Los Angeles and the entertainment industry are inextricable from one another, and the glittery Hollywood-centric history permeates all parts of the city’s culture. Nowhere is this more apparent than behind the iconic facades of the city’s see-and-be-seen hotels, where A-list hangouts have become the backdrop to hushed stories and urban legends.
From the silver screens of Hollywood to today’s superhero blockbusters, Los Angeles is a land of stories. Its hotels have long been celebrity stomping grounds, backdrops for movies, and vaults to the secrets of the rich and famous. These nine hotels, all hand-picked by Culture Trip, are among the most fascinating in the city. Whether odes to LA’s Golden Age or more recent additions to the city, they all have equally intriguing stories to tell.
Tucked away just below Sunset Strip, the Sunset Marquis is a hidden oasis that is beloved by A-list stars. In business for more than 50 years, the hotel includes private villas, two pools, a lavish restaurant and spa, and all the privacy a celebrity could ever want (including an underground entrance so the paparazzi can’t see who you’re coming in with). One of the most interesting aspects of the hotel is its fully functioning recording studio. Since its inception in 1992, the studio has played host to everyone from Madonna and Drake to Rihanna and Kanye West.
While the Freehand Hotel itself is pretty new to Downtown LA, the building it resides in has a much longer history. Formerly the Commercial Exchange Building, the 1924 Renaissance Revival-style structure stands 13 stories high and still boasts one of the tallest neon signs in LA sliding up the facade. Today, the hotel is completely retrofitted and includes a rooftop pool and the cocktail-enthusiast’s Broken Shaker bar, retro mod design touches and budget-friendly accommodations. The hotel is actually split between traditional rooms and a hostel that comes with shared bunks, a kitchen and a laundry room for traveling guests on the go.
There are few hotels with as much history as the Hollywood Roosevelt. In fact, the Roosevelt is the oldest continuously operating hotel in all of Los Angeles. The hotel first opened its doors in 1927 and has been home to celebrities including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and Prince. The hotel remains a hotspot to this day and features a wild pool scene, multiple bars and even its own bowling alley. For lovers of all things Hollywood, the Roosevelt’s location is also hard to beat: you’ll find the Hollywood Walk of Fame just minutes away, and it’s within walking distance of the famed Chinese Theatre and the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex.
Since its inception in the Roaring Twenties, the magic of the silver screen has twisted through the Culver Hotel’s storied roots. Once owned by silent film legend Charlie Chaplin (who then sold it to John Wayne), the boutique hotel has played host to many Hollywood stars and served as a chandelier-laden backdrop to movies such as The Little Rascals. Follow in star-studded footsteps to find cavernous rooms brimming with antique armoires, ornate wooden fireplaces and blooming floral feature walls. In the evenings, pull up a baroque violet armchair, order a cucumber mule and watch the grand lobby come alive with nightly jazz evenings and the flickering visuals of classic films.
A step on board the Queen Mary will plunge you into a timeless nautical setting that gives you license to indulge in any Titanic-inspired fantasies. The ocean liner is a real historic treasure that initially set sail from England in 1936 and helped fly the flag for transatlantic travel. Take a leaf out of Churchill’s book and stay in compact rooms that have maintained the ship’s old-world charm with original details including working portholes, built-in bookshelves stacked with literature and 1930s art. Moored in Long Beach, you can spend the days digging your toes in sandy shores before returning to seek out spirits under the cover of nightfall on one of the ghost tours.
Originally built in 1926, Hotel Figueroa was once a sanctuary for traveling women who, at the time, were often unable to check into hotels without a male chaperone. It was entirely financed, owned and operated by women, and today the hotel has stayed true to its feminist roots, embodying a progressive spirit in art, design and service. The Fig underwent a massive renovation in 2018 and has emerged as a Downtown hub for LA’s creatives with its original coffin-shaped pool, outdoor dining and drinking dens and a cavalcade of events that range from burlesque to live music to art exhibitions (don’t miss the hotel’s gallery, which has been thoughtfully curated to display works by LA-based female artists). While the Colonial Spanish architecture remains the same, inside guests will find luxurious, modern amenities and will love being a stone’s throw away from the LA Live entertainment center across the street.
Another brand-new Downtown LA hotel, the NoMad oozes sophistication and plays on Italian themes as the original 1923 building was once home to the Bank of Italy. Guests will find themselves gawking at the fully restored Italianate lobby ceiling, the pieces of original art and the main hotel bathroom that was carved out of the original bank vault. The rooftop bar and pool is the main hangout of the hotel (thanks to its live music and killer cocktail menu), but you’ll also discover an Italian coffee bar with impeccably flaky croissants, and room details like terrazzo floors, marble desks, glittering vintage-style crystalware and plenty of contemporary touches including smart TVs for all your streaming desires.
One of the more eclectic hotels in LA, the Petit Ermitage is an explorer’s paradise filled with an art collection that includes original works by greats such as Rauschenberg, Miró and de Kooning. Owned by brothers Adrian and Stefan Ashkenazy, every art piece and design touch is inspired by the brothers’ love of travel, and the hotel is filled with a weird and wonderful collection of trinkets that the duo have accumulated from their global adventures. The mainstay of the hotel is on the roof, where a creative cocktail bar, adults-only pool and a butterfly and hummingbird garden welcome guests.
LA is home to the largest concentration of Koreans in the US, and the epicenter is Koreatown, right in the middle of the city. The history of The LINE hotel somewhat coincides with the influx of Korean immigrants, as the mid-century building was erected in 1964 during the height of the Korean diaspora. Today, the hotel is the heart and soul of the neighborhood, as it embraces the community with a packed calendar of events (their Koreatown Run Club is free to join) and a lively social scene. Highlights of the property include a robust happy hour, outdoor pool, retail boutique Poketo and their Breakroom 86 bar where you can book out a karaoke booth and sip nostalgic cocktails like the Say Any-Sling or the Rum DMC.