Los Angeles is known for Hollywood’s glitz and glamor. Dubbed the city of stars, Los Angeles is the center of the entertainment industry. Many people come here to walk on the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame, catch a glimpse of the Hollywood Sign and interact with their favorite celebrities.
Besides Hollywood’s entertainment, the city boasts various landmarks worth exploring. You’ll find the famous Long Beach, the gorgeous San Gabriel Mountains, great surfing spots, and oceanfront restaurants with the most spectacular views here.
Adding the most famous landmarks in Los Angeles, California to your travel itinerary is a great way to kickstart your exploration journey. Here are 16 of them.
- The Hollywood Sign
- The Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Griffith Observatory
- Universal Studios Hollywood
- Walt Disney Concert Hall
- Bradbury Building
- The Hollywood Bowl
- The Korean Friendship Bell
- Santa Monica Pier
- Venice Canal Historic District
- Getty Center
- Capitol Records Building
- TCL Chinese Theater
- Dolby Theater
- Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels
- The Queen Mary
- Hyden Tract
- Wrapping Up
The Hollywood Sign
Located on Mt. Lee in Griffith Park, the Hollywood Sign is one of the most famous landmarks in Los Angeles. For many people visiting Los Angeles, there’s no better way to commemorate the visit than to take a shot of the world-famous sign.
Although it’s visible from the lofty Mt. Lee, taking a well-angled shot can be challenging. Taking one of the three hiking routes — Mt Hollywood Trail, the Cahuenga Peak Trail, and the Brush Canyon Trail — might lead you to the best place to take an IG-worthy shot.
The Hollywood Sign was previously referred to as the Hollywoodland Sign and has been an L.A. landmark for nearly 100 years. Erected in 1923, the sign took its name from the film-crazed area. Initially, Harry Chandler, the contractor, built the sign for his real estate development agency before it was transformed into the most famous landmark in the world.
The sign deteriorated over time and had to be rebuilt in the 1970s, a job funded by Hollywood’s members of the music industry and elite community.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame
Officially opened in 1960, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is the most iconic landmark in L.A. Nearly 10 million people visit this landmark annually to view the names of their favorite musicians, actors, directors, and more.
Over 2,600 stars come here to commemorate their accomplishments. If you visit L.A. during a star ceremony, you might be lucky to spot your favorite celebrity in attendance. There’s a public viewing area where new stars are unveiled and celebrated.
You also see other spots like where they film the Academy Awards and watch trending movies in vintage cinemas. For many visitors, the highlight of the visit is taking a picture with their favorite celebrity.
Want to get the city’s best views and the Hollywood Sign? Head to Griffith Observatory.
Opened in 1935 by its founder Griffith J. Griffith, the Observatory is more than a scenic movie location. It’s an important scientific location for astronomers and scientists, evident from the exhibits, telescopes, and special events held here, but the cinematic exposure has transformed it into a famous landmark and tourist hot spot. Griffith’s original plan was to make astronomy accessible to the public.
Towards this end, he donated 3,015 acres of land and funds to erect an observatory, planetarium, and exhibit hall. Leading astronomers and scientists of the day were also selected to plan its construction.
The Observatory had since deteriorated, prompting a 93 billion-dollar renovation project that led to its expansion. The building was expanded underground, featuring new exhibits, a gift shop, a café, and a new theater called Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theatre.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood started as a film studio in San Fernando Valley in the 1900s and has since become a famous landmark in Los Angeles. It now has a theme park, the best eateries, shops, and theaters at CityWalk. The studio welcomes thousands of tourists daily who enjoy the thrilling rides, take tours, and explore the iconic World of Harry Potter.
The world-famous Studio Tour is the highlight of a tour here as it narrates the working backlot of a Hollywood movie studio. The ride takes visitors past film sets of famous shows like Psycho and Jaws, the War of the Worlds, Fast & Furious, to mention a few.
Be sure to go on a Simpsons Ride, especially if visiting with kids. The virtual reality roller coaster ride brings Simpson’s hometown to life by recreating favorite locations.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
This is another stunning landmark in Los Angeles, famous for its unique architectural design and hosting the famous LA Phil orchestras. The 3.6-acre complex features stainless steel construction with hardwood paneling on the interior, adding to the unique acoustic sound effects produced during orchestra sessions.
Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall, from the inside out in a bid to prioritize the concert hall. Visitors come here not just to experience the building’s grandeur but also to take stunning shots.
The main entrance on 1st Street and at the corner of the Grand Avenue, the rooftop garden, and the organ at the auditorium are the most popular spots for taking I.G. shots. And if you want perfect shots, visit during the mid-summer morning or the twilight hours.
Constructed in 1893, the Bradbury Building is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Los Angeles. It has appeared in music videos, movies, T.V. episodes and has been mentioned in literary pieces. If you’ve watched the 1982 sci-fi movie Blade Runner, or films like The Jury, Chinatown, and D.O.A., you’ve probably seen it.
It’s one of the few buildings in L.A. to be designated a National Historical Landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
Lewis Bradbury, the owner, and real estate agent wanted to create a unique office building and commissioned Summer Hunt to design and supervise its construction. Later Bradbury replaced Hunt with George H. Wyman because he understood his vision better.
The uniqueness of the building is evident from the Romanesque exterior and the light-filled Victorian interior that rises fifty feet with marble stairs, an open cage elevator, and ornate railings. Visitors can only go up to the first landing, where they can take pictures of the light-filled central atrium or the Charlie Chaplin statue near the lobby.
The Hollywood Bowl
The Hollywood Bowl is another famous outdoor venue in Los Angeles. Constructed in 1922, it’s home to L.A.’s Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and hundreds of musical events, including the annual Playboy Jazz Festival.
The Hollywood Bowl has a distinct bandshell which comprises a set of concentric arches set against the backdrop of the Hollywood Sign and Hollywood Hills. This unique concave shape of the bowl is the subject of thousands of Instagram photos, especially during the fireworks display.
Another IG-worthy spot is the Art Deco style of the Muse of Music, Dance, and Drama sculpture at the Bowl’s Highland Avenue entrance. George Stanley designed the monument as part of the Public Works of Art Project. Since there are no guided tours at the Hollywood Bowl, you can easily stop by during the day and check out all its fascinating features.
The Korean Friendship Bell
This massive bronze bell symbolizes the friendship between South Korea and the United States. It was also erected to celebrate the bicentennial of U.S. Independence in honor of Korean veterans. The Korean Friendship Bell was designed and cast in Korea before being shipped to the United States, where it was set up on a red pagoda constructed by Korean craftsmen.
The massive 12-foot bell weighs 17 tons and has a diameter of 7.5 feet. Twelve columns support it, representing the 12 Korean zodiac signs, and animals stand at the base of each column. The bell sits under a stone pavilion commonly referred to as the Belfry of Friendship which was featured in two key scenes in the 1995 drama series – The Usual Suspects.
Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Pier was the first concrete Pier on the West Coast. Constructed in 1909, the 1600-foot Pier has become a hotspot for tourists visiting L.A. and Santa Monica Beach. It was constructed to satisfy Santa Monica’s sanitation needs and later became a transportation hub for business people like Charles I.D. Looff.
On its opening night, a tableau referred to as The Surrender of Rex Neptune was held to narrate how the king of the sea planned to destroy the Pier. However, he realized it wasn’t possible because he couldn’t break the concrete. As a result, he set the Pier ablaze. A narration of Pier’s history and trying times are available on the Secret Story Tour app.
It takes you through Pier’s key historical elements in a fun and interactive manner. The Pier and the Ferris Wheel in Pacific amusement Park appear regularly in T.V. shows and movies and are the most photographed spots in Los Angeles.
Venice Canal Historic District
Located off the 25th street in Venice Beach, the canals are likened to those in Venice, Europe. Venice Canals have walkways and elegant bridges where visitors walk as they soak in their beauty.
Initially, the canals were built as drainage for Abbot Kinney’s residential area. However, in 1924 most of them were filled and paved the way for road construction. The canals in sight today are all that were left at the end of road construction in 1928. A 45-minute walk is all you need to explore the canals while enjoying the serene Venice Beach.
Situated on a hilltop above Brentwood, Getty Center is a 24-acre museum that attracts people from all walks of life. It was designed by Richard Meier, a Pritzker award-winning architect who opened it in 1997.
The center is home to the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Foundation, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the J. Paul Getty Trust. It also houses an impressive collection of pre-20th-century European drawings, decorative arts, paintings, and illuminated manuscripts.
