The Ultimate Guide to Living in Downtown Austin
Downtown Austin is probably one of the first places you looked at when deciding to move here. You probably thought, “It’s Texas!, it must be cheap!” And then you did some quick research and found out that no, Downtown Austin is not cheap. Chances are if you had that conclusion upon initial research, you’ll probably wind up looking at East or South Austin for your future home.
If, on the other hand, you’re thinking “I’m Rich B*#&!” in a Dave Chappelle voice, and that you shall have a fancy swanky Downtown lifestyle, then 1) good for you and 2) this guide is for you.
We’re going to take a magical text-based journey through Downtown Austin and it’s sub-regions. I’ll write about what to expect when living here, costs, and a random variety of useful info.
The Feels of Downtown
Thankfully, Downtown Austin is one of those downtowns that doesn’t die after happy hour. Filled with a swath of apartments and condos, there are a ton of people that live here. You’ll never feel that Downtown is a ghost town. It’s safe, clean, and a great place to walk around.
You’ll find a ton of high-rise buildings filled with master-of-the-universe type tech and financy companies. The streets are a blend of tourists, politicians with opinions you probably don’t like, suit wearing businessy folk, and tech people riding those weird one-wheel things.
I think Downtown is really nice. There’s a mix of classy old buildings near the Capitol Building, and super high end modern techy buildings near the river. Yeah, there’s some crappy soulless government buildings every now and then, but who doesn’t have those?
Below, the river cuts through the city, giving us an epic skyline you can see when running or kayaking or paddleboarding or whatever you’re into. There’s a giant hike and bike trails that circles along the river too.
So yeah, Downtown is nice and great and everything. But I do think there is a distinct disadvantage of living Downtown (other than the cost). You may never get an authentic Austin experience living here. You’ll get the super high end fancy/corporate version of Austin, but not the real deal. Since it’s so convenient to live in Downtown, you may rarely leave. You may miss out on all of the lovely quirky characteristics that make Austin the city so many people fall in love with in the first place.
Types of Homes
In Downtown, you’re gonna be living in an apartment or condo. Within these two, you’ll find either highrise (6+ stories) or mid-rise (3-6 stories) buildings. For houses you’ll have to go west of Lamar into Clarksville and Tarrytown.
Looking for an apartment in Downtown Austin? Check out our Ultimate Downtown Austin Apartment Guide!
Cost of Rent in Downtown
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Sub Regions of Downtown
If I lived in Downtown, I would live in West-Downtown. I think it has the best balance of places to live, eat, shop and socialize. It feels more residential then corporate. You have easier access to the river and running trails. Oh, and The Whole Foods. Like, the HQ. The giant mothership. It’s here, and it will drain your excess savings if you are not careful.
This is around Austin’s convention center. Here there a ton of office buildings, corporate hotels, and fancy people in fancy suits. As you can tell by my allusions, this is more of a business district. While there are some places to live around here, it doesn’t feel like much of a neighborhood.
Oh Rainey Street! What an interesting little street! It juts out awkwardly from the boxy square of Downtown into it’s own little thing. It used to be a cute neighborhood filled with cute little houses. Then those cute little houses turned into cute little bars. Then lot’s of people started to come to those cute little house bars. Then big buildings started to come. Now it’s one of the premier night-life districts in Austin.
Not gonna mince my words here, Rainey Street on the weekends is a shitshow of drunk people, loud music, bachelor(ette) groups. But it’s not that bad. There’s plenty of food trucks and places to eat. I like to go out here occasionally, although the craziness of it is getting a bit too much for my gracefully aging soul. East Austin is more my
There are a few apartments and condos here with varying distances from the main strip. Some give you immediate access to the river and running trails which is awesome if you’re into that. All in all, it’s a pretty good place to live unless you’re on the main strip.
The area near the big beautiful Capitol building! These are mostly corporate offices, government buildings, and some why-haven’t-they-updated-these condo buildings. You probably won’t be living here.
Going out in Austin is easy. Most of the major bar cluster around here. Let’s dive (bar) into them why don’t we!
Yeah, it’s the part of Austin you’ve probably been to when you first visited. It’s the part of town that turns into a debaucherous mess of cheap bars, drunk people, grimmy pizza and a whole assortment of grossness. You may accidentally find yourself here on a god-foraken night out, but you won’t be living here. Ideally, you’ll go out here once. Only once.
Red River is a slight detour from Dirty 6th. It’s an area mysteriously given the title of “Cultural District” If by culture you mean grimmy dive bars, quirky music venues, and of course, Stubbs, then sure! It’s that part of town you go to if you’re into alternative music. There’s a few places to live here, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Covered above. Can get crazy like Dirty, but it’s more “disposable income-y”.
Traffic & Commuting
Traffic?! Commuting?! Nonsense, you probably work here too. If you don’t you should be able afford a quick helicopter ride. You are baller after all.
You’ll be fine. But if you don’t you can get into South Austin through some usually-congested bridges, or north Austin with the usually-congested I35, Lamar, and Mopac. The Cap Metro train (yes, Austin has a train) can take you into North Austin.
Overall Pros & Cons of Downtown Austin
Downtown Austin offers a super high quality lifestyle. Living here makes things easy. You probably don’t need a car. Your commute will be short. You can walk everywhere you need to. There is an abundance of places to eat and socialize. Nowhere else in the city will give you the views you can find here.
Obviously, it’s expensive. There’s no other way around it. Plus, the convenience of living here means you may rarely dive into the unique quirks that make Austin awesome.
For the most part, I like Downtown Austin. It’s clean & vibrant. There’s a ton of things to do. People actually live here. Logistically, it’s great. You don’t need a car. You can get to work easily. Getting to the rest of Austin is really easy with all the highways and bridges. The river is never more than a few blocks away. You’ll be in the center of social life. If you can actually afford to live here, you’ll have an extremely high quality of life.
Downtown Austin feels like it can be almost any mid-sized American downtown. You’ll encounter corporate people in suits, tourists scootering around, politicians doing politicky stuff. It often manufactured rather than authentic.
Living here you may never really experience Austin. While you can find some classic Austin venues tucked beneath the new highrises, the convenience of proximity will shelter you from the deliciously funky bits of Austin charm that made this city so great in the first place. I think to really experience the unique flavor of this city, you should consider areas like South Austin, East Austin or Hyde Park.