Downtown Austin, TX Guide
|Median Rent||Median Sqft|
|1 Bed||$2,602||824 sqft|
|2 Beds||$3,721||1,277 sqft|
A vibrant center of business and culture, Downtown Austin is easily the unofficial capital of this Capitol City. It pulses with an undeniable energy from live music, bustling restaurants and bars, and thousands of visitors mingling with locals to collectively make this particular district one of the most dynamic in the state, if not the entire nation. A convergence of cultures, lifestyles, and experiences make this part of town particularly attractive to residents seeking an urban vibe that, despite its big-city attributes, still manages to hold onto its funky, weird past in a way that only Austin can. Major corporations co-exist among local institutions, so you’re just as likely to stumble upon a chain restaurant as a beloved eatery that’s been here for generations.
Downtown Austin falls within the general boundaries of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to the north, North Lamar Boulevard to the west, West Cesar Chavez Street and the Colorado River/Lady Bird Lake (still referred to as Town Lake by many locals) to the south, and Interstate 35-E to the east. Neighborhoods within the Downtown area include Rainey Street, West End, Medical District, Red River Cultural District, Market District, Waller Creek District, and Seaholm District.
Though Austin is home to about a million residents according to recent Census data, only about 12,000 people call Downtown Austin home, making it a small community by comparison to most other parts of town. Apartment dwellers can choose between several high-rise buildings, mid-rise apartment communities, and a handful of older apartment buildings with prices ranging from affordable spots for students to floorplans that can command a pretty penny. Downtown Austin apartments definitely trend toward the pricier side, but it's possible find units that don't break the bank as well.
The easiest way to travel around any Texas city, Austin included, is by car. However, Austin offers a variety of public transportation offerings to make getting around the immediate Downtown Austin area easy even if you don’t have access to your own four wheels.
Capital Metro offers several bus routes in addition to newer MetroRapid and MetroRail services that connect Downtown residents with other parts of the city, too. Cycling is popular throughout the city, and Downtown Austin is pretty easy to navigate on a bike, whether it’s your own or one selected from the many bikeshare stations in Austin. In addition to the two major national rideshare companies, Austin is home to several alternatives, including an electric-powered vehicle option. Good news for drivers of electric vehicles—Austin has a high concentration of charging stations all over town.
When it comes to getting out of Austin, the city is served by Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, with an average of 350 daily flights with nonstop service to more than 70 destinations, both domestic and international. A luxury bus service with first-class seating and beverage/food service called Vonlane has a pickup/dropoff point in Downtown Austin that gets residents and tourists between Austin and San Antonio, Houston, or Dallas without the hassle of driving or dealing with airport issues.
Austin has long been at the innovative forefront of restaurant concepts, including food trucks way before they were prevalent in nearly every town and city in America. Top chefs from across the country and globe flock to Austin to be part of the lively food scene that local chefs have made one of the hottest anywhere. Chefs often get more leeway here to experiment with new ideas, knowing that their creative risks will be celebrated, and the result is excellent food in every conceivable culinary genre. The Downtown Austin restaurant scene has no shortage of top-notch offerings, from casual Texas favorites to fine dining. Popular restaurants in Downtown Austin include Clay Pit for Indian, Texas Chili Parlor for hearty, down-home fare, Comedor and ATX Cocina for modern Mexican, and Red Ash for wood-fired Italian. Of course, Austin is known for its barbecue (or any number of other spellings), and Downtown has several joints to serve your cravings, including Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, Lamberts, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, and Gebby’s BBQ are among the favorites. Meanwhile, Fareground is Downtown Austin’s food hall featuring six unique eateries and two bars.
