So you landed in Los Angeles, bought a dog-eared copy of Hollywood Babylon, and spend your days cruising Sunset Boulevard listening to Lana Del Rey and wondering what it would’ve been like to experience the glamour, scandal, and tragedy of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Or, maybe you’re just looking for somewhere interesting to get a drink.
Either way, despite LA’s rapidly changing landscape, there are more than a few places where Old Hollywood lingers, from out-of-the-way dive bars to historic restaurants and movie theatres.
Here are eight places where you can still find the spirit of that long-gone but decadent era.
If you know anything about Hollywood history, then you’ll know that back in the day, Musso & Frank’s was a favorite haunt of people like Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and Elizabeth Taylor. So pull up a stool at the bar (if you can find one), order a Martini, and let the bar staff (and colorful regulars) regale you with gossip and fantastic tales of the Hollywood elite.
Billed as “Hollywood’s oldest Italian restaurant,” walking into Miceli’s with its red leather booths, low lighting, and—yes—singing wait staff really is like stepping back in time. The restaurant opened in 1949, so there’s plenty of stories here, a notable one being that Lucille Ball learned how to toss pizza in the kitchen for an episode of I Love Lucy.
When this Art Deco hotel was built in the 1930s, Santa Monica was a quiet beachside community where big Hollywood stars could come to escape the pressures of fame—usually by meeting up with their secret lovers. In its heyday, the hotel was frequented by Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, and even gangsters like Bugsy Siegel and Al Capone.
La Golondrina opened in 1930, taking up residence in LA’s first brick home on historic Olvera Street. Though these days the area is known more as a tourist destination, during its early years La Golondrina was a favorite of the city’s politicians, journalists, and movie stars. Another interesting fact about La Golondrina is that it was the first restaurant in LA to officially serve Mexican food (at the time, it was mostly referred to as “Spanish” food).
A mythical castle high on a hill overlooking the Sunset Strip, Chateau Marmont has a long and notorious history—from James Dean jumping through a window in the ‘50s to Lindsay Lohan getting the boot in 2012 over a $46,000 tab. The historic hotel is one of the few “Old Hollywood” establishments that continues to attract famous faces, probably due to its “secret” bar hidden behind a red velvet curtain and its long-standing ban on photography.
When Walt Disney had his studio on Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake (now a Gelson’s Market), his favorite place for lunch was the Tam O’Shanter. There’s even a plaque that commemorates his favorite table. While prices are probably a little steeper than in Walt’s day, since the place hasn’t changed much in over 90 years, it’s worth the price tag just to soak up the historic atmosphere.
Immortalized in the 1996 film Swingers, the Dresden Room, which opened in 1956, is a classic Old Hollywood hangout if ever there was one. The walls are covered in headshots of celebrities who have enjoyed the Dresden’s intimate lighting and strong drinks; however, the real stars here are legendary jazz duo Marty and Elayne, who have been banging out the hits here since 1982.
What tour of Old Hollywood would be complete without taking in a movie at the Egyptian, the site of the first-ever Hollywood premiere? While movie premieres have since moved down the street to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, the Egyptian still regularly runs classic films from Hollywood’s Golden Age and beyond.