But with so much to do and so much to see, where to start?
This may seem obvious and totally overdone, but as a visitor to LA, it is your obligation to take cheesy pictures with the Hollywood sign, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, or (preferably) both. Find the star of your favourite celeb and then head up to the hills for some classic selfies.
(Insider tip: One of the best views of the Hollywood sign is from Bronson Cave, aka Batman's cave from the 1960s TV show!)
Speaking of views, you won't want to miss Griffith Observatory. From the lofty park on Mount Hollywood you can not only see the famous sign, but basically everything else, including downtown LA and the Pacific Ocean. Admission to the picturesque planetarium is free, though you may have to pay a small fee to see one of the shows.
In need of some retail therapy and a spot of fine dining? Then The Grove is the place for you, boasting all the latest fashions and hottest restaurants but with that special LA twist. Whilst indulging in all The Grove has to offer, don't forget to enjoy the spectacular Bellagio-style Dancing Fountain or to make time for a free ride on The Grove Trolley.
With class, entertainment and something for all the family, The Grove truly hosts the spirit of LA…literally (it's a magnificent centre-piece statue at the heart of the complex, check it out!).
Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica Beach is the real star of LA. After parading the Hollywood Walk of Fame with all the glitz and glamour of downtown LA, there's nothing like leaving the electricity of the city behind for the soothing sight and sound of the Pacific Ocean. Soak up the Californian sun, strolling across the sandy beach of your dreams, and pause for a well-deserved ice cream (or cocktail!) on the world-famous Santa Monica Pier.
Quite simply, no trip to LA is complete without a lazy hour or two (or ten) spent at the magnificent Santa Monica Beach.
With museums currently located in 20 different cities around the world, it is fair to say Madame Tussauds is not an exclusive LA attraction. But nowhere does it better than the City of Angels. What better way to immerse yourself in the celebrity culture of LA than coming face to (waxy) face with all your favourite stars? Experience the art of wax modelling, and make your family and friends jealous with extraordinary close-up shots of the most famous celebs in town.
The Hidden Gems
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
Photo: Chris Kuga/Flickr
When you think of LA, you probably think of Hollywood – film studios, celebrities, and lights, camera, action. It's easy to forget, however, that surrounding so-called La La Land is a wealth of natural beauty you simply must explore.
A trip to Abalone Cove Shoreline Park ensures natural respite from the show biz of Hollywood, with two stunning beaches, breath-taking cliff-top views and a myriad of tide pools bursting with sea life.
The Echo Park Time Travel Mart
Photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid/Flickr
From robot milk and mad scientist glasses to centurion helmets and fabled axe tea infusers (your guess is as good as ours), this quirky slice of LA offers a shopping experience truly like no other. A trip to the Time Travel Mart near the achingly beautiful Echo Park takes you on a journey through all directions of time with novelty gifts like you've never seen them before. What's more, (as if you need another reason to swing by) all proceeds from this time travelling gem go towards 826LA – a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting students with their creative and expository writing skills.
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
Photo: Ana Paula Hirama/Flickr
Keeping up the time travelling theme, wind the clocks back to 1781 with a visit to El Pueblo de Los Angeles – the birthplace of LA. Immerse yourself in the extraordinary history and culture of the city whilst relishing the most unique shopping and dining experience in town. The beautiful outdoor plaza, fascinating museums and quaint Mexican marketplace are just a few reasons why El Pueblo de Los Angeles is a true hidden gem.
Ok, so maybe you can't actually time-travel back to 1940s Cuba. But the atmosphere at La Descarga will get you pretty close! Spice up your LA nightlife with an unforgettable evening at the Cuban-themed bar complete with burlesque shows and a cigar lounge. Live music, lavish leather booths, ravishing rum cocktails, and radiant chandeliers - this little Havana hotspot is undoubtedly worthy of a place on your ‘to do in LA' list, so suit up and remember to make a reservation for free entry!
Take a Hike…
Eaton Canyon. Photo: Tom S/Flickr
Not so much hidden as it is a forgotten gem; LA is surrounded by acres of natural beauty. Take a break from the pseudo scenery of Hollywood for a leisurely hike through the untouched splendour of the various canyons, parks and lakes circling the city. Particularly worth visiting is Franklin Canyon Park – spanning 605 acres and with over 5 miles of hiking trails, a trip to this historic park is a great way to unwind. But don't stop there! Runyon Canyon, Wilacre Park, Eaton Canyon, Bronson Canyon and many more also await your exploration, and they're all a stone's throw away from LA.
Where to eat
Wolvesmouth at the Wolvesden
Why settle for a dinner when you can have a dinner party? At Wolvesmouth, they know the difference. Eat new food, meet new people, and embrace spontaneity – no dress code, no menu, no pretence. What you'll eat? Not sure. Who you'll meet? No idea. When it'll happen? Not a clue. It's impulsive. It's dynamic. It's fun. It's LA. And it books up fast. So make sure to sign up to the mailing list today to find out when you can enjoy this artless dining experience.
Photo: paul adonis hunter/Flickr
You may think that Micheli's is your typical run-of-the-mill Italian restaurant. You would be wrong. True, the authentic Italian cuisine is divine – but it's the singing waiters that have put the family-run restaurant in the limelight. Pizza, pasta, seafood and waiters who make you feel like you're in a Hollywood musical (or an Italian opera): the perfect ingredients for a relaxing (yet eccentric) night in a bustling and eccentric city.
Foodies, this one's for you. Few restaurants in the U.S., let alone LA, can boast such a diverse menu for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner. From oysters to pizza, smoked salmon to homemade gelato, your taste buds are guaranteed a treat at Gjelina. Located smack in the middle of buzzing, beachfront, ever-hip Venice, the restaurant puts local and organic ingredients in focus. But don't forget to make that all important dinner reservation before arriving at the restaurant – rumour has it it's easier to get blessed by the pope than grab an unreserved seat here!
Exploding onto LA's plush culinary scene in 2013, République has since turned heads with a masterful take on modern French cuisine. If the divine selection of pastas, risottos, meat and fish isn't enough to convince you to pay a visit, then the historic building that houses République is sure to twist your arm.
Originally built and used by Charlie Chaplin, then later home to the world-renowned Campanile, this exquisite location is every bit worthy of the delectable food served within. It's upmarket and the prices show it, but an evening at the star of LA's French bistro scene promises to give your trip to the City of Angels that extra tang of qualité.
Malibu Farm Restaurant
Photo: monsieur paradis/Flickr
From Luleå to LA, Helene Henderson packed a taste of Sweden when she moved to the States in 2008, initially hosting cookery classes and farm dinners from her own backyard. Now, Helene owns the awesome Malibu Farm restaurant and café perfectly situated at the end of Malibu Pier. The food is fresh, local and organic, but it's also downright delicious and full of variety. And if you're in need of a Baltic fix in LA, swing by for Helene's “Swed-ish” meatballs – served with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
La La Land may seem like another world, but with SAS it's just a hop, skip, and short flight a way. SAS operates flights from Stockholm to Los Angeles every day during the summer and has five to six departures weekly in the winter, ensuring you can get your soak up the sun any time of year.
You can also get there using 60,000 SAS EuroBonus points. Don't forget to shop with your SAS EuroBonus American Express® Premium or Elite Credit Card so that every purchase can get you closer to LA. If you spend 150 000 SEK or more in one calendar year, the 60 000 points will get you tickets for two to LA, as you will have qualified for a 50 percent discount on a bonustrip. Find out how to earn your Los Angeles trip here.
Book a flight or find out more about SAS EuroBonus American Express Credit Cards– and how to earn a trip to LA