Best Neighborhoods in Los Angeles [Insider's Guide]
If you ask an Angelino about the best neighborhoods in Los Angeles, you might get 4 million different answers. Some folks love to live near the beach. Some choose a neighborhood based how far it is from their workplace. Others seek the right combination of affordability and safety, even if it means spending a little time stuck in traffic each day. Hour-long commutes here are the norm.
If you’re moving to L.A. and don’t know the city, narrowing down the best neighborhood can be tricky; there are 114 of them inside the city limits. Thus, the need to share with you – the home shopper or apartment hunter - the best places to consider living in Los Angeles. I’d propose that the cream of the crop can be identified by their character, nearby amenities and popularity (demand). Plus, a good dose of insider knowledge.
Los Angeles is divided by the Santa Monica Mountains, a range that runs east-to-west across the city. Hillside neighborhoods, with their epic view properties, have been prized places to live for many decades. This is where you'll find plenty of architectural gems; classic and contemporary dwellings with styles that withstand the test of time. While rich and famous denizens may come and go, the stunning architectural homes live on. Walking these neighborhoods gives one a special appreciation for L.A.’s whimsical past.
For active people, any neighborhood’s proximity to nature - access to hiking, jogging or cycling - can matter quite a bit. Waking tree-lined streets or stepping onto a nearby hiking trail can be a welcome relief from the sometimes-confining feeling of big city life. Let’s face it, Los Angeles is a massive, sprawling metropolis. But L.A. also has some exceptional parks and recreational outlets that can help you forget about the hours spent each week stuck in traffic or the bustle of city life.
What’s more, living close music venues, restaurants, nightlife and mom & pop restaurants make life much more pleasant.
The best L.A. neighborhoods do both: a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n roll.
Demand and Growth
The popularity of a neighborhood, based on the number of home shoppers that ask about them when they contact a real estate agent, is also an indicator of its value. A few areas around L.A. routinely make home buyers’ short-lists. When homes in the most desirable areas are put up for sale, they tend to sell faster than properties in other neighborhoods, sometimes the same day.
L.A. has two up-and-coming neighborhoods right now: Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood (both covered below). Neither are new, just hot again because of the ongoing revitalization efforts and residential developer money that is pouring into new real estate projects. Construction cranes are everywhere.
Birthplace of Mickey Mouse and the burgeoning motion picture industry in the 1920s, Los Feliz is a laid-back neighborhood in the heart of Los Angeles. This quaint district is a longtime favorite for newcomers and established residents alike. The area is home to several notable architectural gems and two Frank Lloyd Wright homes, Ennis House and Hollyhock House.
The neighborhood rests at the base of Griffith Park, giving locals living in Los Feliz easy access to hiking trails, three public golf courses, and several picnic areas. The Griffith Observatory sits right above the district, which serves as a kind of directional beacon during the day and a cool night time landmark when it is lit each evening.
House shoppers looking for abodes in the area will find gorgeous homes in Laughlin Park (gated), Franklin Hills, Los Feliz Estates and Los Feliz Hills. Compared to the rest of Los Angeles, homes in Los Feliz are pricey.
Los Feliz is pedestrian-friendly and very bike-able as the terrain is mostly flat. Given the number of grocery and specialty stores, many daily errands will not require a car. Two retail areas, along Hillhurst and Vermont Avenues respectively, give residents plenty of restaurant choices and the convenience of services nearby. There are several public bus stops and a major Metro subway station that make it easy get to places near and far.
Silver Lake is surrounded by Atwater Village, Echo Park, Westlake and Los Feliz. In the 1970s, the area was known for unsavory activity but transformed into a hipster mecca with a great selection of specialty shops, espresso cafes and restaurants. Sunset Junction is the retail area where you'll find the neighborhood's best boutiques and shops.
When locals think of Silver Lake, two things immediately come to mind, the Silver Lake Reservoir and the indie rock scene that draws comparisons to New York City's Williamsburg district.
Silver Lake Farmers Market is held on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons at the Sunset Triangle Plaza. While this is a typical farmer's market with fresh produce, you'll also find a selection of vintage clothing and jewelry. It's also a good place to grab a bite to eat.
