Downtown Austin skyline view

City Guide / Austin

Austin Neighborhood Guide: Downtown Austin

By Bri Hand | Jul 13, 2021

If you’re thinking about moving to Austin, Texas, it can be tough to navigate all the different neighborhoods and figure out which one is right for you. Downtown Austin is the heart of the city’s nightlife and live music scene, and also offers plenty of excellent options for recreation and dining. This dynamic neighborhood is close to all the action, so you’ll never be bored if you move to this part of the city.

Thinking about moving to Downtown Austin, Texas? Here are our guides to the best restaurants, coffee shops, grocery stores, outdoor attractions, nightlife, and transportation in this Texas neighborhood. 

Best Downtown Austin restaurants

As the city center, downtown has no shortage of fabulous restaurants to dine at. If you’re in the mood for some awesome Southern comfort fare, hit up Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, an outdoor restaurant on Red River Street where you can enjoy a chicken fried steak brunch, complete with micheladas. ATX Cocina, an upscale Mexican restaurant, is another downtown hotspot, perfect for sharing margaritas and other delicious cocktails with your fellow Austinites.

Be sure to also check out Franklin BBQ, a can’t-miss hole-in-the-wall joint. Since this restaurant can get busy, we recommend going on a weekday and being prepared to wait in line before you dine. But trust us, the food at this restaurant is well worth the wait! 

Caroline Restaurant, located in Aloft Austin Downtown, is a great restaurant for brunch, boasting a delicious marshmallow latte, a sweet corn benedict, and a Three Orange Mimosa with fresh orange juice, blood orange, and orange liqueur—yum! If you’re there for dinner, we recommend the Hot & Crunchy Halibut, a top-notch seafood dish with baby kale, red grape, avocado, and lemon caper aioli. 

For some classic Tex-Mex close to the Texas State Capitol, dine at Texas Chili Parlor, a Congress Avenue restaurant serving up amazing chili with varying levels of spices, tacos, and some delightful Frito Pie. 

Where to get groceries in Downtown Austin

You’re in luck—the original (yes, the original!) Whole Foods is right downtown on North Lamar Boulevard. You can also get local food nearby at SFC Farmers’ Market, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Where to get coffee in Downtown Austin

Juice up for the day at Alfred in the Line Hotel, whose decor and matcha latte are absolute perfection. Another great downtown option is Houndstooth Coffee, which serves a mean Texas-shaped waffle. Juan Pelota Cafe is a hip spot for Stumptown coffee and breakfast tacos. 

Outdoor attractions in Downtown Austin

If you want to spend some time on the Colorado River or Lady Bird Lake while downtown, try the Texas Rowing Center or Austin Paddle Shack, where you can rent paddleboards and kayaks. Hikers and bikers will enjoy the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail, which offers miles of dog-friendly trails along the Colorado River. If you head out around dusk, be on the lookout for Austin’s famous bats, which fly over Lady Bird Lake at dusk in impressive numbers. We recommend watching from the Congress Avenue Bridge for the best vantage point. 

If you’re bringing your kids and pets along, they’ll love Pease District Park and Auditorium Shores, two pet-friendly parks and playgrounds downtown.

Just over the South Congress Bridge is Zilker Park, where you’ll find Barton Springs Pool, a natural swimming hole that’s the perfect place to spend a hot Texas day. While Barton Springs Pool can get a little busy, it’s definitely worth checking out, along with the other sports fields, picnic spots, and events in Zilker Park.

Local gyms in Downtown Austin

There’s no shortage of workout options in this part of the city, including some of our national favorite fitness chains, such as Gold’s Gym and solidcoreFuerte FitnessYTX Yoga, and Swan Yoga are three locally run operations for something a little different.

If you’re more of a dancer than a runner, Ballet Austin’s Butler Center for Dance & Fitness has a ton of dance classes to choose from. 

Nightlife in Downtown Austin

Rainey Street District is a can’t-miss nightlife spot in Austin. This small neighborhood of bungalow houses has been converted into unique bars and live music venues. The Container Bar is quite the scene to see, made up of shipping containers—yes, you read that right! This laid-back bar serves delicious cocktails, such as the Vanilla Peach Shandy, and has live music and/or DJs on the weekend. If you get hungry while bar-hopping around Rainey Street District, don’t worry—there are a ton of food trucks littered throughout the area. 

Sixth Street, the most famous nightlife district in this TX city, is home to places like Esther’s Follies comedy club, The Jackalope dive bar, and The Violet Crown Social Club. Just be warned, weekends can be absolute mayhem in this downtown spot, so you may have to wait a bit or hop around to get into your bar of choice. 

You would not get the full Austin experience without checking out the city’s amazing live music venues. Be sure to keep an eye on the upcoming lineups at Antone’sEmo’sThe Parish, and The Broken Spoke.

Things to do in Downtown Austin

A small but mighty art museum, the Blanton Museum features a collection of over 19,000 works across ages and genres. Don’t miss Ellsworth Kelly’s “Austin,” the famous artist’s last permanent installation. 

You can also learn all about how the Lone Star State came to be at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, which is educational for both kids and adults. While you’re at it, taking a tour of the Texas State Capitol is an eye-opening experience into the inner-workings of Texas state government.

Just a short drive away, you’ll find the Austin Nature & Science Center, which is the perfect place to spend a weekend day with the kids.

Transportation in Downtown Austin

Austin is rapidly expanding its CapitalMetro public transit options, but service is still limited. If you don’t have a car, ride-sharing is easily accessible, and there’s an abundance of scooter and bike shares available through apps like Lime and Lyft. 

Looking to rent an apartment in Downtown Austin, Texas?

If you like the idea of moving to Downtown Austin, Landing offers furnished apartments in Austin, Texas, with flexible lease terms, concierge services, seamless transfers, and all the amenities you need. Browse our available apartments in Downtown Austin, or contact us to learn more about how Landing works.

Still looking for the right Austin neighborhood for you? Browse our guides for other Austin neighborhoods to learn more about which parts of this Texas city could be the right fit: 

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About the author

Bri Hand

Bri Hand is Landing's Content Marketing Manager. She currently lives in Salem, Massachusetts, with her partner and dog, Arlo, but relishes any opportunity she can to travel so she can try new foods, see gorgeous sights, and daydream about living somewhere new after visiting there for less than 24 hours.