Legian is nicely nestled between busy Kuta and the up market Seminyak. In a sense this reflects nicely in that Legian can offer you the best of both worlds. Many years ago Legian was once a place where farmers would grow their rice and fishermen would brave the Indian Ocean. You can still to this day see a few rice paddies that have been kept away from the development of tourism. It was only until the 1970s when Kuta started to attract tourists that Legian became a popular spot for the more budget conscious traveler.
It has a great backpacker scene where budget accommodation is plentiful (Jalan Bensari) and also if you want to splurge out, then there are numerous high end hotels on the beach front. Legian is now a major part of what has become the Greater Kuta district and most people would agree that north of poppies I and II is accepted as Legian. Legian itself has a more relaxed atmosphere than its sister town of Kuta and you can quite easily find yourself mixing with locals amongst the warungs and traditional markets.
The beach in Legian really is an extension from the beach at Kuta however it has to be said that it is much less crowded here than Kuta. You will find less people selling typical Balinese souvenirs so you can in a sense have a quieter time here. The further north you go up the coast away from Kuta the waves tend to get bigger so if you are after larger waves then head here.
A popular spot among locals and tourists alike is Melasti. You can either walk the back streets looking for local souvenirs and bargains or head to the beach front and watch the sun set. The beach front cafes/bars are a great way to wind down after a busy day sightseeing.
For the more budget conscious traveller, many find Benesari is a perfect balance with quiet, reasonably low cost home-stays, small bars, surf shops, mini-marts, and restaurants. The area is similar and close to poppies but far less crowded with a friendlier crowd. If you are here for some time then it really can start o feel like a second home as you chat with locals and do your groceries and laundry all on the same street. The beach here is also less crowded with all the same facilities as central Kuta including surfboard hire, massage, cold drinks and quick access to the poppies area and Legian Street but far enough away be able escape it when necessary and still find seclusion at the hotel.
The further north you go you can expect to find higher end hotels catering more to the Seminyak crowd. Legian itself has a great village atmosphere and is definitely the place for those wanting a lower key yet still budget conscious holiday.