Besides Dallas, this is my most overdue city guide. For some reason, I’ve found the places I know the best the most difficult to round up my recommendations for in a post. Not because there aren’t enough, but because there are SO many good spots. These places that are near & dear to my heart have so many amazing places that I want to share that I’ve just put off doing the city guide post time, & time, & time again. That finally changes today though! I am finally sharing all of my favorite places & to dos in my Austin City Guide with you all. Keep reading for my recommendations for why visit, where to stay, what to eat, where to drink & dance, what to do, & some travel tips when visiting Texas’s capital city.
AUSTIN CITY GUIDE
Austin is one of my favorite cities. Along with NYC & Nashville, it’s one of the only cities I would really want to call home outside of Dallas. I absolutely love Austin’s effortlessly cool, but down to earth vibe. It’s laid back, but trendy without trying too hard. I adore this city & love any excuse to visit.
There are countless reasons to visit this city. Whether you’re going down for SXSW, ACL or just a random weekend, Austin is seriously always a fun time. I love the vibe, the food, the music, & the people. Whether you want to hang by the pool, see some shows, or eat your heart out, ATX really does have something for everyone. It’s such a short drive or flight from Dallas that I really will go any time I get the chance! If it’s your first visit, I’d recommend going on an ‘off’ weekend (i.e. not during SXSW, ACL, or any UT game or event) so that you can really go out & experience the city without an overload of people. It’s a hot spot for bachelor or bachelorette parties, couples trips, & so much more. I have been more times than I can count over my life so I have a ton of great recommendations for you all below no matter when you’re visiting. Regardless of the occasion, Austin is always a good time!
WHERE TO STAY
Hotelette: If you’re going to be renting a house in Austin, make this it. I’ve stayed at Hotelette in Nashville & have visited the one in Dallas, too. It’s the most adorable home in THE perfect location. We stayed here with some other couples during our most recent trip to Austin & I want to stay here ANY time I go back with a group. It has everything you need & I am so obsessed with the entire concept by designer Allison Crawford. She has the best eye for fun, cool, modern meets vintage decor that perfectly suits the vibe of each city.
Hotel Saint Cecilia: Before we decided on a big destination wedding, we looked into getting married here before we chose to get married in Florence, because it is hands down my favorite hotel in Austin. It’s a boutique hotel that is so chic & feels totally secluded despite being just a block off South Congress. It’s definitely a splurge of a stay though! The pool is iconic & its a great place to visit if you’ll spend a lot of time at your hotel relaxing. If you can swing it, do it. It’s amazing.
Hotel Van Zandt: This is the other hotel we almost booked to get married at before deciding on a destination wedding. I love the vibe here. It’s a Kimpton property, which I always love, but with such a cool rock-&-roll chic vibe. I love the location, the on-site bars & restaurants, & the pool. There is always a fun scene happening at this hotel.
The Line Hotel: This retro style hotel is right on the lake & is in such a good location! It has just about everything you need on hand including a few of my favorite Austin food + drink spots. It’s a newer hotel to Austin & I absolutely love the vibes of the entire place!
South Congress Hotel: This has a perfect SoCo location. You can walk almost anywhere from here & it’s such a great vibe. The pool & the onsite restaurants + bars are amazing here, too.
Hotel San Jose: This cute, quaint hotel is location right on South Congress. It’s got a really relaxed vibe that makes it such a chill place to stay. It’s been a few years since I’ve stayed here, but both it & the Austin Motel are great, low key places to stay.
WHERE TO EAT
- ATX Cocina: The most insanely fresh, delicious, & creative Mexican food. It’s all gluten free, but does not sacrifice on flavor. I love the atmosphere, the drinks, & every single thing I’ve tried on the menu. Obsessed.
- Barley Swine: This is a foodie hot spot that serves up seasonal small plates inspired by local farmers.
- Bufalina: Really good, classic pizza. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis.
- Café No Sé: Healthy spot in the South Congress Hotel that I love for brunch or lunch.
- Clark’s Oyster Bar: A classic Austin hot spot that is not only adorable, but serves up some to die for seafood.
- Corner: This is a great indoor/outdoor spot for lunch or drinks & snacks downtown.
- Culinary Drop Out: Delicious comfort food & good music in a fun, gastropub setting.
