6 cool Los Angeles neighborhoods
Every city has its flip side, and the counterpoint to the relentlessly self-promoting media world of Hollywood is the people who love LA’s open space and hidden canyons, the sun, and the sea, the echoes of 1960s counterculture.
The city’s sprawling geography, traditionally seen as its Achilles heel, has created pockets of like-minded people striving to create a sense of community within the endless highways, boulevards, and parking lots. Traffic can be gridlocked at peak times, and public transport remains rudimentary, however, so the best approach is to park up and explore one neighborhood at a time, rather than trying to bounce around the city.
Silver Lake is often dubbed “the Williamsburg of the West” but the neighborhood of design stores, cafés, and vintage furniture shops has a raffish charm that’s 100% Californian. Centered around Sunset Junction, it contains a lot of modernist architecture, including Richard Neutra’s own home and Neutra Place, where you can find several other homes he designed.
Echo Park, the hilly neighborhood and eponymous park next door, has a similar cultural makeup, Craftsman-style homes, views of Downtown’s skyscrapers, and Historic Filipinotown. It’s also particularly noted for its burrito stands.
Nothing says classic LA like Venice Beach. The sun is hot, the waves are rolling, the hippies are playing bongos, and the steroid-enhanced guys on Muscle Beach are comparing their BMIs. Everyone’s welcome. Slip into some American Apparel, grab yourself a 20-ounce takeout coffee, and just go with it.
The long stretch of adjacent Abbot Kinney Boulevard, though laid-back and beach-y by day, is perpetually in motion at night, with a constant stream of beautiful people in search of the good life and some of the best restaurants in the city.
Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA)
The reinvention of Downtown LA follows the now-classic narrative of public and private investment that brings on gentrification. People used to roll up their car windows and lock the doors when they had to drive through it. Now they flock to the newly opened public and dealer galleries, hot restaurants in former industrial spaces, and the lively social scene revolving around the Ace Hotel’s rooftop bar.
Located in LA’s urban center between Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard, the steep, winding, narrow streets and bohemian bungalows of the canyons offered natural seclusion to successive generations of stars, and not much has changed today.
Laurel Canyon and its nearby cousins were the epicenter of the hazy Californian counterculture and rock and roll, vestiges of which still remain – like the Canyon Country Store, a psychedelic mural-swathed deli immortalized by Jim Morrison in “Love Street.”
Often compared to the Lower East Side in New York, the historically Jewish stretch of Fairfax, between Melrose and Beverly, is the latest neighborhood to emerge as a hot spot. Radiating from the historic Farmers Market at 3rd and Fairfax, it has also become known for skating and streetwear culture. Cult NYC skate brand Supreme opened a store with attached skate bowl on Fairfax Avenue first, followed by others, and on Sundays Fairfax High School houses the Fairfax Flea Market ($3 entry), a fixture on the vintage and handmade goods circuit.
Text: Sam Eichblatt
Published: January 25, 2016
Last edited: September 14, 2016