Santa Monica travel guide

Santa Monica is one of the few places in LA you can explore on foot, says Frances Hibbard, who finds the best of So-Cal cool in the beachside enclave.

By Frances Hibbard
Shutters on the Beach
Shutters on the Beach
Shutters' oceanfront position, a block from Santa Monica's famed pier, goes some way to explaining the appeal of this celebrity favourite. As do the guest quarters: compact but supremely comfortable pods with well-curated libraries and bathrooms kitted out with personal bath and beach "medicine cabinets". Almost all have balconies overlooking the Pacific and the beautiful bodies using the sands as their workout world. 1 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica.
Downtown Farmers' Market
Several markets are held weekly in Santa Monica, but for chef and celeb sightings, and the pick of the produce, you need to visit the Wednesday Downtown Farmers' Market, a key part of the city's fabric since 1981. The market stretches four blocks and is one of the biggest in the US. Organics your thing? Try the Saturday version. Arizona Ave, Wednesdays, 8.30am-1.30pm; Saturdays, 8.30am-1pm.
You might have to ply the "but I'm just visiting" line to nab a bike at this, the first West Coast outpost of the cycling class-cum-therapy session that inspires cult-like fervour in its devotees. Ride by candlelight as the high-energy instructors spout yoga-isms and preach the SoulCycle gospel of a harder, faster route to enlightenment. 120 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica.
Santa Monica Place
The buzzy Third Street Promenade retail precinct threads through the heart of Santa Monica and is dotted with the usual suspects. The latest addition, though, is the luxury-leaning Santa Monica Place, an open-air mall with outposts of Louis Vuitton, Burberry and - bless - Barneys Co-Op, with its plethora of denim. 395 Santa Monica Pl, Santa Monica.
Fred Segal
The legendary LA store has just opened its third within the new, Westfield-operated Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. But if you prefer not to rush your retail, Fred Segal Santa Monica packs a stylish punch. As well as a winning mix of labels via its stores-within-a-store concept, there's an in-house Umami Burger café and the New Beauty cosmetic room is a world-beating edit of products. 420 and 500 Bwy, Santa Monica.
Café Gratitude
This organic-vegan café is where body-is-my-temple types sup on macrobiotic "Whole" bowls, a mix of sea vegetables, adzuki beans, sautéed kale, kimchi and black sesame seed gomasio with quinoa and garlic-tahini sauce. Wash it down with the fierce but fabulous "Fiery", a noni juice-based digestion shot. 12 Rose Ave, Venice.
The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows' in-house restaurant is a casual but assured bistro. Expect excellent charcuterie, thoughtful sides and a deeply satisfying pork banh mi (pâté, pickled vegetables, shishito peppers). 101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica.
Stella Barra
Don't be put off by the crowds waiting on a table - the pizzas here are really good. Crusts are just-so and toppings killer: porchetta and fennel, with caciocavallo, parmesan, chilli, parsley, oregano and smoked paprika oil. 2000 Main St, Santa Monica.