The best bars and nightlife in Los Angeles

Los Angeles best nightlife
Find a rooftop and enjoy a view of the city at night one of the best bars in Los Angeles - Paul Meneshian / EyeEm

In spite of the fact that everyone has to drive everywhere, Los Angeles has no shortage of prime drinking establishments, from swanky rooftop hangouts to kitsch dive bars. This is a city with around 320 days of glorious sunshine and the drinking scene reflects that – you can have afternoon cocktails amid the soaring skyscrapers in Downtown, experience Hollywood glitz and glamour in the gardens of Beverly Hills, or drink Instagram-worthy sundowners by the beach in Santa Monica. Just keep your eyes peeled – you never know when an A-lister might walk in.

Our expert shares their top picks below, while for further inspiration, see our in-depth guides to the city's  best hotels, restaurants, attractions and shopping, plus how to spend a weekend in Los Angeles.

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West Hollywood


The rooftop bar of this celebrated Asian fusion restaurant has become one of West Hollywood’s hottest spots, best known for its magnificent views over the Hollywood Hills and the reliably potent cocktails – Where Love Lives, which is a mix of Mezcal, passion fruit, Thai chilli and lime, is a particular favourite. Earlier in the week you’ll find chilled-out beats playing as everyone lounges around the fire pits, but from Thursday night the wooden-decked, plant-strewn terrace turns into a full-on club, complete with live music. Keep an eye out for celebs – Margot Robbie, Usher and Justin Bieber have all been spotted here.

Prices: ££
Getting in: They don’t take reservations so get there early to nab a table – any later than mid-afternoon on a weekend and you can forget about it

EP & LP, Los Angeles
Rooftop bar EP & LP is one of West Hollywood’s hottest spots

Laurel Hardware

Hidden behind what looks like a plumbing and electrical supplies store on Santa Monica Boulevard is one of West Hollywood’s most popular bars. With its urban, industrial décor (the place really did used to be a hardware store) and its pretty, tree-lined patio, it draws a fashionable crowd, who come for the decent pizzas and the stiff drinks. The cocktail list is very LA, featuring ingredients like white tea-infused gin and sweet potato syrup. Try to sound tough when you order the Gangster, made with cucumber vodka, fresh watermelon and lime.

Prices: ££
Getting in: Reservations recommended if you don’t want to spend an hour queuing outside

Laurel Hardware, Los Angeles
The urban-industrial-style Laurel Hardware is one of West Hollywood’s most popular bars

Barney’s Beanery

This kitsch dive bar has held its prime Santa Monica Boulevard spot for over 90 years and the stories here are legendary, from The Doors frontman Jim Morrison allegedly urinating on the wooden bar to the rumour that this was Janis Joplin’s last drinking spot before she died in 1970. Whether they’re true or not is irrelevant; the place remains perennially packed, being the original of the pub chain’s LA branches. Don’t expect anything fancy – there are TVs on every wall, domestic beers on tap and background music that isn’t worth mentioning – just come and soak up a piece of LA drinking history.

Prices: £
Getting in: They don’t take reservations, which isn’t a problem during the week but the weekends do get busy, so heading over mid-afternoon is your best bet

Santa Monica


Santa Monica’s buzziest beach house draws an affluent crowd, from models and socialites to bankers and tech entrepreneurs (LA’s version of Silicon Valley is just down the road). Housed in a prime beachfront spot with views over the ocean, the décor is a mash-up of Tulum meets Malibu, with sleek wooden decks, potted cacti, hand-woven plates and limestone walls. During the day it’s all about laid-back lounging, with people lolling on the sofas ordering brunch from the Italian-inspired menu, but come sunset the place packs out and the music cranks up, with waiters in high demand. Grab one when you can to order a round of the signature cocktail, Élephante, which is your spirit of choice mixed with passion fruit, lemon, Meletti and Calabrian chilli.

Prices: ££
Getting in: Reservations necessary

Élephante, Los Angeles
Élephante is one of Santa Monica’s buzziest beach house - Stewart Uy Photograghy/Stewart Uy

The Bungalow

This quirky Santa Monica hangout feels more like your eccentric wealthy uncle’s home than a bar, with rooms crammed full of nick-nacks, overstuffed sofas and antlers on the walls. Housed in an actual bungalow steps from the ocean, there’s an outside deck with ping-pong tables and fire pits and a games room with a pool table. Come for sunset and order the Bitchin’ Sangria, which is made with seasonal fruit from the nearby Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and a dash of pisco. During the week the crowd is laid-back and local, with music to match, but come the weekend the rest of the city makes the pilgrimage west and the place packs out, so time your visit wisely.

Prices: ££
Getting in: Reservations recommended, especially on Friday and Saturday

The Bungalow, Los Angeles
The Bungalow is a quirky but popular Santa Monica hangout


Death & Co

Locals are often wary when thriving bars and restaurants expand from New York to LA, but in the case of Death & Co they needn’t have been. Their moodily-lit subterranean Arts District spot is just as popular as its East Village branch, with lethal cocktails and bartenders who really know their stuff. The menu rotates around 25 seasonal cocktails, ranging from ‘Fresh & Lively’ options to start the night off all the way down to ‘Boozy & Honest’ for those looking for something more serious. The focus here is on classic drinks updated with unusual ingredients – think Negronis served with Laird’s Bonded Apply Brandy, Methe and Bénédictine, and Vespers mixed with Ki No Bi Green Tea Gin and pandan. 

