If you've never been to Austin, you've probably heard the same two things about it for years now: It's cool and you'll love it. Now that we've finally been able to put in a little time there, our honest assessment is this: It is cool and yeah, you will love it.
All the other things we'd heard about Austin before going — that it's weird, the food is great, the music scene is awesome, blah blah — is pretty wildly true. We ate breakfast tacos and queso and barbecue. We wandered down Rainey and East Sixth streets and heard live music pouring out of every open door. We drank a lot of margaritas. The weather was hot and amazing. Check, check, check, yes, yes, yes. But what we loved most about the city over the course of our time there (which, btw, also included a bunch of super fun wedding activities like this, this, and this) was the amount of really gorgeous, totally inspiring, and super design-centric restaurants, hotels, shops, and bars we saw. So many cute places! Below, a few of our favorites, plus a couple classic, can't-miss ATX spots thrown in for good measure.
where to eat & drink
Tucked in a little corner behind the South Congress Hotel, this airy cafe features blue tile, pale wood, and soaring walls of windows. The coffee by Cuvee, teas by Kusmi, and pastries by Amanda Rockman are all super tasty but we especially love the selection of Austin-based bottled Kombucha from Kosmic.
Cafe No Sé
Avocado toast, kale salad, quinoa bowls and all the other usual suspects star at this supremely photogenic restaurant by Chef Michael Paley located in the South Congress Hotel. There's a cute coffee bar, full cocktail menu, and a pretty decent wine list, too.
This brand new East Austin neighborhood spot features minimalist-rustic Southwest decor, a wood-burning oven, and a Mediterranean-tinged menu by exec chef Andrew Wiseheart. We ate the whipped feta, grilled kale, and the gnocci and were pretty happy about it.
Go here for brunch and sit outside. You’ll feel like you’re at a fairy tale country cottage as you eat your lemon ricotta pancakes and buratta salad with strawberries.
You can’t go to Texas and not eat Tex-Mex. That’d be weird. Maudie’s is the best. There are a couple of locations around town, but according to our Austin friends, the one on Lake Austin Blvd is “the better one.”
Yellow Jacket Social Club
Twinkly lights and a forest of bamboo trees make up the outdoor drinking section of this (allegedly) biker-themed bar in East Austin. They also serve food and rumor has it the grilled cheese is amazing.
where to shop
Milk & Honey
Go for a facial, then stock up on the brand’s signature all-natural skin care products like lavender and rose geranium body oil or bay, clove, and blood orange cream deodorant.
This is the kind of store that immediately makes you wish you had a gazillion dollars to decorate your living space. It's all Danish furniture, rich colors, warm wood, fuzzy pillows, and clean lines.
Getaway-ready clothing, swimwear, and accessories from the likes of Mirth, Emerson Fry, Jess Feury, Araks, and Solid & Striped. Plus, clogs from No. 6 and denim babouche shoes from Brothers Wellie. Located in the South Congress Hotel building.
For more ideas on where to shop in Austin, check out Christina's guide on CNTraveler.com
where to stay
South Congress Hotel
This 83-room hotel opened just a year ago and, thanks to its gorgeous mid-century design and sunny Cali vibes, has quickly become one of the city's most revered spots. Amenities include a rooftop pool, weekly ice cream socials, in-room spa treatments, and a roster of cool shops, cafes, and restaurants — some of which are listed above.
Hotel Saint Cecilia
Snapping a pic of the "Soul" sign over Saint Cecilia's famous pool is practically a rite of passage for a certain sect of visitors, but the interior of this boutique hotel is pretty photo-worthy too. The walls are brightly-colored, the furniture is antique, and the vinyl collection is any music-lover's dream.