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Hit the Best Spots in Austin for SXSW With This Complete City Guide

South By Southwest is once again coming to take over the lovely, lively city of Austin, Texas. For weeks, people will pour in from all over the world for the music festival, film festival, comedy festival, and interactive festival. It’ll be wonderful, wild, and welcoming chaos, and there will of course be no shortage of hip bars, cool restaurants, chic hotels, and killer clothing stores. The only problem you may have while you’re there is too many options of each.
That’s why we put together a guide to our absolute favorite places to eat, drink, stay, and shop in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” If you plan to live the good life, you should know where to go. Here are spots to hit come springtime in Austin!

By: Jake Kilroy | Venue: Juliet Ristorante
Photo: Flower Child
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Flower Child

Austin, Texas
Healthy food makes a happy world at this organic café. The locally sourced menu treats vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten-free to a tasty variety, yet don't leave out the meat-eaters. It's all natural with no additives, so the whole experience is a pretty serious mood-booster.
Photo: Raven + Lily
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Raven + Lily

Austin, Texas
Shopping at this clothing store makes a big difference. That's because the apparel company empowers women through fair-trade jobs, employing more than 1,500 artisans around the world. Plus, its West Texas-inspired, Austin-designed dresses, tops, bottoms, jumpsuits, loungewear, jewelry, and accessories are pretty dang slick without giving up comfort. Their inventory suits a photographer's road trip as much as it does an arty gallery opening.
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Culinary Dropout

Austin, Texas
If you're in the mood for gastropub fare with creative cocktails—the kind that comes from hard-working mohawked chefs and smiley inked-up bartenders—this is your watering hole and grub spot while you’re in town. It's big and open, and there's live music to be had over brunch or during happy hour. Plus, it welcomes the wildcards as much as the family crew. All ages are welcome to enjoy everything from antipasti to meaty entrees.
Photo: Travaasa
4 / 25
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Travaasa learn more

At the area's most active resort, you can revitalize yourself in between festival days and nights. Seriously, make the most of clean, sustainable living with comfy organic sheets, fair-trade coffee, and whole, real foods. Also, take advantage of the resort’s healing treatments, wellness programs, and fitness opportunities at the spa. The place is surrounded by ancient live oaks and undulating hills, and there are culinary classes and cultural encounters to be had!
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5 / 25
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Garage Cocktail Bar

Austin, Texas
Let's start a unique and hidden downtown blessing. For starters, you’ll find this mid-century-inspired joint in the parking garage of the Starr Building. In fact, it's housed in the old valet ticketing office. Secondly, the vibe here suits the cocktail bar very well, abuzz without the louder type of drinkers randomly wandering in. Everyone comes here with purpose. I mean, you kind of have to, given the secretive location.
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Irene's

Austin, Texas
This beloved spot is contemporary and stylish take on the spirits of classic diners and dive bars. In its beautiful heart, though, it's all good old-fashioned charm with no pretentiousness. From its counter menu of toasts, tallboys, and the like to soups, salads, sandwiches, and sangria, this place will do you right.
Photo: Adam Ottke
7 / 25
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George Austin

Austin, Texas
Spring has arrived at this clothing store for men and women with new arrivals from notable names like Alexander Wang and Loewe. You’ll find trend-conscious apparel, accessories, shoes, and apothecary goods that’ll put you on the next front of style. There’s also a seriously wonderful collection of chic and colorful homewares. Deck out your pad back home while upgrading your wardrobe? Not a bad plan.
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Juliet Ristorante learn more

See what it looks like when modern and classic influences come together for a distinctive dining experience. An inventive Italian menu featuring locally sourced ingredients makes for a well-crafted experience, one that pairs well with a nice glass of wine or an artisanal cocktail. Lounge in the beautifully shaded outdoor dining area and forget about anything that isn’t olive oil tasting.
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Photo: Whislers
9 / 25
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Whislers

Austin, Texas
Somewhere between rustic and chic, you’ll find this local favorite serving up killer cocktails without ever overdoing it. There’s a fun patio to fill with natives, transplants, and visitors for live music. But if you’ve had your fill of music from the festival, you'll find an Oaxacan-style mezcalería upstairs that’s perfect for an intimate experience of conversation over half-pours in clay copitas or full pours in traditional veladora glasses.
10 / 25
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$279 avg. room rate
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Hotel Van Zandt learn more

This boutique hotel in downtown is a perfect representation of the city. It's a laid back class act that suits trendsetters and vagabonds alike. The hotel promises world-class comfort with a Texas style and you get it in spades at Geraldine's, an authentic restaurant-bar featuring live music. Stay here and feel like a local, if only for a little while.
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Photo: Esby
11 / 25
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Esby

Austin, Texas
There’s a good spirit at this stylish apparel store. Its focus is "quality clothing for women with menswear mentality," which means the clothes balance comfort and wearability. Given plenty to choose from, you'll find your next favorite tops, pants, jumpsuits, dresses, sunglasses, jewelry, and apothecary goods. The methodology behind the offerings is sketching out a season's details a year in advance, picking the perfect fabric, and designing accordingly.
12 / 25
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Hillside Farmacy learn more

