How to have a Grand European Tour Without Leaving LA
Did you want to visit Europe this summer, but weren’t able to book the tickets? Whether it’s because you couldn’t get time off work, are saving up, or just decided to save your vacation time for a less busy season, I’m here to tell you that not all is lost. Soon, you can be visiting French art museums, wandering the canals in Venice, and tanning on the beaches of Greece… without leaving the city. That’s the benefit of living in an internationally known city like LA; there are countless neighborhoods, restaurants, and museums modeled after other countries so you can tour the world in your own backyard.
Do you dream of going to The Louvre? Try substituting it with a trip to one of LA’s many museums like LACMA, The Broad, or The National History Museum of Los Angeles. For a very French feeling, we recommend The Huntington, a San Marino gem that consists of a library, art collections, and a huge botanical garden that includes Shakespeare, herb, and rose themed gardens. The Huntington also has beautiful Japanese and Chinese gardens (which might be a hint at some of the locations of our next travel in LA article).
If you’re interested in learning how to cook like the French, try the French Bistro cooking class at The Wine Artist, or French pastry making class at Cook LA. If you’d rather eat at a French restaurant, we recommend Petit Trois, which has locations in the Valley and in Hollywood. They serve classic French dishes like escargots, steak tartare, and Croque Monsieur/Madame. We also recommend Papilles Bistro, Tesse, and Cafe Stella. For macarons and fancy French pastries, try Ladurée’s Locations in Beverly Hills and The Grove. It’s interior design is “1970’s retro whimsy” themed and it’s desserts are just as beautiful as the decor.
For those not making much progress learning French on Duolingo, try taking in-person lessons! When you’re learning a language online or on an app, you might forget to brush up on your fundamentals or skip a week. Committing to weekly in-person courses can help you sound more like the French-native you wish you were because you’ll invest more time into studying the language and improving your accent. Coucou French Classes are located in Downtown L.A.’s WeWork Fine Arts Building, which is a coworking space that has comfy lounge chairs, networking opportunities, and free drinks and snacks. If Downtown LA is too far of a commute for you (traffic is truly the enemy), no need to worry! They are also expanding to Silver Lake, Pasadena, and Santa Monica and are open 7 days a week and offer a full range of group and private lessons at different levels.
Wish you were taking romantic strolls around the canals of Venice, Italy? Then take a trip to Venice, California instead. The Venice Canal District was constructed to imitate the Venetian canals in the early 1900’s and is surrounded by murals and beautiful multi-million dollar homes. Take a date or a friend here to enjoy the views before heading to one of Venice’s many Italian restaurants. Our favorites include Barrique, Felix Trattoria, and Scopa Italian Roots (which features an Italian cheese board). At the end of the day, head over to Salt and Straw to get some gelato and bring it to Venice Beach to watch the sunset.
If you had hoped to visit art museums and historical sites in Rome, pay the Getty Villa a visit. Located in Malibu, the Getty Villa offers 7,000 years of ancient art for viewing, from the Stone Age to the Roman Empire. The museum itself is a recreation of an ancient Roman country house and is surrounded by Roman-style gardens complete with a reflecting pool and a variety of mediterranean plants. Guided tours are available based on themes, including Collection Highlights, Renaissance, Architecture, and Culinary Garden tours.
As for dining like a true Italian, LA gives you endless options. Eataly features great food and espresso, cooking classes, and hard to find Italian products for home chefs. For even more Italian cooking classes, try Cozymeal which features themed classes, including how to make handmade pasta, vegetarian Italian dishes, and couple’s classes. If you want to parlo Italiano, try taking classes at Fondazione Italia, which has locations in West LA, Burbank, and Orange County.
If your European trip itinerary includes Santorini, Greece, our recommendation is a trip to one of the pristine beaches of Malibu. El Matador State Beach has clear water, rolling waves, and beautiful caves and arches. It has a parking lot on the bluff with picnic tables that look out over the Pacific Ocean, so you could pack a Mediterranean style picnic to eat with a view. The Malibu Surfrider Beach offers the Malibu Pier Farm Restaurant. For a Greek feel, order the red pepper hummus, a Greek salad, or the Malibu falafel. Other Greek restaurants that we recommend are The Great Greek, Papa Cristo’s, and Rodini Park.
Learning to speak Greek on your own may be challenging, and if you are considering in-person courses, try the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute or the The Santa Monica Language Academy. If you’re free in June, check out the Los Angeles Greek Film Festival, which features many female filmmakers and female-driven stories.
For a vacation in Madrid or Barcelona, create a Spanish experience here in LA with Spanish architecture, flamenco shows, and paella. If you are interested in the work of Spanish architects, check out the Serpentine Pavilion at the La Brea Tar Pits, which is the work of Lucia Cano and Jose Selgas. Check out this list of other works of Spanish architecture in Los Angeles County.
For an amazing flamenco show, head to Thousand Oaks to watch the Flamenco Star Benise in “Fuego! Spirit of Spain.” Long Beach is also home to Cafe Sevilla, a Spanish restaurant and venue that features flamenco shows that include an authentic 3-course Spanish dinner. They also have “Tapas Bar Live” which allows you to experience the Spanish habit of enjoying late night dining while seeing live performances of Spanish Rock and Latin Jazz. In March visit the Los Angeles International Flamenco Festival to watch legendary flamenco dancers and guitarists.
To create the feeling of being a hungry tourist wandering around the cobbled streets of Spain, LA has a surprising amount of great restaurants that offer lots of classic Spanish dishes. We recommend The Bazaar for their croquetas and jamón iberico. If you love paella and tapas, try LA Paella. There’s even a Spanish food truck circulating LA called Tumaca, which has patatas bravas and sandwiches that blend serrano ham, chorizo, and Manchego cheese. Spanish language classes are offered at the Pasadena Language Center, the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute, and LA Spanish in person and via Skype.
If you wish you were walking around a little Scandinavian town, your best option is to take a road trip to Santa Barbara County to visit Solvang, CA. This town was constructed based on old-world Danish architecture and features Danish bakeries, wine tasting rooms, and Viking themed restaurants. We recommend the Solvang Brewing Company for Danish style craft beer and sausage.
For those that don’t want to drive up to Solvang, try Mikkeller, a Danish brewery that features house smoked sandwiches, elk charcuterie, and Danish fries. Open Face is a Danish inspired sandwich shop that features open faced sandwiches and meatball heros. If you’re craving sweets, try Copenhagen Pastry or Olson’s Scandinavian Café. If you would like to learn Danish, classes are available at the Beverly Hills Lingual Institute and at Listen and Learn.
Yes, it is possible to tour France, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Denmark while staying in Los Angeles. Great food, drinks, and museums are the mainstays of many European trips, and LA has you covered if you want to recreate the feeling of spending time sightseeing and finishing the day off by drinking a glass of local wine while looking out over the city.