Where to stay in Austin for first time: 5 Safe areas

Hi guys, on my website, I already wrote an article about staying in Austin without a car (I will put the links to it at the end of this article). In today’s article, I will help you to find the best places to stay in Austin for first-time visitors and tourists.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in Austin for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Austin and recommend some of the best hotels in Austin for various budgets.

Before get into the detail of the main topic, let’s look at some facts about Austin:

Austin is the state capital of Texas and the fourth-largest city in the state. It is often referred to as the Live Music Capital of the World. The city hosts numerous music festivals and has a thriving live music scene with a wide range of genres, from country and blues to rock and hip-hop. 

Austin is surrounded by natural beauty, with parks, lakes, and hiking trails. Lady Bird Lake, a reservoir on the Colorado River, offers opportunities for kayaking, paddleboarding, and hiking. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a popular spot for hiking, rock climbing, and swimming.

The city has a diverse food scene, known for its food trucks, barbecue, Tex-Mex, and international cuisines. You can find excellent tacos, barbecue restaurants throughout the city.

It has become a significant technology hub, with many tech companies and startups establishing a presence in the city such as Dell, IBM, and more recently, Tesla and Oracle.

The Texas State Capitol building, completed in 1888, is an iconic structure in Austin and a prominent landmark. It’s one of the largest state capitol buildings in the United States.

Austin is known for its natural springs, including Barton Springs Pool, a popular swimming spot, and Hamilton Pool Preserve, a picturesque collapsed grotto.

Austin hosts many festivals and events, such as the South by Southwest, the Austin Film Festival, the Limits Music Festival, and the Pecan Street Festival.

The city’s unofficial motto is Keep Austin Weird, reflecting its unique and quirky character, which celebrates individuality and creativity.

Is Austin safe to visit?

Yes, Austin is overall a safe city to visit. Most tourist areas are generally safe during the day. But, like any urban area, it’s wise to take usual precautions such as be aware of your surroundings, take care of your belongings, stay in well-lit areas and avoid risky areas, especially at night.

Where to stay in Austin for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Austin for first-timers and tourists are Downtown Austin, The University of Texas area, Zilker, South Congress, and East Austin. Remember that crime can happen anywhere, so it is recommended to practice common sense no matter where you stay.

These are popular areas for visitors with a wide range of accommodation options. Other safe residential neighborhoods are Hyde Park, Rollingwood, and Old Enfield.

Downtown Austin is the most popular area to stay in Austin for first-time visitors who want to be in the heart of the action and enjoy a vibrant nightlife. Downtown encompasses the areas of the 6th Street entertainment district, Red River Cultural District, and Rainey Street Historic District.

If you prefer a more relaxed, nature-oriented experience, Zilker might be a good fit. It is a family-friendly area where you can find Barton Springs Municipal Pool and Zilker Metropolitan Park, which are great spots for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and canoeing.

South Congress offers a mix of unique shopping, dining, and entertainment, while East Cesar Chavez provides a taste of Austin’s local and artistic scene. The University of Texas area is a good choice if you want to be close to campus and its cultural attractions.  

During my trip to Austin, I stayed in Downtown Austin at the 4-star Hotel ZaZa Austin. The hotel has a central location, within walking distance to main attractions. My room was beautiful, spacious, and comfortable.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Austin for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Austin first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Austin first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Austin, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Austin have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

5 Safe areas to stay in Austin for first-timers and tourists:

1. Downtown Austin

Downtown Austin is a popular base for many first-time visitors because it places you right in the heart of the city’s action.  It is best suited for those who want a lively and convenient area with easy access to many of the city’s major attractions.

Downtown is home to the State Capitol, the famous Sixth Street entertainment district, and the historic Driskill Hotel. You’ll also be close to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where you can witness the nightly bat flights from March to October.

History buffs and art lovers can explore various cultural attractions such as the Mexic-Arte Museum, the Contemporary Austin Jones Center, and the Blanton Museum of Art.

You’ll find numerous live music venues, bars, and clubs in and around the downtown area. Sixth Street is known for its vibrant nightlife.

Downtown Austin offers a wide range of dining options, from food trucks to upscale restaurants. You can explore Tex-Mex, barbecue, and other local cuisines.

Downtown Austin is pedestrian-friendly, so you can easily explore the area on foot. Additionally, there are bike-sharing and scooter options for convenient transportation.

The area can get quite crowded during major events, festivals, and weekends, so be prepared for larger crowds during peak times. Parking can be limited and expensive in downtown. Consider using public transportation or rideshare services if you don’t plan to use your car much.

Best places to stay in Downtown Austin for first-time visitors:

  • Luxury ($$$): The Driskill, in The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, 5-star historic hotel in Downtown Austin, great base for first-timers to explore the city. Easy access to famous landmarks such as the Music Hall and Texas State Capitol. Lots of shops and restaurants nearby.
  • Mid-range ($$): Fairmont Austin, 4-star hotel located on Red River Street, close to the Convention Center, Capitol Building, and Frank Erwin Center – University of Texas. It has an Outdoor swimming pool, good breakfast, and private parking for those who drive.
  • Budget ($): Hyatt Place Austin Downtown, popular 3-star hotel in central Austin, located on E. 3rd Street, easy access to major sights, as well as the bars and nightlife spots of the Sixth Street entertainment district. It features an Indoor swimming pool, comfortable family rooms, and private parking.

2. The University of Texas at Austin area

The University of Texas at Austin (UT) area, located just north of Downtown Austin, is a great base to book your accommodation, especially if you have business at the university or want to explore the campus. You can easily visit the UT Tower, various museums, and the beautiful campus grounds.