Speaking of Downtown Austin watering holes, The Driskill Bar situated in the circa-1886 hotel, has long been a local haunt for classic cocktails and live music daily. Two of the more unique options Downtown include Garage, which operates inside the reinforced concrete maze of a working parking garage. And Container Bar makes great adaptive reuse of shipping containers to create space for its patrons. Upstairs Circus combines hands-on arts-and-crafts projects with craft cocktails for a truly fun entertainment option. Several popular LGBTQ bars also call Downtown home, most of them along 4th Street. Coffee lovers and caffeine cravers of all sorts will want to wake up early for java at Houndstooth Coffee, Juan Pelota Café, Merit Roasting Co., Idlewild Coffee, and Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea Texas Capitol. Meanwhile, Hold Out Brewing and Central District Brewing represent the area for craft beer production. And over at Wanderlust Wine Co., you get to pour your own wine from taps featuring wines from across Texas.
When it comes time to stay-at-home to food and drink, Downtown Austin has you covered. Here you’ll find the flagship Whole Foods Market, Royal Blue Grocery, Trader Joe’s, and H-E-B, a complete full-service grocery store. Several liquor stores and wine-and-beer shops also populate the area.
Though Downtown Austin definitely skews more toward a high concentration of restaurants and bars versus traditional retailers, you can find just about everything you need in the Second Street District, which features a large concentration of retail experiences, including Luxe Apothetique for womenswear, League of Rebels for tailored men’s clothing, the Austin Rocks music store, and the eclectic Toy Joy that’s as popular with adults as it is with kids. For fans of Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka, you can find all sorts of branded merch at Love, Tito’s. Shopping in Downtown Austin also offers up its share of national retailers, including Urban Outfitters and Patagonia. Several CVS and Walgreens locations provide convenient access to prescriptions and other healthcare and personal needs.
In the heart of Downtown Austin, rising above most structures around it, the Texas Capitol is an iconic part of the landscape. The Texas Governor’s Mansion is also located here, giving history and politics buffs no shortage of reasons to visit the grounds. Even though Downtown is the urban center, Austinites’ passion for outdoor activities extends to this area, too. Parks in the Downtown Austin area include Wooldridge Square, Charles Forest, House Park, Waterloo Park, Republic Square, and a BMX Park. The winding Colorado River, which includes Ladybird Lake a short distance away in East Austin, lies just on the other side of Interstate 35-E. Trails. Popular activities include walking, jogging, and cycling along the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail, or along the river and lake. Both Sand Beach Park and Shoal Beach at Town Lake Metropolitan Park are wonderful places to pull over and relax on the waterfront, too. Head over to the Congress Street Bridge where you can see daily flights of its huge bat population just before sunset, or see them sleeping from below as you paddle along on a vessel from Congress Avenue Kayaks.
A variety of educational (and entertaining) afternoons can be had at the Museum of the Weird. You’ll also find more traditional museum and gallery experiences at The Contemporary Austin-Jones Center, Mexic-Arte Museum, Austin History Center, and Bullock Texas State History Museum. For performing arts, Downtown Austin is home to Ballet Austin, The Paramount Theater, and Esther’s Follies, a modern-day vaudeville theater that has been welcoming sold-out crowds to its 6th Street space since 1977.
Of course, 6th Street might be Austin’s most famous entertainment district, packed with live music venues, restaurants, and bars—sometimes all three under one roof. Firehouse Lounge & Hostel, Midnight Cowboy, Friends Bar, the Venue ATX, Flamingo Cantina, San Jac Saloon, and Blind Pig Pub top the must-visit list. The world-famous “Austin City Limits” televised concert series has its home at ACL Live, one of the city’s greatest performance spaces. For rooftop tunes, check out stalwart Maggie Mae’s, The Belmont, and The Rooftop on 6th.
The largest university in town, The University of Texas at Austin, exists just north of Downtown Austin, making the central business district a popular place to live for those who can afford the rent or can find roommates to share the cost. UT Austin is practically a city on its own, spreading out over 431 acres with more than 52,000 students and 3,000 faculty members. Other nearby institutions include St. Edwards University, Southwestern University in Georgetown, and Texas State University in San Marcos. Art institutes, trade schools, the Austin Community College District, and several smaller universities bring a great deal of diversity and an influx of new ideas to central Texas.
We rate and sort every listing based on fair market rent.
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