Known the world over for its showbiz heritage, the city of stars is one of America’s most popular tourism destinations. LA has more than 10 million residents making it a bustling mecca of culture from museums, restaurants, shows and bars. The cities diversity comes from its residents. LA natives come from more than 140 countries and speak more than 224 languages.
LA is in a desert basin, making many of its natural landmarks rugged, sparse and dotted with cacti. The San Gabriel Mountains provide a backdrop and the city is bordered by 75 miles (120 km) of glistening blue seas. Be sure to visit one of LA’s many famed beaches, including Long Beach or Venice Beach, for some sun, sea and sand. There are also many great surf spots, and after a day of relaxing, the coastline has some spectacular oceanfront restaurants offering incredible food and an unforgettable view.
LA is the world’s centre of the entertainment industry as it is filled with some of the largest and most famous studios. Star spotting may be top of your travel list when in LA, but the city is also making strides in technology, fashion and art. The art scene in LA is huge, with more galleries, museums and theatres than any other US city. There are over 105 museums and 225 theatres.
After a busy day taking in all LA has to offer, head to one of their many incredible restaurants. Los Angeles is one of the few cities in the world that has been rated by the Michelin Guide, which is a testament to how important the city has become to cuisine. There are many places to eat, ranging from budget diners to Michelin Starred restaurants, celebrity hangouts, and bars where you can grab something quick with a drink. However, with so much to fill a trip to LA, it can become a little overwhelming. Here are 20 must-visit landmarks in Los Angeles to get you started.
- 21 Los Angeles Landmarks
- 1- Los Angeles Theatre
- 2- Hollywood Sign
- 3- Griffith Observatory
- 4- Santa Monica Pier
- 5- Korean Friendship Bell
- 6- Urban Light
- 7- Angels Flight Railway
- 8- Venice Canal Historic District
- 9- Bradbury Building
- 10- Echo Park Lake
- 11- La Brea Tar Pits
- 12- OUE Skyspace
- 13- Point Dume
- 14- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 15- Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens
- 16- Hollywood Forever Cemetery
- 17- Mullholland Drive
- 18- Getty Centre
- 19- Grand Central Market
- 20- Walt Disney Concert Hall
- 21- Chinatown Gate
- 22- Rodeo Drive
- 23- Pointe Vincente Lighthouse
21 Los Angeles Landmarks
1- Los Angeles Theatre
However, the theatre’s opening was in continuous doubt following months of building delays, ongoing development works, and at one point, developers nearly cancelled the project altogether.
The theatre opened with Charlie Chaplain’s film ‘City Lights’ as Chaplin had invested in the theatre and was keen to see it succeed.
Sadly, the theatre did not initially succeed, and after the first owner, H.L. Gumbiner, filed for bankruptcy and one year after it first opened, the theatre was closed.
It was reopened as a movie theatre later that year and again faced turmoil in 1982 when it faced demolition.
Thankfully, it was saved and preserved for its historical value.
The theatre’s grand interiors have been preserved, and performances are still shown today.
Los Angeles Theatre is at 615 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014.
2- Hollywood Sign
Known worldwide thanks to its pop culture references, the Hollywood Sign, formerly known as the Hollywoodland Sign, has been an LA landmark for nearly 100 years.
Hollywood became the centre of America’s film scene in 1915, with hopeful actors and actresses descending on the desert basin town.
The sign, which took its name from the film-crazed area, was erected in 1923.
Harry Chandler, the Los Angeles Times publisher, built the sign not for the film industry but for his real estate development agency.
The sign was rebuilt in the late 1970s due to deterioration.
The costly job was partially funded by some of Hollywood’s elite and members of the music industry.
Hugh Hefner organised a charity auction of the sign’s letters, with Alice Cooper purchasing an ‘O’.
The Hollywood sign is protected by park rangers and local police and is bordered by a fence.
It is possible to hike reasonably close to the sign, however, the best views come from further afield.
