If you’re looking for the best neighborhoods in Austin, be warned — there are many to choose from.
Austin was established as a planned city in 1839, on the basis of its hills, waterways, and pleasant surroundings. It stayed a relatively small town up until the mid-20th century, when it established itself as one of Texas’s major metropolitan centers.
These days, Austin has preserved its small-town feel — while housing nearly 1 million people in city limits and 2.2 million in the greater metropolitan area. A big part of that balance is found in its diverse neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods in Austin
The best neighborhoods in Austin, TX depend on what you want out of them.
Austin’s best neighborhood for singles is different than its best neighborhood for families. The best neighborhoods to live in Austin are different than the best ones to visit.
That’s because Austin is less grounded in its downtown than most big cities. As the 11th-largest city by population it is a big city. But its dispersed population centers give it more variety than most.
There’s the Austin that’s ‘the live music capital of the world.’ Across town, there’s the tech hub called ‘Silicon Hills,’ home to Dell’s worldwide headquarters and regional offices for 3M, Amazon, Apple, Google, IBM, and Intel. In 2020, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, and Tesla all announced that they would relocate their corporate headquarters to Austin.
There’s University of Texas, home to 50,000 students. Then there’s the city and state government and its agencies. There’s a deep commitment to local business and a developed corporate infrastructure — and a bridge between them in Austin-born Whole Foods.
There’s a bohemian side to Austin and a more traditional side. A liberal side and a conservative side.
And all of these parts see the best neighborhoods in Austin, Texas in a way all of their own.
North Austin Neighborhoods
The best neighborhoods in north Austin are some of the best neighborhoods to buy into in Austin on the whole.
Throughout these neighborhoods you’ll find remnants of Austin’s post-World War II boom. Tracts of bungalow-style houses sprung up then as returning veterans used their GI Bill benefits at the University of Texas, located just south. Due to this proximity, north Austin is still home to many university students and professors.
The singles and university types bring a café and live music culture with them. Further to the north, you’ll find more ethnically diverse offerings as well as chain stores along the highways that ring Austin.
And in the northwest there’s the Domain, Austin’s ‘second downtown’ and home to its tech hub.
- Located close to University of Texas
- Home to GI Bill-era housing infrastructure
- An eclectic feel, balancing a professional class with artists and longtime residents
North Loop has long been one of the best neighborhoods in Austin for young adults. As Austin’s bohemian brand has spread, these young adults have stayed in the affordable North Loop and built a thriving university-independent culture. This development has only made the area appeal more to the university crowd, which still considers it one of the best neighborhoods in Austin to live in.
- Urban-suburban mix
- A good amount of green space without sacrificing nightlife
- Many homeowners are young professionals and families
Allandale is built on former farmland developed between the 1940s and 60s, contributing to its Atomic Age subdivision feel. It’s long been considered one of the best neighborhoods in Austin for young professionals because of its balance between residential comfort and culture. It’s also increasingly considered ideal for raising a family because of its reputation as one of the safest neighborhoods in Austin.
Neighborhood rating site Niche considers it the third-best neighborhood in Austin for young families, and the fifth-best neighborhood to live in Austin, Texas on the whole.
- Close to downtown
- Ethnically diverse
North Lamar’s ethnic offerings are anchored by Chinatown Center, a 180,000-square-foot shopping complex. The main artery of I-35 features Mexican, Nigerian, and Pakistani flavor as well.
It’s a renter-centric market, with 62% of residents leasing their homes at comparatively affordable rates. A downside is the neighborhood’s reputation for crime, running as high as three times the national average.
- Affordable mid-century modern homes
- A cultured, suburban/semi-rural mix
- Undergoing a modest renaissance
Since nearby Mueller Airport shut down, Windsor Park has benefited from the newfound quiet. Its older homes are affordable, mid-century ranch models which dot the winding roads and hills. Closer to the highways that border Windsor Park, Spanish-speaking communities help make the neighborhood the third-most diverse in Austin.
