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South By Southwest is A popular ten-day music, film and interactive festival in Austin, Texas. The whole city is taken over by shows, talks and gigs which makes finding SXSW accommodation extremely difficult. I (Gemma) have attended South By three times now and the other Scot, Craig, has hit number four. Trust us, finding SXSW hotels and hostels is not easy.
You have to expect to pay two to three times the amount of normal Austin prices (regardless of hotel location), book fast, and be flexible. If your work boss isn’t paying, you might need to accept that a downtown Austin hotel is not for you this year!
Don’t worry though, there are lots of affordable ways to get around Austin such as Uber, Lyft, e-scooter, e-bikes and the SXSW bus.
» » You may also like: our ultimate SXSW guide
Hotels for SXSW in Austin
SXSW opens its e-doors around August each year, however, the dates for the following year are announced as soon as the festival is over.
Personally, we have never waited until August, opting to search and book as soon as we decide we are going.
South By Southwest 2021 runs from March 12th – March 21st, 2021.
You don’t have to attend the full fling though. EDU takes place TBC, then Interactive during TBC. Film overlaps on the TBC. Finally, music officially kicks off from the TBC.
When searching for South By Southwest hotels remember, it is just a bed. You can grab cheap tacos for breakfast in the city or tap a free breakfast party. This helps keep the SX costs down.
Add another $10-25 on per day to the cost of the accommodation if you are booking where you need to take a car share into town and back again at night.
Even with the best of intentions, we tend to walk in and taxi back because SX is exhausting!
Hotels Closest to Austin Conference Center
The hub for SXSW is the Austin Conference Center. This is where you pick up your badges, attend panels and visit the trade show.
The Center is also very close to 6th and Rainey Street where many of the official and unofficial parties take place.
Expect the following hotels to be around the $800-£1200 per night during SXSW.
Hilton Hotel $$$
Don’t get excited about the Hilton unless your work is paying. SXSW and Hilton team up, they are an official hotel for the conference. However, you can book dates just before.
The reliable Hilton Hotel is on 4th, a prime downtown location for SX festival-goers.
- Pros: Location, pool.
- Cons: Price, official SX location so wait to book.
- Address: 500 East 4th Street, Austin.
- Distance from Austin Convention Center: 1 min walk.
Fairmont Austin Hotel $$$
One of the best things about the Fairmont Austin Hotel, aside from being super close to the Conference Center, is the rooftop bar and pool, according to guests.
You can literally roll out of bed, grab a free SX breakfast at whatever central party is throwing tacos your way and head into the Conference Center.
The hotel also has gym if the guilt kicks in, a spa to soothe the fear and an outdoor swimming pool for catching some rays. There’s a bar on-site for a hair of the dog as well as a restaurant with room service if you get the munchies.
- Pros: Location, rooftop pool and bar.
- Cons: Price.
- Address: 101 Red River Street, Austin, TX 78701.
- Distance from Austin Convention Center: 6 mins walk.
THE Line $$$
Ultra hip, THE Line is a minimalist hotel with a rustic feel in a prime location.
Only a six-minute walk from the Convention Center and a 17-minute stumble away from Rainey Street, this modern hotel is one for Instagram fans.
Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, the hotel itself has a heated pool and sun terrace.
Free bikes for guests.
- Pros: Super modern and hip, pool, location.
- Cons: Price.
- Address: 111 East Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78701.
- Distance from Austin Convention Center: 9 mins walk.
Hotels Closest to Rainey Street Parties
Rainey Street is the hub for free parties. The street has a handful of historic houses (modern development moving in is a sore point for natives) with cute courtyards.
You can expect something going down in the parking lots at the top of the street. Whether it be food trucks or an Amazon Prime party (2019), it is always jumping.
Container Bar is a great location for gigs during South By, the lines prove its popularity!
You can see the ‘I Hate You So Much Wall’ at Bunker bar and also a great curry at Graj Mahal. We dined here two days before we got married in Austin.
» Read next: we got married in Austin
Rainey Street to Austin Convention Center is an easy 13-minute walk past all the bustling SX events, PRs with free swag, and tuk-tuks.
Holiday Inn Austin-Town Lake $$
Holiday Inn Austin – Town Lake looks like a winner. Great location, only an eight-minute walk to Rainey Street.
Guests can enjoy an on-site continental breakfast, hotel shuttle and views of the lake.
There’s also a sun terrace and an outdoor swimming pool with views of the city.
