Local Strolls: 10K steps down and around LA’s (in)famous Sunset Strip

In our 10K steps series, we’ve asked writers for the best places to get in your steps while enjoying city sights, favorite routes and some secret detours. Here, James March leads us down and around LA’s Sunset Strip – an infamous party zone that’s also surprisingly lovely.

“Drive west on Sunset, to the sea,” sings Donald Fagan on Steely Dan’s 1978 track “Babylon Sisters.” Over a slinky, organ-led beat, Fagan’s drawl evokes LA excess – and nowhere epitomizes the city’s kitschy allure more than the Sunset Strip. 

Though it stretches a full 23 miles from downtown Los Angeles to the Californian coast, the iconic Sunset Blvd is largely associated with a small, 1.7-mile section often called the Sunset Strip, which runs through West Hollywood. Things are more genteel now since the days when Guns ’n’ Roses et al threw TVs from hotel windows – look out for the cute little delivery robots that have been rolling around of late near Sunset and Holloway – but the glamor is still here in spades, with WeHo (as locals it) playing host to LA’s hottest restaurants and coolest hotels

In some ways, WeHo’s streets seem more “LA” than anywhere else in town – think cartoonishly skinny coconut palms, sweating joggers, pocket-sized dogs, silent Teslas and droning helicopters above. But for a famously car-centric city, the city of West Hollywood (it’s independent of the City of Los Angeles) is also walkable, with curving avenues and gentle backstreets that feel vaguely European. In other words, perfect for a stroll. 

With plenty of seductive stops along the way, there’s a lot to take in. So we recommend this tour, which features Sunset Blvd’s greatest hits alongside some catchier, deeper cuts. And since this is somewhere that gets its biggest kicks when evening falls, we suggest starting this walk after lunch. 

The exterior of Chateau Marmont hotel with blurred cars passing by, Los Angeles, California, USA
The glamorous, turreted Chateau Marmont looms over Sunset Blvd © Elliott Cowand Jr / Shutterstock

Where to start: Chateau Marmont

If it’s good enough for Anthony Bourdain, it’s good enough for me. Tony’s favorite LA hotel was the Chateau Marmont – and its turreted white perch high above Sunset and Marmont Lane, at the eastern end of the Sunset Strip, is a striking starting point for our walk. Completed in 1929, it’s been an exclusive and at times notorious address for LA’s glitterati – and you’ll need a pretty hefty bank account to check in here for a night or two.

Need some fuel for the walk west? Laid-back Mexican joint Pinches Taco sits on the south side of Sunset Blvd in the shadow of the Chateau Marmont. The indulgent breakfast burrito here ($11.25) might become your new favorite dish.

Explore both classic and cool new stays 

Speaking of hotels, some of West Hollywood’s most iconic properties flank Sunset as it gently curves downhill – so make the short walk west from Pinches Taco and into West Hollywood. Rising like an art deco wedding cake, the 1931 Sunset Tower is perhaps the most picturesque example to explore (especially its sleek mahogany bar), while across the street the Andaz was once a wild rock ’n’ roll haunt and Led Zeppelin’s preferred area residence (they sometimes booked out six whole floors). Inside the lobby, you’ll find large blown-up images of Robert Plant, Jimi Hendrix and other rock stars who once lived it up here.

The walk: Cross back onto the south side of Sunset and continue west, past sparkling new additions like The Pendry and 1 Hollywood West. A fine budget option, the music-themed Hotel Ziggy has live gigs and DJs playing in the evenings, while its quirky B-side Pizza offers indulgent slices and full-size pies. Hang a left on La Cienega and head down the steep street until you reach Santa Monica Blvd. 

Hot dog stand Tail o the Pup is in the form of a hot dog, West Hollywood, California, USA
It’s not hard to guess what’s on offer at Tail o’ the Pup hot dog stand © James March

Stop for a hot dog at a food truck like no other

An LA institution since 1946 and a fine example of 20th-century novelty architecture, Tail o’ the Pup is a colorful hot dog stand in the shape of an actual hot dog. Sure, it sounds silly – but in a city that occasionally takes itself a little too seriously, maybe a hot dog from a hot dog–shaped joint is just what you need. There’s also a buzzy new speakeasy tiki bar upstairs behind a certain doorway (but I didn’t tell you that).

