Austin – state capital of Texas and music capital of the world certainly packs a punch for a city. Famous for its iconic music venues (there’s over 250 of them!), its incredible food, and a hip and funky vibe, Austin certainly gives other US cities a run for their money.

As a muso, I knew I was going to love visiting all the iconic music venues that Austin had to offer and, oh boy, was it everything I wanted and more.

Each neighborhood has a distinct personality so it can be really hard to decide where is best to stay for your Austin trip.

Fret not! As a girl who’s been around the Austin block, I am well-equipped to give you this guide to all the areas that should be on your Austin itinerary, including a load of hidden gems…

Let’s jump right into it. Here are my recommendations for areas to stay in Austin, Texas.

austin travel guide texas capitol building
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Where is the Best Place to Stay in Austin?

Are you backpacking Austin, Texas, and looking for a place to stay? These are my top recommendations for places to stay in Austin City.

South Congress Hotel | Best Hotel in Austin

South Congress Hotel, Austin TX

South Congress Hotel has three restaurants, a lobby bar and a rooftop bar, a bakery, a rooftop pool, in-house stores and a motorcycle shop (yup), so you can immerse yourself in the spirit of the South Congress area without ever leaving. One thing is certain: you’ll want to return for happy hour at the hotel’s consistently popular lobby bar. Happy hour margaritas, anyone?

Firehouse Hostel | Best Hostel in Austin

Firehouse Hostel, Austin TX

Located in Austin’s oldest standing fire station, this quirky hostel is perfect for anyone looking for a unique lodging experience. Guests can enjoy the communal lounge, rooftop terrace, and regular social activities. It has comfortable and well-equipped private and dorm-style accommodations and is my pick for the best hostel in Austin. It also serves a banging breakfast, making it one of my top picks for one of the best B&Bs in the whole of Texas!

Lux SoCo Retreat | Best Airbnb in Austin

Lux SoCo Retreat, Austin TX

This award-winning retreat was recognized as one of the best Airbnb’s in Texas AND the world. It’s also been featured in the 2023 Austin Modern home tour. The tranquil resort-like property boasts a beautiful heated saltwater pool encircled by lush tropical landscaping. The Retreat has a generously proportioned private bedroom, a large living room, a spacious bathroom, and a breakfast bar.

Austin Neighborhood Guide – Best Places to Stay in Austin

FIRST TIME IN AUSTIN
Downtown, Austin
FIRST TIME IN AUSTIN

Downtown

If you’re visiting Austin for the first time, there’s no better place to stay than Downtown. The epicentre of Austin, Downtown is packed with ancient landmarks, great restaurants and top tourist attractions.

NIGHTLIFE
Rainey Street Downtown Austin TX
NIGHTLIFE

Rainey Street, Downtown

Rainey Street is for sure one of the best areas to visit Downtown if you want a piece of Austin’s vibrant nightlife. This once-quiet downtown neighborhood has been transformed into a major entertainment district famous for its live music venues, bars, food trucks, and renowned eateries.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
South Congress Austin TX
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

South Congress (SOCO)

South Congress Ave, also known as SoCo to locals, is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Austin. The pedestrian-friendly South Congress Avenue is home to hip boutiques, trendy lodging options, and aaaaaall the restaurants to get your foodie fix.

FOR FOOD LOVERS
East Austin Texas
FOR FOOD LOVERS

East Austin

In a city bursting with cool, East Austin is a giant amongst men. It’s far and away the coolest neighborhood in the city thanks to its central locations, a high concentration of hipster hangouts, and its great selection of bars, restaurants, and live music venues.

FOR FAMILIES
Zilker Park Austin
FOR FAMILIES

Zilker

One of the greenest neighborhoods in the city, Zilker is our recommendation for where to stay for families visiting Austin. Thanks to its close proximity to Downtown and its abundance of outdoor activities, this neighborhood is perfect for kids and adults of all ages.

Austin is a massive and sprawling city. The capital of the great state of Texas, Austin covers more than 700 square kilometers of land.

