Los Angeles is a sprawling city, full of unique neighborhoods. Each has its own character and attracts distinctive crowds. Here are some of the most popular areas for visitors and residents alike. If you want to visit or move to one of these neighborhoods, don’t miss our guides to Hotels & Lodging and Housing. Note: To best navigate the many L.A. areas, I highly recommend purchasing the Thomas Guide, an incredibly detailed must-have driving atlas.

Beverly Hills (View Map)

One of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills is known for its ritzy shopping and upscale restaurants. Beyond the lush and meticulously-kept lawns, you’ll also find several lovely parks in Beverly Hills, perfect for picnic-ing, walking or just admiring the scenery. This is one of the safest parts of town, and one of the few neighborhoods that are truly quiet at night. For more information, visit the City of Beverly Hills website.

Santa Monica (View Map)

One of L.A.’s most popular beach communities for visitors and residents alike, Santa Monica has a lot to offer. The Third Street Promenade is lined with shops, restaurants, movie theatres and bars, and they’re all only a few blocks from the ocean. The nearby pier has rides, games and live music for the family. Santa Monica is nicer than Venice Beach and less exclusive than Malibu, making it a popular neighborhood for middle class beach lovers. For more information, visit the City of Santa Monica website.

Venice Beach (View Map)

Like Santa Monica’s rowdier and funkier younger sibling, Venice Beach is full of visitors and residents who are seeking a more free-spirited beach community. It’s more ethnically and economically diverse than the other beach cities, the housing is relatively inexpensive and there are a wide variety of beach cafes and surf shops to check out. The boardwalk is ideal for people watching and outdoor exercise during the day, but the narrow streets are not well lit at night, so visitors should be cautious and stay alert. For more information, visit the Venice Beach Chamber of Commerce website.

Downtown Los Angeles (View Map)

Once a solely business and government center, Downtown LA has been experiencing a cultural resurgence. Lofts are full of artists and young professionals, and new restaurants are springing up every month. There are plenty of museums, a large garment district and several music halls. Sadly, Downtown is also home to over 100,000 homeless residents in the area called Skid Row. Though most are simply struggling to keep stay fed and clothed, some have serious drug problems that can make the area a little unsafe after dark.

West Hollywood (View Map)

Nestled between Beverly Hills and Hollywood, West Hollywood is a moderately upscale area that’s known for being populated by L.A.’s gay community. You’ll find lots of great restaurants and furniture stores, trendy shopping on Melrose Avenue and many happening bars and clubs on the Sunset Strip. With a Sheriff’s station centrally located, West Hollywood is a pretty safe and clean place to visit or live. For more information, the City of West Hollywood website.

Culver City (View Map)

What used to be a neighborhood almost entirely owned by a movie studio is now a diverse community growing in popularity for its relatively inexpensive housing and growing nightlife. Downtown Culver City has been recently redone, and now features several restaurants, bars and movie theatres, all popular with a mixed younger crowd. For more information, visit the Culver City website.

Hollywood (View Map)

Obviously Hollywood is one of the biggest tourist areas in Los Angeles. Full of L.A. landmarks, movie theatres, cafes and bars, Hollywood has a lot to offer, day or night. The recently built Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex and other renovations have cleaned up the area a bit, but visitors should still be alert when walking after dark on less-frequented Hollywood streets. For more information, visit the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce website.

Silverlake (View Map)

Known as an enclave for artists and bohemian types, Silverlake also houses sizable Mexican and gay communities. A wide variety of ethnic restaurants, funky shops, art galleries, coffee houses and bars provide plenty to do, day or night, and the lake provides a great place to walk, run or take your dog out.

Resources cited in this guide:
The Thomas Guide Easy-To-Read Los Angeles County Steetguide

More Resources from Google: