Austin - USA

The capital of the Lone Star State has non-stop music, a vibrant arts scene and more food trucks than a Wild West wagon train. James Williams dons his Stetson

Travel Time 10hrs 30min

Why go?

A liberal bastion in the heart of conservative Texas, Austin bills itself as the ‘Live Music Capital of the World’. In between all the toe tapping there’s a lively independent food scene, creative local chefs and a rich seam of Southern culture to dive into, too.

What to do

Take an early pootle down Congress Avenue, Austin’s main street, to see the imposing Texas State Capitol and elegant Governor’s Mansion, or book on a walking tour via to discover the wealth of architecture from Victorian to art deco. Nearby, at the Bullock Museum you can travel through trade routes, shipwrecks and silver mines to unravel what it means to be Texan – the artefacts and exhibits span some 16,000 years. Bring yourself bang up to date at The Contemporary Austin which features works by today’s most innovative artists. There’s also a sister site, Laguna Gloria, on the shores of Lake Austin, and keep your eyes peeled around town for outdoor pieces like Ai Weiwei’s sculpture Bicycles Forever, made up of 1,254 bikes. On the southern shore of Lady Bird Lake, which slices the city in two, mingle with the locals at Zilker Park, a haven for joggers, cyclists, canoeists and outdoor swimmers, and check out the sculpture gallery and botanical garden. Come evening, it’s all about the music, so start off at legendary venue The Continental Club on South Congress Avenue. More than just a Fifties time warp, it’s a local music hub with acts from Texas and across America, spanning rock ’n’ roll, country and the blues. From intimate venues like Elephant Room to grand palaces like the Paramount live music can be heard all over town. And, if you’re really lucky, you could find yourself in the audience for Austin City Limits, the acclaimed TV music show taped live at The Moody Theater.

Where to stay

Built back in 1886 by a wealthy cattle baron, The Driskill has all the trappings of Texan aristocracy. The landmark building on Sixth Street lays on that most Austin of traditions, the live blues brunch, and upstairs the rooms are furnished in classic southern style. Home to the Second Bar + Kitchen by acclaimed chef David Bull, the Archer Hotel is the latest addition to upscale shopping district The Domain. With its hip ‘patio’ culture, you can sip cocktails beside the pool and roaring fireplace. Oozing grandeur, Hotel Ella is housed in the turn-of-the-century Goodall Wooten House building, and has chic, understated rooms. And over at Kimber Modern you can explore the SoCo district – a vibrant, walkable neighbourhood – then return to minimalist bedrooms and a secluded, hammock-strewn courtyard.

Where to eat and drink

Tex-Mex, barbecue, food trucks and pop-ups of every variety bring the food faithful to Austin. It’s no surprise that this indie food hub was where Whole Foods Market first set up shop. Franklin Barbecue is a pit paradise where even Barack Obama has feasted on the lunch-only menu of brisket, pulled pork and ribs. If the queue’s too long, head over to Micklethwait Craft Meats or Kerlin BBQ for the full food-truck experience. At St Elmo brewhouse the sticky ribs and fried chicken – courtesy of Soursop – are of a distinctly Asian flavour and perfect washed down with crafts beers. Or, for more formal dining, book a spot at Emmer & Rye where chef Kevin Fink (Noma, The French Laundry) uses regional produce to create his superb small plates – think paddlefish caviar or grilled acorn squash. For a high-end take on Texan fare, head to the intimate Rosewood to feast on cool comfort food like suckling pig croquettes, garlic shrimp and blue crab with guacamole.

Time running out?

An easy climb up Mount Bonnell rewards you with sweeping views of the city, backed by amazing sunsets. Start your ascent from Covert Park, from where it’s 106 steps to the to.


Travel Information

Travel Information

Currency is the US dollar (USD). Austin is 5 hours behind GMT. Flight time from London is 10.5 hours. The cost to carbon offset is £16.23. For more details, visit

Getting There

American Airlines offers flights from London Heathrow to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport with one stop.

British Airways flies the same route direct.


Visit Austin is the official tourist portal and is packed with tips to help you get the most out of your visit.

Average daily temperatures and rainfall

Min Temp46101419222323211595
Max Temp161822263033353632282117

Get Premium access to all the latest content online

Subscribe and view full print editions online... Subscribe