Located on Silver Lake Drive, you'll find the 100+ year-old Chandelier Tree that currently holds about 30 chandeliers on its branches because – why not?
The district can be conquered by foot; WalkScore.com ranks it the 28th most walkable neighborhood in Los Angeles. Several busses pass through the community, giving it a Transit Score of 54 and Bike Score of 51. The 2.5-mile path around the reservoir is a good place to jog or walk. Approximately 34,890 people live in Silver Lake. Homes are nestled into the hills, many with reservoir views.
West Hollywood (WeHo)
West Hollywood is sandwiched between Hollywood and Beverly Hills and is home to the world-famous Sunset Strip.
A hotbed of 60s counterculture, rock scene of the 70s, and heavy metal haven of the 80s, WeHo played a significant role in pop culture, worldwide. Longtime nightclubs like Whisky a Go Go and Troubadour still launch music careers and host intimate shows with big-time acts.
Here, one can go out casually to enjoy a beer at long-time haunt Barney’s Beanery, take in a few laughs at comedy clubs or put on your best threads to enjoy martinis at Skybar.
West Hollywood is also one of the most LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods in the United States. Since 1970, it has been home to the L.A. Pride Parade and Festival in West Hollywood Park each year. What’s more, WeHo hosts the world’s largest Halloween party every fall, Carnaval, drawing a massive crowd of 500,000.
West Hollywood is considered a “walker’s paradise” according to Walkscore.com. Residents can manage daily errands, shop, and dine without using their car. West Hollywood received a slightly lower Bike Score since there are few bike lanes and some of the area’s side streets (between Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards) are steep. Homes in WeHo are priced well above average compared to the rest of L.A. county, but not as pricey as houses in the nearby Hollywood Hills. Homes above Sunset Strip command top dollar but sport spectacular views of the L.A. Basin.
Over 34,000 people live in West Hollywood.
The Hollywood Hills sit on the southern slope of the Santa Monica Mountains, facing the L.A. Basin, Downtown L.A., and the ocean. Suffice it to say, the views here are incredible.
Living in the Hollywood Hills feels one giant neighborhood, but some folks (especially REALTORS® and police officers) divide up the territory into smaller districts (East and West), using the Cahuenga Pass and 101 Freeway as a divider. Dividing up the area helps clarify niche enclaves and patrol areas. Los Angeles is the kind of city where home prices and the vibes can change every few blocks. However, if you step back and view the hillside district in aggregate, some common themes emerge.
First, homes in the Hollywood Hills are among the most impressive and expensive in town. Some sit on city-view properties and others face up or down the many undulating canyons. Architectural gems dot the scene, many owned by movie stars that make the pages of architecture and lifestyle magazines. In contrast, there are several funky bungalows, remnants of the 1960s and 70s counterculture. Here you will find construction designs in Spanish, German, Italian and Mid Century Modern styles.
Hillside living means driving twisty, steep roads that sometimes require deft maneuvering. The payoff, when you arrive at your destination, is that you are above the urban fray, surrounded by nature. Hiking trails are never far away, the two most popular areas to trek nearby being Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park.
The Hollywood Hills are walkable in the sense of getting good exercise, but not as a means of running errands. You won’t find retail shopping or grocery stores in the hills; the area is primarily residential with a few exceptions noted below.
Same goes for biking. You won’t see folks getting to and from work on a bike. However, the road that follows the crest of the Santa Monica Mountain range, Mulholland Drive, is a local favorite with cyclists. On weekends, pelotons and solo riders weave along Mulholland and then catch a fast ride down the main thoroughfares. Less grueling (flatter) rides can be found in and around Griffith Park.
Approximately 36,500 people live in Hollywood Hills East and Hollywood Hills West combined. The percentage of people who own a home is higher in the western area (63.6%) versus the eastern portion (43.5%) partly because of there are more apartment buildings in Lower Beachwood Canyon.
Hollywood Hills East
The few notable residential enclaves of the Hollywood Hills East include Beachwood Canyon, Outpost Estates, Whitely Heights, and The Oaks. A mile up Beachwood Drive you’ll find Beachwood Village, a small retail strip that includes a grocery store and café - these are big-time conveniences for residents, visiting hikers, and sightseers alike.
