Living In Central Austin: A Neighborhood Guide

Central Austin encompasses a few regions North of Downtown. I’m arbitrarily smushing a few of these mini areas together and calling it Central Austin for general convenience. These areas will include Hyde Park, North Loop, ACC – Highland, and the Triangle. By the end of this post, you’ll be a F*n expert on all of them!

Cost of Rent in Central Austin

Older housing (1960’s-2005)

  • Studios: $950+
  • 1 Bedrooms: $1100+
  • 2 Bedrooms: $1500+
  • 3 Bedrooms: $1800+

Modern Housing (2005+)

  • Studio: $1200
  • 1 Bedroom: $1400+
  • 2 Bedroom: $1800+
  • 3 Bedroom: $2200+

Hyde Park

It’s also known as the flag store…..because flags.

Hyde Park is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Austin. It’s age gives it a distinct character unlike any other part of Austin. It’s old Austin classy and charming. Pretty. Hyde Park is filled with those cute bungalow and single-family homes where you can imagine yourself reading sophisticated books on the porch and waving to friendly strangers. It’s a beautiful place to live. 

However, living here can be tricky. There is a limited supply of housing. The housing that is available is taken by renters who are more than willing to pay high prices for the convenience of living near the University of Texas. Most of the apartments around here are low quality. The houses, while very nice, are usually either occupied, or very expensive for the quality.

Cool Stuff in Hyde Park

Spider House Cafe – Just outside Hyde Park, Spider House is one of the quirkiest locations in Austin. It’s a music venue, glorified junk yard, art gallery, eccentric social watering hole. 

Flightpath Coffee House – Community Coffee Shop & co-working hub. 

Juiceland – One of many Juicelands, but this is particularly cool and wonderful. 

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop – Austin’s most famous cheesy emporium. 

Uncle Nicky’s Italian Specialties – Delicious Italian deli shop

Quack’s Bakery – Melt your face quality baked goods. 

Hyde Park Gym – Classic heavy metal power-lifting gym with grunting people lifting heavy things. 

Hyde Park Market – Yes, it’s a gas station. Yes, it’s also a super cool little beer and wine shop. Amazing selection.

North Loop

Tons of funky shops on North Loop Blvd.

Tons of funky shops and boutiques on North Loop Blvd.

Where Hyde Park is the buttoned down educated professor of the family, North Loop is the quirkier sibling of the family. It’s the rebellious liberal arts degree holding, tattoos bearing, rock and roll listening sibling that isn’t afraid to stick it to the man. One may use the word “grungy.” Charming, but in its own distinctly Austin way. North Loop Blvd is a time machine into Austin’s weirder, hip past. It’s a hotspot for vintage shops, indie vinyl music, Co-worky type coffee joints, dive bars, cheap and delicious ethnic food… You get the idea. It’s hip – the home of the “keep Austin weird” mentality. What people used to associate with East Austin, you can actually find here.

Housing is limited to a few streets of more cute bungalows, but you won’t find many apartments in these older Austin neighborhoods. Good ones at least. For those, you’ll have to go to the Triangle or ACC area which we’ll discuss below.

Cool Stuff in North Loop

Drinkwell – chill relaxed cocktail bar. 

Epoch coffee – One of the cool funky coffee shops that doubles as a co-working space for local intellectual types. 

Tyson’s Tacos: These are some of the best tacos in Austin. Very underrated. 

Kome – Iconic local Japanese restaurant. 

Foreign and Domestic – Cool local high-end restaurant and cocktail lounge.

ACC- Highland

Formerly abandoned mall turned into community college

Formerly abandoned mall turned into community college

ACC-Highland is a special area to me. It’s where I first moved when I moved to Austin. I moved here in 2015 with less than $2000 and no job. So I picked the cheapest place I could find on Craigslist. This is how I wound up here. No, it was not nice. Yes, it was one small step above roach infested crack-den. It was a value though!

Ever since I’ve been in Austin, the area has been undergoing a major makeover. 

The giant Highland Mall spent years in abandonment until the Austin Community College took it over. Since then development has been swift. A barrage of new apartments are popping up like crazy, promising to turn the area into some grand master-planned community like Mueller. 