It has a reputation for being the live music capital, as well as for its mouthwatering food scenes, rich history, diverse culture, and quirky atmosphere and attitude.

The city is divided into 59 neighborhoods, each offering something unique to travelers and locals. To get a good feel for the city, I recommend you visit at least three or four neighborhoods in central Austin during your vacation. It’s also the perfect starting point for a Texas road trip, where you can gather your senses and have a feel for the good ol’ Southern way of life.

At the center of the city is Downtown Austin. Home to the most famous tourist attractions and historic landmarks, Downtown is a bustling district perfect for sightseeing, eating, and enjoying Austin’s atmosphere.

The iconic Austin skyline
This is Austin energy.

Some significant streets in downtown Austin are Sixth Street and Rainey Street, both known for their vibrant nightlife and iconic music establishments. Rainey Street merits its own honorable mention in addition to the rest of the downtown area, so I’ll discuss this a little more later.

If you’re looking for independent boutiques and quality dining options, South Congress has you covered. This neighborhood is a shopper’s paradise and the pedestrian-friendly South Congress Avenue means that you can shop till you drop! You can also catch live music here seven days a week.

Head east and you’ll pass through the oh-so-cool neighborhood of East Austin. With plenty of sights, sounds and tastes to explore, this neighborhood attracts hip locals and trendy travelers.

Travel to South Austin across the Colorado River and you’ll arrive in Zilker. The greenest neighborhood in the city, Zilker is packed with family-friendly activities and outdoor adventures.

Debating between Houston and Austin for the ultimate Texan rodeo? Don’t worry, I’ll give you the low down on why you CANNOT miss Austin when visiting Texas below…

Austin’s Five Best Neighborhoods to Stay in

Now, let’s take a look in more detail at the five best neighborhoods to stay in Austin. Each area is unique and offers something different to travelers, so make sure you pick the neighborhood in central Austin that’s right for you!

1. Downtown – Where to Stay in Austin for Your First Time

If you’re visiting Austin for the first time, there’s no better place to stay than Downtown. The epicenter of central Austin, Downtown is packed with ancient landmarks, iconic office buildings, great restaurants and Austin’s top tourist attractions.

This part of the city is bursting with history, charm, and a quirky atmosphere. Almost any time of day, the air will be filled with live music and delicious smells. Simply walk down any street in Downtown Austin and find yourself engulfed in its magic.

Bridge on the river overlooking Downtown Austin

Sixth Street, or sometimes referred to as “Dirty” Sixth Street is a famous entertainment district in Austin’s downtown. Often compared to New Orleans’s Bourbon Street, Sixth Street is renowned for its dive bar and other drinking establishments, with the party going on until the early hours of the morning. I love Sixth Street as it gives downtown Austin a real buzz and is home to some of Austin’s most historic and iconic venues.

History buffs will also love exploring this district. Not only is it home to the Texas State Capitol building, but Downtown Austin is where you’ll find lots of historic architecture, including the Paramount Theatre and the Frost Bank Tower.

Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown | Best Budget Hotel in Downtown

Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown

The Hilton Garden Inn, located just around the corner from the famous Sixth Street, is a comfortable and handy three-star hotel. This hotel has 254 spacious rooms and provides guests with an outdoor pool, an in-house bar, and a great on-site restaurant. Enjoy popular tourist attractions just a few feet from your front door.

Fairmont Austin | Best Luxury Hotel in Downtown

Fairmont Austin

City views, a stunning pool, and a great location are just a few of the reasons that the Fairmont Austin is my top choice for where to stay in Downtown Austin. It is close to Austin’s top attractions and landmarks, and each room is stylishly decorated and has a luxurious bathtub.

Firehouse Hostel | Best Hostel in Downtown

Firehouse Hostel, Austin TX

Located in Austin’s oldest standing fire station, this unique hostel is perfect for anyone solo traveling the USA looking for a unique lodging experience. Guests can enjoy the communal lounge, rooftop terrace, and regular social activities. It has comfortable and well-equipped private and dorm-style accommodations and is my pick for the best hostel in Austin.