This is one of the most convenient parts of town for people who frequently hike; Griffith Park, Lake Hollywood Park, and Hollywood Reservoir are all nearby. In fact, most neighborhoods border at least one of the park's many trail heads. New residents are often surprised to find wildlife roaming through the area, including coyotes and deer.
Traffic can get a little congested at the base of the foothills during concerts at the Hollywood Bowl or from the weekend sightseers trying to get as close as possible to the Hollywood Sign. Griffith Observatory is another big draw for tourists.
Beachwood Drive is served by an LADOT DASH bus, a neighborhood feeder line that connects to the broader regional transportation system. You can ride straight to the Hollywood/Vine station and then hop on Metro's Red Line or grab another crosstown bus.
Hollywood Hills West
The hills are principally residential. But about a mile up Laurel Canyon, there's a small retail area with a dry cleaner, restaurant (Pace) and convenience store - good for snacks or a bottle of booze on your way home.
Runyon Canyon Park is the ever-busy open space for dog-friendly hiking and outdoor yoga classes. The people watching is fantastic; it can be a bit of a scene. Parking nearby is often difficult given its popularity. The view from the top is pretty sweet.
The history of Los Angeles’s growth begins Downtown and expands outwardly in concentric circles, each ring representing the gradual spreading out and suburbanization of the city. Greater Wilshire is centrally-located, an older neighborhood close to Downtown Los Angeles. Despite its location, right in the middle of the city, the area is quite charming.
Here you will find two of the best neighborhoods in L.A. to buy a house, Hancock Park and Larchmont. The former is more expensive and exclusive while the latter is more affordable, though higher than average home prices in the county.
Influential Angelinos of the past (many from the nascent motion picture industry of the 1920s) made Hancock Park home. Today, the neighborhood still has its share of famous residents.
Stately Hancock Park homes are set back from tree-lined streets, making Hancock Park one of the few places in the city where homes have big front yards. The lawns here are green and manicured, giving this big-city neighborhood a surprisingly bucolic charm. The low population density also helps.
Each home is distinct, but most have roots in Spanish Colonial Revival, American Colonial Revival, English Revival and Tudor Revival. You will not find the kind of cookie cutter look- and-feel of a modern subdivision. Wilshire Country Club, a private 18-hole golf course, sits right in the middle of the neighborhood.
Hancock Park is considered a “car-dependent” residential community where most routine shopping will require driving somewhere. Larchmont Village and Koreatown provide convenient nearby shopping and dining options. Fortunately, there are enough public transit choices for those who don’t drive. Hancock Park is also bike friendly. While there are few bike lanes, the terrain is flat and cyclists can stick to the neighborhood side streets where traffic is reasonably tame. Plus, there are many shade trees in the area that help to keep riders a cooler under the midday sun.
Larchmont is a small (16 x 6 block) historic district of Los Angeles developed in the 1800s. Half of Larchmont’s residents are foreign-born, making it quite diverse.
Trendy Larchmont Village is the center of the neighborhood, a charming, pedestrian-friendly retail area. Here you will find a plethora of coffee shops, restaurants, and boutique retail stores. With so many services (banks to yoga studios) in such a small area, the neighborhood feels quite self-contained. If you prefer more than the essentials, check out the Larchmont Village Farmers’ Market on Sundays.
Talk a walk along Larchmont Boulevard or through the adjacent neighborhoods and you will feel like you’re in Small Town U.S.A. Well-maintained Larchmont homes dot the scene, many built in the 20s and 30s. Some folks think of the area as L.A.’s “great secret.”
The area is considered “somewhat walkable” (Score 68) according to Walkscore.com. I’d argue it’s much more walkable than the score suggests because of the density of retail shops in Larchmont Village. Residents might need to hop in their car for everyday shopping, but there’s a big Pavilion’s grocery store three blocks north of the Village. It’s not much of a walk.
Studio City is part hillside and flat land - a community resting at the southernmost portion of the San Fernando Valley, near the Cahuenga Pass (101 Freeway). Studio City homes sit on the north-facing slopes of the Santa Monica Mountains where the weather is hotter and drier than the L.A. Basin. Views here are fantastic, too. There are plenty of trees around to give the area a “living in nature” feel.
