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Fairmont Austin
Photograph: Courtesy Fairmont Austin

Where to stay in Austin

Can’t decide where to stay in Austin? The city’s best neighborhoods will make your decision easy

Written by
James Wong
Contributors
Erin Kuschner
&
Lori A May
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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

Where to stay 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. 

EAT

Fareground Food Hall

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.

DRINK

Higher Ground

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).

DO

Paramount Theatre

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.

STAY

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 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.

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.

EAT

Mumtaz Market

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.

DRINK

Aba

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).

DO

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 ’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.

STAY 

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 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.

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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.

EAT

Old Thousand

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. 
 

Whisler's

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.

DO

Urban Axes Austin 

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.

STAY

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’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.

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. But it's also just 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.

EAT

Jjim BBQ

The new neighborhood addition, 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. 

DRINK

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’ll 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).

DO 

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 Woods, The Sound of Music, and A Christmas Carol are performed by the city’s finest performing arts talent. The presentation is unlike anything you’ll see on Broadway or the West End.

STAY

The Guild South Lamar

As a developing residential area, your best bet is a rental at The Guild, a chain of flats catering towards those who'd rather feel like they're living in an apartment as opposed to a hotel room. At the Guild South Lamar, each guestroom 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, a fine iteration of this popular chain where you can order food (plus booze and milkshakes!) from your seat while watching a film.

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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’s a bohemian vibe around this northern nook, which makes it a perfectly casual spot for visitors and locals alike.  

EAT

Foreign & Domestic

The small North Loop restaurant has grown into 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 popular 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. 

DRINK

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 their 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.

DO

AFS Cinema

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

STAY

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 in part to their role DJing at long-time local venues. This is a great spot to up your cool factor while discovering a new gem on a tried-and-true format.

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