Pillow Talk: Between the Sheets of Hotel Magdalena, Austin

Hotel Magdalenas freeform pool echoes the natural swimming holes found in Austin
Hotel Magdalena's freeform pool echoes the natural swimming holes found in Austin | Courtesy of Hotel Magdalena

This fresh stay from the homegrown Bunkhouse group distils the city’s colorful, creative essence in the heart of the bohemian Bouldin Creek ‘hood.

As a “blue dot in a big red state,” free-spirited Austin recurrently tops the best places to live in the US, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a cosmopolitan 21st-century city, with great parks and hiking trails on its doorstep. Big tech investment has poured in, but the “Keep Austin Weird” indie spirit is strong – buoyed by a world-class music and art scene. Tap into the vibe at Hotel Magdalena – the latest addition from Austin’s celebrated Bunkhouse group, of Hotel Saint Cecilia and Hotel San José, plus Hotel Havana in San Antonio and the Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco. Here’s how to plan a weekend in Austin, using Magdalena as your base…

1. Hotel Magdalena, Austin


The retro stylish living room of the Spring Suite at the Hotel Magdalena
Courtesy of Hotel Magdalena

A swirly vintage neon sign sets the tone at this unashamedly retro-inspired hotel. But look around and you’ll see it’s much more than a nostalgia trip. Much of its carefully considered design references Austin’s 1970s culture. Elevated walkways and courtyards connect four distinct buildings, creating a treehouse-like feel inside grounds planted with native Texas flora. Adding to the vibe are warm earthy tones – especially the covetable serape-stripe robes – era-defining photos and Sangre de Fruta toiletries. A freeform pool echoes the city’s natural swimming holes, and it’s all just steps from always-buzzing South Congress Avenue. There are free bikes and yoga mats to rent and a program of events to tap into, too.

2. Bouldin Creek Cafe

Cafe, Vegetarian, Vegan

Interior of the Bouldin Creek Cafe in Austin, Texas, hipster bar and cafe serving vegetarian and vegan food
© Simon Leigh / Alamy Stock Photo
In a city with no shortage of veggie- and vegan-friendly restaurants, it takes a lot to stand out from the crowd. But this award-winning spot with a meat-free menu has earned a loyal following among Austinites over the past decade – still with the same window signage from its previous incarnation as a tire store. Ingredients are sourced from other small local businesses, and the cafe fundraises for the local community. Most importantly, the food is always made from scratch and delicious enough to pull in plenty of omnivores, too.

3. Jo's Coffee

Deli, American, Vegetarian

An iced Jos Coffee drink being held in front of a green wall
Courtesy of Jo's Coffee
The frequently long line leading to Jo’s is enough to gauge the popularity of this streetside coffee shop. It’s been a South Congress mainstay since opening in 1999, and is known as much for its “I love you so much” mural as its kick-ass coffee and freshly baked treats. You can often catch a local band knocking out a set here, adding to the community-hub feel. The sweet-toothed love the signature Iced Turbo, and the breakfast taco is close to legendary, so be sure to get there early before they run out.

4. Lady Bird Lake

Park, University

Austin, Texas Skyline and Tour Boat on Colorado River
© CCStockMedia / Depositphotos.com
Although a man-made reservoir – carved out of a stretch of the Colorado River – Lady Bird Lake sounds so much nicer. The bucolic name certainly suits this rather lovely central Austin oasis, where you can indulge in a raft of activities from hiking or biking its 10mi (16km) trail to water-based fun like kayaking and canoeing. From March to November, position yourself close to the Congress Avenue bridge to witness the remarkable scene of free-tail bat colonies swooping at sunset.

5. Home Slice

Restaurant, Bar, Italian, Vegetarian

Exterior of Home Slice Pizza with lit neon sign at night and outdoor barstool seating
© Jim Nix / Flickr
Ask your average Austinite where to go for the best pizza in town, and chances are they’ll direct you to this neon-lit landmark. It has evolved over the years from a mom-and-pop pizza joint into the go-to spot for New York-style pizza. It really gets its mojo on at night when pizza-hungry crowds spill from tables to the curb to chow down on generous slices of piping hot pie.

6. Auditorium Shores

Music Venue, Park

Stevie Ray Vaughan sculpture in front of Downtown Austin and Colorado River
© CCStockMedia / Depositphotos.com
Auditorium Shores at Town Lake Metropolitan Park together with the Butler Metro Park make up a great swathe of green space wedged between Bouldin Creek and the Colorado River. There’s loads to do here, whether it’s just flopping on the lawns with a picnic, strolling around the winding footpaths or attending one of the numerous outdoor shindigs often held here. As the name suggests, there are two auditoriums: one hosting regular events and the other dedicated to the performing arts.

7. The Continental Club

Music Venue

A close-up of the Continental Club sign
© Ohadby / Flickr
Justifiably dubbed the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin boasts the highest number of music venues per capita in the US. Few in the city come more hallowed than the Continental Club – an iconic nightspot that’s been running since the Fifties, and endures today as one of the top spots for rock, country, blues and rockabilly in the country. An intimate dive-bar vibe adds to its appeal, plus there’s no cover charge for most shows if you arrive early.

8. Güero's Taco Bar

Bar, Mexican

The bar area at Gueros Taco Bar in Austin
© Dennis Cox / Alamy Stock Photo
Locals have been getting their Mexican food fix at Güero’s Taco Bar for more than 35 years, and the family-run business is now in its second generation. You’ll find an old cantina vibe complete with paint-peel brick, well-worn floorboards and big collection of wall-mounted Mexicana. You’ll find everything from handmade corn tortillas to sizzling fajitas and frozen margaritas that will get you hitting the decked patio dance floor before you know it.

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