We Recently Visited: The Hotel Bel-Air, and the Hollywood hideaway still packs quite a punch


People who’ve never been to Los Angeles always have such an idea of what life must be like this side of the world. Towering palms, bougainvillea-clad wall and fabulous bungalows tucked right in the thick of heavenly gardens where every hour feels like the golden hour. The city that Randy Newman wrote about in his album Trouble in Paradise can sometimes really feel like a Hollywood fable made real, and nowhere can you experience that beautiful dream better than at the Hotel Bel-Air.

For a start, there is the setting of the hotel in the heart of the exclusive neighbourhood of Bel-Air where the likes of Beyoncé and Elon Musk have sprawling mansions. Then, of course, there is its 12-acre garden with streams, winding pathways and footbridges made for meandering. Everywhere you look, lemon and orange trees make for an L.A. fantasy come to life…and that’s before you even get to the swan lake, with its four white swans frolicking in it.

The romance and grace of the Hotel Bel-Air, far from the hustle and bustle of downtown L.A., makes it a hideaway that lost none of its appeal from the days it provided a secluded playground for the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe. To this day, the reclusive, hush-hush atmosphere of the hotel attracts a high-end clientele- think Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise, and Oprah who celebrated her 50th birthday here, but you’ll never know it with the attentive and discreet staff.

The Rooms

Following a complete overhaul by New York-based globetrotter Alexandra Champalimaud, the rooms at the Hotel Bel-Air are looking better than ever before, so if you’re heading to L.A. anytime soon, you want to book one of its airy and tastefully decorated rooms in muted shades of brown, white, beige and gold. The most beautiful- and impressive- of the rooms are the Signature Suites, which include one sitting just above the Swan Lake and another where Grace Kelly stayed after winning her Academy Award.

Other Standout Features

There are many things that make Hotel Bel-Air the closest you’ll ever get to feeling like Hollywood royalty, but The Bar, effortlessly cool, with photographs by Norman Seeff covering the walls, has got to be at the top of the list. It’s a place where the Golden Age of Hollywood never ended, with its intimate setting, that glorious fireplace and the sleek grand piano tucked on one side.

Another highlight of Hotel Bel-Air is Wolfgang Puck’s al fresco restaurant where L.A. dining is given a Mediterranean twist- think egg-white frittatas for breakfast, mezze for lunch and Keluga caviar for dinner, all to the distant melody of the grand piano and birdsong.

There is also a warm, pink-walled spa that was added during the 2012 renovation. It sits in the heart of the extensive garden with 7 treatment rooms, a Joseph Martin Hair salon and an oval pool that once used to be a horse-riding ring. After a spa afternoon or some sunbathing in the L.A. sunshine, take home a memento of your perfect time here with a fluffy Hotel Bel-Air bathrobe or his-and-hers pyjamas. We also loved the poolside flip flops that capture Marilyn Monroe’s iconic- and last- photoshoot, which took place, poolside, at the Hotel Bel-Air.

For more legendary hotel settings where a stay is a lesson in exclusivity, stay tuned.

About Nimah Koussa

The best part about being a travel writer is bringing cities and destinations to life: their stories, secret addresses, luxurious gems and unique holiday moments. And I have been one for a little more than 10 years. From the best bars and restaurants in different cities of the world to hotels where you can check-in to get away from it all, this Magazine is all about making every trip just a bit more meaningful.

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