Get us in your inbox

Austin, Texas
Photograph: Shutterstock

Where to stay in Austin right now for a taste of the best neighborhoods

Heading to the Live Music Capital of Texas? Check out our guide to the best neighborhoods to stay in Austin

Written by
James Wong
Erin Kuschner
Lori A May

In a city packed with eclectic arts, delectable eats, and outdoor activity galore, deciding where to stay in Austin can be tough, even for repeat visitors, let alone first-timers. Strapped for time and just looking to do the highlights? Downtown is always a good place to start. Perhaps you’re a hipster kid planning on shopping vintage and kicking back at a dive bar or three in good company? Go East. Or are you looking for some luxurious R&R by the lake? Well, west is best. And that’s just the beginning, for there are plenty of worthy nooks North, South, and everywhere in between.

If you need a little help to discover what’s best for you, good news! We’ve plucked five fantastic neighborhoods within those nodes that are a cut above the rest. Boasting exciting things to do from corner to corner, distinct character in true ATX fashion, and a good number of them are even walkable (which, in Texas, is a huge bonus). Get ready to check in and have an absolutely rockin’ time with our guide to the best places to stay in Austin.

RECOMMENDED: the best hotels in Austin

Where to stay in Austin

Photograph: Courtesy Texas State Capitol Building

1. Downtown

The first stop for a powerhouse weekend of fun, downtown Austin is where you’ll find bustling activity day and night. From the 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 at one of Austin's many comedy shows before hitting up the downtown nightlife. 


Fareground Food Hall

You know those giant platters that make life easier for the indecisive? That is 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.


Higher Ground

Downtown’s trendiest nightlife spot promises a sinfully good time (it is spiritually themed, after all). 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).


Paramount Theatre

As the Live Music Capital of Texas, 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. Opened in 1915, it is 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 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 to tickle your fancy.


Fairmont Austin

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 don't 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 is actually taller than our nation's capitol). Free daily tours are available, too.

East Austin
Photograph: Courtesy Urban Axes

2. East Austin

As one of the city’s fastest-growing neighborhoods, there is 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 is an abundance of galleries, colorful street art, independent stores, taquerias, and juice bars.


Old Thousand

There could 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 a tremendous night out, and they cater to veggie friends (Kung Pao Brussels? Yes, please) while also serving a killer cocktail program. 


This iconic spot boasts exposed stone walls lit by flickering candles. Led by veteran Austin bartender Scranton Twohey, it is 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.


Urban Axes Austin 

Whether or not you’ve got an axe to grind, 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 with food and drink (BYO food, soda, beer, and wine) and discuss your techniques.


ARRIVE East Austin

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 is 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 unafraid to get up close and personal during a two-step class on Friday and Saturday nights.

South Congress
Photograph: Courtesy Chase Daniel

3. South Congress

Just across the river from downtown sits South Congress, a go-to destination even among locals. 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, 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.


Mumtaz Market

Temporarily closed

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 the long-time South Asian cafe and lounge, G’Raj Mahal. The menu is packed with authentic traditional curries and 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 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 is too early for the hard stuff (although in Texas, it is never too early).


The Continental Club

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 1970s and ’80s. It’s a tiny stage in a small room, but the performances in front of the iconic red curtain make this the top spot for live music in SoCo.


Colton House Hotel

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 is your preview. Social spaces include an outdoor hangout designed around three 80-year-old heritage oak trees, 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.

North Loop
Photograph: Courtesy AFS Cinema

4. North Loop

Just ten miles north of downtown, North Loop is a relaxed neighborhood with one-of-a-kind cafes and shops. Vintage collectors will lose track of time at five popular resale shops that neighbor one another and sell selections of vinyl, fashion, and home decor. There is a Bohemian vibe around this northern nook, which makes it a perfect casual spot for visitors and locals alike.  


Foreign & Domestic

The small North Loop restaurant is a coveted spot for casual gatherings and Sunday brunch. On the weekend, treat yourself to comfort food like fried chicken biscuits or a cast iron frittata. During evening outings, grab friends and sample a tasting menu, or dig into entrees like butternut risotto. Looking for a deal? Celebrate the flavors of Austin craft beer during a discounted happy hour. 


Workhorse Bar

If you're a jukebox junkie, Workhorse Bar is right up your alley. This dive has a killer selection of music in addition to its comfort food-driven menu. Aim for the mac and cheese, hefty burgers, wings, and an oozing grilled cheese sandwich that will coat your stomach while knocking back a few beers—which you should definitely do, as the beer selection here is solid.


AFS Cinema

Academy Award winner Richard Linklater has plenty of projects to his name, but the Austin Film Society is a particularly important endeavor. Founded by Linklater in 1985, AFS supports independent filmmakers from Texas and brings the world of cinema to Austin. Choose between flicks showing on two screens, both with fantastic sound systems. 


Habitat Suites

The North Loop may not have the most glamorous digs, but the low-key and locally-owned hotel Habitat has all the space and freedom of an Airbnb. All suites have dining rooms, a perfect excuse for omakase; order in from OSOME, Austin’s at-home sushi adventure (curated by superstar chef John Gocong), for a private dining experience of Japanese delicacies and sake delivered straight to your suite. Kanpai to that.

If you do just one thing…

Fill out your record collection at Breakaway Records. The owners have built a loyal following thanks to their role DJing at long-time local venues. This is a great spot to up your cool factor while discovering a new gem in a tried-and-true format.

South Lamar
Photograph: Courtesy Jody Horton

5. South Lamar

If staying near popular outdoor attractions like Barton Springs and Zilker Park is a priority, South Lamar is your best bet. The small but growing neighborhood is rife with fantastic restaurants, shops, and everyone's sweet obsession, Lick Honest Ice Creams. It is a quick jaunt from the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, the Long Center for the Performing Arts, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. Want to explore a lively area at night? Head across the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge, and you'll be smack dab in the middle of the bustling West 6th district.


Jjim BBQ

Jjim BBQ is a welcome Korean treat that specializes in shareable braised ribs. Add-ons include glass noodles, braised kimchi, and mozzarella cheese (hey, the Texans love it), but if that all sounds too heavy to stomach, the Korean pancakes and spicy seafood tofu soup are also excellent choices. 


Tiki Tatsu-Ya

Hidden behind Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Tiki is a magical island destination with colorful cocktail jars, strobe lighting, and a cavern of treasures that will put you in the mood to dance even on the gloomiest of days. The drinks are strong, so be sure to line your stomach (the Pu Pu Platter of wings, tots, ribs, and other tasty nibbles should do nicely).


ZACH Theatre

ZACH, a local non-profit, creates intimate theatre experiences that ignite the imagination, inspire the spirit, and engage the community. Here, musicals and plays like Into The WoodsThe Sound of Music, and A Christmas Carol are performed by the city’s finest performing arts talent. The presentation is unlike anything on Broadway or the West End.


The Guild South Lamar

As a developing residential area, your best bet is a rental at The Guild, a chain of flats catering to those who want to feel like they're living in an apartment as opposed to a hotel room. Each guestroom at the Guild South Lamar is uniquely decorated to reflect Austin’s arts and culture scene. Guests also have access to a fitness center, spacious outdoor pool, and on-site restaurants—not to mention, the Highball (a popular karaoke and trivia spot) is right nearby. 

If you do just one thing…

Take in a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, an excellent iteration of this popular chain where you can order food (plus booze and milkshakes!) from your seat while watching a film.

    You may also like
    You may also like