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  • Cityscape Hills of tinseltown
  • City life California dreaming

LA – a city of silver-screen dreams, where movie moguls, stars and starlets party in the California sunshine.

The reality of this sprawling metropolis is certainly more complex than its celluloid image, but it’s no less mesmerising without the special effects. The sheer scale of the city can be overwhelming, but explore the fabled neighbourhoods of Hollywood, Bel-Air and Malibu, and you’ll find those flashes of movie magic unique to LA. Each part of the city has its own distinct character; a cross-city drive feels like a series of rapid set changes. How the plot unfolds is up to you – a day spent surfing on Venice Beach, shopping in Santa Monica and rubbing shoulders with the stars in Beverly Hills actually is real life for the lucky few. Los Angeles is a place where you can write your own storyline.

Do go/Don’t go

Spring and autumn sees LA is at its best. Days are often warm and sunny but summer can see a rise in smog levels and sea mist (known as ‘June gloom’).

Getting thereView map

  • Planes LAX – aka Los Angeles International Airport (+1 310 646 5252; www.lawa.org) – is the somewhat chaotic international airport 16 miles from Downtown. Forget public transport: if you don’t have a car | take a SuperShuttle minivan (+1 800 258 3826; www.supershuttle.com) or taxi from outside Arrivals. The ride to Beverly Hills will cost about $35 and take around 30 minutes (longer in heavy traffic).
  • Trains Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) connects Los Angeles to other US cities via Union Station at 800 North Alameda Street in Downtown; Metrolink serves regional stations (www.metrolinktrains.com).
  • Automobiles Let’s cut to the chase: you need one of these to get a real flavour of LA (even if the freeways are hell on wheels). Zoom around like Hollywood starlets in a classic Corvette or Cadillac or, if you care about your carbon footprint, opt for a hybrid vehicle.
  • Taxis LA’s sprawl means taxi rides can be expensive. You’re unlikely to find a taxi rank, so book with one of the large cab companies, such as the Yellow Cab Company (+1 877 733 3305; www.layellowcab.com) or United Taxi (+1 800 822 8294; www.unitedtaxi.com).