With the clean, darling charm of the 1920s, this former pharmacy is now a farm-to-fork spot that lands somewhere between antique chic and vintage glam. Its vibe is akin to an old-school drugstore malt shop if it was run out of a friend’s welcoming home. This where you hit if you're feeling oysters, boozy homemade sodas, wine, or a classic breakfast (though they’ve got a lot more).
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Photo: Emmer & Rye
13 / 25
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Emmer & Rye

Austin, Texas
This is no ordinary restaurant. Here, you score "seasonally inspired farm-to-table American cuisine in a Dim Sum style." It's quite the package deal from a hip small plates café. Don't skip the dessert menu either, since it's got sweets like grapefruit sorbet, black rice pudding, cocoa bean panna cotta, monkey bread, and pecan sticky buns (depending if you’re hitting it for brunch or dinner).
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Juniper Austin

Austin, Texas
When you combine premier ingredients and old world technique, you wind up with this celebrated menu, inspired by the best culinary parts of northern Italy and central Texas. Stay a while as you pair simple creative cocktails with items ranging from delicious garden-inspired appetizers to meaty pasta dishes.
Photo: Sway
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Sway

Austin, Texas
When it comes to Thai joints in town, it's pretty hard to pass up this modern open-kitchen eatery. Known for its take on curries, stir fries, seafood, and desserts, the award-winning restaurant also does a crafty spin on brunch, with items like spinach and chive dumplings and hibiscus and grapefruit mimosas.
Photo: Olive & June
16 / 25
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Olive & June learn more

Italian cuisine gets proper treatment and tribute at this three-story building that features four dining areas. The pasta is handmade in house each day and the restaurant has the largest and most diverse selection of Italian wine, Amari, and Grappa in town. You’ll also be quick to notice the 200-year-old oak tree that envelopes the stunning indoor-outdoor space.
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Photo: Vox Table
17 / 25
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Vox Table

Austin, Texas
This New American restaurant has an open and airy atmosphere as well as a small plates menu of wondrous French and Spanish flavors. From brunch items like olive oil pancakes to their special burger to dinner selections such as roasted pepper carpaccio and smoked hamachi pipettes, this place delivers. It also has quite the selection of beer, wine, and designer cocktails (with names like That Island Chick That Broke Your Heart and Sweat Pants With Uggs).
Photo: Paperboy
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Paperboy

Austin, Texas
A more casual, rewarding breakfast spot there is not. With a trailer and a cozy outdoor patio, these folks serve up a seasonal menu featuring produce and dairy from local farms, bread from local bakeries, and coffee from local roasters. They kill it with breakfast sandwiches and other early morning favorites. It feels like a beloved eclectic diner without the actual building.
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Space 24 Twenty

Austin, Texas
There's no shortage of live music here. Anchored by a central courtyard, this local favorite has always been about its community of bands and fans. Special events are no stranger here, whether it’s a pop-up shop or a timely marketplace. See what they’ve got going on while you’re in town, because it might not be there next time.
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Symon's Burger Joint

Austin, Texas
If you're hungry and in no mood for frou-frou foodie sensationalism, welcome to this beloved burger joint. At the standalone walk-up counter, you have your choice of five specialty burgers, three kinds of hotlinks, fresh-cut fries, and handspun milkshakes. There's also four kinds of draft beers and three kinds of wine. Make no mistake, this isn’t an old dive. It’s an award-winning burger joint run by Chef Michael Symon, who you might recognize as an Iron Chef on the Food Network or the co-host of ABC's The Chew.
Photo: Mohawk Austin
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Mohawk Austin

Austin, Texas
In downtown, this "well-traveled and beloved bar" is home to friends, musicians, and welcomed visitors. Get a drink, hear some live music, and stay out past your bedtime. The bar-venue’s design comes inspired by the people of the six nations, who call themselves the Haudenosaunee, meaning "People Building a Long House." There’s a sincere community spirit here and if you’re up for killer cocktails and down for a local band that rips, here’s your new hang for a spell.
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Elephant Room

Austin, Texas
Locals have been able to find "cool jazz in the basement" here since 1991. This underground staple of the city's nightlife features more than 20 draft beers and wines by the glass. So if the festival’s been blasting your nerves, find yourself here to wind down with smooth tunes and delicious drinks after sundown.
Photo: Bruce Malone
23 / 25
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Red Room

Austin, Texas
At this moody hideout, you’ll find exposed crimson brick, low lighting, comfy seating, and walls of eclectic wines and collector guitars. With more than 250 specialty bottles from around the globe, it's actually a pretty serious destinations for wine lovers. Don't worry about drinking glass after glass on an empty stomach though, as they've got cheese boards, farm-to-table salads, a wagyu brisket burger, and a flourless chocolate torte.
Photo: Sunroom
24 / 25
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$319 avg. room rate
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Sunroom learn more

If you're in need of new threads, this here is the promised land. You'll find this women's clothing and accessory boutique in the South Congress Hotel, blending west-coast-inspired aesthetic with urban sensibility. Their inventory is all set for spring with color-rich tops, dresses, jeans, bathing suits, jewelry, shoes, and sunglasses. Get a move on.
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