Hollywood Sign is at Mt. Lee, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA 90068.
3- Griffith Observatory
Another of LA’s landmarks made famous by the entertainment industry, Griffith Observatory, is more than just a scenic movie location.
The observatory opened in 1935 by Griffith J. Griffith, who was inspired to build an observatory to precise specifications.
Griffith was the benefactor behind both the observatory and the park that now bear his name.
The building itself is striking and offers incredible views of both the park and the city below.
The observatory has always been an important scientific location for scientists and astronomers, however, cinematic exposure has turned it into a tourism hot spot and beloved landmark of the city.
Griffith wanted to make astronomy visible to all, and he has undoubtedly achieved that through planetarium shows, workshops, and opportunities to access the telescopes are all available to the public.
Griffith Observatory is at 2800 E Observatory Rd, Los Angeles, CA 90027.
4- Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier dates back to 1909 and became the first pier in the United States to be built from concrete instead of wood.
On its opening night, a tableau vivant called ‘The Surrender of Rex Neptune’ was performed.
The tableau told the story of Rex Neptune, the king of the sea who set out to destroy the pier but realised that he would not be able to break the concrete.
In defeat, he dove off the pier in a blaze of flames.
Visitors are encouraged to download the Secret Story Tour app, which will take them through some of the key historical elements of the Pier in an interactive, educational and fun manner.
Santa Monica Pier is at 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401.
5- Korean Friendship Bell
The Korean Friendship Bell is an important symbol of friendship between the Republic of Korea and the United States.
The bell is intricately decorated and was cast in Korea before being shipped to the United States.
It was donated to the people of Los Angeles to celebrate the bicentennial of US Independence, to honour veterans of the Korean war, and as a symbol of friendship.
The bell sits within a red pagoda built by Korean craftsmen who were flown in for the occasion.
The 12 columns supporting the bell represent the twelve symbols of the oriental zodiac and feature animals standing at each column’s base.
Korean Friendship Bell is at 3601 S Gaffey St, San Pedro, CA 90731.
6- Urban Light
Urban Light is an art installation at the entrance to the Los Angels County Museum of Art.
The installation has 202 vintage street lamps.
Chris Burden created Urban Light by collecting vintage lamps over several years. He began collecting in the 1980s.
Each lamp was then restored to working condition and painted grey.
As the lamps are all different, their sizes vary, creating a tranquil visual escape from the surrounding streets.
The lamps are all solar-powered.
Head to Urban Light at night when the lights are on for Instagram worthy shots.
Urban Light is at 5905 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
7- Angels Flight Railway
A true historical landmark of LA is Angels Flight Railway, which has been in operation since 1901.
The world’s shortest railway is a funicular that takes passengers from Hill Street and Grand Avenue on Bunker Hill.
The 315ft (96m) journey takes less than 30 seconds to complete.
The railway is famous for its bright orange trolley carts and has even made It into tv shows and movies.
During its 120 years of operation, the railway has carried more than 100 million passengers.
Angels Flight Railway is at 350 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071.
8- Venice Canal Historic District
Stepping onto the pathways surrounding Venice Canal Historic District has been likened to stepping into Europe.
This tranquil corner of LA is close to Venice Beach but is easily overlooked by busy passers-by.
The canals are bordered with walkways and crossed with elegant bridges, of which no two are alike.
Abbot Kinney, a tobacco millionaire, founded Venice of America in 1905.
The canals were built as drainage for Kinney’s residential area.
In 1924 most of the canals were filled in and paved when the city decided it needed more roads.
The canals that remain today are all that were left by the end of 1928.
Each house within the canals has a dock, many with a gondola style boat docked there.
Venice Canal Historic District is at Venice, CA 90292.
9- Bradbury Building
Bradbury Building is the oldest surviving commercial building in the centre of Los Angeles and has long been a treasured landmark of the city.
The building features a Romanesque exterior with elegant Victorian interiors.
