In April this year I embarked on my first solo travelling trip in forever – to Texas! Specifically Austin, before a few days in Waco for the Illume Retreat.
The reason for my trip was over-achingly to attend Illume – an intense restful retreat, designed to help you to focus on your purpose in life and work.
At the time of booking the retreat I was feeling really adrift with my ambitions, and despite it being a big commitment – both financially and time-wise – there was a little voice which kept nudging me to sign up. And so I did! And I am SO happy I took the plunge.
This post isn’t about Illume (although I could talk your ear off about it! And no doubt will do so at some point soon!), it’s about the first port of call on my trip: Austin. And a little sprinkling of Waco too.
I truly fell in LOVE with Austin, and I can’t wait to share my roundup of the best places to eat, drink and have fun, in the city.
I would go back in a heartbeat, and I hope that my roundup inspires you to explore a trip of your own perhaps . . . ?!
Fun fact: I LOVE creating travel itineraries, so researching places for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks was MY JAM.
Here are a handful of places I REALLY recommend going to in Austin . . .
Where I Ate, Drank And Had Fun, In Austin
Where I Stayed
For the six nights I stayed in Austin, I booked an Air BnB. For four of those nights my great friend Amanda was joining me, and so we chose a lovely guest house on the east side of the city. It was perfect! Here’s the exact Air BnB we stayed in, if you’re interested.
Once we hired a car (which we did on our first day after realising we couldn’t walk everywhere haha!) I really enjoyed staying in the east side. It was close to the airport (20 mins by car), and all the other areas of town we wanted to get to.
Nothing is that far away in Austin, and so we rarely drove for more than 10 minutes to get to another area. Amanda and I joked that EVERY journey was ‘8 minutes’ on Google Maps.
Where I Ate and Drank In Austin
Le Politique Austin – I enjoyed the nicest brunch alone here on my last day in Austin. I took a book, and spent about three hours brunching, reading, and rosé-ing. I recall so vividly how at peace and happy I felt here, it was amazing. The decor of Le Politique is SO swoon-worthy, and the menu – which is French – is delicious. Book in here for an elegant (without being stuffy) brunch.
Clark’s Oyster Bar – this was the first place Amanda and I stumbled upon to have a quick bite to eat, and it was gorgeous! The decor, again, is so swish. Yellows and blues – it has a preppy vibe which I love. We ordered oysters (my first time!), a huge stack of fries (pencil-thin and delicious) and a salad, and just whiled away some time here. We sat outside which I really recommend if the weather allows for it.
Hotel Van Zandt – Amanda and I went here for sunset cocktails and dinner together. It was one of those perfect evenings where the sky looks like a watercolour, the drinks are strong and the company is the best bit of all. It felt like time stretched on forever here. The view from the rooftop bar and restaurant is amazing over Austin, and the overall vibe is pretty cool.
Café No Sé at South Congress Hotel – this was the place in Austin I was most looking forward to visiting, after discovering it via Camille Styles. To say Café No Sé stole my heart would be a monumental understatement. The decor was completely up my street – light, bright, eclectic and with splashes of colour – I was literally like a kid in a sweet shop! The food is fresh, and colourful too, and I enjoyed a gorgeous lunch here with Amanda, and brunch later on in the week with Kim. Plus Café No Sé is part of the South Congress Hotel which is a MUST visit during your trip to Austin. There are lots of other little boutiques and coffee shops to visit in the near vicinity.
Hillside Farmacy – I loved it here so much I went back THREE times! In 10 days! That’s a lot – ha! Hillside Farmacy is a beautiful speak easy-esque restaurant and bar, which is decorated like an old fashioned (you guessed it!) pharmacy, but with the addition of the most stunning bar and plenty of Pinterest-worthy house plants.
The indoor space is gorgeous, but it’s the outdoor seating which I really love.
Order a rosé and enjoy the balmy heat of an Austin evening.
Licha’s Cantina – my AirBnB host was evangelical about Licha’s Cantina. And I have to say, he was VERY right! Licha’s Cantina is a traditional Mexican restaurant, which serves authentic – impossibly delicious – food. You can’t book a table, and there’s often a queue but you can grab a margarita in the back garden and wait it out. Which let’s be honest, isn’t the worst thing to happen – ha! Amanda and I enjoyed an amazing evening here.
Shops And Places I Visited In Austin
Outdoor Voices – a super cool athletic brand founded by Tyler Haney – read her inspiring story here. She’s amazing! I picked up a pair of leggings at OV which have swiftly become my favourites for navigating that gym/real life commute.
TOMS – I love TOMS, and the store in Austin is so cute! Not only is it a great retail space, it also has a super sweet cafe you can grab a coffee from, and then lounge around on one of the swing seats, hammocks or outdoor tables.
Magnolia Market – this is actually in Waco, a 90 minute drive from Austin, but it’s worth a visit if you have the time. Magnolia Market spans two HUGE converted silos, and is a beautiful homeware and lifestyle store, started by Chip and Joanna Gaines, of the cult TV show Fixer Upper. Admittedly I had no idea about the show prior to going to Austin, but once I was there I understood that it’s a BIG deal. Chip and Joanna are insanely popular, and their products really are lovely. Think: Anthropologie-meets-farmhouse-neutrals. I bought a little vase which I am very happy with.
Target – my first time to Target! Probably the best store of the whole trip – ha!
Blanton Museum of Art – on my last day in Austin I spent the most wonderful few hours pottering around the Blanton Museum of Art. I managed to catch the Ellsworth Kelly exhibition just before it closed, and I honestly felt like I was in a movie! It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon after my solo brunch at Le Politique. The permanent collection at the museum is amazing, so I recommend going whether or not you’re into the temporary exhibition that’s currently on.
Once you’re here you’re also right round the corner from the Texas State Capitol which is an absolutely stunning building – and WELL worth a visit.
The Colorado River – the Colorado river runs right through Austin and it’s so lovely to spend some time walking alongside it. I did so on a Sunday, and so many other people were enjoying a little stroll down there too. If you’re into water sports or hiking, there are lots of companies that run classes and excursions along the river so it’s worth looking up if that’s your jam.
I flew with British Airways to Austin, and the flight was really comfortable. I made sure to choose flight times which I wouldn’t stress over (midday from London, and an evening flight back from Austin). On a whole those timings worked a treat for jet lag and I didn’t feel worn out on either leg of the journey.
Norwegian now flies from London Gatwick to Austin and it’s the cheapest fare I’ve seen so far. I haven’t flown with the airline myself yet but I’ve heard good things from friends that have.
Hoops: Dinny Hall | Heels: Karen Millen (old)
If you love exploring cities, and you’re big on eating and drinking out, and have a soft spot for creative endeavours – Austin is a MUST visit for you!
The beating heart of Austin is so creative, welcoming and fun. It’s a city which I’d happily revisit year on year. I’m already fantasising about returning in 2019!
What’s Your Take?
Have you ever been to Austin, or would you like to?
Do any of these places pique your interest? And if you could visit one – which would it be?!
Love, Monica x
* Photography of me and the gorgeous TOMS store by Brandon Hill – all other photos taken by yours truly on my iPhone ????????*