Named after the patron saint of music, Hotel Saint Cecilia’s historic house, stylish studios and boho bungalows emanate rebellious rock ’n’ roll character. Drawing inspiration from artistic, melodic types such as Warhol, Miro and The Stones, this boutique Texan hotel has sensual, sultry decor and a leafy tranquil setting, just off the SoCo strip.
Noon but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £541.47 ($661), including tax at 17 per cent.
Rates exclude breakfast (from US$15).
The vintage 1970s Citroën parked in the garden makes a great backdrop for a photoshoot.
At the hotel
Library, including DVDs and vintage vinyls, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, iPod dock, Geneva sound system including a turntable, minibar packed with gourmet treats such as calissons, and a bathroom apothecary minibar.
Our favourite rooms
Suite One, in the Victorian house, is a moody ruby- and black-splashed space, with a glimmering vintage crystal chandelier, heavy claret-coloured curtains, a black antique desk, and sheepskin and hide rugs scattered across the glossy, dark wood floors. The sitting room’s vivid turquoise, peacock-feather-patterned walls provide a trippy shot of colour, and the spacious bathroom, with its claw-foot bath tub, opens onto an outdoor shower. Garden Suite Five’s private porch, kitted out with two vintage tan leather club chairs and a table for cocktails, is the perfect setting for midnight mischief. Alternatively, Bungalow Twelve has lofty ceilings, blue and red vintage touches, a merman-worthy bath tub and views of the pool.
The outdoor 50ft pool is lit up by a big neon ‘SOUL’ sign; very Austin, and very fabulous.
Leave your oils and unguents at home – the bathroom’s minibar treats are divine; bring a moleskin notebook to jot down Dylan-style musings.
This hippy-at-heart hotel likes to spread the love, welcoming canine guests for $25 a day – as long as owners keep pets close by and clean up after them. See more pet-friendly hotels in Austin.
Welcome – travel cots are provided for babies and there is a babysitting service (book this 24 hours in advance).
A green as grass hotel, with biodegradable cleaning products, environmentally friendly paint splashed all around and a restaurant that recycles and uses locally sourced organic produce.
Nab the vintage black leather sofa outside and dig the view as you snack.
Think Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis: channel offbeat, hipster cool, with vintage Ossie Clark and Biba threads.
The kitchen is open for breakfast, rustling up organic, farm-fresh treats including omelettes with truffle oil, French toast and crêpes. Eat in the ink-blue Hotel Saint Cecilia Lounge, with its rock ‘n’ roll marble-topped bar, resident (and resplendent) white stuffed bird and weathered chesterfield sofas. You can also order cheese boards or charcuterie plates at the bar.
Quaff the bar’s signature Two Saints cocktail in the Hotel Saint Cecilia Lounge, and soak up the moody soundtrack of 60s and 70s rock and folk, with some modern indie jives thrown in for the young bloods in the audience.
Breakfast is served up from 7 to 11am, and the laid-back bar is open from 5pm to 11pm Sunday to Thursday, and 4pm to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
Ask at reception for drinks or treats outside of the bar’s opening hours, although they stop serving alcohol after 2am (how wise).
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is 30 minutes away by car; fly direct from across America and London, or catch a connection in LAX if flying in from Australia. Our Smith24 team of travel experts are on hand round the clock to book your flights and help arrange transfers (taxis costs between $40-70 either way).
Amtrak operates regular rail services to and from Austin station, which is at 250 North Lamar Boulevard.
The main roads that lead into Austin are Loop 1 (or MoPac, as Austinites call it), which traverses the city north to south, US Highway 183, which snakes from east to west, or US Highway 290, which offers a quick east-west route from the airport to west and south-west Austin.
Worth getting out of bed for
Expand your musical horizons with a rummage through the hotel’s vintage vinyl collection – then sound out your finds on the turntables in your room. The 50ft pool, with its groovy hot-pink neon ‘soul’ sign will cool you down from the Texas sun, and there are white banana chairs and squashy red sofas for post-swim lounging. The hotel has a stash of retro bikes to borrow, so you can explore your surroundings. Then again, given its moody appeal and dark, bluesy decor, you may just want to read and relax in the Hotel Saint Cecilia Lounge, lime-laden cocktail in hand. See bingo (and chickens) in a different light with a game of Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon. The Barton Springs Pool is the place where hot locals (in both senses) cool down from their Austin adventures. Retail addicts will get their shopping fix with a wander down South Congress strip – there is a bounty of quirky vintage stores stuffed with cowboy-chic finds.
Eat in the romantically lit garden, and listen to live music at Botticelli’s Italian trattoria. O more a laidback meal, drop in to Enoteca and fill up on moreish antipasti, slender wood-fired pizzas and fresh pasta. Can there be a better way to start the day than with Enoteca’s Sunday brunch, which includes delicate Italian crêpes, fragrant brioche and bellini (if you dare). Street food is given a sophisticated rethink at La Condesa. This hip Mexican restaurant also boasts over 80 varieties of blue agave tequila.
Jo’s Coffee is a toothpaste-green coffee shack, which shares a parking lot with the San Jose Hotel (contender with Saint Cecilia for the ‘hippest hotel in town’ title), and serves up homemade cakes, pastries, sandwiches and a wide variety of caffeine-loaded concoctions, both hot and iced.