Our friends moved here after being robbed at an out-of-town cheap hotel during SX.
- Pros: Location, fair price, views of the lake, pool, airport shuttle.
- Cons: Decor is basic if you prefer something more hip or luxurious.
- Address: 20 North IH-35, Austin, TX 78701, USA
- Distance to Rainey Street: eight mins walk.
Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt $$$
Incredible location on Rainey Street, it is no surprise David Tennant stayed here during his visit to SXSW in 2019.
We also spotted Sam Fender in the hotel coffee shop during a much-needed 30-minute break from the madness.
Aside from celeb-spotting, Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt offers lots of amenities such as a rooftop pool with bar, room, fitness center, valet parking and free bikes.
The hotel also puts on a few music shows during SX.
- Pros: Elegant, hip, on Rainey Street.
- Cons: Price.
- Address: 605 Davis Street, Austin, TX 78701, USA
- Distance to Rainey Street: it’s on it!
Hotels Closest to Dirty Sixth Street
Ah, Dirty Sixth. The heartbeat of Austin. Love it or hate, 6th Street is where many tourists first touch base in the city.
Expect pizza slice shops, bars with balconies (excellent for people watching) and flying cars down the middle of the street.
Sixth is closed to traffic during SX. Red River, the popular party street, is just one turn-off Dirty Sixth.
Here you will find Cheer Up Charlies (Twilight Sad 2015), Mohawk (Broken Social Scene 2019), Stubbs (Chvrches 2016) who host a mix of badge only and free parties.
→ Gigs get noisy by the way, buy some ear-protecting earplugs.
Dirty Sixth to Austin Convention Center is a mere five-minute walk.
The Guild Lavaca St, The Guild $$
The Guild Lavaca St is actually an apartment hotel. If you are looking for something that feels more like home in the middle of the party, The Guild Lavaca St may be for you.
Studios and apartments can accommodate one to six people, so consider that when calculating the costs.
Even though it is an apartment, there is an outdoor swimming pool that guests can use as well as a fitness suite.
Each apartment has its own private bathroom, kitchen with dishwasher, oven and microwave. The apartments also have air-con.
- Pros: Private space apartment, location, pool.
- Cons: Price, however, remember to divide by the number of people in your group.
- Address: 201 Lavaca Street, Austin, TX 78701, USA
- Distance to Dirty 6th: 13 mins walk.
The Firehouse (hostel) is pretty much on Dirty Sixth. Check below for Austin hostels options which make accommodation during SXSW more affordable.
Cheap Hotels in Austin During SXSW
The reality is, the cheaper the SX hotel, the further you have to travel to get to downtown.
Consider car shares or public transport and add $10-25 per day to your budget.
Days Inn By Wyndham Austin/University/Downtown $
Days Inn By Wyndham Austin is an affordable Austin hotel with spacious clean rooms and an outdoor swimming pool.
The hotel is located near 31st but is close to a bus stop for those looking to use public transport to downtown.
Note: not all public transport stops operate normally during SX.
All the expected mod cons featured in the room. Continental breakfast also included in the price.
- Pros: Affordable, clean, breakfast included, public bus stop.
- Cons: Distance. Use a car share to get back from downtown at night.
- Address: 3105 North Interstate 35, Austin, TX 78722.
- Distance to 6th: 44 mins walk.
Rodeway Inn and Suites Austin
Guests who have stayed at Rodeway Inn and Suites Austin say that the rooms are large, comfortable and clean.
The hotel is located in a quiet area with a four-star Tex Mex restaurant close by.
There is an on-site swimming pool and free coffee is provided in the lobby.
- Pros: Affordable, clean, breakfast included.
- Cons: Distance. Use a car share to get in and out of downtown.
- Address: 6201 US 290 East, Austin, TX 78723.
- Distance to 6th: 1 hour 40 mins walk.
Don’t be put off by the thought of trying one of the hostels in Austin.
We stayed in a private room at the HI Hostel twice and our friends booked the dorm.
For those on a budget during SX, Austin’s hostels are a great option for affordability and some are super close to the action. I’ve noted the walking distance to 6th Street as a reference point. Add another five minutes on for the Convention Center.
The Firehouse, Austin
The Firehouse is a modern hostel in central downtown, less than five minutes walk from Dirty 6th.
This is the largest hostel in Texas, located in the oldest standing fire station in Austin.
The Firehouse has private rooms and shared dorms. Towels are free as is breakfast.