Stylish Downtown Condo | Best Airbnb in Downtown

Stylish Downtown Condo, Austin TX

This downtown Austin property combines modern elegance with convenience to provide urban tranquility. It can comfortably accommodate four visitors thanks to its king-size bed, sleeper sofa, and smart TVs. Enjoy the private patio, complimentary bicycles, and convenient access to downtown attractions.

Things to See and Do in Downtown

TTD Downtown Austin TX
  1. Dine on the delicious and seasonal fare at True Food Kitchen.
  2. Dive deep into central Texas history at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, which has three floors of exhibits, displays and galleries.
  3. See the Texas State Capitol Building.
  4. Join a walking tour to learn the Downtown history.
  5. Check out the latest events at the Austin Convention Center.
  6. View amazing works of art and exhibitions at the Blanton Museum of Art.
  7. Check out the world-famous Sixth Street entertainment district.
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2. Rainey Street, Downtown – Best Place to Stay in Austin for Nightlife

Rainey Street is for sure one of the best areas to visit Downtown if you want a piece of Austin’s vibrant nightlife. This once-quiet downtown neighborhood has been transformed into a major entertainment district famous for its live music venues, bars, food trucks, and renowned eateries.

What distinguishes this neighborhood are the rows of bungalows that border its streets and have been converted into commercial units, which now house some of Austin’s most well-known clubs and eateries. These restored homes contribute to the area’s distinct vibe and ambiance, which I love so much. Rainey Street has it all, from a relaxed beer garden to a lively cocktail lounge and everything in between.

Rainey Street Downtown Austin TX

A quieter little sister of raucous Sixth Street, Rainey Street is super chilled out during the day, making it popular for brunch or some afternoon drinks. However, nighttime is when it really comes to life, with live music emanating from every home as both locals and tourists clamber down the street to enjoy the ambiance.

Rainey Street is known for its insane food truck culture, which provides everything from gourmet restaurants to traditional Texas barbecue. You can’t visit Rainey Street without experiencing it. It’s a foodie’s dream.

Ultimately, Rainey Street is a must-see for anybody visiting downtown Austin. Its distinctive blend of entertainment, history, and culture makes it top of my Austin city bucket list when visiting.

Hilton Austin | Best Budget Hotel in Rainey Street District

Hilton Austin TX

The Hilton Austin’s extensive amenities really do impress here. With its rooftop pool, city views, fitness center, and an array of on-site restaurants, it is one of the few hotels that really does pull out all the stops for a luxurious retreat for travelers. Its prime location in central Austin means that you’re never far away from the city’s main cultural attractions and its vibrant nightlife in Rainey Lane.

Hyatt Regency Austin | Another Great Budget Hotel in Rainey Street District

Hyatt Regency Austin TX

Featuring spacious rooms with views over Ladybird Lake, Hyatt Regency Austin is the perfect pick for your getaway to Rainey Street. Amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, an outdoor pool, and a sundeck. Perfect for when you want to kick back and relax after one too many cocktails the night before…

Hotel Van Zandt | Best Luxury Hotel in Rainey Street District

Hotel Van Zandt, Austin TX

This is the ultimate place to immerse yourself in Austin’s music scene. This is one of the few hotels that offer a unique blend of contemporary elegance and Southern charm. Geraldine’s, the hotel’s highly acclaimed restaurant, serves locally inspired cuisine, while guests may relax at the rooftop bar and rooftop pool with views of Lady Bird Lake. What makes this place so awesome is its complementary drinks hour in the hotel lobby, ensuring that the party really gets started.

Things to See and Do in Rainey Street District

TTD Rainey Street District Austin TX
  1. Choose from one of the 200 beers available on draft at Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden.
  2. Stop by Asador Tacos for some delicious tacos.
  3. Catch a play at the bilingual theatre company Teatro Vivo.
  4. Challenge yourself to a humongous burrito at Bummer Burrito.
  5. Join a taco-tasting foodie walking tour to check out the best spots in the neighborhood.
  6. Check out the Frida Friday ATX pop-up market showcasing female artisans of color.
  7. Head to the trendy bar Parlor Room on Rainey Street for plenty of dance floor space.

