Like London, Los Angeles is a trove of tiny towns – all sandwiched together under one big municipality. When visiting on holiday, it’s impossible to hit each neighbourhood, so best to pick a district and focus on it. Earlier this month I had my work cut out for me, plunging into a variety of unique neighbourhoods, including Westwood Village to suss out the best finds.
If I’m really being honest, the part I most look forward to on any trip is the shopping. (Yes, I do very much realize how superficial this is.) And so, to the west side of L.A. I went, hunkering down at the Intercontinental Century City, a luxe hotel which just happens to be within easy bag carrying distance of Westfield Century City.
Westfield Century City
There are malls and then there are malls. Westfield Century City (formerly Century Square Shopping Center) is the latter. This two-level, 1.3 million-square-foot outdoor mall is one of Westfield’s flagship properties and it’s easy to see why.
Anchored by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, it also sports a 15-screen AMC multiplex and one of the best mall food courts you’ll ever come across. If you’re the sort who doesn’t want to miss a work out while on the road, there’s both an Equinox and an Orange Theory inside Westfield Century City. Strolling into Orange Theory, I inquired as to whether members from other locations could use their fitness studio. Turns out they can! And so I did the responsible thing and enjoyed an invigorating workout my first day on the ground.
None of the stores at Westfield Century City opened before 10 a.m., and some not until 11 a.m., so take your time getting here. Once you arrive, you’ll find many trendy upscale shops and some surprises like the Container Store and Caudalie, fantastic French skincare line.
But as soon as I discovered there was an Eataly in the mall, all was lost. Eataly is up there with the Harrods food hall as far as gourmet grocers go. Here, you can nab everything from fresh produce to ready-made pasta to exquisite desserts. If you’re a planner, you can even book into their cooking school for a class.
Like the New York location, there’s several dining options from pizza to fish to desserts. Lunch for me was at Il Pesce Cucina, where I threw back tuna crudo, followed by a fantastic calamari in marinara sauce. My main was spaghetti vongole, crammed with so many geoduck and pacific razor clams in the sauce, plus loads of Manila clams on top. Worth every penny!
Just south of the UCLA campus lies Westwood Village, but you won’t find your typical wallet-friendly student shops here. This is L.A., after all. The pedestrian-friendly village sports loads of indy shops and trendy cafes, in addition to well loved chains like Sur la Table. As a bonus, there’s a City Target for students (and Canadians). This Target is a lot better kitted out than your usual City Target, with fresh groceries, home decor and full fashion.
For food, there’s a well stocked Ralph’s Fresh Fare, Whole Foods and a Trader Joes. (Their European style butter is worth bringing back to Canada!) For souvenirs, pop into the UCLA Campus Store, Aahs! Gift Store or Rocket Fizz for unique sweets.
One of the best parts of Westwood Village are their two gorgeous, historic movie theatres. In fact, the Fox is often used for movie premieres. If you’re into celebrity spotting, try and time your shop so it coincides.
This new shopping extravaganza is brought to you by the same developers who did The Grove. (The Grove is an upscale outdoor mall near West Hollywood sporting a Disney-esque vibe with a street car, dancing fountains, Laduree and Dominique Ansel Bakery.) Situated in the tony enclave of Pacific Palisades, Palisades Village just opened in fall 2018 and is fittingly, totally bijoux.
Anyone who’s ever wistfully wished their life resembled a Pottery Barn or J. Crew ad (and haven’t we all?) ought to head here. Not only do the shoppers look like they just stepped out a glossy, but the stores have clearly been designed with Instagram in mind. Of note, is the lovely green space strewn with branded picnic blankets for guests to lounge upon whilst they listen to live music. More than a shopping destination, Palisades Village is a community hub for the 5 per cent.
There are porters to take your bags, so you can enjoy hands-free shopping. One call to the Concierge Desk and your shopping bags are whisked to your vehicle. There’s gift-wrapping services and a family lounge, where women can breastfeed in peace.
But the big deal here are the first brick and mortar shops for several celebrity lines. The Rachel Zoe store features her namesake clothing collection, plus vintages pieces she’s sourced herself (some from her personal archive!). Each in-store stylist has been personally trained by Zoe, so you ought to receive an experience similar to what A-listers get.
Then there’s Jennifer Meyer jewelry. Meyer is the ex-wife of Tobey Maguire and has been making delicate jewelry for her celebrity friends for years. Her line is sold at Barneys New York, but this is her first stand alone.
If that’s not enough celebrity for you, Lauren Conrad of The Hills fame is also co-founder of The Little Market. This shop sells one of a kind gifts – all fair-trade products, handmade by women around the world.
Soon, you’ll be able to suss out Tamara Mellon’s namesake store here, too. Mellon co-founded Jimmy Choo, but her new footwear brand is reportedly going to be more economical. Also look out for Serena & Lily, an upscale lifestyle and home decor brand, kind of like Williams Sonoma, but fancier and with their own line of wallpaper.
After swanning about the A-list shops, you’ll likely want to record your visit. For that, head to the Pali Petals Flower Truck, a retro VW Van parked on weekends, and brimming with bouquets for sale.
As far as dining options go, you’ll find sushi and classic American comfort food. I was most excited by General Porpoise, a low-key coffee and doughnut shop under the helm of James Beard Award-winning chef, Renee Erickson. Meaning: it’s way better and pricier than Tim Hortons. For grab and go, Vintage Grocers offers restaurant-quality prepared foods, a pizza oven, poke bar, juice bar, plus wine and spirits.
If you’re into indie and boho type shops, DTLA is for you. This historic district is right downtown and is more of a creative hub than simply a shopping destination. Amid the cutting edge fashion boutiques are vintage and craft shops, galleries and hipster coffee joints. Sunday is the day to go, as that’s when the Smorgasburg LA food vendors gather en mass.
Where are your favourite shopping areas in Los Angeles?
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