- Eberly: A chic restaurant with good food that is great for a nice dinner out. They have SO many delicious menu items & they are a great spot for groups.
- Elizabeth Street Café: This is one of my go to Austin restaurants. It’s french-asian fusion & is not only adorable, but it’s so cute. This is a must visit! I love it for lunch.
- Emmer & Rye: Seasonally inspired farm to table restaurant serving American cuisine in a Dim Sum style. This is such a fan favorite restaurant!
- Epicerie: French-American comfort food with modern twists. The restaurant is open & airy + they also have gourmet groceries on hand.
- Franklin’s: Austin’s famous BBQ spot. There are always lines, but good things come to those who wait.
- Geraldines: One of Austin’s most popular with live music just off Rainey Street at the Hotel Van Zandt.
- Hillside Farmacy: This is the cutest concept inside an old pharmacy. The food is farm to table & everything is delicious. Highly recommend this little spot for brunch or lunch!
- Home Slice: My favorite pizza spot on South Congress. I love it to go for a casual dinner or for a late night meal! Make your own with fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic, & basil– you won’t be sorry!
- HopDoddy: An always busy burger spot. We have one in Dallas & I love that they serve their fries with queso. They also have some great meatless burger options.
- Jacoby’s Restaurant: Rustic restaurant meets mercantile complete with a beautiful garden. They use farm fresh ingredients to elevate Southern classics.
- Josephine House: I love this spot for brunch. It’s in a converted house & is absolutely adorable. Make a reservation if you can, it’s always busy! I I love their fresh made pastries– the Nutella cinnamon roll is to die for!
- June’s All Day Café:
- La Condesa: Good Mexican food (including some very famous tacos) in a cute & fun atmosphere.
- Launderette: I am obsessed with this restaurant. It’s in a converted laundromat & has the perfect mix of healthy + indulgent menu items that are all so darn good.
- Lenoir: Romantic, vintage-chic outpost featuring creative cuisine with Mediterranean & Indian accents.
- Matt’s El Rancho: Tex Mex favorites mixed in with a few Southern go tos. This restaurant is a favorite of so many!
- Moonshine: Classic Southern style comfort food. I’ve loved every meal I’ve had at this restaurant. They book up quick, so go early & wait it out with a cocktail.
- Odd Duck: Upscale new-American style food using farm fresh ingredients. They have such a creative menu & are a great choice for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
- Olamaie: Southern food in an elegant, transformed home. You absolutely must try their biscuits! They are to die for + they have great cocktails.
- Paperboy: A cute little food truck worth looking up to find.
- Perla’s: An Austin staple right on South Congress with delicious seafood. I love to sit out on their patio & people watch during or after I eat.
- Ranch 616: This is one of my favorite classic Austin spots. It’s located right off of 6th Street & has such a fun atmosphere. The food is classic Southern & they make the best ranch water cocktails. This is a great group spot if you make a reservation, too.
- Salt Lick: For when you need your Texas BBQ fix.
- Snooze: An always busy breakfast spot on North Lamar. Go early, but even if you can’t it’s worth the wait!
- South Congress Cafe: One of my favorite spots for brunch. The modern-retro atmosphere is always fun & the carrot cake french toast is one of many amazing options on the menu.
- Stella San Jac: Upscale cuisine in a chic, but casual environment. It’s a good choice for brunch, lunch, or dinner.
- Suerte: Contemporary Mexican food made with local ingredients that centers around masa. They also have great craft cocktails!
- Sway: Modern thai in a great setting & location. I love to order family style here!
- Taco Deli: These are my favorite tacos in Dallas, but if you’re visiting from somewhere without Taco Deli, then you must, must go here & try them. They are delicious & have so many options.
- Torchy’s Tacos: This was always my first stop in ATX before we got a few locations in Dallas. They have my all time favorite queso made with green chilis. Too good to pass up!
- Trace: Creative, authentic Austin flavors at The W Hotel.
- Uchi: The best sushi in Austin (& Dallas) hands down. It’s a splurge-worthy date night spot, but they have some of the most creative & delicious options.
- Via 313: Arguably one of the best pizza spots in Austin. It has a great, laid back vibe, just as a pizza place should.
WHERE TO DRINK
- Continential Club: A fun dive bar with live music on South Congress.