3. South Congress (SOCO) – Coolest Place to Stay in Austin

South Congress Ave, also known as SoCo to locals, is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Austin. The pedestrian-friendly South Congress Avenue is home to hip boutiques, trendy lodging options, and aaaaaall the restaurants to get your foodie fix. Basically, it’s cool AF.

I love aimlessly wandering around this vibrant stretch of quirky shops and restaurants whilst the sound of live music shows compete with one another. South Congress is essentially a busier East Austin with less nightlife if that floats your boat.

South Congress Austin TX

South Congress should be one of your serious considerations of where to stay in central Austin as it’s a true shopping, dining, and entertainment district. Home to some of the most unique things to do in the city as well as seven days a week of live music means that you’ll never be short of things to do down South Congress Avenue.

Hotel San José | Best Luxury Hotel in South Congress

Hotel San José, Austin TX

Hotel San José boasts a modern ambiance with sleek furnishings and vibrant decor, offering a stylish retreat for travelers. Nestled in the heart of South Congress Avenue, it provides easy access to trendy shops, cultural attractions, and dining hotspots. Unwind in comfortable guest rooms, equipped with contemporary amenities, and enjoy conveniences like continental breakfast and an outdoor pool.

Austin Motel | Best Motel in South Congress

Austin Motel, Austin TX

Modernized but not commercialized is their motto. This quirky motel offers all the modern amenities you’d expect whilst keeping its vintage charm. It has a bar, free parking, a 50’s-style outdoor pool, and modern amenities, all set in classic mid-century roadside motel architecture that symbolizes the property’s long and unique heritage on South Congress Avenue. All of this makes it my top pick for one of the best motels in Austin.

South Congress Hotel | Best Boutique Hotel in South Congress

South Congress Hotel, Austin TX

South Congress Hotel has three restaurants, a lobby bar and a rooftop bar, a bakery, a rooftop pool, in-house stores and a motorcycle shop (yup), so you can immerse yourself in the spirit of the SoCo area without ever leaving. One thing is certain: you’ll want to return for happy hour at the hotel’s consistently popular lobby bar. Happy hour margaritas, anyone?

Things to See and Do in South Congress

TTD South Congress Austin TX
  1. Visit Jo’s Coffee, the location of the well-known “I Love You So Much” mural on South Congress Avenue, for coffee and a breakfast taco to go.
  2. Visit the historic venue The Continental Club, which hosts live music on its main stage.
  3. Visit the trendy stores of Music Lane for jewelry, clothing, and home goods.
  4. Check out one of the many music festivals that happen on South Congress Avenue.
  5. Browse Parts & Labour’s apparel, art, and home decor, all created by Texas artists and artisans.
  6. Grab a slice to go from the renowned Home Slice Pizza.
  7. Head over to see the Cathedral of Junk Art Gallery near South Congress Avenue.
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4. East Austin – Best Place to Stay in Austin for Food Lovers

In a city bursting with cool, East Austin is a giant amongst men. It’s one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the city thanks to its central Austin location, a high concentration of hipster hangouts, and its great selection of bars, restaurants, and live music venues.

If you love to eat, then East Austin is for you! Just like South Congress Avenue, this downtown district is packed with restaurants, cafes, and bistros serving up dishes from around the world.

East Austin in austin tx
Photo: Matthew Rutledge (Flickr)

Here you can indulge in everything from tacos and enchiladas to seafood, sweet treats and savory barbecue. I guarantee your mouth will be watering as you wander this fantastic neighborhood.

East Austin is also a mecca for artists and creatives. This hip and colorful ‘hood is home to art galleries and outdoor displays, including some pretty incredible street art and graffiti. You can also find some steals in terms of accommodation here, perfect for those embarking on an epic USA backpacking adventure.

