How to spend a day in Silver Lake, LA’s hippest neighbourhood

·6-min read
Micheltorena Stairs, LA (LA Tourism)
Micheltorena Stairs, LA (LA Tourism)

Our microguides series is inspired by the slow travel movement, encouraging travellers to relax their pace and take a deep dive into one particular neighbourhood in a well-loved city. Rather than a whirlwind itinerary which aims to hit up every must-see attraction, these compact, close-up guides encourage you to zone in, take your time and truly explore like a local.

Silver Lake has something of a reputation. Dubbed the “Williamsburg of the West”, this hilly Eastside neighbourhood is known as LA’s foremost hipster hangout. Don’t let that put you off, however; the area’s plethora of bustling bars, inventive restaurants and boutique shops make it the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon and, unlike many parts of Los Angeles, it really lends itself to being explored on foot. Seemingly a world away from the intensity of Downtown or the boisterous energy of Hollywood, Silver Lake encourages you to slow down, take it easy and drink the city in.

The area is centred around the reservoir from which it takes its name, built in 1907. The historic Vista Theater, which sits on the border of Silver Lake and Los Feliz, opened in 1923 before sadly becoming an early victim of the pandemic nearly a century later. Thankfully, the cinema has since been bought by Quentin Tarantino, who is reportedly adding a bar before it reopens. Among Silver Lake’s other cinematic claims to fame is that it was home to Walt Disney’s first LA studio in 1926 (the site is now the location of a slightly less glamorous Gelson’s supermarket).

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To get your bearings, head to Sunset Junction. This busy hub is the meeting point of two of Los Angeles’ major arteries: Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards. It’s also the perfect place to start your Silver Lake adventure.

Things to do

People-watch over coffee at Intelligentsia

Intelligentsia at Sunset Junction (LA Tourism)
Intelligentsia at Sunset Junction (LA Tourism)

Located just yards from Sunset Junction, Intelligentsia is an upmarket coffee bar specialising in slow-drip pour-over. Its real appeal, however, is the front courtyard, which offers unparalleled people-watching. By the time your coffee is ready, you’re almost guaranteed to have spotted at least one A-list actor or Nineties rock star trying to look inconspicuous among Silver Lake’s beautiful people.

Set your heart racing up the Micheltorena Stairs

Sunset Junction, Silver Lake, LA (LA Tourism)
Sunset Junction, Silver Lake, LA (LA Tourism)

Ever since these concrete steps were given a bold and colourful makeover by local artist Corinne Carrey in 2013, they’ve become known as “the most Instagrammed staircase in Los Angeles”. Given the number of hills in the area, its no surprise that Silver Lake is dotted with hidden staircases. Nearer the reservoir, you’ll find the Mattachine Steps, named after trail-blazing local LGBTQ+ activist group the Mattachine Society.

Experience mind-expanding music at Zebulon

Head northeast from the reservoir towards the Los Angeles River and you’re liable to stumble across one of the city’s most exciting music venues. Zebulon Cafe Concert was originally based in Brooklyn before it closed down and reopened on the other side of the country in 2017. It puts on one of the finest and most eclectic bills in town, playing host to the likes of indie rock icon Kim Gordon, nonagenarian composer David Amram and professional whistler Molly Lewis, as well as French film screenings and other events.

Where to eat

Bacari Silverlake

From its hole-in-the-wall entrance on Sunset Boulevard, Bacari looks completely unassuming. Venture inside, however, and you’ll find one of LA’s most delightful restaurants. The gorgeous outdoor dining area is dominated by vast, leafy trees, while the unexpected highlight of an excellent menu is their caramelized Brussels sprouts, served with pomegranate molasses and creme fraiche.

Pijja Palace

The newest star of Silver Lake’s dining scene is Pijja Palace, a one-of-a-kind sports bar serving what it calls “classic American bar fare through an Indian lens”. That means palate-pleasing mash-ups like aloo tiki sliders, tandoori spaghetti and green chutney pizza.

Tacos Delta

A tiny, graffiti-covered building with no toilet facilities and just a handful of outdoor tables, Tacos Delta isn’t exactly haute cuisine. That doesn’t matter; this cheerful Mexican spot has the best chilaquiles in town, and you could live quite happily on their fish and shrimp tacos alone. Simple, cheap and very, very tasty.

Where to drink

The Black Cat

Just across Sunset from Intelligentsia you’ll find The Black Cat, a tavern with a decent menu and an excellent cocktail bar. It’s also a historic site for the LGBTQ+ community. It was raided by police in 1967 – two years before Stonewall – and the subsequent riot led to over a dozen arrests.

Tiki Ti

One of Silver Lake’s strangest bars is also one of its best. A tiny Polynesian-themed dive next door to a massive Scientologist film studio, Tiki Ti has been run by the same family since 1961. They serve up a colourful range of heavy-poured, well-named cocktails you won’t find anywhere else: the Missionary’s Downfall has to be more fun than yet another Old Fashioned.


A fun and friendly gay bar at the corner of Sunset and Fountain, Akbar is a guaranteed good time. Their week is filled out with a busy line-up of events including karaoke, bingo and trivia nights.

Where to shop

Silver Lake Farmers Market

On Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings, Sunset Triangle Plaza is taken over by a charming outdoor market offering the very best in locally grown produce like avocados, limes and blood oranges. Depending on the time of year you’ll also find stalls selling top-notch Central American food, vintage jewellery and handmade gifts.

Mohawk General Store

The strip of shops that runs southeast from Sunset Junction is full of boutiques offering one-of-a-kind finds, but few are better-stocked than Mohawk General Store. Here you’ll find an exquisitely curated collection of clothes, shoes, candles, jewellery, furniture and lighting. If you’ve ever dreamed of giving your life a hipster makeover, this is the place for you.


To fully embrace Silver Lake’s laid-back Californian vibe, you should probably stop by MOTA. An abbreviation of “Medicine of The Angels”, this cannabis dispensary is located inside an old bookstore and serves a wide variety of vapes, edibles and other fruits of the herb.

Where to stay

Silver Lake Pool & Inn

A suitably trendy spot just south of Sunset Junction, Silver Lake Pool & Inn features 54 rooms, an elevated pool deck and an Italian restaurant. It’s also conveniently located right next to high-end health food store Erewhon.


Given the area’s wealth of architecturally fascinating homes, your best bet for staying in Silver Lake may well be through a short-term rental company like Airbnb. Be warned: reservoir views come at a premium.

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Getting there

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, United and American all fly direct from London to LAX.