West Austin Neighborhoods
West Austin features some of the best neighborhoods to live in Austin, TX — particularly if you’re high income. The area is known for its lush nature. Its proximity to the hill country, great hiking and bike trails, and Lake Austin make it ideal for families, older singles, empty nesters, and seniors. The hills can also offer commanding views.
The natural beauty comes at a cost, as do the well-maintained community resources. Many consider the best neighborhoods in west Austin more realistic to visit than to live in.
- One of Austin’s more remote neighborhoods
- Close to both Lake Austin and Lake Travis, and home to a wildlife preserve
- Top-rated schools and many amenities
One of Austin’s showcase master-planned communities, Steiner Ranch was built for Austin’s wealthiest families. It’s bordered by Lake Austin and Lake Travis, which makes it ideal for nature lovers. It also features the private Lake Club, the University of Texas Golf Club, 10 neighborhood parks, and 20 miles of hiking and biking trails.
- Balanced between hilly homes and a suburban infrastructure
- Among Austin’s most coveted addresses
- Mostly residential
Its rugged hills and valleys were home to Confederate resistors in the 1860s. Since modern development started in the 1950s, its subdivisions have become some of Austin’s more desirable.
Home prices have surged in the past year by 38%. Despite the influx of wealth, the area retains the quirky charm that Jimmy Buffet enjoyed when he wrote “Margaritaville” here in 1976.
- Views of Lake Austin and the Colorado River
- Situated between two major highways
- Most homes date from 2000 or later
Cat Mountain is another affluent west Austin neighborhood, with varied natural resources, quick access to highways, and universally good views. The neighborhood underwent substantial development in the early 2000s to keep up with housing demand, so most homes are newer.
Nowadays, it’s one of the best neighborhoods for (wealthy) families in Austin.
- Two-thirds of the neighborhood is greenspace
- Homes date back to the beginning of the 20th century
- Next to Austin highlight Zilker Park
Surrounded by the Barton Creek Greenbelt and Wilderness Park, Barton Creek has ample access to nature. On the other side is Zilker Park, home of the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival. With a median home value in excess of $1 million, Barton Creek has maintained its exclusive feel.
It’s large and close to downtown, yet carries a population of less than 3,000. Its demographics skew older. Niche recently rated it the second-best neighborhood in Austin for retirees to live — and the seventh-best in Texas.
East Austin Neighborhoods
Like many Austin areas, east Austin has a mix of new and old, hip and traditional. Closer to downtown, it features some of the best neighborhoods in Austin for singles. As you go further east, you find increasingly diverse enclaves, a good amount of greenspace, and Lady Bird Lake.
The influx of young people has increased east Austin’s share of new restaurants and bars. The modern spots coexist with traditional taco joints and neighborhood bars.
Further east, neighborhoods aren’t organized by central planning or homeowners’ associations. Yet they exhibit their own sense of community spirit, marked by inventively painted houses and murals.
East Austin still has a reputation for being run down and dangerous. But the reality is that it’s home to several neighborhoods on the rise.
- Close to University of Texas
- A good balance of family and young professional appeal
- It suffers from a high crime rate
Chestnut is one of those East Austin neighborhoods on the rise. Its proximity to University of Texas and the rest of downtown makes it one of the best neighborhoods for students and young professionals in Austin.
Its low density has given it a reputation for property crime however. Niche still rates it the third-best neighborhood for buying a home in Austin.
- Proximity to downtown
- Cheap housing costs
- Improving, but still has a reputation for crime
Like Chestnut, Rosewood is another up-and-coming east Austin neighborhood. Situated just to the east, it shares a suburban vibe and diversity, with mixed reviews on safety. Nonetheless, its downtown access and affordability are changing the neighborhood for the hipper.
Bars, restaurants, and cafés have added to the areas ample park land as draws. Students and artists have taken advantage of inexpensive rental rates to add to the bohemian flavor.