DoubleTree by Hilton Austin-University Area | Best Budget Hotel in East Austin

DoubleTree by Hilton Austin University Area

The DoubleTree by Hilton is my pick for where to stay in East Austin. This comfortable three-star hotel is well-situated in the neighborhood and is close to popular nightlife destinations, restaurants and shopping. On-site you’ll find a delicious restaurant and a stylish lounge bar.

East Austin Hotel | Best Mid-Range Hotel in East Austin

East Austin Hotel, Austin TX

The accommodation features modern amenities and stylish decor, providing a cozy retreat after a day of sightseeing. It offers air-conditioned guest rooms, an outdoor swimming pool, free WiFi and a terrace. Conveniently situated near a variety of dining options, entertainment venues, and cultural attractions, guests can easily explore the vibrant energy of East Austin.

Perfect Guesthouse Getaway | Best Airbnb in East Austin

Perfect Guesthouse Getaway, Austin TX

Your Garden Street getaway awaits! This light-filled apartment is one of the coolest in the country, perfectly situated in Austin’s historic Holly neighborhood and offers all the amenities you could possibly need, including laundry, lightning-fast WiFi, a fully equipped kitchen and smart TVs in the living and bedroom.

East Downtown Home 2207 | Best House in East Austin

East Downtown Home 2207

This massive holiday home is a freestanding house in the heart of East Auston – and a true hidden gem! With its own free parking, rooftop terrace, and three guest rooms, it’s the ideal getaway for a family or a group of friends. You’ll also have a little private garden and a balcony with a BBQ. There’s a fully equipped kitchen, as well as a super comfy living area with a massive TV – perfect to spend a lazy day inside.

Things to See and Do in East Austin

TTD East Austin Austin TX
  1. Dive deep into Austin’s musical history at the Texas Museum of Music.
  2. Explore the exhibits dedicated to African-American history and culture at the George Washington Carver Museum.
  3. Head to Canterbury Street to see the amazing street art.
  4. Sample amazing French fare at Blue Dahlia Bistro.
  5. Head over to Capital Plaza Shopping Center to do a bit of shopping.
  6. Sink your teeth into out-of-this-world dishes at Franklin Barbecue.
  7. Chow down on some tacos at Cuantos Tacos, a food truck made famous for its Mexico City-style tacos.

5. Zilker – Best Neighborhood to Stay in Austin for Families

One of the greenest neighborhoods in the city, Zilker is my recommendation for where to stay for families visiting Austin. Thanks to its proximity to Downtown and its abundance of outdoor activities, this neighborhood is perfect for kids and adults of all ages.

The main attraction and highlight of Zilker is the metropolitan park. Covering more than 350 acres, this urban green space is home to a variety of activities and attractions, including hike and bike trails, kayaking, and canoeing, as well as sculpture parks and waterside activities.

Zilker Park Austin
Takin’ a stroll

If you have the time to spare, neighboring South Lamar is definitely an area that you should also check out. This densely inhabited and popular section of Austin is teeming with vibrant businesses—restaurants, pubs, food trailers, coffee shops, galleries, and so on—with new ones opening every day.

Whether you’re looking for an afternoon stroll or to get your heart pumping, Zilker is the place for you! But there’s more to Zilker than its park. This neighborhood is also renowned for holding killer music festivals, and an epic food trailer park whilst boasting impressive city views of office buildings that make up the iconic skyline.

The Carpenter Hotel | Best Hotel in Zilker

The Carpenter Hotel, Austin TX

This stylish hotel is located 11 minutes walk from Zilker Metropolitan Park and is surrounded by eateries and cafes. The modern guest rooms have vivid accent walls, minifridges, balconies, flat-screen TVs, sitting areas, and safes. A chic restaurant, a contemporary cafe, an outdoor pool, a garden, and a furnished terrace are among the amenities.

