Austin is a hotbed for culture seekers. The city bursts with eclectic arts, mouthwatering eats, and bucket-list events all across the city. But with so much going on from corner to corner, it can be tough figuring out where to stay in Austin when the options feel endless.
Where would we choose, you ask? We’ve narrowed down our list and picked five Austin neighborhoods with an edge on the rest. Not only are they jam-packed with personality, but they rank high when it comes to a handful of factors: they’re within walking distance (or at least close) to the city’s best attractions, best restaurants, and best things to do.
Check into one of Bat City’s most happening hotels, mingle with locals in their favorite neighborhoods, and get ready to make the most out of your trip—if you’re here to have a good time, here’s where to stay in Austin.
RECOMMENDED: the best hotels in Austin
The first stop for a powerhouse weekend of fun, downtown Austin is where you’ll find bustling activity day and night. From the city’s most romantic restaurants to eclectic sightseeing tours, the downtown core is compact enough for walking, yet has no shortage of must-dos. Take a museum stroll early in the day, dine your way around town, then get your laughs on at one of Austin’s many comedy shows before hitting up the downtown nightlife.
You know those giant platters that make life easier for the indecisive? That’s Fareground in a nutshell. Austin’s first food hall, located at One Eleven Congress, carries the best of the city under one roof so you can food-hop for your starter, main, side and dessert. Our top picks: Taco Pegaso for guac and queso, Austin Rôtisserie for rotisserie chicken, and an Israeli dessert from TLV. Two on-site bars provide liquid refreshments.
Downtown’s trendiest nightlife spot promises a sinfully good time (it’s spiritually themed). The historic building is decked out in religious artifacts, stained glass windows, and a DJ booth made from a vintage organ. Go for a ‘Seven Deadly Sins’” cocktail, like Lust (tequila, mezcal, absinthe, strawberry syrup, and blackberries) or the wickedly sweet Gluttony (vodka, heavy cream, coffee liquor and nutmeg).
As the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’, Austin knows how to put on a show. The Paramount Theatre is downtown’s finest stage, not only for music but for comedy, screenings, musicals, talks, drag performances, and more. Built in 1915, it’s the oldest theatre in Austin, and legends from Miles Davis to Dr. Maya Angelou have graced the auditorium. Their annual Paramount Anniversary Gala is an Elton John Oscar Party-style night out for those looking to turn it up in a gown (when Congress Avenue is transformed into a red-carpet fiesta), but a quick look at their events calendar is sure to offer something that’ll tickle your fancy.
As an architectural wonder and more-often-than-not official partner of virtually every major event, the Fairmont Austin is the most happening stay downtown. Towering rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows so guests can soak up skyline vistas, but you won’t want to spend all day in bed—the hotel has plenty of social spaces up for grabs that you won’t want to miss. The rooftop pool is the largest downtown, lined with palm trees and a very celebratory crowd, and downstairs you’ll find the acclaimed restaurant Garrison, famed for cooking up Austin’s best steak.
If you do just one thing…
Duck into the Texas State Capitol, if only for a peek at the beautiful building (it’s actually taller than our nation’s capitol!). Free daily tours are available, too.
As the city’s fastest-growing neighborhood, there’s an amazing range of diversity in East Austin. For starters, you’ll find old-school dive bars in harmony with the best cocktails in town. Plus, throughout this artsy hub, you’ll find an abundance of galleries as well as colorful street art, independent stores, taquerias, and juice bars.
There could easily be a thousand things Austinites love about Old Thousand, but just one is enough: they make the greatest Xiao Mian and Egg Rolls in the state (sorry, Houston). The hangout fuses Chinese and Texan charm, which makes for excellent an night out, and they cater to veggie friends (Kung Pao brussels? Yes please) while also serve a killer cocktail program.
This iconic spot boasts exposed, archaic stone walls lit by flickering candles. Led by veteran Austin bartender Scranton Twohey, it’s the perfect place to wet your Whisler (ahem). In addition to the main inside bar and a large open patio, you’ll find Mezcaleria Tobala upstairs—an intimate venue styled after the traditional Oaxacan mezcal bar.
Whether you’ve got an axe to grind or not, Urban Axes will help you let off some steam. Get a friendly competition going as you go up against mates with 1.5-pound hatchets, each thrown at an archery-style target at the end of a fenced-in lane. Once you’re done, chill out for a while with food and drink (it’s BYO food, soda, beer, and wine) and discuss your techniques.
ARRIVE East Austin makes a cracking first impression. Your check-in experience includes saddling up to the bar for a welcome drink and snack—on the house. There’s an industrial-chic vibe here with polished marble that contrasts with concrete, airy windows alongside a wooden bar, and just the right balance between luxury and casual. Choose your fix between the on-site gin bar and Cartel Coffee Lab (both will give you a buzz).
If you do just one thing…
Get down to the White Horse Saloon honky tonk. This joint is frequented by a mix of people who aren’t afraid to get up close and personal during a two-step class on Friday and Saturday nights.
Just across the river from downtown sits South Congress, a go-to destination even among locals. Here you’ll find funky boutiques and taco bars lining active streets, alongside some of Austin’s most popular cafes. From March to October, the Congress Avenue bridge draws visitors to this part of town, all hoping to see around 1.5 million bats take part in a nightly migration. What else? A number of buses also have routes along Congress, making this area a viable place to stay if you’re relying on public transportation.
Veer off the main drag and you’ll stumble upon Austin’s best Indian cuisine at South First Street. Mumtaz Market is an evolution of long-time South Asian cafe and lounge, G’Raj Mahal. The menu is packed with authentic traditional curries as well as creative takes on entrees such as the Pork Rechaad, Gnocchi Saag, and Seafood Malabar. Spice up your life at brunch, lunch, happy hour, or dinner—just don’t forget to order a mango lassi.
This Mediterranean restaurant, right on Music Lane, doubles as a solid watering hole. Aba’s bar program, crafted by Liz Pearce, showcases rare Mediterranean-inspired wines and spirits; try one of its Israeli and Armenian Blanc de Blancs, or cool down with its Life on Freezy Street, a frozen cocktail best enjoyed out on the oak tree-shaded patio. Aba also has a wide selection of non-alcoholic cocktails in case it’s too early for the hard stuff (although in Texas, it’s never too early).
The Continental Club opened its doors in 1955 on South Congress Avenue, and has since hosted the likes of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, Wanda Jackson, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons—up to standard for a place that regularly billed the likes of Double Trouble, Paul Ray & the Cobras, and Joe Ely back in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a tiny stage in a small room, but the performances that occur in front of the venue’s iconic red curtain make this is top spot for live music in SoCo.
Since opening on SoCo, this residential-style boutique hotel has been all the rage. Interiors are designed by award-winning Austinite Patrice Rios who splashes Texan charm with chic style for an elevated home away from home experience. There are just 80 rooms—all of which are suites—that contain anything from kitchenettes or kitchens to dining spaces, large living rooms, and even washers and dryers. If you’ve ever wondered how Austin’s tech crowd lives, this hotel is your preview. Social spaces include: The Backyard, an outdoor hangout designed around three 80-year-old heritage oak trees; The Lawn, an open area to play bocce ball, croquet, and lawn bowling with a heated outdoor swimming pool; and Simona’s, a coffee and cocktail bar.
If you do just one thing…
Time your visit to a Candlelight Concert at some of Austin’s most beautiful and historic houses. The SoCo edition, at Vuka Bouldin Creek, is certainly a local favorite. Check Fever for a calendar of events.
We are making a few updates to our selections in this neighborhood.