History buffs come here to explore 19th and 20th century American and Asian history by viewing photographs, sculptures, and contemporary art. Besides the fascinating art fixtures, the museum is surrounded by a beautiful garden called the Central Garden.
Robert Irwin is credited with designing it, planting 500 plant species, and erecting the small streams and cooling fountains.
Capitol Records Building
Located at the intersection of Vine and Hollywood, the 13-story building is another famous landmark you must visit. Welton Becket, an architect, designed the Capitol Records Building which takes on the form of a stack of C.D.s. It was the world’s first building to take on a circular design and is home to the historic Capitol Studios.
Welton is also credited with designing other buildings with unique shapes, like Cinerama Dome, the Music Center, the department store that houses Petersen Automotive Museum, and Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The highlight of the building is the 90-foot rooftop spire with a red light that displays the word Hollywood — in Morse code.
TCL Chinese Theater
This old theater was opened in 1927 as Grauman’s Chinese Theater. It has since hosted many premieres, including three Academy Award ceremonies, the 1977 Star Wars, and Cecil B. DeMille’s King of Kings. TCL Chinese Theater also has the largest IMAX auditorium and the 3rd largest commercial movie screen in the country.
It has been designed to resemble a Chinese pagoda, hence the Chinese dragon erected on the exterior, which is a hotspot for I.G. photos. A walk a little further, and you’ll find the Forecourt of the Stars, which has more than 100 celebrity footprints, handprints, and autographs imprinted in concrete.
A short walk from TCL Chinese Theater leads you to Dolby Theater. It has been home to the Annual Academy Award ceremonies since 2002 and various events, including America’s Got Talent, American Ballet Theater, the Daytime Emmy Awards, and the Espy Awards.
Originally referred to as the Kodak Theater, the theater has a large auditorium where live performances are held. A large archway leads you to the theater entrance, where the Awards Walk features a red mosaic staircase.
Not many people can attend the Oscars, but there are numerous live concerts, symphony performances, and other events during the year for you to enjoy.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels
Nestled between the Cultural Center along Hollywood Freeway and the Civic Center, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels is famous for its architectural design.
It was opened on 2nd September 2002 to replace the Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, damaged during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Rafael Moneo, a Pritzker Prize-winning Spanish architect, designed its drawing in honor of the Virgin Mary.
He drew inspiration from two theological truths based on Light and Journey. According to Rafael, Light symbolizes the Light of God revealed in salvation through Jesus Christ, and the Journey denotes a pilgrimage towards redemption.
Its overall design veers off from the traditional designs we see in traditional catholic churches. It replaces the traditional pews at the rear entry with an opening on the Southern side, nudging you to go on an upward journey. There are ten chapels inside opening into the ambulatory to provide a large area for meditating and devotional prayer.
The Queen Mary
The old ship remains docked at Long Beach Harbor as a maritime museum, hotel, meeting, center, and tourist attraction.
Its construction began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland, lasting three and a half years due to the Great Depression. Cunard, the architect, initially named the ship Queen Victoria but it was later renamed Queen Mary to pay homage to England’s Queen at the time. The ship set sail in 1936 for the first time from Southampton, England.
It’s believed to have carried more than 2.2 million people in its heyday before retiring in 1967 at the Long Beach Harbor. Today, it’s a haunted attraction due to its unique history and experiences that delve into the paranormal.
This hidden gem might not top the list when looking for famous landmarks in Los Angeles, but it’s well worth exploring. This architectural wonderment is more than three decades old in Culver City. A bevy of decrepit warehouses on a vast 1 million square foot of dot the Hyden Tract.
Initially, it was an industrial zone and home to damaged aerospace warehouses. Then in the 80s, the Culver City Redevelopment Agency made it a pet project aiming to transform Hyden Tract into a more usable environment.
It marked the beginning of what is referred to as an ongoing architectural experiment. Today, Moss, the owner, and supervisor, still creates singular buildings on Hyden Tract, including the recently completed Samitaur Tower.
Undoubtedly, there are many famous landmarks in Los Angeles worth exploring. From the grandeur of the Hollywood Sign to the majesty of the TCL Chinese Center and the charm of Santa Monica Pier, there’s a lot to explore here.
You don’t have to restrict yourself to all-things Hollywood; there’s so much more to discover. A visit to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels gets you gazing at the unique architectural designs used years ago, while The Queen Mary is an opportunity to stimulate your spooky side.