Turning heads in the lively 2nd Street District, Austin Proper Hotel encapsulates the march-to-your-own-beat spirit of Texas’s wonderfully quirky capital. Designer Kelly Wearstler evokes historic Craftsman style in rooms and suites, and brings Lone Star artisans to the fore throughout. Local culinary heroes McGuire Moorman Hospitality has devised an exotic Levantine-Moroccan menu and drinks list (gourmet kebabs, Barbary-style brunches, liberal use of harissa and ras el-hanout); and with Lady Bird Lake just steps away, there are on-high views of Austin’s greener bits – not least from the fifth-floor pool. Plus, there’s a spa and more in the works for 2020.
Double rooms from £243.31 ($315), including tax at 17 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of 3% per booking on check-out and an additional resort fee of $23.40 per room per night on check-out.
Rates do not usually include the hotel’s à la carte breakfast. A daily $20 amenity fee will be charged to cover WiFi, in-room coffee and refills in the lobby, two bottles of water a day and access to the fitness centre and steam showers.
If you get peckish in the afternoon, snacks are served up between 3pm and 5pm. The hotel offers an intro to Austin’s vibrant art scene – start with Rick Van Dyck’s cacti-style ceramics, city-scene snapper Barry Stone’s photographs and witty knitter Magda Sayag’s eyecatching creations, then check out Gabriela Martinez’s urns and more in the lobby.
At the hotel
Coffee shop, 24-hour fitness centre with a Pilates and meditation room, lobby lounge, bicycles to borrow, concierge, laundry service, WiFi. In rooms: HDTV with Apple TV, Vifa Bluetooth speaker, Nespresso coffee machine, minibar, a panel to control the shades and lighting, and Aesop bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Pick the Premier King Balcony Room. It’s just as quirkily stylish as the other rooms, but in a city where balconies are as rare as freezing summers, and in such a scenic spot, you’ll be glad for the outdoor space. If you get very attached to the city – it’s easily done – you can experience what it might be like to live in the hotel’s permanent residences with a stay in the Proper Penthouse Suite.
Not only are Austin’s most picturesque parts – downtown’s glittering skyscrapers, Lady Bird Lake, the Barton Creek Greenbelt – laid out below the fifth-floor alfresco pool, but you can have cocktails delivered to the deck and take cover in a cabana.
Silene spa is slated to open later in the year, but in the meantime, you can try out the hotel’s 24-hour fitness centre. Low-to-high impact activities include meditation and Pilates and strength training, and there are plenty of things to play with: Peloton and Airdynex bikes, treadmills with views over the city, weights, cardio equipment and a punching bag. Plus there are free yoga and boot-camp classes (check with staff for the schedule), and the hotel can secure a personal trainer if needed.
Pack activewear for all occasions: yoga stretches, jaunty hikes, languid swims… that sort of thing. And bring a frisbee for lakeside games, and strap on a geetar if Austin’s music scene calls.
The hotel has several ADA-compliant rooms, with braille signage, grab bars in bathrooms, wide doorways, roll-in showers and visual alarms.
Up to two doggies (no larger than 45lbs) can stay in a room for $100 a stay, for each animal; your good boys or girls will get a bed, bowl and treats. Extra charges may apply for any damages or additional cleaning incurred. See more pet-friendly hotels in Austin.
Children are welcome; on request, baby cots can be added free to all rooms except the Premier King Balcony and Premier King View, and the Peacock has a dedicated menu for little Smiths (mini mezze, PB&J sandwiches, pita-bread pizzas).
The hotel has LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification, energy-efficient lighting and sustainable waterworks.
Get cosy in a corner table to make sharing plates all the easier.
Dressed-up denims and cowboy boots; ethereal vintage pieces or something that harmonises with the hotel’s freak-chic style.
