Texas

9 Coolest Hotels in Austin That Will Defy Your Lodging Expectations

If you're planning a trip to Austin, why stay at a generic hotel chain when you could sleep at one of the most iconic hotels in Texas (and quite possibly see a cigar-chomping cowboy ghost), stay at a minimalist art mecca, and splash around a pool with rock stars?

At my first SXSW as an official Austin resident, I found myself sipping a frozen mezcal margarita and lounging at the bamboo-lined pool at the Hotel San Jose, surrounded by a sea of hip denizens wearing jeans, Stetsons, and intricately designed sleeve tattoos. Jason Schwartzman and his French bulldog had just ambled by, and Johnny Depp was brooding in the only dark corner of the light-filled courtyard. And I thought to myself, Okay, Toto, we may not be in Kansas anymore, but that’s okay—because this is the coolest city in Texas, and quite possibly America.

When it comes to hotels in Austin, distinctive coolness shines through in a myriad of ways. Think inventive restaurant concepts from Netflix-popular chefs, bohemian-inspired décor juxtaposed with haughty Texan grandeur, and hip, sleekly designed pools dotted with canned rosé-sipping locals and tourists alike (hey, it’s humid as heck here for most of the year!) From tiny, no-frills boutiques to grand downtown properties to modern art marvels, here are some of the coolest hotels in the city.

Kick Back at a Neighborhood Hangout

Tucked away in the heart of culturally rich, ultra-trendy East Austin, the Heywood Hotel is much more akin to an achingly hip home than a standard hotel. Built from a renovated, 1920s-era Craftsman bungalow, the hotel’s olive green exterior is sweetly welcoming, with a front porch and hanging basket chairs, while the interior boasts custom-crafted furniture, eclectic art, and textiles from local artisans, and Scandinavian-chic design flourishes.

The Heywood has seven one-of-a-kind rooms, all of which come equipped with plush Stearns & Foster mattresses (get ready for an exquisite night’s sleep!) and a minibar chock-full of locally sourced snacks—some rooms have skylighted bathtubs and street-facing balconies; others have private outdoor patios. Sip a cold beer in the shared courtyard space, amidst the artfully arranged succulents, colorful ceramic vases, and twinkly white lights.

Complimentary bike rentals are available, and the warm, friendly staff of Austin aficionados is always prepared to offer personalized suggestions (and even curated maps) on where to eat, drink, shop, and explore in the neighborhood and beyond. Relaxed and intimate, though undeniably four-star, the Heywood is the perfect hotel for out-of-towners who’d prefer to feel like locals.

The Heywood

Austin
9.3 Excellent (51 reviews)

Sleep With Rock Star Royalty (Sorta)

Swanky yet bohemian, Hotel Saint Cecilia is a serene, rock n’ roll-inspired oasis that’s well-hidden behind a grove of gnarled live oak trees, despite being right in the middle of the action on bustling South Congress Avenue. The hotel’s nondescript location, crazy-cool amenities, and exclusive reputation are like catnip for A-list musicians and celebs looking to dodge the paparazzi when in Austin, which means that you shouldn’t be surprised to see Fiona Apple sprawled on a chesterfield sofa in the lobby or Dave Grohl doing laps in the 50-foot heated pool.

Named after the patron saint of rock and poetry, naturally, Hotel Saint Cecilia has three studios, five suites, and six poolside bungalows, all of which feature vintage furniture, funky artwork, a spa minibar with Santa Maria Novella body care products, Geneva sound systems hooked up to turntables, and handcrafted beds by Hastens, Sweden’s most revered bedding company (Hastens mattresses start at $8,000!) Get ready to feel like you’ve died and gone to rock star heaven.

Hotel Saint Cecilia

Top rated
Austin
8.9 Excellent (24 reviews)

Rock Out on Rainey Street

Situated just off Rainey Street, Hotel Van Zandt pays serious homage to Austin’s musical legacy, starting with its name (hometown heroes Isaac Van Zandt, a famed Texas diplomat, and Townes Van Zandt, a celebrated singer-songwriter, are the hotel’s namesake). The entire property is decked out with music-focused artwork and design touches, including chandeliers made from French horns and a lobby bar vintage record player spewing old country tunes.

The views of Lady Bird Lake are unreal, there’s free wine in the lobby every evening, and the hotel’s proximity to the popular nightlife on Rainey Street means that you’ll be within walking distance of some of the coolest bars and restaurants in the city. Hotel Van Zandt is pure Austin gold.

Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt

Top rated
Austin
9.1 Excellent (1613 reviews)

Enjoy Understated Luxury and Hipster Charm

A true standout of the boutique hotel scene in Austin, the South Congress Hotel screams cool from its every fiber, texture, and furniture choice. From the gorgeous common spaces and snazzy pool area to the local shops and restaurants on the premises (classic American fare at Central Standard, exclusive Japanese cuisine at Otoko, and casual vibes at Café No Se), this is easily one of the hippest hotels in existence, in the center of one of the hippest streets in the city. Rooms are stylishly minimalist, with fluffy Matteo linens, polished hardwood floors, a locally curated minibar, and access to 40+ Alamo Drafthouse films.

