Ask any native Californian where to visit in Los Angeles and most would include Venice Beach in their recommendations.
The beachfront neighbourhood was founded more than a century ago when a wealthy developer wanted to bring the European charm of the namesake Italian city to America’s western coast. After lots of canal-digging, restoration, and gentrification, the enclave has become a smorgasbord of cultures. The public walls are canvasses for talented artists to showcase their artistry, while over by the beach you can find both street performers entertaining and muscled men flexing.
To guide you through the hustle and bustle of the fabled beach town, we’ve got you covered on the best places to visit, eat at, and stay in when you’re visiting Venice Beach.
What to see
The actual canals of the neighbourhood is a ways off the main beach area, but it’s worth your time to explore. Unlike the grandeur of the real Venice, the Venice Canal Historic District exudes a cosiness that’s amplified by the eclectic architecture of the homes lining its banks. Take a stroll on the sidewalks and bask in the stillness the beach could never provide.
Venice Beach Boardwalk
Over by the Venice Boardwalk is where the magic happens. A sea of tourists congregate there daily to be charmed by the street performers or browse through the many shops and booths selling trinkets of all kinds. Don’t be fooled – there’s nothing local about the boardwalk, including the “I love Venice Beach” t-shirts. This 2.5km stretch is a tourist trap akin to Camden Market in London or Pier 39 in San Francisco, but that’s what makes it so iconic.
They say that Venice Beach is one of the places to see and be seen, but one place you really want to people-watch is over by Muscle Beach. Once frequented by legends Arnold Schwarzenegger and Larry Scott, the outdoor fitness facility is a piece of sports history and the unofficial mecca of bodybuilding. If you’re up to flex for a crowd, a day pass goes for US$10.
Where to eat
One of the top-rated restaurants locals recommend is Gjelina. Located on “the coolest street in America”, Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the restaurant is quintessentially Californian. The menu is an infusion of Mediterranean flavours and millennial fare and has been an institution in its own right for over a decade. Pictures are frowned upon in the establishment (sorry, Instagram), but there’s the off-chance you’ll be dining next to the likes of Lenny Kravitz and Drake.
Surely you have chanced upon an influencer (or touristy friend) posing with their egg sandwiches outside the cult-favourite restaurant Eggslut. In case it isn’t obvious by now, eggs reign supreme here as they’re turned into comfort food with a twist. Think scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and caramelised onions between two brioche buns, or a potato puree with a coddled egg on top.
It’s a perfect vision of a cafe: high ceilings with industrial architecture and a crew that knows their caffeine. Intelligentsia has been a favourite of Angelenos since their first store in the city a decade ago. Be sure to try out their flagship Black Cat Classic espresso, and maybe take home a bag or two if you like the coffee profile.
Where to stay
The Hotel Erwin has seen the transformation of Venice Beach from a quaint town to a gentrified neighbourhood, having been an establishment since 1975. The boutique hotel encapsulates the youth and vibrancy of Southern California while still maintaining a bohemian-chic vibe. Guests are also privy to certain facilities the hotel provides like beach bicycles and access to the nearby Gold’s Gym.
The Kinney hotel is a celebration of the magnificent murals dotted around Venice Beach. Its colourful walls and rooms cater to the younger crowd who can appreciate contemporary design. If you’re looking to chill out after a day of sightseeing around California, they have The Quad with ping pong tables, a fire pit, and a heated dipping pool and spa.
Venice Beach House
Those seeking out a piece of history on Venice Beach can stay at the Venice Beach House. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and with only nine bedrooms, the bed and breakfast offers a truly intimate experience. There’s even a charming library on-site.