- Firehouse Bar: Austin’s oldest fire station was converted into part bar, part hostel that has such a fun vibe for cocktails & live music.
- Garage Bar: Just as it sounds. This speakeasy bar is located in a parking garage. It’s such a fun place for pre or post dinner drinks!
- Guero’s: Grab a drink (& some queso) + listen to live music on the patio here when you’re out and about on Southern Congress.
- Kitty Cohens: A retro patio bar that is always fun!
- Living Room Bar: Located at The W, this is a great spot for a group before or after dinner.
- Midnight Cowboy: A brothel turned speakeasy. It’s reservation only & has such an amazing, intimate vibe in the middle of East Sixth.
- P6: This is my favorite rooftop bar located at the top of the Line Hotel. It is decorated so cute & has a beautiful view of the river. Such a perfect spot to watch the sunset!
- Rainey Street: This street is lined with cute houses renovated into bars. You really can’t go wrong, but a few of my favorites are The Container Bar, Half-Step, Lustre Pearl & UnBARlievable. Bangers is also always a fun vibe!
- Roosevelt Room: An industrial-chic bar with amazing craft cocktails.
- Sixth Street: East or ‘Dirty’ Sixth is all of the more crazy bars that you’ll find a lot of 20-somethings at (ahh, the glory days). West Sixth is a little more friendly to those of all ages. It’s so fun to walk up & down Sixth or grab a pedi cab if you’re going a little further.
- Small Victory: A second-story bar that feels like a basement bar. It’s a great, laid back chic vibe.
- Swift’s Attic: A fun speakeasy vibe bar on top of another bar. I love it for pre or post dinner drinks!
- Whisler’s: This bar perfectly combines historic & hipster Austin vibes. It’s a go to spot for inventive cocktails.
WHERE TO DANCE
- Barbarella: This is one of my favorite spots. I always have SO much fun dancing the night away here. It’s always such a unique group & I just love it. Be prepared for a crazy night!
- Greenlight Social: I always have the best time here. They have a live DJ on the weekends & their signature cocktail is served in a Capri Sun pack. If you need a break from the dancing, head out to the patio & behind a mural of a woman you’ll find the entrance to a fun speakeasy bar.
- The Ranch: A fun multi story bar with different music on most levels. Such a fun spot where you can end your night dancing!
- White Horse: A low-key honky tonk bar just in case you really need your Texas country fix.
WHAT TO DO
- ATX Boat Rentals: Rent a boat & spend the day out on Lake Austin or Lake Travis.
- Austin Detours: A fun way to see the city in a variety of tours they offer. I did one of these with a group & it was such a fun way to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time!
- Barton Springs: This natural pool is really underground springs. It’s cold, but that doesn’t stop any one from visiting one of Austin’s favorite summer dive spots.
- Guadelupe River: If you want to go floating, this is the place to do it. It’s so much fun for a full (or half) day activity, especially with a group!
- Lady Bird Lake: It’s so fun to go paddle boarding or kayaking here.
- Live Music: You must catch some live music when visiting ATX. I always reference this site to find who is playing & win.
- Mount Bonnell: Hike up here for a beautiful view of Austin. It’s dog-friendly & isn’t too hard so it’s nice to do one morning before hitting the city.
- Pool Party: Enjoy fun in the sun at The Line or The W. The Line also offers a poolside cinema which is so fun!
- Shopping: Any shop on South Congress is adorable to go in & out. I love Feathers for vintage shopping & By George for all things splurgeworthy.
- Austin is a laid back city so almost anything goes clothing wise. Everyone is unapologetically themselves, go with it. For some ideas on what to wear in Austin, see this post, this post, & this post.
- It’s pretty easy to get around Austin, but when in doubt Uber is available or take a pedi cab. Cash is easiest when taking a pedi cab, so try to have a little on hand.
- Make a reservation, or just chill while you wait. A lot of restaurants book up or get crowded quickly, so go early or be okay with waiting. I would 100% advise you make a reservation for a big group. Often times, they’ll ask for a card to hold it because they get so many big groups!
I hope this guide helps you during your next visit to Austin! I absolutely love sharing my city guides & travel recommendations with you all. If you liked this one, be sure to check out my guides for NYC, Chicago, Nashville, Santa Fe, Seattle, 30A, & more. XO