What are the best neighborhoods in Austin? Answering that question can be quite subjective. After all, what one person considers desirable (affordable housing, thriving nightlife, easy access to trendy eateries) might not be the same for somebody else (good schools, a quiet community, walking distance to green spaces). Fortunately, there’s something for everyone in Austin.
The capital city of Texas is alive and kicking with well over 20 Austin neighborhoods — some say it’s as high as 60 — each with their own distinct vibe and scene. While there are plenty of other great Austin neighborhoods that aren’t on this list, consider this guide a starting point for your quest to find the best neighborhoods to live, work, play, and visit in ATX.
Although the song was a hit long before you were born (1965, to be exact), the lyrics from that old Petula Clark song have staying power. “When you’re alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go, Downtown.” Yes, it’s true. When you live downtown, it’s all about the energy of being in the center of a city. And Downtown Austin is no exception.
Unlike other major cities that can be daunting in size, density, and population, Austin isn’t overwhelmingly so. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty for you to experience. Take in historic architectural wonders like the iconic Texas State Capitol, Sampson Building, Driskill Hotel, and Paramount Theatre along with newer hot spots that range from great restaurants and bars to live music venues.
Don’t forget the most famous must-see sight that lures in tourists and locals alike: the Congress Avenue Bridge where you can see hundreds of thousands of bats take flight every night at sunset from from March to October.
Speaking of the bridge, Lake Austin (aka Lady Bird Lake) is just steps away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, offering the perfect playground for you to go paddle boarding, kayaking, or taking a boat ride to enjoy the sights and sounds (and bats) of the city.
This up-and-coming East Austin neighborhood is quickly gentrifying from its working-class Latino roots into something much more polished and pricey with young professionals scooping up real estate left and right. Think hipster hotels like the East Austin Hotel, which opened in May 2019, and a slew of eateries, indie boutiques, and other spots like Blue Owl Brewery where you can get fantastic sour beers on tap.
That said, it’s not all patina — there’s still some grit left. From the cool murals (here’s looking at you, Cesar Chavez) to the local mom-and-pop shops and businesses, there are plenty of authentic old-school spots that keep things low-key, laid back, and less mainstream. Be sure to stop by Pueblo Viejo at The North Door for legit tacos served inside a live music venue.
What would a list on the best neighborhoods in Austin be without a shout-out to South Congress? (An incomplete one, that’s what.) Also known as SOCO by locals, this vibrant zone is really more of a stretch of 6th Street, an eclectic hub of businesses and street performers that celebrates the quirky appeal of Austin writ large. From vintage boutiques, funky art galleries, too-cool-for-school restaurants, coffee shops, and watering holes, it’s no wonder this area is where out-of-towners flock.
For a jolt of java and a side of selfie, be sure to hit up Jo’s Coffee where you’ll find the Insta-worthy “I love you so much” mural. When you’re feeling a little more erudite, you can’t go wrong with South Congress Books. And when it’s time to rock on, The Continental Club is a legendary live music venue that doesn’t disappoint. (Seriously. There’s a reason this place has been around since 1955.)
Quaint, idyllic, and historic are three words that come to mind when describing Hyde Park. This tree-lined neighborhood in Central Austin is just north of the University of Texas and borders the North Loop area. Like so much of Austin, Hyde Park has become a hot spot for young professionals looking for a safe and friendly place to raise a family or just enjoy close proximity to some good eateries.
With a number of historic Victorian homes, Tudor Revival residences, and other structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this district is a feast for architecture and history buffs. Take a walk down memory lane and admire the Craftsman bungalows along with the Blue Bonnet Court, Elisabet Ney Museum, and the Frank M. and Annie G. Covert House.
More of a collection of neighborhoods rather than one specific district, North Austin is where you’ll find popular residential areas such as Allandale, Crestview, Gracy Woods Lamplight Village, North Lamar and North Burnet. Located about a 15-minute drive from Downtown Austin, this zone feels more suburban but there’s no shortage of restaurants, shops (try the The Arboretum for shmancy retail chains and such), and recreational activities.
Trendy might be the word to describe this South Austin neighborhood, which could be a compliment or an insult depending on who you ask. (FYI: Consider it a good thing here.) With an ever-growing parade of restaurants (hello, Uchi, Odd Duck, Brown’s BBQ, and Ramen Tatsu-Ya ) and bars (Alamo Drafthouse, anyone?), South Lamar is a fun and lively place where boredom is not an option.
But more than the great eats and drinks, this area’s proximity to green spaces offers the perfect nature yin to the urban yang. Zilker Park is nearby as are hiking and biking trails of Barton Springs. Oh, and if you need to get to downtown for whatever reason, don’t worry. It’s just five minutes away.
Clarksville/Old West Austin
Located on the border of Downtown Austin, Clarksville is a delightful neighborhood marked by lush greenery, eclectic and pretty homes, and well-heeled residents. Although technically part of Old West Austin, it’s separate from Old Enfield and Tarrytown, which are two other historic districts.
Along with old-school reminders of the past (Nau’s Enfield Drug pharmacy, soda fountain, and diner has been in business since 1951), you’ll find decidedly modern niceties such as art galleries, high-end boutiques, restaurants (Jeffrey’s is a local institution), and green spaces like West Austin Park.
Fun, unpretentious, and cozy, Cherrywood is one of those Austin neighborhood that’s mostly residential, but has just enough local action to keep things interesting. For a true taste of the neighborhood, stroll along Manor Road to check out the local bars and restaurants. Patrizi’s Italian food truck outside the Vortex theater is an old-school fave, as is the original El Chilito for delish Tex-Mex. Not far from here is where you’ll find Cherrywood Coffeehouse, another Austinite hangout that isn’t just a canine-friendly spot for caffeine — it’s also where you can enjoy food, live music, and 24 beers on tap every day til midnight.
Best Neighborhoods in Austin
With a rich history marked by eye-catching architecture, tantalizing restaurants, an exciting music scene, and an increasing influx of businesses and young professionals, it seems Austin really does have a little something for everyone.
Whether you want a quieter environment or prefer a livelier vibe, this capital city is big enough to accommodate your wish list yet it’s still small enough to provide easy access to something new when the mood strikes you.
Now that you have a better idea about the Austin area, what neighborhoods appeal to you?
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