Non-natives might think of Texas as being flat, so the beauty of Austin’s hills, lakes, and terrain can take them by surprise. Placed on the edge of the Hill Country, Austin offers exceptional options to explore nature not found in other cities in the state. Though this comes with a dose of cedar (and its allergies), residents and visitors alike can enjoy scenic views year-round.
We’ve put together the best sights in the city, many of which combine Austin’s gorgeous skyline, architecture, and natural landscape.
Austin skyline from the Long Center lawn
Austin features one of the most beautiful (and evolving) skylines in the country. An iconic view of the city lights can be seen at nighttime from Lady Bird Lake at the Long Center. While attending outdoor concerts, events, and parties underneath its outdoor pavilion, you can view the backbone of our town. What could be better on those warm Texas nights?
Texas State Capitol building
The Texas Capitol is widely recognized as one of the most striking state capitols in the nation. As the largest capitol in the country, the building and its sprawling gardens are a popular tourist spot, but many Austinites still choose to visit for its exquisite grounds and detailed architecture. The capitol can be seen from many vantage points throughout the city, and views of the dome are protected from obstruction by state law.
The University of Texas is a sight to behold, but have you ever stood at the very bottom of the tower's garden at night? Bonus: The great thing about this view in the evenings is not only the glowing tower (on game days, of course), but also the incredible view of downtown if you face the south.
360 Pennybacker Bridge
The Pennybacker Bridge across Lake Austin connects the northern and southern halves of the Capital of Texas Highway. The road is considered one of Texas' most scenic urban drives due to the arched bridge and the rolling hills. This little spot with the most gorgeous of sunsets can be found by parking on the side of the highway and climbing the rock to the top. You will often find couples on a romantic picnic, family outings, and photographers enjoying the sweeping views.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Hamilton Pool is a natural pool that was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed. It is located about 23 miles west of Austin off Highway 71. The popular pool features limestone on all sides, and the ceiling and surrounding cliffs of the grotto are home to moss, maidenhair fern, and cliff swallows. The pool is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and is a protected environment.
Dry Creek Cafe
From the small wooden deck of Dry Creek Cafe, the view of Lake Austin is simply phenomenal. It’s one of those old Austin, character-filled, dusty hidden gems that only locals know about, frequenting for a reasonably priced cold beer and sunset watching. Bonus, it has a vintage jukebox — what’s more quintessentially Austin than that?
Mount Bonnell is the tallest natural point in Austin, giving visitors some of the best views of the city. At the end of a short hike, which is suited for all fitness levels, a pavilion sits at the top of the mountain offering expansive views, particularly to the west of the Hill Country. You can see downtown Austin from the southeast side, and the pavilion serves as a popular and romantic picnic spot for locals and tourists alike.
Austin skyline from Zilker Park
Zilker is Austin’s most beloved park and home to many attractions, such as Barton Springs Pool, Lady Bird Lake, Zilker Botanical Garden, and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum. With so many things to offer, a park favorite is the impressive view of the Austin skyline. Zilker guests can view Austin’s tallest buildings, including the beautiful Frost Tower, and appreciate warm Texas nights from the sprawling lawns.
South Congress Avenue
The view of downtown from South Congress Avenue is especially breathtaking at night, when you can see the street lit up all the way to the capitol building while pinpointing many of Austin’s classic buildings. The South Congress district is full of life, music, and food, and from the iconic Austin Motel, you have a prime spot to take it all in.
Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge
The South Congress bridge is home to the famous Austin bats, and each night from 6 to 9 pm, bat enthusiasts find optimal lookout spots below and above the bridge to catch the best views of the Mexican free-tailed bats emerging for their nightly feeding. After the bats are gone, not only can you catch views of the sunset and Lady Bird Lake, but you can also see downtown Austin up close.
Longhorn Dam is located on the Colorado River, built in 1960. At 36 feet high and over 500 feet across, it creates and overlooks Lady Bird Lake, giving a stunning view during late afternoon hikes in the area. Visitors can take in the lake view from atop the majestic dam or by kayaking at sunset from the water.
The Westin Austin Downtown rooftop bar
The newest Westin hotel in downtown has the highest rooftop pool and bar in Austin, giving guests some of the most privileged views possible. Putting you almost face to face with the top of the Frost Tower, the rooftop lights up at night and gives 180-degree views that you will not get anywhere else, making it a must for your Austin scenic spot bucket list.