Sip, savour and stay in Santa Monica during Frieze LA and beyond

Your stay in Santa Monica begins with a cinematic hotel, a Kelly Wearstler-designed spa, a casual shrine to seafood, and a cool tapas bar

santa monica los angeles travel guide
Left, The Georgian hotel. Right, from the menu at Bar Xuntos
(Image credit: Courtesy of The Georgian, courtesy of Bar Xuntos)

It’s Art Week in Los Angeles, and for the second year in a row, the main event (Frieze Art Fair, 1 – 3 March 2024) will be held at Santa Monica Airport, a site chosen for its scale and central location, allowing for ambitious public programming and activations, alongside the expansive contemporary art fair.

Santa Monica itself has long looked to shake off its reputation as a tourist trap beach town. And having welcomed an influx of tech companies and creative start-ups, this perennially laidback neighbourhood is amid a resurgence.

Alongside the famous pier and walkable downtown, the area is now home to some of LA’s best new hotels, restaurants and bars. We’ve highlighted where to stay, eat, play and relax in Santa Monica.

Stay and play in Santa Monica

Bar Xuntos

bar xuntos

(Image credit: Courtesy of Bar Xuntos)

This charming and convivial tapas bar occupying the storefront of an art deco building in downtown Santa Monica is the place to come for glasses of natural wine and plates of pintxos.

plate of food at bar xuntos

(Image credit: Courtesy of Bar Xuntos)

The bar was opened by chef Sandra Cordero in July 2023, and the menu is inspired by childhood summers spent in northern Spain – Galicia, Asturias, Catalonia and the Basque Country. It’s open from 5pm Tuesday to Saturday, and diners can expect classic small bites alongside well-executed sharing plates, with a focus on seafood.

The Georgian

the georgian hotel interior

(Image credit: Douglas Friedman)

Steeped in the history of old Hollywood, The Georgian is currently the toast of the town again, thanks to new ownership and a thorough rework by the talented team at Fettle Design. A landmark on Ocean Avenue, the hotel’s distinctive turquoise façade has been refreshed, with the interiors drawing on a refined style that harks back to its 1930s heyday.

It’s all quite cinematic. From the striking horseshoe-shaped sunset bar to the shaded plant-filled dining terrace, scalloped interior detailing and a colour palette that Wes Anderson would surely approve of. The 84 rooms, with their arched headboards and crystal lighting, have been thoughtfully modernised, and a 1918 Steinway built into the curved bar in the basement speakeasy is played once the sun goes down.

Surya at The Proper Hotel

brown tiled interiors at surya

(Image credit: Courtesy of Surya)

When you need to unwind, there are few better places than Surya’s flagship spa location at The Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. Developed in collaboration with ayurvedic guru Martha Soffer, and with a design by Kelly Wearstler, the 3,000 sq ft space provides a serene backdrop to explore ‘ayurveda for modern life’. Through therapeutic massage, herbal oil treatments, yoga, meditation, and Surya’s cleansing Panchakarma programmes and retreats, locals and guests alike come away rejuvenated and restored.


(Image credit: Courtesy of Surya)

The hotel itself is gorgeous, thanks to Wearstler’s knack for layering high-energy design elements with a coastal Californian style, creating balance through an interplay of texture, bold pattern and earth-hued tones.

Bergamot Station Arts Center

Visitors look at art at Bergamot Station Arts Center

(Image credit: Nicole Casaletto)

This much-loved arts enclave and former train depot was transformed in the 1990s to house a large concentration of independent galleries. Having weathered offers of buyouts from developers last week, the city council voted unanimously to protect Bergamot Station. Today, the 18 galleries are joined by an architecture firm, a comedy club, a theatre and a standout new restaurant for the area, Birdie G’s.

For Frieze, the campus is coordinating a series of artist talks, receptions and special events hosted by its partner galleries throughout the day on Saturday 2 March.

Crudo e Nudo

crudo e nudo exterior from street

(Image credit: Ashley Randall)

This casual shrine to responsibly sourced fish and seafood started life as a pandemic-era pop-up. But with its surging popularity, the owners decided to put down roots on Santa Monica’s Main Street. Much of the thinking is reminiscent of that time. There are 32 outdoor seats, the menu is scrawled on a blackboard by the pay station, and diners are provided with compostable plates. The focus here is on the food quality, and Crudo e Nudo doesn’t disappoint.

crudo e nudo restaurant

(Image credit: Jakob Layman)

Open daily from midday, the inventive and beautifully presented fish and seafood is local and mostly served raw, alongside an array of vegan options. Low-intervention mineral-driven wines are poured by the glass.

Timothy Anscombe-Bell runs Sustainable Design Collective (SDC), a Los Angeles based design resource and consultancy, bringing together some of the brightest in modern craft-based manufacturing. He works on healthy, sustainable and green building schemes – from offices, cultural institutions, schools and universities, to hotels, restaurants and specialist retail. @sdc_inc