United States of America

48 Hours in West Hollywood

48 Hours in West Hollywood

What happens when a travel writer returns home?

I’ve navigated every continent, indulged in the most exclusive travel experiences, and ventured to the farthest corners of the globe in pursuit of exotic perspectives for get lost Magazine over the last 20 years.

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So when assigned the task to share the best that West Hollywood has to offer, a place I first called home right out of college, that launched my obsession with travel, I was faced with a unique problem.

On the surface, it might appear akin to asking David Attenborough to expound on goldfish behavior or Anthony Bourdain to critique his mom’s meatloaf. Yet, against all expectations, this assignment unfolded as one of the most personal and captivating journeys of my career. West Hollywood, or WeHo as locals affectionately don’t call it, holds a unique place in my heart—it was the initial haven I sought beyond the bustling confines of New York City.

Here, I learned, for better or worse, the art of savoring life through eating, drinking, and dancing. To paraphrase Thomas Wolfe "you can never go home again," but Tommy, you've yet to acquaint yourself with West Hollywood.

Bedecked in a vibrant spectrum of rainbow hues, West Hollywood stands globally recognized as one of the LGBTQ+ capitals of the world. The acceptance that radiates from every street corner fosters an atmosphere of creativity and openness unparalleled in most locales you’ll have encountered to this point.

From coffee shops to repair shops, restaurants to hospitality, there's an unbridled celebration of novelty, spirit, and character that sets this destination apart.

With a mix of anticipation and trepidation, I descended back into the folds of my old haunts to work out whether they retained the glossy brilliance that once captivated me, while also seeking to uncover mysteries that had evolved in this rainbow paradise during my absence while I explored the diverse landscapes of the world.

I check into The Pendry Hotel, the contemporary pinnacle of fun-lux accommodations in West Hollywood, if not the entire expanse of Los Angeles. The hotel seamlessly blends maximalism and deco elegance, exuding casual charm that encapsulates the quintessence of West Hollywood. The rooms are opulent, the rooftop pool lounge is alluring, and the bars and lounges transport you into a Baz Luhrmann-inspired dreamscape. The ghost of the former House of Blues that occupied the same space years ago, has now metamorphosed into the Pendry's ultra-lux piano bar, hosting luminaries like Stevie Wonder, Justin Timberlake, and Beck—ensuring the legacy of celebration lives on.

Knowing myself all too well, I anticipate some serious recovery time after a proper night out in West Hollywood, so I headed to Book Soup to get something to read poolside with a bottle of Advil. I love this iconic literature shop, where you can still buy physical magazines or the perfect gift for your friends back home, not to mention your next favourite read. On the way out I spy a red sign pointing down an extremely thin alley that reads Mystery Pier Books. Following it I discover a living hobbit house where the owner, Harvey Jason, welcomes me in.

Unannounced, I discover perhaps the most iconic rare bookstore in the world where you can see (and with enough collateral, buy) first editions of the world’s most sought after tomes. Byron, Kerouac, even first edition Shakespeare are in this little cottage house, all waiting for you to drool over.

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I start to head back to the hotel and duck into the Sunset Marquis to have a quick look inside the Morrison Hotel Gallery. Here, two-dimensional celebrities come to life in photographs of Cash, Madonna, Hendrix, and McQueen, capturing candid moments of their extraordinary lives. The spot is virtually hidden, but anyone that wants to get to know their celeb crushes better should not pass up this opportunity.

Embracing the polished sheen of West Hollywood's streets, I couldn't help but feel wonderfully inadequate—a sentiment I fondly recalled from my 20s. Back then I used to lift heavy things at Crunch, but today that experience can be lived at Dogpound, where A-listers sculpt their bodies with some of the world's best trainers like Zach, the unsung heroes behind J-Lo's tush and Hemsworth's Thor-pack.

Properly pumped and ready to undo all gains made earlier, I met up with some old friends to plan our attack on West Hollywood's unbeatable nightlife. We started with a baseline bite at Harlowe, an establishment so good that once the carefully crafted cocktails and savory delights began dropping in on our seductively lit corner booth, we found it nearly impossible to leave.

As the night unfolded, we explored West Hollywood's world-class iconic joints for imbibing, each offering a unique vibe and salacious saltiness. Keeping it classic, I headed to The Formosa Cafe, the oldest and most authentic watering hole in West Hollywood, where strong drinks flowed freely in a classic atmosphere reminiscent of Hollywood's golden era.

With the night still young, we ventured to Casa Madera, an exclusive venue nestled in the same space that marked the beginning of my travel-obsessed career at the infamous Mondrian Hotel. The fish-forward Mediterranean haven offers amazing views and delightful DJ beats. Their culinary offerings were a feast for the senses—seductive citrus hamachi, floral-draped butter crab legs, and a fortress of Haas tuna tartare. The experience was a West Hollywood trifecta, a perfect blend of taste, ambiance, and Instagram-worthy visuals surrounded by celebs.

The nightcap started with a bit of laughter and revelry at The Comedy Store, before we moved 100 feet down Sunset to the Saddle Ranch, where my friend braved the mechanical bull for a round of free shots—a fair trade in our book. Finally we let gravity take hold of us as we tumbled down Olive to the infamous Barney's Beanery, where nights in West Hollywood usually used to end. It, as always, did not disappoint.

Look, if you know me, or you’ve come on my adventures, you will know I don’t suffer from travel fools. You can’t go back home, unless your home never leaves you. West Hollywood is that place that isn’t a location, it’s a philosophy, an emotion, or a dance move depending on when you ask. To me West Hollywood will always be the sweet flavour of fear of the unknown, mixed with the sweet release of acceptance. Be who you are or what you may be, this is a fold in the world’s culture where you’re not always just welcome, but celebrated. Thank you, and it is so good to be home.

Get there

United Airlines fly direct to LAX from Melbourne every day of the week, while various other airlines will also get you to the City of Angels.

Stay there

Pendry Hotel is a brand new opening which has turned the tables on accommodation in L.A. With a bowling alley, an elite entertainment and dining setup and a rooftop pool, it’s arguably the #1 place to situate yourself in WeHo.

Visit West Hollywood also has a list of 20 epic hotels to base your Los Angeles stay from.

Get Informed

Downtown West Hollywood, now known for its food, bars and nightclubs, was a 240-acre avocado farm in the 18th century.

Tour There

Visit West Hollywood is a great place to start to get to know WeHo. Here you can find tour operators, browse hotels, find out what epic events are on and when, and get a general gist of all the coolest shit in this hood which we can’t squeeze into 1,000 words.


Words Roberto Serrini

Photos Roberto Serrini

Tags: california, Sunset strip, United States, West Hollywood

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