East Cesar Chavez
- Close to downtown and the waterfront
- Nightlife is becoming a strength
- Property crime can be a problem
Named for the road that bisects it, East Cesar Chavez is an old hand at gentrification. Long one of the best neighborhoods in Austin for diversity, in 2016 the tension between new and old residents first made headlines.
A piñata store was demolished by the owners of the property, without letting the store owners retrieve their merchandise first. Adding insult to injury, the eventual replacement was a symbol of the new residents’ priorities: a cat café.
Though property values are steadily rising and crime remains an issue, East Cesar Chavez has so far managed to retain much of its old-city charm. With close access to downtown, a number of SXSW venues, and Festival Beach, the neighborhood seems set to attract more attention soon.
- Austin’s reigning ‘coolest neighborhood’
- Parkland, waterfront access, and accessible nightlife give it balance
- Its transformation is one of the quickest in east Austin
In 2019, TimeOut named Holly ‘Austin’s coolest neighborhood.’ It even made the list of the ‘50 coolest neighborhoods in the world.’ Newly-built condos and a thriving nightlife have attracted young professionals, creatives, and entrepreneurs, as Holly gains a reputation as one of the best neighborhoods in Austin for millennials.
Holly shares the east Austin struggles of crime and gentrification, but it’s rapidly developing into one of the city’s gems.
South Austin Neighborhoods
South Austin has long been considered the class of Austin’s cool.
It all starts with Zilker Park, the hub of south Austin and the city as a whole. ‘Austin’s most-loved park’ is home to the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival and 351 acres of natural springs, disc golf courses, and museums. It’s where Austin goes to play.
The neighborhoods near the park buzz with the energy Austin is known for. Artists, young professionals, and families frequent the local shops, food and drink scene… and of course the live music.
Further to the south, ethnically diverse neighborhoods help the area transition to a more relaxed pace. They are slowly absorbing the flavor south Austin traffics in, as housing prices increase closer to downtown.
- Home to Zilker Park, ‘Austin’s most-loved park’
- The trendiest shops, the most live music
- Surprisingly quiet residential section
Barton Hills is home to Zilker Park, and is considered the seat of south Austin cool. Pass the trendy shops and renowned restaurants and you’ll find quiet streets and an excess of natural beauty. Surprising as it is to some visitors, Niche named Barton Springs the fifth-best neighborhood in Austin, Texas for families.
- Zilker Park access, with its own waterfront section
- Popular food, drink, and nightlife
- A quiet side as well
Across Barton Creek lies Zilker, a family-friendly neighborhood with its own share of nightlife. It’s just as close to Zilker Park on one side, and has its own slice of waterfront in Butler Shores at Town Lake.
South Lamar Boulevard is the main drag, dotted with some of the best food and venues in south Austin.
- Austin’s coolest corridor
- Perfect view of the Capitol
- Busy at all hours
Stylized as SoCo, South Congress is another entry to the hippest spots in south Austin. SoCo is bounded by its namesake South Congress Avenue, one of Austin’s biggest shopping, entertainment, and tourist streets. Since 1910 it has connected south Austin with downtown. It still has a perfect view of the Texas State Capitol.
Today it’s a living museum of all that’s keeping Austin weird. From street performers to food trucks to food and drink, SoCo is one of the best neighborhoods to stay near in Austin, TX on vacation. Whether you want the non-stop action in your life permanently is a choice only you can make.
- Close to SoCo
- Affordable options
- A mix of families and students
If you want to be close to the action but not in it, West Congress might be more your speed. It’s one of the best neighborhoods in Austin for families, and the affordable apartment complexes are popular with students from nearby St. Edward’s University.
Although it lacks nightlife options, it has enough casual dining to keep people on the streets.
- Quiet and filled with natural beauty
- Close to the action
Travis Heights is one of the original best neighborhoods of south Austin. Many of the homes date back to the 1920s, and the wealthy residents have the resources to keep them in top shape.
