Yet another hotel hit for the cool crowd in Texas’s trendiest city, Hotel Magdalena in Austin is as fashionably fun-loving as her big siblings, Saint Cecilia and San José. This latest addition, once a motel owned by Willie Nelson, keeps it in the family with the clan’s signature playful design, buzzy hangout hubs and a lawn to gather on. Austin’s newly slick South Congress neighbourhood is a short walk away, as are its legendary live-music venues, cool cafés, independent shops – and bats under the bridge.
Double rooms from £185.15 ($228), including tax at 17 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional service charge of $2.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast.
The hotel hosts regular cultural and wellness events, from live music to yoga classes. Experiential art installations have included confessional booths where a resident artist will pen a song about your recent revelation.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, coffee service in the lobby, boutique, yoga and bicycles to borrow. In rooms: free phone calls, air-conditioning, minibar stocked with locally made snacks, TV and Sangre de Fruta bath products in Magdalena’s own scent.
Our favourite rooms
Keep an eye on the action from the supersize Terrace Suite, whose namesake outdoor space overlooks the lawn. It also has custard-coloured walls, Bedouin marriage beads above the bed, an airy living room and a bath tub. Families and groups can pile into a Music Lane Queen, each of which has two queen-size beds.
There’s a sunken saltwater pool by the lawn, open to guests only between 7am and 10pm (6pm for children).
If you feel the only thing missing from your outfit is a colourful silk scarf, there’s a handy Hermès right next door – and the shops of South Congress await for further upping of trend levels. You’ll also be able to stockpile Texan-made goods and Bunkhouse hotel group merch right in the lobby’s boutique.
There are specially adapted rooms for disabled guests and there’s lift access to all floors.
All ages are welcome and there are rooms with two queen-size beds for families. Pack and play cots can be added for free.
The hotel has been hewn from recycled cedar wood, every drop of rainwater that falls is harnessed and there’s a kitchen garden on-site. And in case you need a little encouragement, your room will have tokens that encourage eco-friendly choices.
For a place with no shortage of buzz, the patio has the most hum.
Leave the chaps to the real cowboys.
Summer House on Music Lane is the lakehouse on loan you never knew you wanted, with the homegrown meals to match. There’s a wood-fired grill ready to sear the signature backyard chicken and other straightforward, slow-food favourites, with herbs and garnishes just picked from the garden. Breakfast and weekend brunches are served here or you can head out to one of SoCo’s super-cool cafés.
Coffee service in the lobby and an in-room on-call cocktail menu ensure you won’t go thirsty – and there’s a bar in the restaurant, plus the Magdalena Bar at the edge of the lawn. The latter will ensure your pool days are accompanied by an endless flow of frozen margs and piña coladas. The Magdalena Bar is open from 3pm (11am at weekends) to 10pm.
Breakfast hours are 7am to 11am (10am at weekends). Lunch is from 11am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with brunch on offer from 10am to 3pm at weekends. Dinner is served from 5pm to 10pm Sunday to Thursday (until 11pm on Friday and Saturday)
Food from the restaurant menu can be ordered in between 7am and 10pm.
Hotel Magdalena is on the mellifluously named Music Lane in Austin’s South Congress neighbourhood, a few blocks from the banks of Lady Bird Lake.
Austin-Bergstrom International is the closest airport – the drive to the hotel should only take around 15 minutes. You’ll be able to use a taxi-hailing app once you land.
South Congress can be conquered on foot, but a car might come in handy to get to other parts of Austin and beyond – valet parking at the hotel costs $42 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
South Congress is Austin’s hippest ’hood and the hotel has a shortcut straight into the heart of it – the independent boutiques, coffee shops and diners that made it famous are mostly congregated around Congress Avenue. Hipsters will also be able to get their food-truck fix here and, as an extra bonus, it’s Austin’s most walkable area. Join in with the city’s weirdest ritual by gathering around Congress Avenue Bridge around sunset, ready for the cloud of bats (the world’s largest urban flying-mammal colony) to swoop out.
Have tacos for breakfast at Carpenters Hall, set within fellow Bunkhouse bro Carpenter Hotel; or try the Mediterranean flavours imported all the way from Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece and Chicago at Aba.
Indochina’s greatest creation can be ordered at the banh mi-dispensing Elizabeth Street Café, as can pho, noodles and Vietnamese coffees. Joann’s has an all-day menu, milkshakes and a whole list of tequilas and mezcals to try.
The iconic (we promise) Continental Clubis within walking distance of Hotel Magdalena for live music spanning roots to rockabilly – and for more wholesome activities the morning after, Lady Bird Lake is there for the jogging (/gentle strolling).
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 hipster-friendly hotel in Texas and unpacked their cowboy boots and nostalgic snacks, a full account of their Lone Star State break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Hotel Magdalena in Austin…
Texas may be the Lone Star State, but celestial bodies are about the only thing flying solo around here, since Hotel Magdalena is a sociable sort. Like her older siblings (and fellow Smith stays) Hotel Saint Cecilia and Hotel San José, Magdalena knows how to have a good time, in this case with poolside parties, photography showcasing the address’s heyday as Willie Nelson’s Austin Ospry House and welcome ceremonies featuring flowing frozen margaritas. And she smells so good, it’s been bottled – the hotel’s very own Sangre de Fruta scent is for sale in the boutique.
Minibars are stocked with nostalgic childhood snacks, the Texas edition, starring Moon Pies, Topo Chico cans and Frito bean dip – along with, of course, nearby St Elmo Brewery’s best beers for the bearded. Make new friends by crossing the elevated walkways and courtyards that connect the property’s four buildings, passing bigtooth maples, redbuds and little gem magnolia trees as you go. South Congress and its famous bars, boutiques and, er, bats are just steps away, but you’ll be glad of this peaceful little oasis just 20 feet away.