Have a drink at Saint Cecilia’s (even more) laid-back sister hotel, in the Hotel San José’s Courtyard Wine and Beer Lounge. Every Thursday, there are Rock ’n’ Reel nights, with a gig by a local band and a movie under the stars. On Wednesday nights, the house DJ, Waxploitation, takes to the decks from 7.30pm to 10.30pm.
For Austin residents, the Hotel Saint Cecilia has plenty of cachet: you can’t just waltz in for a cocktail at the bar anytime or even stroll the grounds. Both are accessible only to hotel guests and the lucky few who carry a coveted Saint Cecilia membership card. My Mr Smith and I love this Austin boutique hotel as a special place to mark milestones. This one commemorates our waning days as a family of two. At seven months pregnant, I am excited for lingering bubble baths, rather than boozy nights around the fire pit.
Though Hotel Saint Cecilia is only two blocks off bustling South Congress, where its edgier little sis Hotel San José sits, its lush grounds feel secluded from the city. A chic vest-clad attendant greets us as we pull off a residential street into the discreet parking lot, whisking away our bags and leading us to the front office. Cecilia is the patron saint of music and poetry, so artsy nods to her pop up throughout the property in subtle, yet colourful ways. The lobby is fittingly lined with an extensive library of vinyl. Outside, a neon side that reads ‘SOUL’ illuminates the sun-drenched lap pool.
As we head to our room, past massive oak trees, we gaze at the beautiful buildings, including a white-washed 1800s Victorian house holding five suites, modern grey-stucco pool bungalows and the main building, with a dark Parisian parlour-style bar at its centre. The rocking complex feels like a private community where Mick Jagger and Hunter S. Thompson would hang out. We haven’t even arrived at our room and we’re already smitten with Cecilia.
We duck through a private gate to the poolside bungalow that will be ours for the next two nights. It’s a study in contradictions: luxurious but understated, modern but vintage. It’s a special place, but it lacks my one critical criterion: a soaking tub. The staff immediately move us upstairs to a bungalow with a bath and a special bonus: a clear view of the city’s downtown skyline, which we plan to enjoy from both the inside breakfast nook and the covered front porch.
Every detail is perfect in this room. Oversize French doors separate the front sitting room from the bedroom, where the focal point is HSC’s famous, sleep-seducing handmade Hastens beds. I test it out, sink right in and feel tempted to spend the rest of the day engulfed in the high-threadcount splendour of the mattress. But bedtime will come. On my way to the tub, I peek into the mini bar. It’s stocked with a hipster’s little black book of independent producers, including Mast Brothers Chocolate from Brooklyn, Hampton Popcorn and Good Cheese Co. Olive Oil Crackers. If I weren’t expecting baby Smith, I would’ve mixed a cocktail using mini-bottles of Austin-based Tito’s Vodka.
Alas, the only elixirs I will use are the enticing blends beside my tub. I ogle Dr Singha’s mustard rub and citrus body oil, then light incense by Nag Champa for the ultimate relaxation. Oiled and finally ready, I climb into the black mosaic tub for what is more than just a bath: it is an experience. As the sun sets, the low lighting of the room and the ultra plush bedding remind us that leaving Cecilia, even for a quick dinner, isn’t easy.
Rather than try one of the restaurants on the nearby South Congress stretch (portmanteau: SoCo), for dinner, we opt for a longer stroll to the new French-Vietnamese fusion eatery, Elizabeth Street Café. After slurping flavorful pho with oolong tea on neighbouring South First , we pause for a nightcap in the hotel lounge. Part sexy cocktailerie, part genteel garden terrace, we praise a stray peacock and an unsurprisingly perfect playlist for setting the scene. Then it’s back to our bungalow, where we open the windows onto the balcony and test out the turntable.
After a slow-dance to Al Green’s Greatest Hits on vinyl, we curl up in the silky sheets and check off our breakfast orders on the letterpress menu that we pin to the door with a leather, HSC-monogrammed magnet. Finally, we nestle into the padded bliss of the Hastens.
Cecilia’s breakfast menu tends toward short-and-sweet, rather than a Texas-size all-you-can-muster menu, but like everything else at the hotel, the attention to detail is impeccable. When the appointed breakfast hour rolls around, an unobtrusive server appears and sets up our meal – a ham and Gruyère crepe, along with granola and yogurt – on the porch paired with our newspaper of choice.
After we’ve digested, we hop on the hotel’s complimentary cruiser bikes for a shopping tour of SoCo, making stops in favourite vintage haunts, including Feathers, New Bohemia, Prototype, along with men’s shops STAG and Service Menswear. Then we retreat to our beloved Cecilia with visions of sipping Pellegrino poolside with a copy of Glen E Friedman’s The Idealist borrowed from the hotel’s extensive library of art, music and poetry books. We pick up dessert from the sinful donut trailer Gourdough’s to sweeten the afternoon. We soak it up, even as daylight dims and the SOUL sign shines brighter.
We may not have not partied at this super-stylish boutique hideaway like the many musicians who check into Cecilia on visits to Austin or for performances at South by Southwest. But we feel just as hip when we pull of its gates. Hotel Saint Cecilia is just the kind of place where indie-spirited travellers with an appreciation for great design and fine detail can rev up or relax however they please – whether that be with epic late-night rock star revelry or simply a hot bath and an intoxicating view.