Think of Los Angeles and the images conjured up could be anything from Hollywood and huge traffic jams to beaches, surf and sun.
Great Gatsby glamour wasn’t the first picture of the sprawling metropolis that came to my mind when I arrived in the city that is more akin to a small country. Yet in Downtown Los Angeles, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel offers exactly this kind of step into a past era of west coast glamour and, unlike the renowned Beverly Hills Hotel, it won’t cost a small fortune to stay there.
I was there to test the Los Angeles vibe for a few nights while picking up tickets for a rodeo in Auburn, Alabama. I’m from the UK and the rodeo organisers won’t post tickets outside the USA so I ordered them to the Biltmore and booked a return Premium Economy flights with Air New Zealand (ANZ) to go and pick them up. ANZ is part of the Star Alliance frequent flyer alliance, so I earned miles for my Singapore Airlines’ frequent flyer account (known as Krisflyer). Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance member too and the alliance means you can join the frequent flyer program of one member airline and earn air miles when you fly with any of the other members.
Personally, I think ANZ has the best Premium Economy of any airlines and, as they fly direct from London, UK to Los Angeles my choice of airline was a no-brainer.
I picked out the Millennium Biltmore for several reasons, not least because this was the hotel where Eddie Murphy aka Axel Foley stays in the 80s film Beverly Hills Cop. And at approximately £160 / $200 per night for a Deluxe Room, the first impression was excellent. The hallways and ceiling leading from the main entrance and into the reception were lined with gilded marble and red carpeting edged with gold braiding.
It felt luxurious and spacious with lots of light and high cool ceilings as well as several meeting rooms leading off down various secluded corridors with notices outside announcing which business meeting, or convention, or film audition was taking place in there over the next week. I did toy with the idea of making it to a 9am audition the next morning, but jet lag meant a lie-in took priority instead.
You can earn air miles when you stay at the Biltmore if you’re a member of many different frequent flyer programs. To check out which ones, visit their site.
Unfortunately, parking is not part of the hotel’s amenities, so once I’d checked in I had to park in a dark but staffed (so safe, apparently) parking lot opposite the hotel under a park, which brought back memories of the opening scenes from the TV show The Equalizer.
Once out of the hotel’s public areas and walking down the corridor to my room, the hotel’s age (opened 1923) became a little more apparent as the glitz gave way to more basic décor. It was also eerily quiet, like a scene out of The Shining. The Biltmore, by the way, is also notable for being at the centre of the Black Dahlia unsolved murder case in the 1940s.
Inside the room, the word that comes to mind is ‘adequate’. It was a standard room big enough for one but without much excess space. The bed was very comfortable while the bathroom was clean and functional but nothing more.
The swimming pool area is lovingly dated and feels like a bygone area. The water was a tad cold for me but there was a hot tub to warm up after a dip in the pool as well as a weights and fitness area. If you’re looking to stay in shape it probably won’t be sufficient, but it’s more than enough to shake off the cobwebs after a long flight.
Eating and drinking
There are four options within the hotel:
- Smeraldi’s Restaurant for continental and Italian cuisine
- Bugis Street Brasserie for Singapore cuisine
- Rendezvous Court for coffee and relaxing by the fountain with piano music playing
- Gallery Bar and Cognac Room for drinking and late night socialising (pictured below)
In all honesty, the downtown area is not the heart of Los Angeles so nightlife is not king here. If you’re happy to travel outside of Downtown, Hollywood has a buzzing nightlife but my personal favourite was a place called Bungalow located at the Fairmont in Santa Monica. The review will come another time, but I’ll just say it was one of the most unique nightlife experiences I’ve had – in a good way.
The downtown area is, for the most part, fine to walk around in the day but be aware of the surroundings, especially at night. It’s easy to wander into Skid Row without realising it until you’re in it, but the Biltmore block is generally safe.
Downtown Los Angeles is arguably the one part of the metropolis that feels like a normal city centre. Unlike the sprawling highways that run through Hollywood and The Valley, or the beach resorts of Santa Monica and Malibu, the Downtown has old red brick buildings over a century old, backstreets and alleyways that can all be navigated on foot. The rarely-mentioned Los Angeles metro also stops in Downtown and can take you all the way up to Hollywood. In the middle of Downtown sits the Biltmore Hotel.
Yes. You’ll need to research Los Angeles well before you arrive to make sure Downtown is the right area for you. It’s really not easy to travel between different areas of the city at any time of the day or night because of the traffic. But if you do, The Biltmore is highly recommended.