Los Angeles (LA) is an incredible city full of lots of things to see and do: it even has some of the most Instagrammable places in the whole of California! However it is a very big city and lots of it’s attractions are quite spread out. Therefore if you only have one or two days in Los Angeles it can be hard trying to fit everything in! So in this post I have broken it down into the most popular photo spots to visit in The City of Angels as well as when to visit them and where they are located. Read on to find out the most Instagrammable places in LA!
See Also: 3 Days in Los Angeles Itinerary
Urban Lights at LACMA
Open: 24 hours
The Urban Lights installation at LACMA is a must-see for any visitor to LA. It consists of 202 cast iron street lights lit using solar power. The street lamps are all old street lamps from the 1920’s and 1930’s that have been restored and they look particularly impressive after dark.
Urban Lights was unveiled in 2008 and is located in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It is a really popular Instagram spot in LA and you can visit any time day or night. It is free to visit: you don’t have to pay as it is a public art exhibition.
I went first thing in the morning before the museum opened (to avoid the crowds) and was the only person there. Many people go in the evening though to get a picture of the installation lit up. It is a lot busier if you visit at this time, but the pictures look really great!
There is usually always a Security Guard here and often they will not allow tripods. When I came, the Security Guard told me I wasn’t allowed to use my tripod, which would mean I wouldn’t have been able to get a picture of myself. So I simply folded my tripod down as small as I could, put my bag on the floor, and put the tripod standing up in my bag so it was poking out. I had my cardigan draped around the tripod so I could still get a picture without it looking like I was using a tripod.
Hopefully you won’t need to go to these measures, but it could come in handy to know! Also the museum has free wifi that you can connect to when you are outside at the Urban Lights installation, so you can order an Uber from here to take you to the next location, as many places in Los Angeles are very spread out.
Venice Beach is a must-visit on your trip to LA! There are so many things to do at Venice Beach and it gets very busy during the day – so if you want Instagram pictures of the world-famous lifeguard towers then get here early! These lifeguard huts are dotted along the beach and you are free to take pictures. There’s even a rainbow coloured lifeguard tower which is very popular!
The ‘Venice’ sign at the entrance to the beach is also a popular place to take photos. The ‘Venice’ sign is on the busy junction of Pacific Ave and Windward Avenue. At night it is lit up which looks really cool, but it is tricky to get a picture at night because of the traffic.
The junction is always busy, so if you want a clear shot or are taking the photo by yourself using a tripod, get here early in the morning. I was here at around 8am on a Sunday and it was quite easy to get this shot at this time. I guess it helped being a Sunday too. There are traffic lights so you can get your timer and tripod ready and then position yourself and the tripod when the traffic light is red and there are no cars.
If you walk from the Venice sign towards Venice Beach then turn left on the beach, you’ll see ‘Muscle Beach’. This is a popular beachfront gym with lots of weightlifting equipment. Bodybuilding events are often held here, so look out to see if there is one on when you are there!
Strolling along Venice Beach Boardwalk (a 4km long promenade that leads to Santa Monica Beach) you’ll see lots of street art (there is lots of great street art in Los Angeles!), street performers, fortune tellers and vendors. Love it or hate it, you’ve gotta experience the Venice Beach Boardwalk at the weekends! Personally I loved the bohemian free-spirit vibe here! I came here at about 8.30am and the ‘undesirables’ as some people may call them, were just emerging from their tents on the beach and strolling round with their shopping trolleys. They don’t bother you, and I certainly didn’t feel threatened at any point. Enjoy the unique and upbeat atmosphere here as you stroll towards Santa Monica.
The next beach along from Venice is Santa Monica. Santa Monica Beach is one of California’s most well known beaches, primarily because the TV series ‘Baywatch’ was filmed here for many years. You’ll also find the ‘Original Muscle Beach‘ here at Santa Monica (not to be confused with Venice Beach’s Muscle Beach)! This is a beach work out area complete with bars and ropes that has been in use since the 1930’s during the US fitness boom.
Santa Monica also has a pier that has an amusement park ‘Pacific Park’ with several rides and a Ferris wheel at the end so it is always popular with families! Even when I got here about about 09.30am on Sunday it was very busy! The pier can make for some fun Instagram shots too, especially at night when it is all lit up! Santa Monica Pier is one of the most filmed locations in LA and has appeared in countless films including Forest Gump, Iron Man and Rocky III!
End of Route 66 Sign
The amusement park on Santa Monica Pier marks the end of Route 66. The Sign ‘End of the Trail’ is located on the pier and makes for a great Instagram shot! There are lots of souvenir shops nearby if you wish to purchase any gifts! There is also free wifi here for you to connect to.
The LAX sign at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is a cool Instagram shot and it is not at all busy here, whatever time of the day you visit! Around sunset the letters start to light up, so if you get there at this time you’ll be able to get a nice colourful shot. The sign is located on a grass verge across the road from the hotels, so be careful when crossing the road.
The sign is located by the airport hotels – click here for the Google maps location.
The Last Bookstore
452 S Spring Street (but entrance is on 5th Street)
Open: 10am – 10pm (10am-11pm on Fridays & Saturdays).
This independent bookshop is one of the most iconic book stores in Los Angeles, if not the world! Many of the books are second-hand and vintage, and The Last Bookstore is actually California’s largest new and used book and record store.
The Last Bookstore is actually situated inside an old abandoned bank so the high ceiling and marble pillars give it a very light and airy feel here. The bookshop is 2 floors high but it is open plan so you can look up to the upper floor (or look down from the balcony on the upper floor). There are also some really creative displays here.
There are a couple of nice spots upstairs where you can get some really nice Instagram pictures – one by the archway of books, and the other by the circular cut out area just next to it.
I was here around midday on a Sunday and there were a few other people here also wanting to take pictures, but everyone was quiet and respectful as people were also browsing the shelves for books to read. On the top floor there are also a few independent shops selling unique gifts and stationary so they are certainly worth having a browse round too. You’ll also find these cool vintage items:
On Sundays the Historic Downtown Farmer’s Market takes place just outside on 5th Street. There is a lovely atmosphere here and you can buy lots of nice artisan food products, flowers and fresh delicacies.
Another Los Angeles icon is the Hollywood Sign. No trip to LA is complete without seeing it! Located in the Hollywood Hills, you’ll need to do a little bit of a hike to get here.
There are several hikes you can do – we did the one starting from The Griffith Observatory which was an easy hike and offered stunning views over the city (see below right). For the more adventurous, you can do the more challenging hike that goes behind the 45 ft high letters! This is one of the best hikes in Los Angeles!
Not far from the Hollywood sign is Griffith Observatory: a stunning building dating from 1935. It features telescopes and a high-tech planetarium and from here you can also get some of the best views of Lala Land! You don’t have to pay to stay outside and enjoy the view over the city, although if you come to watch the sunset here it will be particularly busy!
Newport Beach Boat Trip
A boat trip is a really fun way to see Los Angeles! Newport Beach is a popular place for boat rentals and boat tours. Click here to see some options of tour available!
Like Newport Beach, Malibu Beach is a fair drive from downtown LA (about 30km) but it makes for one of the best day trips from Los Angeles. Many celebrities have homes on Malibu Beach and it is a really nice place to stroll, relax and watch the sunset.
If you are looking for Instagram guides to other US Cities, check out my Instagram guide to Chicago!
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