Top 10 Things to do in Los Angeles

A guide to the 10 most unmissable sights in Los Angeles.

J. Paul Getty Museum

One of the world's greatest art collections has, since 1997, been housed in a striking hilltop complex of buildings in the Santa Monica Mountains, purpose-designed by the American architect Richard Meier. It contains an astonishingly rich collections of work by the greatest European artists: Dürer, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Goya, Turner, Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, to name but a few. It also has a notable collection of manuscripts, photographs, furniture and ceramics. The huge legacy left by its founder, the oil billionaire J. Paul Getty, has grown even larger since his death in 1976, and is vast enough to ensure that the museum is able to continue to add to its fabulous treasures.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

This world-class museum, laid out in a complex of six buildings, contains a celebrated collection of European, American, Asian and African art - more than 100,000 pieces in all. It is a deliciously rewarding mixed bag, including Benin bronzes, Mayan clay figurines, 19th-century paintings of the American West, and work by the American impressionist Mary Cassatt, by the Mexican mural-painter Diego Rivera, by the Belgian surrealist René Magritte, and by the great Californian artist Richard Diebenkorn. The museum's excellent Japanese collection is housed in its own Pavilion for Japanese Art.

Norton Simon Museum of Art

With some 2000 works of European, Indian and Southeast Asian art, this is one of the world's great private collections. It was assembled by the businessman Norton Simon (1907-93), and is housed in a building in Pasadena that first opened in 1969. It includes paintings by leading masters of the European Renaissance, plus work by Rembrandt, Courbet, Degas, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso and Andy Warhol, and also has a celebrated collection of sculpture from India and Southeast Asia.

Huntington Library

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, offer a mixture of supreme art and beautiful gardens spread over 120 acres (48 hectares). The complex was originally the mansion of the tram and railway magnate Henry Huntington (1850-1927), who amassed an exceptional library (including a Gutenberg Bible) and a major collection of European art. A Madonna and Child by Roger van der Weyden, and Thomas Gainsborough's 'Blue Boy' are among the many highlights of the Gallery (but this is currently closed for renovation). The Virginia Steele Scott Gallery also contains a notable collection of American art.

Autry National Center

The filmstar and 'Singing Cowboy' Gene Autry (1907-98) founded the Museum of Western Heritage. Located in the downtown Griffith Park, it is a fascinating collection of art and artefacts that brings to life the story of the American West and European settlement; it also offers demonstrations and live presentations, and runs a series of temporary exhibitions. This museum has recently merged with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which lies 4 miles (6 km) away; this is one of the most important collections of Native American art and artefacts in the USA (but is currently undergoing reorganisation with limited opening hours).

Universal Studios

Films have been made in Hollywood since the early 1900s, and Universal Studios, just to the north of Hollywood, was founded in 1915. It is still an active film and television studio, where visitors can see sets for the latest productions, and also enjoy state-of-the-art thrills-and-spills rides in the film-inspired theme park.

Mann's Chinese Theatre and Hollywood Boulevard

Those in search of the nostalgic glamour of the silver screen should head for Hollywood Boulevard, one of the world's most famous streets. Mann's Chinese Theatre is a fantasy cinema, built in 1927, and the scene of many premières attended by the stars, who have inscribed its cement patio with handprints, footprints and autographs. On the other side of the street is the Walk of Fame, embedded with more than 2000 star-shaped plaques honouring celebrities of film, broadcasting and theatre, a tradition that began in 1958.

Tour of the Stars' Homes

The fabulous wealth of the stars of the entertainment industry carries with it a seductive mix of awe, ostentation and notoriety. Concentrated in Beverly Hills, Bel Air and Westwood, this other world can be glimpsed from the outside by joining an organised bus tour of the stars' homes, or by doing a self-drive tour armed with a map.

Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits

Put the modern world into perspective with a visit to this unusual museum. Natural tar pits in central Los Angeles, off Wilshire Boulevard, proved a death trap for prehistoric animals from about 42,000 years ago onwards. The mining of the pits for asphalt has yielded an extraordinary wealth of skeletons and other remains of animals, many of which are now extinct: mammoths, rhinoceroses, camels, sabre-toothed cats, American lions, Shasta ground sloths, plus numerous birds and insects. The best of them are on show at the museum, while further excavation continues.

Queen Mary

The great Cunard ocean liner, RMS Queen Mary, was built in the heyday of trans-Atlantic passenger shipping, before air travel began to dominate the route in the 1960s. The largest of the Cunard fleet, she was designed in luxurious style and launched in 1936, and remained in operation until 1967 - which included six years painted grey during the Second World War, serving as a troop ship. Since 1967 she has been moored at Long Beach, acting as a floating museum, restaurant, and hotel and as a monument to the great age of liners.

Comments on this article

Kat 25 August, 2011

The Huntington Library - which is outstanding - is not closed.

Add your comment

This helps to discourage spam