The peeps at McGuire Moorman Hospitality are the culinary pros behind some of Austin’s best-loved restaurants (Jeffrey’s of Austin, Elizabeth Street Café, Clark’s, Lamberts…) and now they’re crafting the city’s next talking point: the Proper’s Peacock restaurant, where Levantine and North African flavours make for an exciting menu. Brunches of shakshuka, spanakopita, and blueberry pancakes with vanilla labneh and orange-blossom syrup; oak-fired meats and fish for lunch; dinners of gourmet kebabs, chicken in saffron broth, ras-el-hanout-spiked cod. All of which comes with a side of Shoal Creek views in Kelly Wearstler’s delightfully eccentric dining room. The more casual Mockingbird dishes out Mediterranean savouries – falafel, gyros, herby salad bowls – soft-serve frozen Greek yoghurt and vitamin-packed smoothies.
The Peacock's cocktail list is as exotic as its dishes, with Moroccan Mojitos shaken with limoncello, an ouzo-shaken Athen’s Cobbler and Pomegranate Martini. Plus, it has a wine list that makes pit stops in Lebanon and Greece alongside old-world favourites. Goldie’s is the hotel’s dedicated bar, a stylish, intimate space with printed screens and pink-marble tables. At the sunken bar, mixologists pour small-batch tequila shots and glasses of natural wine, and dream up original libations.
At the Peacock, breakfast runs from 7am to 10.30am, lunch from 11am to 3pm, dinner from 5pm to 10.30pm. Mockingbird currently opens from 7am to 2.30pm.
Dishes from the Peacock’s menu are available in-room from 6am to 10.30pm.
Austin Proper Hotel lives in downtown’s 2nd Street District, with gig venues, indie shops, friendly bars and laid-back hangouts within walking distance. It’s steps away from Lady Bird Lake, too.
The hotel is just a 20-minute drive from Austin-Bergstrom International; there are direct flights here from London Heathrow and most major cities in the US.
If you’re training it cross-country, Austin’s Amtrak station is just a 15-minute walk from the hotel.
The surrounding area is walkable, with plenty of scenic trails around Lady Bird Lake; but a car will come in handy for exploring Austin and beyond – if you’re not already road tripping, you can pick up some wheels at the airport. There’s valet parking on-site for $45 a night ($25 for three hours, $35 for up to six hours) and charge points for electric cars (fees depend on the length of time used).
Worth getting out of bed for
Map out your route for the day from the fifth-floor pool deck after a refreshing swim. You can take your work-out indoors in the very well-equipped fitness room (or join a meditation, yoga or boot-camp session according to your energy levels). Or get your pulse racing tracking the trails around Lady Bird Lake (the hotel has bikes and e-bikes to borrow too). Stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing and more can be arranged, but a little further along lies Barton Creek, Austin’s green lung, which offers leafy hikes and wild swims. The 2nd Street District, just a block from the hotel, has cosmopolitan hangouts and indie boutiques, whether you want to buy a guitar, toys for all-ages, artisanal skull sculptures or rare sneakers.
The Texan capital has been home to a multitude of music legends, from outsider songwriter Daniel Johnston, country king Willie Nelson, post-rock instrumentalists Explosions in the Sky, blues songbird Janis Joplin… And, you’re placed within walking distance of Austin City Limits Live (the venue behind the namesake festival held in Zilker Park in October) and 3Ten, both big-deal gig spots. Also nearby you’ll find rockabilly honky-tonk The White Horse, intimate jazz boîte Elephant Room and punk-spewing Beerland. Or keep things country at the famous Broken Spoke, where you’ll likely get lassoed into some line dancing. In March, the immense city-wide festival SXSW sees the population swell; it’s a dizzying experience, so plan well (but also be flexible), download the app, keep your cool and it’ll be unforgettable.
The Blanton Museum of Art has well-hung halls, but its star turn is the poignantly beautiful Austin, an elegiac rainbow-lit chapel, the last work by late artist Ellsworth Kelly. Hope Outdoor Gallery is coated in some of the city’s finest street art. The Keep Austin Weird slogan rings true, too – there’s a line-up of left-field things to do: Renaissance fairs, Slavic carnivals, Acroyoga in the park, Zilker Garden’s faerie trail, Chicken Sh*t Bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon… There’s never a dull moment. Also curious, but one of Austin’s most beloved attractions are the bat colonies living under South Congress Bridge, whose night flights are crowd-luring spectacles. To end your day, if you’re not gigging or something stranger, swing by the Violet Crown Cinema, where arthouse and foreign-language films are screened alongside compilations of the best new cat videos. Even better, you can watch while chomping on a grilled cheese or a tasty range of ’dogs.