The walk: If you’re interested in seeing more of LA on two wheels, then pop in next door to Bikes and Hikes and book one of their superb guided e-bike tours.

The quiet backstreets of WeHo are a serene pleasure. Cross Santa Monica Blvd onto W Knoll Dr: the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Chamberlain Hotel is not only a fabulously hidden stay, its corner location also offers a wonderful tree-framed view of the multicolored Pacific Design Center. Stroll up past the sweet pink geraniums on Westmount Dr, cross over Holloway Dr and give your thighs a workout tackling the steep Alta Loma Rd up to the Sunset Marquis. 

A photograph of Cher in the Morrison Hotel Gallery, where a collection of the greatest rock and pop culture photography adorns the walls, Sunset Marquis Hotel, West Hollywood, California, USA
Cher and other rock and pop legends adorn the walls of the Morrison Hotel Gallery © James March

Drop by the ultimate music gallery

While the Sunset Marquis is iconic enough as it is, just to the right of the lobby is the Morrison Hotel Gallery, where a collection of the greatest rock and pop culture photography adorns the walls. Mötley Crüe in a soapy jacuzzi, the Rolling Stones dressed in drag, the Doors gazing through the window of the Morrison Hotel…the shots on display here are as cool as the hotel. And you’ll find even more images in the underpass between the pool and Cavatina restaurant. Just remember to keep it cool if Ringo Starr walks by. 

The walk: Head back up to Sunset and turn left (no more hills now, I promise). Mel’s Drive-In on the north side is one of LA’s last old-school diners (one that stays open 24/7 if you’re feeling peckish in the wee hours). Stroll down to the bizarre Rocky and Bullwinkle statue at the intersection of Sunset and Holloway, where the smell of cigar smoke might drift over from State Social House. Brunch hotspot Dialog Cafe is a five-star people-watching spot – so maybe take a coffee break here, before crossing Palm Ave toward Book Soup.

Authors speak during a reading inside the bookstore Book Soup, West Hollywood, California, USA
Book Soup is strong on pop culture, architecture and LGBTIQ+ titles, and frequently hosts readings with authors © Victoria Sirakova / Getty Images

Dive into book heaven

Here since 1987, Book Soup smells like freshly printed pages; inside, you could easily lose yourself for an hour or two. The special section with books about and set in Los Angeles is particularly engrossing, while the fine selection of pop culture, architecture and LGBTIQ+ works is very on-brand for WeHo. Occupying a small cottage next door, hidden neighbor Mystery Pier deals only in first editions. Some of the astonishing titles on offer here include an 1816 printing of Jane Austen’s Emma and a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms from 1929.

The walk: The next two to three blocks heading west showcase some of the Sunset Strip’s most famous (and infamous) venues. So as the sun’s golden glow flares over Beverly Hills and day turns to evening, it’s really a case of picking your poison. Things kick off across Larrabee St, at Johnny Depp’s Viper Room, and stretch up past the neon-red Roxy to Lemmy’s famous old haunt The Rainbow.

Catch a live gig at a legendary venue

When the Doors were once the house band, you know the venue is worth a visit. Opened in 1964, the Whisky a Go Go was the first live music venue inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and its intimate stage still hosts gigs almost every night. There are a few leather booths with tables, though they’re often reserved – and anyway, the Whisky (as locals call it) is best experienced by grabbing a cold beer from the back bar and getting up close to the action. 

The walk: If you’re seeing the night out here or at one of Sunset’s other music venues, I don’t blame you; they’re all a blast. But if you want to end your evening on a lighter note, head back east on Sunset to The Comedy Store.

Bobby Lee performs stand-up comedy at The Comedy Store, West Hollywood, California, USA
Drop in late to The Comedy Store to round out your evening with laughs – and maybe a celebrity comic or two © Michael Bezjian / Getty Images for The Artists Project

Bonus stop: Kick back with some late-night laughs

The laughs last late into the night at the legendary Comedy Store. Everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to Richard Pryor has taken the mic here, and with three rooms to choose from, there’s plenty of choice if you’re booking last-minute. The Original Room’s “After 11pm Headliners” spot is the best show to see if you’re coming for some late-night yuks. A good tip is to check their Instagram page on the day, as secret headliners are often revealed there.

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