Bouldin Townhome | Best Guesthouse in Zilker

Bouldin Townhome, Austin TX

With an outstanding location next to Zilker’s Park, this townhouse redefines hospitality with its charming and functional design. Immerse yourself in the vibrant neighborhood while knowing that your stylish sanctuary includes a complete kitchen, in-unit washer and dryer, and fast WiFi.

Entire Home in the Best Part of South Lamar | Best Airbnb in Zilker

Entire Home in the best part of South Lamar

This home has enough beds for a family of five, which is why I recommend it. It’s unbelievably spacious enough with two big tranquil beds and a couch that you can easily crash on. It’s in the heart of South Lamar and is only a two to five minute walk to Zilker and the Barton Creek Greenbelt. There are loads of restaurants in the neighborhood as well, but the kitchen is so nice you gotta take advantage of cooking at least one meal here.

Things to See and Do in Zilker

TTD Zilker Austin TX
  1. Go for a swim in Barton Springs, an outdoor pool fed by a nearby natural spring.
  2. Learn about the natural environment at the interesting and free Austin Nature and Science Center.
  3. Have a beer at Gibson Street Bar, located in the heart of South Lamar.
  4. Hop on a boat cruise and watch the bats at sunset.
  5. Have a stroll down the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
  6. Check out one of the many music festivals that is held at Zilker Park.
  7. Go on a sightseeing bike tour through Zilker Park and Lady Bird Lake.
  8. Stop and smell the roses at the Zilker Botanical Garden.
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FAQs about Finding a Place to Stay in Austin

Got any more questions? Here’s what people usually ask me about Austin neighborhoods and where to stay.

What To Pack For Austin

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Product
Description
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
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Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
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What is the coolest neighborhood in Austin?

South Congress is, by far, the coolest neighborhood in Austin. Whether it’s trendy bars or hipster cafes that you’re looking for, South Congress is teeming with all the unique hidden gems that should be on your Austin bucket list.

Where is the best place to stay in Austin for nightlife?

Sixth Street and Rainey Street in downtown Austin are for sure the best places to stay in Austin if you’re looking to party. Whilst both districts have an incredible atmosphere in the evening, Rainey Street edges it as my personal favorite for its quality restaurants and iconic music venues.

Where is the best place to stay in Austin for hiking?

Zilker is the best place to stay for all of your outdoor adventure needs. However, if you have time during your Austin trip, McKinney Falls State Park is a wonderful site to get your hiking fix and enjoy the surrounding hills of the country just outside of central Austin.

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Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Stay in Austin

Austin is the epitome of cool. The state capital of Texas, Austin City is bursting with live music, incredible food, fun nightlife, and a hip and trendy atmosphere. If you’re debating between Austin and Dallas, I would definitely give Austin your consideration as it’s pretty epic.

Whether you’re a culture vulture, a party animal, a history buff, or something in between, you’ll absolutely love exploring this colorful, quirky, and oh-so-cool city. Whatever you’re looking for, Austin offers something for every traveler.

Whether you’re drawn to the energy of Downtown, the nightlife of Sixth Street and Rainey Street, the hip vibe of South Congress, the culinary delights of East Austin, or the family-friendly atmosphere of Zilker, each neighborhood adds its own flavor to the Austin experience.

Still need a run down of the hottest spots in central Austin? Here’s a reminder of my top picks:

South Congress Hotel is my top pick in Austin for soaking up the trendy vibe down South Congress Avenue. You’ll be in the heart of the city’s buzz whilst still being able to retreat away to the comforts of your suite.

Another great option is the Lux SoCo Retreat, not far from South Congress Avenue. This Airbnb hasn’t won awards for no reason. This private resort-like setting is perfect for taking on the city in style.

From charming boutique hotels to luxury Airbnbs and everything in between, Austin has everything you need to take an unforgettable trip to this dynamic city.

So bag your bags, hit the streets, and let Austin work its magic on you!

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments below.

Looking for more info on travelling to Austin and USA?
people playing in the Ladybird River in Austin
Austin isn’t dull.