Even if you haven’t yet visited West Hollywood, you’ve probably heard of the Sunset Strip. This iconic stretch of road extends 1.6 miles from the city’s eastern Hollywood border to its western Beverly Hills border, and it’s filled to the brim with boutiques, restaurants, music venues, shops, nightclubs, swanky hotels, and colorful billboards that light up come nightfall. We’re not kidding — it’s packed with just about anything you could imagine.
Whether you prefer a night out or a good book, the Strip is bound to have something that suits your style and mood.
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Those with a penchant for the past will appreciate that the Sunset Strip has seen a lot. It was home to gangsters in the roaring ’20s, the playground of Hollywood royalty (such as Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, and Greta Garbo), the site of infamous nightclubs and bars like Ciro’s and Mocambo, and the birthplace of many famous bands and brands. It has evolved and escalated over the years, but it still holds countless stories within its confines — you just have to know where to look.
Looking to hit two birds with one stone? Villa Nova was the Italian eatery that served as a favorite date spot for the stars of old Hollywood — in 1945, Vincente Minelli (Liza Minelli’s father) proposed to Judy Garland at the locale, and in 1953, Marilyn Monroe and baseball great Joe DiMaggio enjoyed a first blind date there. The eatery was later transformed into Rainbow Bar & Grill, which became a hub for rock and roll royalty through the 1970s and ’80s. Megastars such as Jimi Hendrix, Guns N’ Roses, Alice Cooper, John Lennon, the Who, and Led Zeppelin partied there. And, John Belushi ate his last meal (of lentil soup) at the bar just before overdosing at his nearby bungalow.
To explore other historic sites in the area, peruse this timeline of major moments seen along the Strip.
Among some of the Strip’s most famous establishments sit two comedy clubs, both of which are frequented by some of the art’s most beloved performers. The Comedy Store is a wildly famous locale — almost every successful comedian from the past few decades has graced the stage that the iconic Mitzi Shore managed (Jim Carrey, Michael Keaton, Ed Begley Jr., and David Letterman all got their start at Amateur Night there). Though the club releases its setlists on Instagram the day of, you never know who might pop in for a surprise set; in recent weeks, Bill Burr and Dave Chappelle both made an appearance on the same night.
Just up the street, though technically outside of WeHo, the Laugh Factory is known for lineups that include both seasoned and emerging stand-up acts, plus surprise celebrity guests. Although plenty of well-known performers have taken the stage there, you can currently see regular sets from major comedians such as Chris D’Elia, Kevin Nealon, and Whitney Cummings.
If you’re looking for a traditional night out in West Hollywood, the Sunset Strip is the place to go, as it has a reputation as a nightlife hotspot. For classier offerings, head to Mondrian’s SkyBar — which has a storied Hollywood past but remains a popular destination for anyone wanting to spot celebrities — or the Tower Bar at Sunset Tower Hotel. The latter is a cozy rendezvous inspired by early Hollywood with incredible, sweeping views of Los Angeles. Additionally, venues like Bar Marmont and the super-secret Mmhmm cocktail bar at the Standard are sleek spots to see and be seen. Hyde Sunset Kitchen + Cocktails also boasts a swanky atmosphere, patio, and drinks in a nightclub setting, while Soho House WeHo offers signature cocktails and a rooftop garden. But, if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed, On the Rox is a semi-private, hidden bar behind the Roxy — a great place to catch a local band’s set.
Book lovers can’t miss Book Soup, LA’s largest independent bookstore, with floor-to-ceiling shelves that contain more than 60,000 titles, many of which are limited edition. The extensive selection spans a variety of genres, so if you’re feeling overwhelmed, check out their endless staff recommendations. The shop also sells prints and zines, records, clothing, stationery, and miscellaneous items for those who love the written word, and it hosts frequent author readings and signings — so be sure to check their calendar to meet your favorite novelist or hear from up-and-comers.
Tucked away just next to Book Soup is Mystery Pier Books, a shop that sells rare and first-edition books. It’s a popular spot among celebrities such as Amy Adams, Johnny Depp, Guillermo del Toro, and Michael Caine (i.e. people who can afford such books), but even if you’re not in the market for top-shelf literature, it’s still a great place to look around — the owners will often take books out for you and tell you the stories behind their signatures.
To say there’s a plethora of places to eat on the Strip would be an understatement. This section of West Hollywood is brimming with good haunts and tasty treats. For brunch, head to Pearl’s Rooftop, and open-air second-story restaurant and bar overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Offering a selection of bowls, egg dishes, flatbreads, toasts, and “Indecisive Bens,” their menu has everything you could be craving on a weekend morning — oh, and did we mention they have mimosa kits?
For lunch, check out Pink Taco, which offers no-nonsense Mexican fare with an uncomplicated and innovative approach made from local ingredients. Their playfully presented menu provides for a variety of food moods, from light to decadent — so no matter what you order, it’s bound to be delicious and memorable.
For happy hour, opt for the Den on Sunset, a bar and restaurant with a welcoming tavern feel, complete with a fireplace inside and fire pits on the patio. Their sandwiches and flatbreads are addicting, so beware — once you start, you won’t be able to stop.
For dinner, make your way over to Night + Market, a vibrant Thai restaurant serving delicious and authentic dishes. The menu is best experienced family-style, so order a lot and don’t be shy. As the Thai saying aharn glam lao suggests, food should facilitate drinking and fun among friends. This Sunset Strip establishment was a favorite of Jonathan Gold (it made the late food critic’s list of 101 best restaurants in LA), and is frequented by Gwyneth Paltrow, Lena Dunham, Daft Punk, and Questlove today.
If you’re enthralled by a bit of old Hollywood charm, spend some time in Café Trocadero, a French-themed nightclub built in 1934 that once beckoned Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, and Lana Turner — among others — on the regular, while the as-of-yet undiscovered Judy Garland and Jackie Gleason toured there for Amateur Hour.
For more of a modern take on film, visit the nearby DGA (Director’s Guild of America) Theatre Complex — which hosts regular screenings where members and their guests can attend Q&As with the directors. Or, head over to AMC Sunset 5, the old Sundance theatre, to enjoy dinner and a movie!
Did you know that the Doors got their start on the Sunset Strip? Well, more specifically, at Whisky a Go Go — the venue that also housed rock legends and rising stars like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Kinks, the Who, and the Byrds. Did you know that the Strip also hosted top rock artists like Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Neil Young, and David Bowie — and, not to mention, premiered the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Roxy? And did you know that it was also the home of the 1940s intimate jazz club where Mobsters Sigel and Cohen used to gamble (i.e. the Viper Room)?
What makes this area so special is that all of these establishments are still up-and-running, and you can not only visit them but go to shows and listen to music in the very spaces where legends of varying genres were made — and you might even spot the next star-in-the-making. That’s pretty darn cool. From these glam-grunge rock clubs to legendary record studios like Nightbird at the Sunset Marquis, the Strip runs on music.