18 August 2022

A piece of the action on Venice Beach
Get your skates on
The iconic neighbourhood of Venice Beach, Los Angeles has the perfect blend of chic allure and laid-back vibe, and Lesley Perry settled in effortlessly
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enice Beach has had many different incarnations over the years – from a hippy hangout in the 1960s to gang territory in the 1990s to a skateboarders’ paradise in the early Noughties. It’s now enjoying a new era thanks to gentrification which has seen it find its most appealing status yet. It has retained its alternative charm – the beachfront boardwalk is still full of skaters and street entertainers – but now there’s a huge Whole Foods store, yoga classes on every corner, and some fantastic restaurants.

This enclave of Los Angeles was named after the Italian city of Venice thanks to its network of canals. Multi-coloured houses back on to the tranquil waterways which you can cycle or skate along (bikes and skates can be hired from many places and they’re a good way to get around, particularly between Venice and nearby Santa Monica).
The area was founded by Abbot Kinney, after whom one of the main streets is named – home to a perfect combination of boutiques, bars and restaurants, including Gjelina, one of the most popular A-list hangouts in Los Angeles (it serves some of the best pizza too).
Celebrities are drawn to trendy Gjelina
Paradise Cove at sunset
"This enclave of LA was named after the Italian city of Venice thanks to its network of canals."
Beyonce and husband Jay-Z, Robert De Niro and Gwyneth Paltrow have all been spotted there in recent months. LA can be tricky to get your head around if it’s your first visit, as it’s so spread out. By car, Venice Beach and Santa Monica are about a 30-minute drive from West Hollywood but only ten minutes from LAX airport. You could easily spend a week of your holiday on the beach side of the city as Venice and Santa Monica have so much to offer. Santa Monica is the larger and more commercial older sister to the laid-back Venice Beach.

It has some of the best shopping, with the Santa Monica Place mall (featuring designer shops such as Louis Vuitton and Nordstrom) and Third Street Promenade (with High Street favourites J Crew, Gap and Urban Outfitters). For a snack, head to the famous Fred Segal clothing store, which has a cafe well worth checking out for its smoothies, salads and home-made soups. At night, there are so many bars to choose from in the area, and the invention of taxi service app Uber means that you will pay little more than $5 (£3.20) to get back to your hotel from anywhere nearby.

Try the High Rooftop Lounge at the Hotel Erwin at sunset for incredible views of the seafront, all the way to the Santa Monica Pier and its famous Ferris wheel. The Otheroom on Abbot Kinney has a New York-hipster feel to it.
Venice Beach Wines on up-and-coming Rose Avenue is small but well worth trying to get a table. It seems to best sum up the new Venice Beach vibe – achingly cool but still cheap enough to get a couple of bottles of decent wine and some cocktails well within budget.

As you’re on the coast it’s a good idea to plan a trip to Malibu, which is a 30-minute drive north along the famous Pacific Coast Highway. You can stop at the pier (though it’s nowhere near as fancy as Santa Monica’s) or keep going until you get to Paradise Cove.
The name says it all – the restaurant there serves burgers and sandwiches as big as your head in a beautiful, lush beachfront garden You can book sunbeds if you want to stay for longer and take a dip in the ocean. Take a 25-minute drive south from Venice and you’ll reach Long Beach, and from here you can take a short ferry ride out to Catalina Island.

Spending a day on this unspoilt isle, you feel 1,000 miles away from Los Angeles. Catalina has an array of restaurants, museums and hotels, and there’s a selection of watersports on offer. You could even stay for a night or two if you want a bit more time to explore. The coastal regions of LA have so much to offer – they may not have the glitz and glamour of Beverly Hills or West Hollywood, but you’ll experience a relaxed pace of life with healthy food and exercise at its core, and culture and shopping to rival anywhere in the world.

Original article published in Sep 2015. All info and prices correct at time of publication.

"The coastal regions have a lot to offer, a relaxed pace of life with healthy food."
Enjoy the thrill of the open road
Hotel Erwin Venice Beach
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