The Crescent shopping mall was about 90% abandoned when I moved here. Other than a bank, a Dollar General, and a shady pizza shop (which I’m confident was a drug front) it was empty. But now, it’s totally changed.

A slew of wonderful and delicious Asian food stores have taken over. 99 Ranch is an awesome Taiwanese grocery store. Kura Revolving Sushi85 Degree Bakery101 by Teahaus, and even a Japanese bookstore have moved in. It’s pretty awesome now. 

The nearby Linc mall is home to the wonderful Easy Tiger, the super sneakily cool indie theater, Austin Film Society, and the criminally overlooked Lima Criolla Peruvian restaurant. 

Highland is still dominated by Airport Boulevard, a very useful road populated by government buildings, car repair shops, and big-box retail stores. Very unsexy. But! tucked into the nooks and crannies is a wide collection of funky shops, local businesses, amazing food, and local charm. You’ll also have easy access to Downtown Austin as the metro rail runs right through the area. Overall I think it’s one of the best-valued areas in Austin – and shaping up to be one of the best neighborhoods.

Other Cool stuff in ACC – Highland

The Brewtorium – massive beer & pizza hall. 

Michi Ramen – Wonderful ramen shop. I ate here on my first night in the city. Super delicious!

Han Yang Market – I’m putting this in here because the special attachment I had when I was living down the road. It’s a cool little Korean grocery store with deliciously cheap food that sustained me in my broke early days of living in Austin.  

The Triangle

Look at it’s Triangularness!

Look at it’s Triangular-ness!

Of all the areas I’ve discussed in this guide, the Triangle is the most modern. It’s a master planned community populated with modern apartments, modern retail space, and manufactured everything. It’s not quaint. It’s not cute. It’s absent of the character, history, and charm you’ll find in East Austin or strolling South Congress.

But, it is extremely well located and convenient. It’s in the heart of Central Austin. The local bus routes give you super quick access to the downtown area, UT Austin, and North Austin. There’s a ton of modern apartment units. There’s some park space to walk your hypothetical doggo.

As for things to do…..uh…..you can go elsewhere. You’re close to a lot of stuff, but the Triangle itself is totally devoid of anything interesting – no nightlife no live music no quirky shops, you get the point. And no, I don’t think Hopdoddy’s is interesting.

Cool things in near the Triangle. 

Uchiko – Sister restaurant of Uchi, one of the best places to get sushi in Austin. This place is no different. 

Central Market – The Rolls Royce Version of HEB. Competitor to Whole Foods

Wheatsville Co-op– Co-op style grocery store. 

Getting around here is fairly easy. Your commute times are only about 15 minutes from Downtown and another 15 to the Domain. East Austin is across I35, and you’ll have relatively easy access to Barton Springs and Zilker Park. Some neighborhood streets are walkable for a nice stroll, but not to do anything practical. For that, you’ll need a car to get around most of Austin. Though the bus routes nearby the Triangle can easily get you into Downtown and North Austin. 

Overall Central Austin Pros & Cons

  • Pros
    • Some very cute neighborhoods.
    • Small town feel in a city.
    • Lots of charm and character and all that good stuff.
    • Some well priced modern apartments.
    • Areas like ACC Highland are quickly becoming great neighborhoods. 
    • Near downtown, UT campus & The Domain.
  • Cons
    • Expensive houses.
    • Lot’s of lower quality older apartments that rented by people willing to pay a premium to be near University of Texas. 
    • Lots of areas have that old strip-mall/government building vibe going on. 

What Do I Think?

I like this part of Austin, but I don’t go too far out of my way to spend time here. I like my own neighborhood too much! Central Austin has a lot going for it in terms of lifestyle and geographic convenience. But harder to find as much to do within walking distance. You can get an authentic Austin experience while being well located in the center of Hyde Park. It’s cute, but expensive. North Loop is changing quickly and may become one of the best valued areas in Austin. The Triangle is convenient, but soulless. If you need to be near Central Austin or North Austin for work, I think it’s a great happy medium. For my personal preferences, I would put it right behind South Austin and East Austin. 

Here’s my epic map of Central Austin. I added some more places from the post. These are all personal recommendations that I think you’ll love.

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