The central court features open cage lifts, wide marble staircases and ornately shaped iron railings.
Lewis Bradbury, a mining and real estate agent, wanted to create an office building unlike the others in the area.
He completed it in 1893 and the building has been a popular location for television shows, movies and even music videos.
Bradbury Building is still a functioning office space, however, tourists are allowed on the ground floor to take in this spectacular piece of American architecture.
Bradbury Building is at 304 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013.
10- Echo Park Lake
Built-in 1868 as a reservoir for the city, Echo Park Lake is a must-visit landmark in Los Angeles.
In 1891 four landowners who owned the 33 acres surrounding the lake gave their land to the city to allow Echo Lake to become part of a park.
The park was completed in 1895 and featured a boathouse to enable people to spend pleasant afternoons on the water.
The park and lake featured in numerous silent movies during the 1910s, however, city leaders soon stepped in ad prevented the studio from filming there again as the flowers within the park were being trampled.
Echo Park Lake is at Echo Park, 1632 Bellevue Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90026.
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11- La Brea Tar Pits
La Brea Tar Pits have existed for more than 50,000 years. The tar pits are the only actively excavated Ice Age fossil site in an urban location.
Excavations into the tar pits have been going on since the early 1900s.
There have been more than 100 excavations made at the site that has resulted in some incredible discoveries.
Archaeologists have pulled intact prehistoric and now-extinct animals from the tar, including mammoths and sloths.
By exhibiting their findings and continuing to excavate the land, archaeologists and scientists at La Brea aim to uncover more information about how these animals lived and died and how ecosystems and climates changed.
La Brea Tar Pits is at 5801 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036.
12- OUE Skyspace
OUE Skyspace is a spectacular observation deck at the top of the US Bank Tower, offering 360-degree views over Los Angeles.
The tower is the second-tallest in Los Angeles at 1018ft (310m) above the streets below.
The observation deck has telescopes available and comfortable sofas to relax on while taking in the vast landscape.
OUE Skyspace also includes a bar featuring locally brewed beers and wines from one of California’s many vineyards.
OUE Skyspace is at 633 W 5th St #840, Los Angeles, CA 90071.
13- Point Dume
A more natural landmark in LA is Point Dume, which is a rocky outcrop jutting out into the Pacific ocean.
The cliff is dramatic and drops steeply down to the small beach below.
The crescent-shaped beach is not without its links to the silver screen, however.
Film fans flock to the sandy cove to see where the iconic scene of Taylor and Nova coming across the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the sand in the movie Planet of the Apes.
Aside from movie buffs, the beach is a popular location for rock climbing, cave exploration and water sports.
Point Dume is at Cliffise Dr & Birdview Ave, Malibu, CA 90265.
14- Hollywood Walk of Fame
A list covering Los Angeles landmarks would not be complete without including the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It was E. M. Stuart’s idea to create the Walk of Fame in 1953, as a way to honour the glory of a glamourous and exciting community.
Now, the Hollywood walk of fame has over 2600 stars dedicated to those in the film, television and music industries.
The stars are constructed from terrazzo and brass and bear the celebrities name in gold lettering.
Hollywood Walk of Fame is at Hollywood Boulevard, Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90028.
15- Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens
Huntington Library is an incredible cultural landmark of LA that provides an extraordinary collection for research and education for both scholars and the public.
There are 42,000 works of art within the art museum’s ornately decorated corridors and 11 million library objects on display in the rich brown mahogany library.
This extraordinary collection of books includes 450,000 rare books, including a 15th-century copy of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.
The botanical gardens cover 120 acres with more than 15,000 plant varieties in a tranquil setting.
Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens is at 1151 Oxford Rd, San Marino, CA 91108.
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16- Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Hollywood Forever is a functioning cemetery, crematorium and funeral home in the centre of Hollywood.
The cemetery also holds cultural events and was founded in 1899.
While its design is not unremarkable, the cemetery is one of the most visited tourist destinations in America, thanks to its famous residents.
