Everyone, including the Chateau Marmont’s own PR staff, is fond of repeating Columbia Pictures founder Harry Cohn’s 1939 quip, “If you must get in trouble, do it at the Chateau Marmont.” Tucked as discreetly as possible, for a hotel modeled after a French castle, into a curve above the Sunset Strip, the Chateau has cultivated a reputation for misbehavior and discretion—a kind of safe zone for Hollywood A-listers. The air of seclusion has suffered since John Belushi’s 1982 overdose in Bungalow No. 3 made the hotel forever an object of morbid fascination. As hackneyed as the adjective “iconic” is, this is one Hollywood hotel—maybe the only one—that truly qualifies.

“The Chateau” is a must-see for visitors interested in film history. The list of former residents ranges from Greta Garbo to Lindsay Lohan, and its blowsy grandeur is something to behold: Faded oriental rugs, velvet chairs and brass candelabras contribute to an atmosphere of somber nostalgia that’s hard to resist. But here’s the thing: It’s not really a hotel for tourists. Visitors are not allowed to explore.
Standard rooms tend to be small and somewhat shabby, with outdated bathrooms except in the bungalows (and if you can afford those, you don’t need our advice). Whether staff treats you like royalty or as an interloper depends on the luck of the draw. The Chateau is a grand place for dinner or a drink—the food is good, and not as expensive as you might think—especially if celebrity-spotting is on your itinerary. But you’ll likely be happier going to almost any other hotel in the area to lay your head.