Lockers situated under the bunks are available to guests. Each bed has its own power outing, ideal for SXSW as you need your phone at all times.
If you need a break from the SX crowd, The Firehouse has a bar attached selling craft beer and cocktails.
- Address: 605 Brazos Street, Austin, TX 78701.
- Distance to 6th Street: 4 minutes.
Brilliantly located, The Native, is a stylish and modern hotel on the east side of Austin.
This ‘luxury hostel’ has glowing reviews for comfortable living space and cleanliness.
Guests like that it is next to a busy bar but you can’t hear the noise from it.
Private rooms and small dorm beds are available for booking and a basic continental breakfast is included in the price.
- Address: 807 East 4th Street, Austin, TX 78702, USA.
- Distance to 6t Street: 10 mins walk.
HK Austin is set in a stunning Victorian mansion built in 1892. The hostel has lovely porches with chairs and hammocks to chill out in.
Guests love the comfortable rooms (dorm and privates) and social events. Towels are free (Austin is great for this) and there is the use of lockers for all guests.
Parking is available on-site.
- Address: 1807 East Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78702
- Distance to 6th Street: 30 min walk
These guys revoked our booking back in 2016 (the year we got married in Austin) leaving us to scramble to find another option.
Since they gave us a lame excuse that all booking dates were being changed, we suspected that they worked out that SX was during the dates we had secured.
This was confirmed when their rooms went up for sale at a higher rate.
Beggars can’t be choosers though so if you are looking for a cheap SXSW room close to downtown, Drifter Jack’s might be the solution.
The hostel has spacious air-conditioned shared dorm rooms.
Dorms are a four-six bed and there is a female-only room too. Guests have access to a personal locker, free tea and coffee and super-fast WiFi. Linen is included.
Parking is free on-site.
- Address: 2602 Guadalupe St, Austin, TX 78705.
- Distance to East 6th: 40 mins walk.
HI Hostel Austin
This is where we’ve stayed during two SXSWs. The location is excellent on Lady Bird Lake. It takes around 45 mins to walk to 6th, less time to Rainey Street and the Austin Conference Center.
The best thing about the HI is its location on Lady Bird Lake. Each day you get to walk along the Hike and Bike trail with the locals and cute dogs. Look out for the turtles in the river with the Austin skyline in the background.
There are private rooms as well as shared dorms with air-con. The private rooms don’t have ensuites but we’ve never had an issue getting access to a bathroom.
The hotel is relatively quiet, the guests are chill. The staff can be a bit loud at times. That’s my only complaint really.
WiFi works, free towels and breakfast are included.
If you turn left out of the hotel front door you can usually pick up an e-scooter to get into the city (not via the river, e-scooters are not allowed).
If you keep going left you are heading in the direction of the cool side of 6th Street (East Sixth) where Lazarus craft beer bar is.
We booked through Hostelworld and had no issues. HI Hostel Austin was cheaper than an Airbnb rental and the location is better than any of the Airbnbs we’ve stayed at in Austin.
You would assume that Airbnb rentals are your cheapest option in Austin during SXSW but that is wrong!
Many homeowners know that you can charge three times the amount of their normal rental fee during the festival because beds are in demand.
We’ve stayed in seven Airbnb private rooms or garden houses during our time in Austin. Six required car share travel to get close to the action.
We’ve also had three Airbnb hosts cancel on us when they realized that SXSW was during our booked dates. Mighty frustrating when you think you have secured a fair deal.
If using Airbnb, fire a message to the host to confirm that they know that SX is happening during that time. It’s best to lose the booking now as opposed to just weeks before.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where should I stay for SXSW?
This really depends on your budget. If you can spare $800-1000 per night then go for prime location.
If you are on a tighter budget, go further afield and factor in a $20 share ride fee for getting into downtown and back at night.
What is the best SXSW hotel?
This comes down to personal preference.
Want hip? Check out THE Line. Want views? Go for the Fairmont. Looking for something affordable but close? Holiday Inn Austin – Town Lake.
As you can see there is no shortage of hotels in Austin during SXSW. The biggest dilemma will be a balance between location and price. Then you need to contend with availability.
Don’t be afraid to consider one of Austin’s hostels if budget is dictating your SX trip and as soon as you see a good deal, book it! It won’t last for long.
Make friends and who knows, maybe next year you’ll have a sofa to stay on. People in Austin are super friendly and some, not all, take advantage of the free parties too!
Where do you recommend staying during SXSW?
Tell us in the comments below.
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