Celebrities buried in the cemetery include gangster Bugsy Siegel, the voice of Buggs Bunny Mel Blanc, and two of the Ramones, Dee Dee and Johnny.
Guided tours of the celebrity graves are available and run both during the day and at night.
If visiting Los Angeles during the Dia de Los Muertos celebrations, be sure to book a ticket to see the cemetery come to life in vibrant colours. During the summer, films are also shown at the cemetery.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery is at 6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038.
17- Mullholland Drive
Few sights in Los Angeles haven’t made it onto the silver screen, and Mullholland Drive is no different.
Whilst the road itself is a spectacular stretch of tarmac to drive, it is the varying views across Los Angeles that draw visitors to its winding curves.
Most recently, a stretch of the road was featured in 2016’s La La Land, with glistening streetlights in the valley below shown in the scene’s background.
The road has regular vista points where you can pull over and truly take in the views.
Mullholland Drive runs from Ventura Fwy in Woodland Hills to Hollywood Fwy/Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood Hills.
18- Getty Centre
Richard Meier designed the Getty Centre, which opened to the public in 1997.
The museum is on a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Within the museum is an impressive permanent collection featuring pre-20th century paintings from Europe, modern sculptures and illustrated manuscripts.
Outside of the museum are numerous contemporary sculptures.
Be sure to find Irises by Vincent van Gogh displayed in the West Pavilion, and relax in the beauty of the Central Garden.
Robert Irwin, an artist, created the gardens and filled them with 500 varieties of plants, cooling fountains and small streams.
The Getty Centre is free to enter, opening up arts and culture for all.
Getty Centre is at 1200 Getty Centre Dr, Los Angeles, CA 90049.
19- Grand Central Market
Grand Central Market has served LA residents since 1917.
The market was originally named ‘Wonder Market’ and was the largest public market on the Pacific Coast.
The market is on the ground floor of the Homer Laughlin Building, which was the first steel-reinforced and fireproof structure built in the city.
Today’s market is filled with 40 exciting food stalls that showcase the very best of local Californian ingredients, cultural showcases, and twists on classic dishes.
The market’s cultural diversity of ready to eat food, ingredients, and drinks is a true reflection of the city’s diverse population.
Grand Central Market is at 317 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013.
20- Walt Disney Concert Hall
The Walt Disney Concert Hall is a stunning architectural LA landmark and one of the most well-known buildings in the world.
Frank Gehry designed the building from huge pieces of curved stainless steel.
The building itself took 16 years to make and was designed from the inside out to prioritise the concert hall itself.
The concert hall’s interior features hardwood panelling, which adds to the unique and full acoustic sound produced by the resident orchestra.
The LA Philharmonic call the concert hall their own.
Walt Disney Concert Hall is at 111 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
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21- Chinatown Gate
Chinatown’s West Gate may not be as impressive as the Dragon Gate, nonetheless, it’s an instantly recognisable monument of Los Angeles.
It’s near the Wishing Well, which is a popular LA landmark.
LA’s Chinatown has been open since 1938 and is packed with Chinese grocery stores, bakeries and dim sum houses.
Chinatown is at LA Chinatown Central Plaza, 943-951 N. Broadway, Los Angeles.
22- Rodeo Drive
One street you must visit when in LA is Rodeo Drive, which is packed with luxury stores and landmark scenes from popular movies.
Three blocks near Wilshire Boulevard is famous for its uber-luxurious boutiques and where you can watch the lives of the rich and famous.
Rodeo Drive is a two-mile (3.2km) street in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles.
23- Pointe Vincente Lighthouse
Pointe Vincente Lighthouse is a beacon on a cliff to the north of Los Angeles Harbor.
The lighthouse was constructed in 1926, has a 67ft (20m) high tower and a rotating third-order Fresnel lens.
Pointe Vincente Lighthouse is at 31550 Palos Verdes Dr W, Rancho Palos Verdes.
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