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8 Must-See Austin Neighborhoods and How To Visit

From cowboy gear to coffee shops, our guide to the coolest neighborhoods in Austin explores all of the city's unique and quirky spaces.

Downtown Austin on a sunny day
Hi, I'm Miranda!

Miranda Lipton is a freelance content creator with a focus on travel, food, and sustainability. New York; Columbus, OH; and Austin, TX are a few places she calls home, and that list is soon to grow as she embarks on her next adventure as a digital nomad. Wherever she is, she is likely found writing, taking photos, or shooting video, and then heading to a local coffee shop to piece it all together.

Known as the Live Music Capital of the World, this Texan city has a resounding tagline: “Keep Austin Weird.” People are flocking to this (yes, still) rapidly growing hub for tasty food, awesome music, and good vibes. And while outsiders may be flooding the area, Austin’s charm remains fully ensconced in its local businesses: restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, vintage shops, music venues, and bars that stretch far beyond just the nighttime hotspot of 6th Street. Whether you’re an out-of-towner or a resident looking for some local fun, here are the best neighborhoods in Austin to visit.

1. South Congress

Lively South Congress.
South Congress is a lively spot in this laid-back town.Foto: Alfie Photography / Shutterstock

The epitome of cool neighborhoods in Austin.

Since the city was established in 1839, South Congress Avenue has been the center of the action, home to classic music venues, bars, stores, hotels, and restaurants. Starting at the Colorado River, the street features the iconic Texas Capitol building, which is even taller than the US Capitol building.

From there, South Congress (SoCo) stretches a few miles south of the river. The first mile is the best area to explore, packed with everything a traveler could want: Southern-inspired clothes, old pickup trucks, handcrafted goods, and souvenir shops. Perhaps unsurprisingly, SoCo is one of the best parts of Austin to stay in as a visitor.

3. Bouldin Creek

Bouldin Creek is home to lots of food trucks, restaurants, and cafes.
Bouldin Creek is home to lots of restaurants, cafes, and fun shops.Foto: Alfie Photography / Shutterstock

Where hippies, vegans, and creatives rejoice.

Food trucks, galleries, restaurants, vintage shops, and murals line every block of this neighborhood. Although Bouldin Creek has much to offer, it’s small enough to cover by foot or by bike. Discover kitschy shops and street food as you admire the vintage bungalow homes unique to this Austin neighborhood. To get here from the main drag of South Congress, it’s about 30 minutes on foot.

3. East Austin

At a food truck in East Austin.
Vintage charm vibes rule in this cool Austin neighorhood.Foto: stock_photo_world / Shutterstock

Reserve a full day to wander these streets.

Just across the highway from Downtown is one of the youngest and most bustling spots in the city—think the Brooklyn of Austin. Lined with breweries, coffee shops, eclectic restaurants, and trendy cocktail bars, you can spend an entire day exploring East Austin. A rich blend of old houses, hole-in-the-wall dive bars, and newly-built highrises, this area straddles the line between historic and modern. The neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, so make sure to visit the new and shiny businesses, but also plan to get your cowboy boots dirty in the authentic, old-school spots.

Related: How to Spend 3 Days in Austin

4. North Loop

Outside Texas University on a bright day.
Outside Texas University on a bright day.Foto: Tricia Daniel / Shutterstock

Discover all your vintage finds here.

If you’re looking to do some second-hand shopping, look no further. Vibrant clothes and accessories, vinyl, furniture, and handmade goods are readily available in this area, which makes sense given its close proximity to one of the biggest colleges in the country, the University of Texas.

5. Downtown

Kayakers explore Lady Bird Lake.
Kayakers explore Lady Bird Lake.Foto: Skylar Dawn / Shutterstock

Explore the center of it all.

Highrises and upscale restaurants are the foundation of the Downtown district. Head here to eat delicious food and briskly stroll through the big city streets. Separated from SoCo by Lady Bird Lake, water activities are popular among both tourists and residents, especially in the summertime. And make sure to hang out either on the bridge or under it any evening from March to October at sunset to watch thousands of bats descend from their caves into the night sky.

Insider tip: Rainey Street, one of the best areas in Austin for nightlife, is just on the periphery of Downtown.

6. Hyde Park

At Elizabet Ney Museum.
The wildly iconoclastic German sculptor who moved to Austin in 1892 has her own museum.Foto: Terry Huntingdon Tydings / Shutterstock

A stone’s throw from the action.

The early 1900s architecture and modern bungalows in this area are serene enough to offer a quiet residential experience. However, Hyde Park is only a short drive from the University of Texas, making the area ideal for both families and college students. It’s super walkable and home to a free-to-enter art museum dedicated to the sculpture Elizabet Ney.

This neighborhood is one of the oldest suburbs of Austin, equipped with everything that makes a small town feel like home: a bakery, coffee shop, a couple of restaurants, and some small parks. Having a car or bike will be handy as this area is a few miles north of Downtown.

7. Clarksville

Hezikiah Haskell House in Austin.
The Hezikiah Haskel was originally built by a formerly enslaved man just after the Civil War in 1879.Foto: J.Rangubphai / Shutterstock

Where history and modernity collide.

Quaint, residential, and nestled between Downtown and the MoPac Expressway, the historical significance of this neighborhood runs beyond its charming homes. Charles Clark purchased two acres of land in Clarksville after emancipation in 1865 and created a community where formerly enslaved people could live freely.

Now considered a contemporary, upscale neighborhood, Clarksville is easily walkable from Downtown and makes for an enjoyable night out. Get there mid-afternoon to see the Hezikiah Haskell House, an original building that stands as a reminder of the region’s history.

8. Barton Springs

Swimmers at Barton Springs.
The natural limestone pool is one of the places to be or be seen.Foto: Trong Nguyen / Shutterstock

For all things outdoorsy.

If you want to spend some time outdoors, look no further than Zilker Park and Barton Springs. Between paddle boarders, kayakers, runners, picnickers, bikers, and sun seekers, if it’s a beautiful day in Austin, this is where you’ll want to be. Barton Springs is (literally) a natural spring that weaves throughout the city and is lined with hiking trails.

You can also pay (up to $8 for non-residents) to access Barton Springs Pool, a massive swimming pool (filled with natural spring water, of course) that’s open year-round. After a few hours of basking in the sun, refuel at the food trucks and Southern BBQ joints in the area. With all these attractions, this is one of Austin's best neighborhoods for families to visit and explore.

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