The flat and hillside portions are divided by Ventura Boulevard, a lively retail strip where locals can find good restaurants and bars. The ever-busy Trader Joe’s will test your parking and maneuvering skills as the lot is typically packed.
Nearby Fryman, Coldwater and Franklin Canyon Parks (and few other open spaces) are great spots for low-impact hiking and dog walking. Weddington Golf & Tennis is a fun place to play tennis or keep your golf skills honed on their 9-hole pitch and putt course or driving range. The Studio City Recreation Center (L.A. Parks) is home to community programs for kids and adults alike.
Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and Universal Studios are nearby and can be reached by surface streets instead of hopping on a freeway. If you work in entertainment and hate sitting in traffic, living in Studio City is a good bet. Though, the Sony and Paramount lots are considerably further away. You’ll most likely use a car for day-to-day errands (Walk Score of 63).
To the east of Studio City, just across the 101 Freeway, sits Toluca Lake - another Valley favorite. The neighborhood terrain is flat, but still green and calming given the number of planted trees and manicured landscaping. The southern boundary abuts Lakeside Golf Club, a private course and longtime favorite of the entertainment industry’s elite. Membership dues are not as punishing as some of the other clubs in town (not that it matters if you're drowning in money).
Parts of the neighborhood look like 1950s America with delightful, single-story ranch homes and big front lawns. Dig a little further, and you'll find larger Toluca Lake luxury homes with more grandiose architectural styles. I like the combination of palm and deciduous trees that line the streets. The blend of Southern California and Midwest charm creates a truly unique vibe.
Over 8,500 residents live in Toluca Lake. It's one of the least dense districts in Los Angeles, partly due to the larger residential properties and the amount of space taken up by the golf course within its borders. Walk Score gives the enclave a score of 36 and I agree; it is far less walkable than other parts of L.A. for running daily errands like quick grocery shopping trips. However, the neighborhood is ideal for jogging or walking.
If the idea of living near a beach seems irresistible to you, Venice may be one of the best places to live in Los Angeles. For years, Venice has been an edgy part of town but is now much tamer vis a vis gentrification.
Charming and recently-remodeled Venice homes dot the landscape. The Oakwood neighborhood is ground zero for the ever-increasing home prices in the district. Venice is now home to some of the most expensive real estate in town, on a per square foot basis (in part because homes here are small). Beachfront properties command top dollar.
Tightly packed homes along the Venice Canals are also quite pricey when compared to the surrounding neighborhoods. The earliest homes tend to be modest, one-story residences. Over the years owners have replaced them with much larger luxury homes. The original lots are small, so newer homes are typically three stories tall.
Abbot Kinney is the main retail strip, lined with bars, restaurants and boutique stores. It is highly walkable just like the rest of the neighborhood. Routine grocery shopping can be fulfilled at the nearby Whole Foods Market and further supplemented by the Venice Farmers’ Market, held on Friday mornings.
Venice Beach is where you’ll find the boardwalk, good for rollerblading or biking in the morning before the crowds show up. Tacky stores - chock full of trinkets and bongs - are never farther than a stone’s throw. You may spot weightlifters strutting their stuff at the Venice Beach Weight Pen, a public outdoor workout area. The heavily-used basketball courts and skateboard park bring in visitors from all over. At sunset, locals show up for the drum circle on the beach.
With its “cool factor” on the rise, Venice is now home to one of Google’s regional offices and the accompanying, highly-paid knowledge workers who staff the office.
Be warned: the neighborhood is packed on hot summer weekends when throngs of Angelinos descend on the area to escape the inland heat. Then there is the routine flock of tourists drawn to the Venice Canals to take pictures atop its miniature bridges. Major traffic congestion is a weekly occurrence.
Over 40,000 people live in Venice.
Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA)
Looking for something more cosmopolitan and sophisticated? Downtown could be the best neighborhood in Los Angeles for you; it's the one place in Los Angeles that feels truly like a metropolis. Lit skyscraper offices illuminate the nighttime sky like a buoyant star field. The sounds of cars, buses, and voices echo through the canyons made of concrete and glass.