The neighborhood is named for the hills that occasionally offer great views of the rest of the city. Tree-lined and full of areas for outdoor activities, Travis Heights is also not far from the heat of the rest of south Austin. It’s considered one of the best neighborhoods in Austin, and in Texas on the whole.
- It’s pronounced ‘Man-shack’
- Families make up the majority of residents
- It’s close to SoCo, yet far enough that few tourists stray in
Curbed says that South Menchaca is for people who are ‘through being cool.’ Like many of the best neighborhoods to stay in Austin, it claims strength through proximity. It’s close enough to the action for when residents want to partake in Austin’s famous nightlife, yet possessed of a quiet charm all its own.
With cheap housing and an evolving scene, it is one of Austin’s best ‘buy low’ areas.
- Developed from the 1970s–1990s
- One of the furthest south Austin communities from downtown
- Home to both single people and families
Cherry Creek is a more recent development, kicking off in the 1970s and getting fully built out by the 1990s. It’s home to families and singles looking for a quieter pace of life. And it’s far enough from the heart of south Austin to have its own small restaurant scene.
Central Austin Neighborhoods
Unlike many downtown cores, central Austin feels livable.
The neighborhoods are diverse, filled with high-rise condos, century-old mansions, and bungalows. There are miles of hiking and biking trails running alongside Lady Bird Lake and the Shoal Creek Greenbelt.
And there is the University of Texas, the state capitol, a smattering of corporate headquarters, and a ton of entertainment.
- Home to the state capitol and live music hub Sixth Street
- Close to the waterfront
- Fairly safe
Austin’s downtown is home to many of the most remarkable sites in the city. The capitol complex is here, and so is live music mecca Sixth Street. Bars and restaurants, museums and the Lady Bird Lake hike and bike trails are just a stone’s throw away.
It’s expensive compared with the rest of Austin and fairly safe compared with other big cities. And the 24-hour nightlife doesn’t compare to anywhere else.
- Historic homes in Queen Anne and Tudor Revival styles
- Close to downtown and University of Texas
- An active community that controls development
Believe it or not, Hyde Park is still one of the best neighborhoods in Austin, TX for families. It’s safe and beautiful, with much of its 100-year-old architecture intact. It has unique cafés, restaurants, and local businesses. Best of all, it’s affordable for Austin, especially given its closeness to downtown and the University of Texas.
There’s a feeling of community in Hyde Park, and a conscious sense of how residents want the area to develop. So far it’s managed to maintain its small-town vibe, even with significant entertainment options on its borders.
Old West Austin
- Close to the waterfront and downtown
- Reasonable housing costs
- Quiet and fairly safe
As the name indicates, Old West Austin is one of Austin’s oldest neighborhoods. And it continues to balance its heritage with sustainable development — which the American Planning Association recognized in naming it one of the 10 ‘Great Neighborhoods in America.’
A local ‘anti-McMansion’ ordinance restricts house sizes and keeps property values in check. The result is that Old West Austin has kept its quaint charm, even while sitting just off downtown.
- One of the safest neighborhoods in Austin
- Historic atmosphere and architecture
- Home of Pease Park
Old Enfield is another central Austin neighborhood that pulls off a balance of downtown access and quiet sanctuary. It’s one of Austin’s older neighborhoods, with mansions, bungalows, and new builds along its tree-lined streets.
It has access to downtown, the capitol, and the university through the Shoal Creek Greenbelt. It’s also home to Pease Park, one of central Austin’s favorite gathering places. Every spring the park hosts Austin hippie tradition Eeyore’s Birthday Party, a day-long festival of drums and costumes in celebration of the “Winnie the Pooh” character.
All in all, this adds up to a Niche rating as the number-one best neighborhood in Austin — and it looks to stay that way.
The best neighborhoods in Austin, TX have twin themes running through them — nature and culture. The balance of these qualities has long been a driving force in drawing people to Austin.
The best neighborhoods in Austin are helping keep these values on top even as the city develops into a 21st-century tech powerhouse. They reflect Austin’s commitment to its own values, and the pledge to ‘keep Austin weird.’