The state capital of Texas, Austin is rich in history and culture. Nestled within the stunning landscape of Texas Hill Country, Austin blends beautiful natural scenery with the modern comforts and innovations expected of a city hailed as its state’s tech hub. The 10th most populous city in the United States, Austin is bursting with life. Its music scene, in particular, is a huge point of pride and the city lives up to its nickname of the “Live Music Capital of the World”, as the city centre is packed with venues celebrating local talents and well-known artists.
Fans of the blues, rock, and country music will enjoy plenty. From the bohemian charm of South Congress to the raucous nightlife of Downtown to the creative edge of East Austin, Austin is an eclectic city with tons for any visitor to discover. Whether you’re planning a whirlwind urban adventure, a laid-back city break, or just passing through on a road trip, if you’re planning on visiting, you’re probably in a conundrum over where to stay in Austin.
There are plenty of options to choose from, but I’ll help you narrow it down in this article.
I’ve selected the five best areas in Austin for visitors to consider making their home base in the city. We’ll go through all the pros and cons of what each district has to offer, from local attractions to the general atmosphere, so you can make an informed decision on exactly where is best to stay in Austin for you.
Where To Stay In Austin
The Downtown area of Austin is the city’s beating heart packed with attractions, hospitality, and entertainment.
Downtown is a lively district where you’ll find tons to keep you busy throughout the day or night.
It’s arguably the best area in Austin for first time visitors who want to spend their time taking in the city’s top sights.
Fans of history, politics, or architecture will want to pay a visit to the Texas Capitol building.
Built in 1888, it’s a stunning example of period architecture featuring sweeping domes and columns carved from rosy, red granite.
Visitors can take tours of the Capitol through the grounds and public halls to learn more about the building and Austin’s political heritage.
But if visiting the Capitol Building doesn’t sate your curiosity for Texas’ history, you can follow it up with a visit to the Austin History Centre at the Austin Public Library.
Just around the corner from the capitol, the old public library turned museum displays various artefacts from throughout the city’s history within a beautiful renaissance-revival style building dating back to 1933.
If that’s still not enough, head over to the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
The museum boasts an impressive array of displays and interactive exhibits that delve into the state’s diverse past.
For those more interested in art, The Contemporary Austin – Jones Centre is well worth a visit.
The gallery is dedicated to celebrating the works and talents of local artists.
Displaying works across a range of mediums and artforms, the Jones Centre is perfect for appreciating Austin’s continued contributions to the arts.
Alternatively, the nearby Mexic-Arte Museum focuses on a different niche.
Displaying the works of primarily Mexican artists, the Mexic-Art Museum boasts a particularly vibrant collection.
There are also plenty of more eclectic museums around downtown to keep you from getting bored.
The Museum of the Weird displays all kinds of odd items from shrunken heads and ancient mummies to film props and models.
Meanwhile, the Texas Toy Museum showcases a huge array of classic toys from across the decades, as well as letting visitors play on their vintage arcade machines.
If having plenty to do after dark is a priority, then Downtown Austin should be at the top of your list of options.
If you enjoy staying out until the early hours without having to worry about a long journey back to your hotel, then this is the perfect location for you.
Downtown is full of some of the city’s top bars, clubs, cocktail lounges, and, of course, plenty of live music venues.
Head over to Sixth Street for a lively introduction to Austin’s evening hospitality.
You’ll easily spot it by the vibrant neon lights that gained the area the title of Electric Sixth Street.
Downtown is also home to the Red River Cultural District, one of the best neighbourhoods in the city for live music, which is particularly impressive for a city like Austin.
You’ll find tons of trendy venues, bars, and clubs, packed into the area.
While Downtown Austin is certainly one of the more urban and built-up districts in the city, there are still some green spots for you to escape to when you need a break from all the concrete and glass.
Town Lake Metropolitan Park runs along the Colorado River at the southern end of the neighbourhood.
It features plenty of benches, pavilions, and lawns from which to relax and enjoy watching the water.
Alternatively, follow the trails into Pease District Park and make sure to pay a visit to the Pease Park Treehouse.
Where To Stay In Downtown Austin
Central Austin surrounds the University of Texas campus, immediately to the north of Downtown.
So close to the city centre, it makes a great alternative for those who want to spend their time sightseeing.
Home to a bustling student population, Central Austin is a lively neighbourhood with plenty going on in its own right.
With a population of mostly young students, Central Austin offers a colourful nightlife scene with a more laid-back atmosphere.
If you prefer to relax in casual, hole-in-the-wall bars rather than upscale cocktail lounges, then Central Austin is ideal.
The University of Texas Campus itself provides some attractions for visitors.