We hope you’re hungry – Austin has possibly one of America’s greatest food scenes, from scrappy trucks serving laden tacos to elegant date-night eateries. Now, those tacos: some of Austin’s most revered are of the breakfast variety, and each Austinite has an opinion on who does the best; if you don’t have time to conduct research, hit well-respected Veracruz All Natural (the Cesar Chavez truck is the closest) for the fresh, flavourful folds. Torchy’s Tacos is another favourite – impress the locals by ordering off the secret menu. Austin is also king of grilled meats and tangy sauces: Franklin Barbecue, La Barbecue and Brown’s Bar-B-Que each have intimidating portions and excel in belt-loosening meals.
Pizza toppings hit a high note at Home Slice and Via 313 (make ours a white clam and pecorino; or a gorgonzola with fig and prosciutto). In spring and summer, partake in one of the city’s famed crawfish boils; arrive early for Haymaker’s yearly boil, where you’re charged by the scoop and Jell-O shots are a dollar. For more refined fare, try Pitchfork Pretty’s tasting menu; sophisticated – and often veggie-friendly – dishes include caramelised spaghetti squash with citrus, coconut and habanero, and halibut with beets and XO sauce in buttermilk broth. Crú wine bar, close to the hotel, has cheese flights, charcuterie boards and tempting sharing plates: wagyu meatballs, goat’s-cheese beignets, lobster and shrimp potstickers… At Jeffrey’s of Austin dinner starts with caviar and journeys through king crab, squab and such to wagyu rib-eyes and porterhouses. On a health kick? Flower Child has produce-packed bowls and wraps, and Ramen Tatsu-Ya has satisfying broths.
Austin Proper sits close to 6th Street (AKA Dirty 6th), a gauntlet of pub crawls and messier-by-the-minute student bars – so, depending on your stamina, you might want to divert to the city’s more sophisticated drinkeries and craft breweries. Péché is Austin’s first absinthe bar, but don’t fret, there’s plenty of choice, with fine whisky, rum and gin cocktails and French-accented bar snacks. The Jackalope’s downtown bar is dive-ier, but a lot of fun, with south-of-the-border-inspired cocktails and spirits. Seven Grand is a wellspring for whisky lovers, and the The Roosevelt Room is a slick dress-to-impress drinkery. For best-of-Austin brews, chase a walk in Zilker Park with a few swift ones in the Zilker Brewing Company’s tap room, check-in at Blue Owl’s tasting room for flavourful sours and give sustainable microbrewery Hops and Grain some love.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this Arts and Crafts-style hotel in a hip downtown ’hood and unpacked their bottle of Franklin barbecue sauce and cans of Blue Owl beer, a full account of their ‘keeping it weird’ city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Austin Proper Hotel in Texas…
Taken with Texas’s coolest city, Rolling Stone Keith Richards once said ‘I like it here in Austin. Anybody got a room?’ It’s unlikely he was short on offers, but if you’re asking yourself the same thing, we have a definitive answer for you in the new Austin Proper Hotel. Housed in a high-rise overlooking Lady Bird Lake and the green vistas of Hill Country beyond, this – the latest from the Cali-based Proper hotel group – has taken notes on its neighbourhood, adopting the cosy style of historic Craftsman houses in rooms, commissioning eye-catching projects from local artists (ceramicist Rick Van Dyke, photographer Barry Stone, guerilla knitter Magda Sayeg), and unfurling its freak flag a little. (We especially like the showpiece staircase decorated with 60 vintage carpets).
Designer Kelly Wearstler wrangled the hotel’s unique look over three years, adding nods to Austin’s sunny outlook and leafier enclaves in its yellow, sage and rust colour scheme; and sourcing local leathers, hides, woods and metals. But, beyond good looks, the hotel’s Levantine restaurant is a contender among Austin’s many well-loved restaurants, the fifth-floor pool has swoonsome aspects and cabanas to chill in, and Goldie’s bar has small-batch tequilas and ingenious cocktails (say, the ‘clarified bourbon milk punch’ with honey, spices, grapefruit and a milk wash) to punch up date nights. So, make like Keef and get a room.