Hotel South Congress

Top rated
Austin
9.0 Excellent (436 reviews)

Indulge in Iconic Lone Star Luxury

When it comes to opulent, old-school Texan lodging in Austin, nobody does it better than The Driskill Hotel. Built in 1886 and lovingly restored, this downtown historic landmark is oft-regarded as the city’s grand dame hotel. In keeping with the Lone Star State ethos, everything is big here, and everything is eye-catching: The lobby’s giant pillars, ornate stained glass fixtures, and shining marble flooring are timelessly elegant, and the classic Western rooms have high ceilings, rustic leather furniture, and wrought-iron bed frames (featuring Texas stars, of course). Be sure to grab a whiskey cocktail at the legendary Driskill Bar and, if you’re feeling might fancy, indulge in a five-course meal at The Driskill Grill. Oh, and be on the lookout for spirits of guests past—the Driskill has a rep for being one of the most haunted hotels in America.

Hotel The Driskill

Top rated
Austin
8.9 Excellent (3376 reviews)

Experience a Minimalist Art + Design Mecca

Art is a crucial part of the Kimber Modern, and so is minimalism—there are no room keys or room numbers here, nor is there a check-in desk or lobby; instead, you’ll find seven architecturally stunning rooms underneath a thick canopy of massive live oaks, with a multi-level courtyard that features a communal fire pit, a 25-foot glass water feature, and immaculate plantings.

Both the interior and exterior of the hotel are stark white and offset by splashes of bright color, vibrant artwork, and high-end furniture, and each of the rooms has custom maple desks, floor-to-ceiling windows, Beautyrest Black mattresses, luxe Sferra linens, and full-sized Malin + Goetz bath products. Meanwhile, the kitchen is stocked with complimentary wine, beer, Euro-style coffee, and snacks, and there’s a tasty, on-the-go breakfast (bagels, pastries, hard-boiled eggs, fresh juice, yogurt) served every morning.

Art and architecture nerds, take note: The Kimber is a true marvel of mid-century modern design.

Kimber Modern

Top rated
Austin
9.4 Excellent (129 reviews)

Stay at the Cool New Kid on the Block

Walking around the Carpenter Hotel is like walking around a Wes Anderson film set, and if you understand that reference, you’re officially cool enough to stay here (maybe). A former union hall, the newly opened Carpenter has low-key charm in spades, with a maker aesthetic that runs deep—the terra-cotta blocks that line the corridor connecting the old hall to the rooms were sourced from a local brick & tile company, the lobby is full of handcrafted furnishings and colorful textiles, huge fabric union banners decorate the walls of the on-site restaurant’s interior, and each of the rooms boasts custom-made blankets, tables, and lighting.

The cool factor here is simply off the charts: Food and beverages are shaped by the culinary dream team of Christina Skogly Knowlton and Andrew Knowlton (Bon Appetit editor-at-large and host of the Netflix series The Final Table). The coffee bar is like Portland and San Fran had a caffeinated baby, and the retro-fabulous pool is the perfect place to cool off during a typically sweltering Austin afternoon.

The Carpenter

Austin
8.6 Excellent (93 reviews)

Soak Up Hill Country-Chic Glamour

After undergoing an extensive, $150 million renovation in May 2019, the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in West Austin has emerged as one of the top five-star golf & spa retreats in Texas, with the lush, sloping Hill Country landscape as its setting. It’s cooler than most hotel resort chains; after all, this is the Texas Hill Country we’re talking about, which means that while the Omni is undoubtedly luxurious, it also feels a little back like someone’s understatedly refined home—picture warm woods, a natural color palette, big, light-filled windows, and plenty of cozy nooks to curl up with a Palmer Pick (Deep Eddy sweet tea vodka, unsweetened black tea, lemon, and cane sugar: a true Texan concoction, if there ever was one).

The Omni Barton Creek is also a golfer’s paradise (there are four 18-hole courses on the property), but there’s plenty to keep the non-golfers busy, too. Guests can take their pick between four swimming pools (including a gleaming infinity pool overlooking the 18th green of the Fazio Foothills course), the stately Mokara Spa (featuring 17 treatment rooms), seven new restaurants, and a multi-tiered fitness center. Without a doubt, this is laid-back Texas luxury at its finest.

Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa

Top rated
Austin
8.5 Excellent (1300 reviews)

Hide Out at a Chill SoCo Enclave

The other Bunkhouse property on this list (Hotel Saint Cecilia was also designed by the hip hotelier, helmed by Austin icon Liz Lambert), Hotel San Jose is equal parts urban bungalow, leafy sanctuary, and all-around hipster scene. Tucked behind a low, ivy-blanketed wall just across from the Continental Club on South Congress, the hotel was originally built as a 1930s-era motor lodge—and today, the 40-room property is characterized by its cool gray stucco façade, minimal furnishings, and lush garden courtyards.

It feels like a world away from the chaos of SoCo, despite being in the heart of it all. And there’s one other serious perk to staying at the San Jose: Jo’s Coffee, next door, will deliver your black bean and avocado breakfast taco and Belgian Bomber (iced coffee mixed with cream, hazelnut, and chocolate, aka heaven) straight to your door.

San José

Austin
8.4 Very good (71 reviews)