Probably the most common request from my clients when moving to Austin is to live in a walkable neighborhood.
Because of course, walking outside of your home to go to that local coffee shop or taco stand or dive bar is critical to a quality life.
But then the reality of Austin (and basically everywhere in Texas) comes to life. Finding a quality walkable neighborhood is hard. Very hard. Texas is probably one of the least walker-friendly states in the country. Let’s be honest, who needs feet when you have TRUCKS. BIG TRUCKS!
So anyway, I’ve gone ahead and outlined the best walkable neighborhoods for you in Austin.
Obviously, Downtown Austin is going to be the most walkable neighborhood. You saw that coming. Downtown Austin is one of the better downtowns that I’ve seen in the US. It stays alive after happy hour. People actually live here. There’s plenty of options when it comes to food, nightlife, and music at all hours.
Also obviously, the cost of living here is quite high. You probably already knew that too. Downtown is one of the only places in Austin where not having a car is feasible. And preferable given how much parking can cost. (Usually $75-$125 per car). If you’re coming to Austin without a car, and a healthy budget, Downtown Austin will be high on your radar.
East Austin, as you probably already know with me is my favorite neighborhood. Only a highway separates it from Downtown, but once you cross, the lifestyle changes radically. East Austin is the most walkable neighborhood in Austin outside of Downtown. Skipping the strip-mall stage, East Austin went from poor old decrepit buildings to high-end modern apartments and office buildings.
But not in a soulless way. East 6th and Cesar Chavez are still soaked in style and culture. I can’t count how many bars, restaurants, and food trucks are within walking distance from my apartment. It’s awesome. I regularly spend hours walking around here by myself.
South Austin, in my opinion, is the soul of Austin. Everything that comes into your mind’s eye when thinking of this city, is probably in South Austin. Those famous murals, the parks, the funky little shops, all of it is in South Austin.
It is possible to have a car-less walkable lifestyle in Austin, but only in a select few areas. For the most part, South Austin is a big-street car-dominated commuting neighborhood. For a truly walkable lifestyle, you’ll have to boost your budget and live along Barton Springs, South Congress, the north part of South Lamar, and Riverside. Otherwise, you’ll likely rely on a car to get around.
The Domain is Austin’s next most walkable area. Built as a second-Downtown, The Domain is a mega master-planned development complete with a large outdoor shopping mall, modern apartment complexes, office buildings, and restaurants. Like any master-planned community, it lacks the same depth of style, personality, culture, or any of those fuzzy feeling things.
However, if you work in North Austin, the Domain would be a great option if you want to keep a socially active lifestyle. As a bonus, the Cap Metro train stops nearby at Kramer Station, giving you easy access to Downtown.
Mueller is quickly becoming its own little microcosm Downtown. With a growing collection of apartments, office buildings, and retail stores, Mueller is transforming into a self-sustaining neighborhood. While you have a lot of stuff in the immediate areas to walk to, you’ll still probably need a car for access to the rest of Austin.
Tucked just below the river and East of I35 is a small strip of walkable territory. Riverside has a growing collection of apartments and shops that hug along the river. It’s one of the coolest options in Austin to live if you have fantasies about running and biking along the river next to a bunch of dogs. Here you’ll find some cool bars like the Buzzmills, the Jackalope, and brand new Frazier’s. While you have a few cool things to walk to, you’ll need to cross over into East Austin, Downtown, or South Austin to really tap into Austin’s best parts.
Clarksville/Tarrytown/Old West Austin
I combined these three micro-neighborhoods since they have a distinctly similar vibe. Each represents a different classic version of Austin. You’re more likely to find older quaint houses, stores in cute bungalow houses, and small home office buildings. While there are a lot of walkable neighborhood streets, the areas are lacking in overall things to do. You’re more likely to see houses and neighbors rather than spend time at local bars and restaurants.