The place to be: Koreatown Los Angeles
K-Town stretches for approximately three square miles; throbbing streets filled with karaoke bars, bubble-tea cafes and Korean barbecue restaurants, where meats are brought to your table to grill yourself.
It’s a place where supermarkets are filled with unrecognisable ingredients, where a plain door in the wall will lead to one of the city’s most chic cocktail bars, where side streets are dotted with neon signs and the smell of kimchee and it feels as though you’re lost somewhere in Asia rather than deepest LA.
The streets of K-Town have seen major changes – in the 1920s and 30s Hollywood celebrities came to the bars and hotels to party.
The Ambassador Hotel, torn down in 2005, but in the heart of K-Town, hosted the Oscars in the 1930s and was the site of Robert Kennedy’s assassination.
By the 1970s it had become home to a huge number of Korean immigrants.
Today it’s a mix of Hispanic, Korean and Angelinos, giving the area a unique feel.
Signs are in Spanish, Korean and English and if you tire of oriental food, there’s always a taco bar around the corner.
Approach it with an open mind and be prepared to try different things.
The Line (dialling from the UK: 00 213 381 7411/thelinehotel.com), is co-owned and run by one of the city’s most renowned chefs, Roy Choi.
It could only exist in LA; the bedrooms have walls of exposed cement and floor-to-ceiling glass, with mid-century modern pieces, and offer views across to the Hollywood Hills. Great fun.
Don’t miss brunch in Commissary, the hotel’s gorgeous glasshouse restaurant; try avocado toast with goat’s cheese or wagyu burger. Doubles from £200, room only.
The Line Hotel, Korea Town, Los Angeles
Shopping is a major pastime in K-Town and there are several big malls to explore.
Head to Madang Mall (621 S Western Ave) for a splurge in Daiso, a Japanese equivalent of Scandi-chain Tiger.
Food is a huge part of Korean life; in the City Centre on 6th (3500 W 6th Street) the aisles of the Zion Market are filled with bewilderingly unfamiliar ingredients.
For a quick snack head to the back of the store, where fresh bungeo-ppang – fish-shaped pastries with a sweetened red bean paste inside – are made fresh all day.
No stay in Koreatown is complete without a meal at a traditional barbecue restaurant
One of the most noticeable things about K-Town by day is the diversity of architectural styles that line the streets; gleaming modern towers, French chateau-inspired apartment blocks – but none more surprising than Chapman Market (3451 W 6th Street), built in the 1920s with the frontage of a Spanish castle.
Originally the country’s first drive-in luxury grocery store, it’s now home to a mix of bars, shops and restaurants – pop into Sake House for fresh sushi washed down with sake.
No stay in Koreatown is complete without a meal at a traditional barbecue restaurant, and Ham Ji Park (3407 W 6th Street) is one of the best.
Order sweetly-sticky pork ribs, pan-broiled squid, marinated beef sirloin – which you cook on a grill at the table – with sizzling kimchee rice.
There are bars for all tastes, from cocktail bars to cosy pubs
There are bars to suit all tastes too, from gleaming cocktail bars to dimly-lit pubs, but speakeasies are currently the favoured destinations.
At Lock & Key (239 S Vermont Ave) an unmarked red door leads to a room where a hostess will point you to a wall dotted with doorknobs.
Turn the right one and you’ll step into a 1920s-style Hollywood bar, with green leather banquettes, black walls with gold-chain stencils, and mellow jazz seeping through the air.
Most nights in K-Town involve a raucous singalong at one of the area’s countless karaoke bars.
Choose from a public bar, where you can end up warbling along to Angels in front of a room full of strangers, or private rooms, where you can let rip without dying of embarrassment.
Cafe Brass Monkey (3440 Wilshire Blvd) is one of the best bets for a communal singalong, while Gaam Karaoke (3309 W 6th Street) has private rooms and lets you belt them out until the early hours of the morning.
Try bowling, yes bowling. At Shatto 39 Lanes (3255 W 4th Street) there are precisely 39 lanes and you will feel like it’s 1954 in this original bowling alley.
The floor is chequered beige, the chairs are “top quality” original vinyl and there are old-fashioned arcade games and billiards tables.
Korea Town is the place to be, buzzing with locals and tourists
Catch a performance at The Wiltern theatre (3790 Wilshire Boulevard), a spectacular art deco space dating back to 1931.
Walk over the brightly-coloured terrazzo paving and look up to the ceiling with its sunburst depicting an art deco skyscraper.
It’s 1930s Hollywood glamour at its best.
Virgin Atlantic (0844 2092 770/ virgin-atlantic.com) flies from London Heathrow to Los Angeles from £470 return. Los Angeles tourism: discoverlosangeles.com