Prices: ££
Getting in: Reservations are recommended, but they also reserve a number of tables for walk-ins.

Broken Shaker

The West Coast transplant of this hopping Miami bar fits right in to LA life, occupying a prime spot on the sun-drenched rooftop of the Freehand Hotel Downtown. This is a slice of South Beach amid the soaring skyscrapers, situated right next to the hotel’s pool (don’t be surprised if an impromptu pool party starts up while you’re there) and featuring jungle-inspired foliage, colourful mismatched chairs and a Tiki shack bar. The crowd is young and fun, the sort that like to drink cocktails out of novelty glasses with pink flamingo straws on a Sunday afternoon. The LA Breeze, with gin, elderflower tonic and opal basil, goes down dangerously well.

Prices: £££
Getting in: Reservations recommended, especially on weekends

Broken Shaker, Los Angeles
Broken Shaker is the colourful rooftop bar of the Freehand Hotel Downtown


No Vacancy

This speakeasy-style bar off Hollywood Boulevard has one of the most theatrical secret entrances I’ve ever come across. Situated in a restored Victorian house masquerading as the Hotel Juniper, walking in here feels like stepping straight onto a film set, from the rundown Prohibition-era décor to the grand courtyard with its baroque fireplaces. Book a table outside, order a bottle of something strong and settle in – the later it gets the more surreal things become, with a succession of burlesque shows, jazz acts and tightrope walkers all taking their turn on the porch stage outside.

Prices: £££
Getting in: Reservations necessary

No Vacancy, Los Angeles
No Vacancy is a speakeasy-style bar with a theatrical secret entrance

Desert 5 Spot

Hollywood used to be known for its seedy dive bars, but that’s all starting to change thanks to a recent injection of new establishments with style and swagger. The best of the bunch is Desert 5 Spot, a Pioneertown-inspired rooftop bar with deceptively strong cocktails and glittering views over the city. Self-described as "a little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll,” you can expect kitsch with a capital ‘K’ here – the mezcal-based drinks come in cactus-shaped cocktail glasses and there’s cowboy paraphernalia everywhere you look. There’s also some excellent live music, of both the country and rock variety, as well as weekly line dancing classes where you can brush up on your do-si-do.

Prices: ££
Getting in: You don’t need a reservation, but bear in mind that it gets packed here on weekends, so it’s best to visit mid-week if you’re after a more relaxed vibe.

The Musso and Frank Grill

Musso and Frank is a Hollywood staple, so engrained in the fabric of the city that it was built before the Hollywood sign was even thought about. The restaurant is famous for serving up the classics – its lamb chops and steaks have achieved almost mythical status – and the same goes for the bar: there aren’t many places you can order a martini from the very same bartender who used to make them for Sinatra. With its cosy red leather booths, dark wood panelling and Ella Fitzgerald drifting from the speakers, it’s not cool, but it is classy as hell.

Prices: £££
Getting in: Reservations recommended

Beverly Hills

The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel

If you’re looking for old school Hollywood magic, this is your place. Countless deals have been made under the green and white candy-striped ceiling, where generations of stars have been coming since the Twenties – Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier were all regulars. The bougainvillea-covered patio is even more charming, lit up by twinkling fairy lights and softly serenaded by live jazz music every evening. Sidle into a booth and order a Howard Hughes (named after one of the hotel’s more famous former residents), made with Aviation gin, Lillet Blanc, Crème de Violette, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur and lemon.

Prices: £££
Getting in: Reservations are recommended, though they can’t guarantee a spot on the patio – request it when you call and they’ll make a note on your booking

The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles
The Polo Lounge is the place to go for old school Hollywood magic - Niall Clutton/Niall Clutton


Los Angeles is no stranger to excellent rooftop bars, but the chicest high-altitude spot in town right now can be found at the top of the Maybourne Beverly Hills hotel. The LA outpost of this much-lauded New York spot has become the place to see and be seen, offering views of the hotel’s elegant rooftop pool on one side and the Hollywood hills on the other. Settle into one of the deep blue velvet booths and admire the gorgeously painted ceiling as you order one of the signature martinis (don’t miss the $10 martini happy hour, held every day between 3pm-5pm). With live music every afternoon, it feels as if you’ve been transported back to Hollywood’s Golden Era.

Prices: ££
Reservations: Recommended

How we choose

Every bar, venue or experience in this curated list has been tried and tested by our destination expert, who has visited to provide you with their insider perspective. We cover a range of budgets and styles, from casual pubs to exquisite cocktail bars – to best suit every type of traveller – and consider the service, drinks, atmosphere and price in our recommendations. We update this list regularly to keep up with the latest openings and provide up to date recommendations.