In the not-too-distant past, the common refrain among Angelinos was “No one goes Downtown at night.” Well, not anymore. Today, DTLA is a hive of activity day and night.
About 34,000 people live here, but over 200,000 people work here during the day. Renters make up 93.4% of the residents (6.6% own a home), but that is quickly changing. Thanks to the ongoing construction and rehabilitation of condominiums in DTLA, the area is more livable and desirable than ever. Several older commercial buildings have been converted to lofts, and luxury condo towers go up at a rapid pace. The number of great bars and restaurants continues to keep up with the construction tempo.
Given the number of professionals that leave the area each night, the competition for happy hour patrons makes it easy to find a cheap, stiff cocktail on workweek evenings. While professional by day, the neighborhood is young, hip, and urban at night. Some of the best restaurants in L.A. are Downtown, too!
DTLA is a business district, financial center and fashion quarter among other things. It’s also the seat of city and county government. The Los Angeles Police Department, courts, and district FBI headquarters are stationed here. Disney Concert Hall, home of the L.A. Philharmonic, along with other world-class cultural venues (e.g. MOCA and The Broad) line Grand Avenue.
The L.A. Convention Center, Staples Center and Microsoft Theater draw many people to the area for concerts, sporting events, etc.
Downtown is the central organ of the city, a major transportation hub (Transit Score 98). The system handles a tremendous daily flow of people in and out of the area. You’ll be taking your chances with heavy traffic if you hop on the freeways. Better to stick with the subway, bus or train when coming and going during peak commuter times.
Living and working here might give you the opportunity to ditch your car and rely exclusively upon on-demand services like Uber or Zipcar. DTLA is the most walkable neighborhood in Los Angeles (Walk Score 95).
Not long ago, Hollywood wouldn't have made the list of Best Neighborhoods in Los Angeles. A once-forgotten (and seedy) area of Los Angeles, today Hollywood undergoes rapid transformation. Though the commercial core declined in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, its turnaround started early 2000s.
The convergence of technology and show business drives part of the revitalization. The longtime home of CNN's West Coast operations, Hollywood's commercial core now hosts new regional offices for streaming services Netflix, BuzzFeed and Viacom.
New condominium projects, retail stores, bars, and restaurants abound, breathing new life into the district. Construction of office buildings and condo towers help accommodate the influx of new workers and residents, transforming the skyline once dominated by the iconic Capitol Records building. Mid-day traffic is now a thing.
If you ever pine for the past, join the throngs of tourists who stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, heads down with cameras in-hand. Hollywood Boulevard makes for great people watching. For something less kitschy , spend a Sunday at the Hollywood Farmers Market.
WalkScore gives Hollywood a score of 93, ranking it the 3rd most walkable neighborhood in L.A. The bike score is also high (75), but as a cyclist who knows the area well, I feel that’s a bit misleading. While there are certainly bike lanes in the district, there’s much more traffic in the neighborhood each year as the population continues to swell.
92.4% of residents rent, according to the most recent data available. But that data is questionable and most likely outdated given the breakneck speed at which condominium projects go up. Demand still exceeds supply, putting upward pressure on prices for existing condos in Hollywood.
Public transportation is extremely convenient; there are two Red Line subway stops: Hollywood/Vine and Hollywood/Highland. The subway makes it fast and easy to get Downtown Los Angeles for events at Staples Center, L.A. Coliseum or Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Live in L.A.
Whether you want to be a beach bum or sophisticate, there's bound to be a single best neighborhood in Los Angeles for you. Maybe hillside mansions, languid beaches or cosmopolitan downtown are the best fit for you. One thing's for sure, Los Angeles is a dynamic and fascinating place – especially when you put it under a microscope and break it down into its unique neighborhoods.
The best places in Los Angeles tend to have the most interesting character – the architecture, history, and amenities. Each neighborhood has a unique vibe that influences the kind lifestyle you can most easily enjoy; whether it's access to hiking, the beach, fine dining or none of the above. If you'd like to learn more about the cities and towns outside the city limits of Los Angeles, check out the best suburbs of Los Angeles.