The UT area offers easy access to several cultural attractions, including the Texas Capitol, Blanton Museum of Art, Bullock Texas State History Museum, and the LBJ Presidential Library. These are excellent places to explore art, history, and culture.

You’ll experience the local atmosphere, with a mix of students and residents. There are plenty of coffee shops, bookstores, and casual dining options that cater to students and the surrounding community.

The area has good public transportation connections, including bus routes, making it easy to explore other parts of Austin.

Best places to stay in The University of Texas at Austin area for first-timers:

  • Mid-range ($$): AT&T Hotel & Conference Center, 4-star hotel located on University Avenue, close to Frank Erwin Center – University of Texas, Texas Memorial Stadium and Capitol Building. It features Superb breakfast and an outdoor swimming pool. 
  • Mid-range ($$): The Otis Hotel Austin, Autograph Collection, 4-star hotel conveniently located on San Antonio Street, great base to explore downtown Austin.
  • Budget ($): Hampton Inn and Suites Austin University Capitol, great 3-star hotel, located close to University of Texas at Austin, Bullock Texas State History Museum, and the Blanton Museum of Art. It has a rooftop swimming pool, 24-hour front desk, and nice rooms.

3. Zilker

Zilker is an excellent choice for nature lovers and those looking for a more relaxed and outdoorsy experience. It’s also a convenient option if you plan to attend events in Zilker Park. 

Zilker Park is the crown jewel of this neighborhood and offers a vast expanse of green space, Barton Springs Pool (a natural spring-fed swimming pool), the Zilker Botanical Garden, and access to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. If you love the outdoors, this is a prime location.

Barton Springs Pool is a popular destination, especially in hot Texas summers. It’s a natural spring pool known for its cool, clear water and beautiful surroundings.

Zilker Park is home to major events like the Austin City Limits Music Festival. Staying here during such events is very convenient, as you can walk to the festival grounds.

The neighborhood offers scenic views of downtown Austin and the Colorado River. It’s a great place for photography and enjoying the cityscape.

Zilker is adjacent to the South Congress (SoCo) neighborhood, which is known for its eclectic shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

While there are accommodations in Zilker, there might be fewer choices compared to more central neighborhoods like Downtown Austin.

If you want to explore other parts of Austin, you might need to use a car, rideshare services, or public transportation, as Zilker is a bit further from downtown and other touristy areas.

Best places to stay in Austin in Zilker for travelers:

  • Mid-range ($$): The Carpenter Hotel, 4-star hotel located on Barton Springs Road, offering access to hiking and bicycle trails. It has beautiful views of the city and bat bridge.
  • Mid-range ($$): Hyatt Regency Austin, great accommodation set on Josephine Street, featuring an Outdoor swimming pool and 24-hour front desk. Close to Lady Bird Lake Hike/ Bike Trail, Zach Theatre, and Peter Pan Miniature Golf.
  • Mid-range ($$): Sonder at The Catherine, 4-star accommodation featuring spacious rooms, easy walk to downtown area, with walking distance to Congress Bridge famous for watching bats come out at dusk.

4. South Congress (SOCO)

South Congress (SoCo) is a fantastic area in Austin for visitors who want a vibrant and unique atmosphere, abundant shopping and dining options, and a strong cultural and artistic presence.

SoCo is known for its vibrant, eclectic atmosphere, featuring a mix of local boutiques, art galleries, food trucks, and one-of-a-kind shops. It’s a great place to explore and discover Austin’s quirky and creative side.

You’ll find an array of unique boutiques and stores offering everything from vintage clothing and handmade jewelry to art and antiques. It’s a shopper’s paradise.

The neighborhood offers a diverse range of dining options, from food trucks serving local favorites to trendy restaurants and coffee shops.

Austin’s music scene is at your doorstep, with many live music venues featuring local bands and artists. You can enjoy live music while you dine or shop.

The neighborhood is pedestrian-friendly, making it easy to explore on foot. It’s a great area for leisurely strolls and people-watching.

Best places to stay in Austin in South Congress (SOCO) for first-timers:


5. East Cesar Chavez (East Austin)

East Austin, particularly East Cesar Chavez, is a great base for visitors who want to immerse themselves in Austin’s local culture, enjoy a hipster vibe, and explore an up-and-coming area of the city. You can find some good value for money hotels in this area while still having easy access to downtown Austin.

East Austin is known for its local and hipster atmosphere. You’ll find a variety of locally-owned businesses, including craft breweries, coffee shops, food trucks, art galleries, and boutique shops.

The neighborhood has a strong artistic and cultural presence, with street art and galleries showcasing the work of local artists. It’s a great place for art lovers.

East Austin offers a diverse food scene, with a focus on farm-to-table, ethnic, and innovative cuisine. It’s a haven for foodies, and you can explore a range of dining options.

Accommodations in East Austin can be more affordable compared to some other central neighborhoods, making it a budget-friendly option.

The neighborhood has experienced gentrification and rapid development in recent years. This has led to a mix of old and new establishments, which can create a unique but evolving character.

Best places to stay in  East Austin for first-time travelers:

  • Mid-range ($$): ARRIVE Austin, 4-star good value for money hotel located on East 6th Street, close to many great restaurants and bars.
  • Mid-range ($$): Sentral East Austin at 1614 E Sixth, 4-star hotel located in a great location, next to a selection of restaurants, close to a lot of food trucks!
  • Budget ($): East Austin Hotel, 3-star accommodation situated close to many bars, restaurants and music venues. Easy access to major sights.

In conclusion, Downtown Austin, The University of Texas at Austin area, Zilker, South Congress (SOCO), East Austin are the best places to stay in Austin for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe neighborhoods to book your accommodation to explore the city.

If you don’t plan to drive in Austin, you can check this article: Best areas to stay in Austin without a car.

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Austin. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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