La Dolce Vita and So-Cal cool converge at NoMad Los Angeles, the dashing new resident of Giannini Place, a landmark building in Downtown LA. Built in 1923 to house the Bank of Italy, the building has a grand, Neoclassical façade and interiors by French designer Jacques Garcia, who took his colour scheme from the ornate ceiling in the lobby. Its shades of gold, white and blue are echoed in polished light fittings, marble counters and patterned upholstery in a handshake between design old and new. The hotel’s restaurants are just as impressive, with an ornate Italianate ceiling providing the backdrop for eating, drinking and socialising.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £189.98 ($249), including tax at 14 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 1.695% per room per night on check-out and an additional resort fee of $27.50 per room per night on check-out.
Room rates don’t usually include breakfast, which starts at $20 a head.
The hotel’s artwork was conceived by Paris-based design studio be-pôles, who sourced vintage works from antique stores around Italy, placing them alongside photographs taken from the Portraits de Villes photography book series. Every room has a unique selection.
At the hotel
Rooftop terrace, lounge area, 24-hour gym, laundry and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, bespoke bath products by Susanne Kaufmann.
Our favourite rooms
Atelier rooms have freestanding pedestal bath tubs with a golden tray, giving you somewhere to rest your book (or glass) while you soak. If you really want to stretch out, opt for a Corner Suite, which has a sitting area and several windows, making it particularly bright.
The rooftop pool commands a 360-degree view of the downtown skyline. A Gardens-of-Bomarzo-style stone sculpture pulls a face at sunbathers from one end of the pool, and a café and cocktail bar are just off to the side; the latter two make this the social hotspot for sunny afternoons and balmy evenings.
Your most stylish swimwear for lazy, cocktail-filled afternoons by the pool.
All of the public areas are wheelchair accessible, and there are several specially-adapted rooms.
If you’re in the Restaurant, choose one of the tables close to the railing, allowing you to gaze down on the lobby below.
Pay homage to the building’s history with fine Italian threads.
At the Restaurant, diners can expect an experience that’s tinged with as much old-world glamour as the ornate ceiling above their heads – but that’s not to say that the menu isn’t accessible and forward-thinking, celebrating native California ingredients.
Sitting just off the lobby, refined Giannini bar is named in honour of Amadeo Giannini, the building’s first resident and the founder of the Bank of America. The cocktails are set to be a particularly sound investment thanks to maestro mixologist and bar director Leo Robitschek, a man who’s taken New York’s cocktail scene by storm. The hotel also has a Venetian-style coffee bar backed by antique mirrors – these slide back after dark, turning the space into a second, more intimate bar.
The hotel straddles the corner of 7th and South Olive Street, putting it at the heart of downtown LA.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is a 30-minute drive from the hotel. The Smith24 team are on hand to arrange flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
A mile from the hotel, Union Station is California’s rail hub. Amtrak services arrive there from all over the country, and Metrolink connects the city with its surrounding counties, including San Diego.
The car is king here, so you may want to think about hiring one unless you plan to stick to the downtown area. A valet can park your ride at the hotel for $49 a night. All the major rental firms are available at LAX; the Smith24 team can arrange your hire.
Worth getting out of bed for
Starring alongside James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and a backdrop to La La Land's most romantic dance sequence, the Griffith Observatory is steeped in almost as much Hollywood lore as the sign a little further along the hillside. Fans of silver-screen classics go for the history, but the art deco icon also commands a sweeping view across the Los Angeles Basin, allowing you to see all the way to the beaches of Santa Monica and San Pedro Bay. Hidden beneath the old United Artists tower is another piece of Hollywood history, the Theatre at the Ace Hotel. Founded by some of the biggest stars of the industry’s golden age, this 1,600-seat movie palace has a three-storey lobby, elaborate ornamentation and a ceiling fitted with thousands of mirrors to catch the light. State-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment were added during the refurbishment, allowing it to play host to all manner of performances – musical, theatrical and otherwise. For art of another kind, you’ve got The Broad, a contemporary art museum on Grand Avenue. There are more than 2,000 works in the gallery’s permanent collection, and it regularly plays host to internationally-significant exhibitions. For fitness buffs looking to branch out beyond the hotel's own fitness centre in search of classes and a lap pool, free passes to LA Athletic Club (just across the street) are available at reception.
Sitting atop the US Bank building, modern-American restaurant 71above could be said to be the crown of downtown. With a geometric sculpture hanging from the ceiling and curved panels of white oak between the window panes, it would be an impressive space even if it were on ground level – but it just so happens to be 71 storeys up, with panoramic views that stretch away across the city and over the Hollywood Hills. A block from the hotel you’ll find The Exchange, which sits inside the Freehand Los Angeles hotel. Designed by New York-based firm Roman and Williams, the wood-clad interiors are lined with long banquettes, lending a laid-back and sociable atmosphere. The food celebrates the city’s multiculturalism, showing particular influence from Israeli cuisine. Those with a palate for all things South East Asian should try Little Sister on West 7th Street, a Vietnamese fusion restaurant with European-accented dishes. The flavours are bold and the atmosphere is lively thanks to an upbeat soundtrack and friendly service.