Football is a huge part of Texan identity, so attending a game at the Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium to support the University of Texas Longhorns is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.
The University of Texas Tower is one of the most iconic structures in the city.
Head up to the observation deck at the top of the UT Tower to take in some incredible, panoramic views of the city.
Almost 300 feet in the air, you’ll be able to see out across the whole of Austin.
At the south of the campus, the Blanton Museum of Art displays works from across the American continents.
Alternatively, visitors to the Neill-Cochran House Museum can delve into the colourful history of America through a range of displays housed within a beautiful Greek-revival mansion.
There are also several green spaces around Central Austin for when you just want to relax in nature.
In the west of the district, the Shoal Creek Greenbelt provides 81 acres of leafy walking trails through the trees lining the creek.
Meanwhile, the Hancock Recreation Centre offers wide open lawns for relaxing on the grass or playing games.
Where To Stay In Central Austin
- The Otis Hotel Austin, Autograph Collection
- Moxy Austin – University
- Days Inn by Wyndham Austin/University/Downtown
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East Austin is a hip, up-and-coming neighbourhood full of community spirit and bohemian flare.
Historically one of the city’s most culturally diverse districts, the area is home to a rich melting pot of communities.
Visitors can stroll through areas like East Cesar Chavez, the hub of Austin’s Mexican-American population, to see how the various cultures have influenced the city’s architectural styling.
Sudden rejuvenation in recent years has produced an eclectic mix of buildings, with cosy historic homes tucked between modern developments.
Just outside of Downtown, East Austin makes for a more affordable, laid-back alternative to staying right in the city centre, while still giving you relatively easy access to the main attractions.
In a city known for its arts and culture, East Austin is a particular hub of creativity.
You’ll find tons of small galleries and studios along its many backstreets.
In fact, there’s an annual festival, the East Austin Studio Tour, dedicated to celebrating the many talented artists in the area.
Even just walking around, you’ll be able to admire the impressive array of street art around the neighbourhood, with stunning murals popping up all over the place.
As the sun sets, the area gains a new lease of life as one of Austin’s coolest nightlife districts.
Enjoy the renowned live-music scene in the various trendy bars and venues or seek out something different by tracking down one of the quirky speakeasies.
Where To Stay In East Austin
- East Austin Hotel
- ARRIVE Austin
- How about a holiday home? Here’s a comfortable stay with a backyard and workspaces
South Congress (SoCo)
A couple of miles south of the city centre, South Congress is a vibrant, trendy neighbourhood, with its own unique flavour distinct from the rest of the city.
Much more laid back than the Downtown area, South Congress is ideal if you’re looking for a more chilled out city break.
The eponymous South Congress Avenue is a hugely popular shopping destination with both locals and visitors alike.
Lined with unique boutiques and eclectic vintage stores, you’ll be sure to find something special to remember your trip by.
And when you get tired of browsing the shops, you can stop in at one of the trendy cafes to relax and watch the world go by.
South congress is another area well known for its artistic flare.
You’ll find tons of unique galleries around the neighbourhood, such as the Cathedral of Junk, which arranged over 60 tons of otherwise unwanted furniture and trash into a bizarrely creative art installation.
Further out from the city centre and set along one of the main highways heading into the city, South Congress is a great option for anyone travelling into Austin by car.
If you don’t want to have to worry about gridlocked traffic and overpriced parking, you’ll definitely appreciate this neighbourhood.
Where To Stay In South Austin
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites Austin South, an IHG Hotel
- Staybridge Suites Austin South Interstate Hwy 35, an IHG Hotel
- TownePlace Suites Austin South
If you’re looking for a laid-back, family friendly neighbourhood close to the city centre, Zilker should be a top contender.
Just across the river from Downtown Austin, Zilker provides a leafier, less crowded alternative while still being just a short journey from all the top sights and attractions.
Zilker is best known for its beautiful parks, such as Zilker Metropolitan Park that runs along Barton Creek, providing a lovely area to get out into nature without having to leave the city centre.
Within the park you’ll find attractions such as the Zilker Botanical Garden, the Zilker Park disc golf course, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, and the Austin Nature & Science Centre and nature preserve.
In the summer, the Barton Springs Pool is a popular spot to cool off from the Texas heat or you can relax in Butler Metro Park, which sits on the south bank of the Colorado River.
Make sure to look out for the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Around sunset you can head over towards Congress Bridge to witness the world’s largest urban bat colony head out for the night.
When the sun’s gone down, the park makes a great spot from which to appreciate the bright lights of Downtown.
You can get the best views from up on Doug Sahm Hill.
Where To Stay In Zilker
- The Joplin House – Zilker Park Studio
- The Green Cow
- Gorgeous Home in Heart of Zilker with Full Kitchen
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