Under the masterful direction of mixology maestro Leo Robitschek, the NoMad's LA bar has become as hip a hotspot as its NYC counterpart. But, you can mix it up in DTLA: the Freehand hotel's rooftop bar Broken Shaker has an exotic drinks list, the Association is a dapper retro drinkery and Bernadette's brings the fun with curios and collectibles lining its walls, frosé cocktails and milkshakes to order.
Every winter before Christmastime hits, I embark on what I’ve started to call my ‘west coast tour’, starting with Los Angeles, and eventually making my way up to Portland before flying back to New York. It’s a chance to see some dear friends before the year ends, and to feel a little bit of sunshine on my face, too – at least in southern California where winter coats are not required. While I usually stay in LA for close to a week, this time my schedule could only afford a few nights, so I opted to forgo my usual apartment rental and try out a new hideaway: the NoMad Hotel, which opened earlier this year as a second location to the chic New York City-based original.
I arrived on a dreary grey Wednesday afternoon – not the warm greeting I had anticipated – but the hotel’s lush, old-European interiors (the work of design whizz Jacques Garcia, who worked his magic in the New York outpost too), and an appealing, wintry blend of herbal scents wafting through the lobby were a cosy welcome. A note about the scent: it came from several Barrett & Riley Co’s Viridis Herbis candles placed around the concierge area, which the downstairs boutique also happened to sell. I know because I overheard three people ask about them while I was checking in, saving me the trouble of doing the same. The aromatics are downright addictive.
My Junior Suite on the sixth floor seamlessly continued Monsieur Garcia’s opulent aesthetic: from the plush corner settee and marble side-table to the vibrant Persian rugs and terrazzo-floored bathrooms. But unlike the New York original, the room had some touches of old Hollywood here and there – most notably in the selection of photographs above the bed showcasing iconic images of Los Angeles’ different eras.
Given I’d just disembarked a long flight from the east coast, I decided to stretch my legs and get a feel for the surroundings before meeting up with my friend. The hotel’s landmarked Neoclassical building, which was once the Bank of Italy’s city headquarters, dates back to the 1920s when nearly half of Los Angeles’ population resided in the downtown area (familiarly referred to now as DTLA). It was a booming time until the Great Depression struck, and the growing population spread westward, forming more suburban neighborhoods. While DTLA has undergone a substantial amount of restoration and development in the last decade or so, the area is still very much a work in progress.
That evening I met a friend for dinner at Bavel (a short Uber ride away), which I’d been curious to try after several prominent food publications had sung its praises. Our personal declaration: excellent. We loved the bustling, unstuffy dining room, and the delicious Middle Eastern fare: velvety hummus accompanied with fluffy, steaming orbs of pita, a small mountain of spicy roasted cauliflower, and the grilled octopus were some of our favorites.
The next morning I met another friend for breakfast at Jon & Vinny’s, near her apartment in West Hollywood. It was raining, and with the morning rush hour, my ride took nearly 40 minutes – not ideal, but not unexpected for LA either. And besides, Jon & Vinny’s is a favorite spot of mine. On this occasion I had an order of creamy soft-scrambled eggs, and we shared a slice of banana bread, but I can’t say I’ve ever had anything off the Italian-influenced menu that I didn’t enjoy, especially the pizzas served during lunch and dinner service.
After finishing some work I needed to tackle from afar, my day of eating continued – the all-day rain showers merited comfort food. I decided to explore DTLA’s popular Grand Central Market, a still-new dining hub that attracts tourists and locals alike, filled with various food vendors selling burritos, ramen, pizza and all manner of tasty dishes. Still yearning for more of the previous night’s meal, I opted for a falafel sandwich and a Moroccan salad loaded with walnuts, dried cherries, and dill at Kismet Falafel, which scratched that itch.
A few hours later, I headed to Redbird, a 15-minute walk from the hotel, for a friend’s pre-holiday gathering. Among the dozen or so of us, we shared plates of roasted shishito peppers, dusted with crunchy toasted quinoa (so original and utterly addictive), roasted beets with pistachios atop a yogurt-like dollop of chèvre, and a few other small bites. Admittedly, I was still full from the late lunch, so I was happy to enjoy a glass of wine and keep things light.
Friday morning I awoke to the sunshine – a pure joy to see after nearly 24 hours of rain. I headed downstairs to check out the coffee bar situated off the hotel’s restaurant, where I grabbed a massive cup of steaming java and tucked into one of the library’s plush sofas with the newspaper while I waited to get hungry again for breakfast. I had a fluffy egg-white omelette with goat’s cheese and mushroom. Pretty standard fare, but well-prepared and not at all rubbery as egg-whites can be sometimes.
My flight wasn’t until early evening, so I left my bags with the concierge after check-out while I made the most of the day’s sunny weather and walked to the Broad Museum nearby. As a first-timer who’s a fan of contemporary art, I was floored by the size of the collection, the number of artists included (Warhol, Pollock, Kruger, Koons, Sherman…) and the free admission. It may very well be my favorite museum in LA now, which is just one more reason to revisit the DTLA area – and check-in at the NoMad – to see how the neighbourhood’s evolved.