Austin's Best Live Music Venues

Austin is known as the "Live Music Capital of the World." When your city's music scene is the breeding ground for artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin, Townes Van Zandt, and more recently, the Black Pumas, Shakey Graves, and Gary Clark Jr., your city's claim is more than a tourism board's marketing ploy.

From the sticky-floored honkey-tonks to storied marquee establishments, you can find live music every night of the week in Austin. Although many visitors discover Austin's music scene by attending some of its biggest events — such as Austin City Limits or South by Southwest (SXSW) — the nitty-gritty of its scene is found in the charming, fun, and admittingly "weird" venues spread throughout the city.

With over 250 music venues, it's challenging to distill the whole scene into a few of the "best," so we've made our list a little more granular. However, many of the listed venues overlap in their categorical descriptions. In Austin, historic music venues can be dives, you can catch local acts on big stages, and the genre-bending musical nature of Austin keeps venue calendars wonderfully weird. That said, in the Venn diagram of an ever-evolving scene, here are some of the best venues to catch a show.

Best historic music venues

Opened originally in 1955 as a swanky supper club, The Continental Club on South Congress (SoCo) is one of the oldest continuously running music venues in Austin. Before becoming a musical institution, the iconic venue was a burlesque club, and then a blue-collar bar that opened at 7 a.m. The Continental Club began hosting blues acts in the 1970s and punk shows in the 1980s. The intimate 200-capacity venue now welcomes acts spanning from garage rock to country-western. From its quirky history to its eclectic stylings, The Continental Club is quintessential Austin.

It's impossible to talk about Austin's music without mentioning the blues, and since 1975, Antone's Nightclub has been the home of the city's blues scene. Antone's has been the Texas hub of traveling blues players since its opening, welcoming acts such as B.B. King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, and Muddy Waters. Located in downtown Austin, the 400-capacity venue still hosts largely headliners that play blues and Americana, but Antone's also features local and established artists in a range of genres.

Best venues for local music scene

The Saxon Pub has been a haven for singer-songwriters and up-and-coming bands since 1990. According to its website, the pub has hosted over 30,000 shows since its opening, which isn't hard to believe. Depending on the night, you can catch six different performances in the pub's intimate listening room. Whether you catch a weekend matinee or stay to watch the late-night sets, you're assured a music-filled time at the South Lamar (SoLa) establishment.

The in-house venue of Hotel Van Zandt — if that's any indication of its musical merit — Geraldine's offers a classy, upscale atmosphere that still maintains its Austin sensibility. Located on the fourth floor of the riverside hotel, Geraldine's features a weekly jazz brunch, as well as nightly singer-songwriter showcases and touring act performances. Offering bat's-eye views of the river, warmly chandelier-lit ambiance, and handcrafted cocktails, Geraldine's offers a more relaxed atmosphere for musical appreciation.

But if relaxing isn't your bag, you may prefer to check into Hotel Vegas instead. This popular East 6th Street venue features two stages and a large patio with food trucks. Known for its raucous hard rock and punk shows, Hotel Vegas features live music or DJs almost every night of the week. Hotel Vegas partners with its sister bar, Volstead Lounge, which creates its huge backyard space. So, while the under-200-person capacity of Hotel Vegas can create a properly packed and sweaty live music experience, you can always check out momentarily for some fresh Texas air.

Best honkey-tonks for Americana and country

If you're looking for a little twang in Austin, the Broken Spoke may be Austin's most famous honkey-tonk and one of the city's last pure two-stepping dance halls. Opened in 1964, its small stage has welcomed artists such as Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and George Strait throughout the years. If you're looking for some good ole' country-western, you'll find it at the Broken Spoke on South Lamar. The venue also offers two-step lessons from Wednesday to Saturday.  

The Little Longhorn Saloon has been a honkey-tonk mainstay in Austin for over four decades. Self-described as the "Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint In Town," the Little Longhorn Saloon features cheap beers, tight quarters, and around 10 musical acts a week. The venue also offers free two-step lessons, and the bar famously never charges a cover. If you're feeling extra honky and tonky, check out Little Longhorn Saloon for its famed Chicken S*** Bingo games on Sundays. Yes, chickens poop on Bingo cards out back, and the band calls out numbers throughout the afternoon.

The White Horse is the quintessential Austin-type of honkey-tonk. Although there's no shortage of boot-scootin' at the East Side establishment, which features a huge dance floor, The White Horse also offers pool tables, a dog-friendly patio, and a taco truck. The venue plays bluegrass, country-western, and Americana seven days a week, and it's a popular spot to meet locals and other twangy travelers alike. What's Texas without a little two-step? 

Best dive bar music venues

Austin dive bars are arguably as iconic as the city's honky-tonks (and they're often one and the same). Dive bars, with their floor-level stages, sticker-covered walls, packed rooms, and free-flowing beers, are the backbone of Austin's vibrant music scene.

Opened in 1974, the Hole in the Wall is a legendary live music venue that has welcomed names like Shakey Graves, Spoon, and Gary Clark Jr. to its cozy, window-front stage. Although we could've categorized it as a historic Austin venue — as it was an old haunt of artists like Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, and Stevie Ray Vaughan — the musical landmark is first and foremost a dive bar. That said, the Hole in the Wall still features over six hours of live music daily, and whether you're a fan of music history or someone who just appreciates a laid-back, grittier atmosphere for tunes, the Hole in the Wall is a must-visit.

Along with Austin's moniker of "Live Music Capital of the World," we'd be amiss if we didn't mention its other motto: "Keep Austin Weird." And arguably, no one keeps it weirder than the Carousel Lounge on 52nd Street. An iconic establishment since 1963, the circus-themed watering hole features an actual carousel behind the bar and a very large pink elephant behind the stage. Needless to say, it's a unique backdrop for musicians of all genres, who join the circus most nights of the week. 

Best venues to catch headlining acts

Austin is home to a few of the most celebrated mid-sized venues in the country, and Stubb's BBQ may be the city's most beloved. Located in the Red River District, Stubb's features an intimate inside stage, but it's famous for its 1,800-capacity outside venue. Featuring state-of-the-art production quality and a fun outdoor atmosphere, Stubb's regularly hosts famous acts throughout the year — and sure, you can eat a brisket sandwich while enjoying the show. 

Right down the street from Stubb's, the Mohawk is a favorite for touring artists and locals alike. The venue features a smaller indoor stage and a larger outdoor stage with three open-aired levels to watch performances. The Mohawk typically hosts rock 'n' roll bands of various genres, so rowdier fans may appreciate the ground level, while those who prefer a more laid-back experience can enjoy the show from the breeze-cooled balconies. 

No list of live music venues in Austin would be complete without including ACL Live at Moody Theatre. Located on Willie Nelson Boulevard, the Moody Theatre features the iconic stage of Austin City Limits, the longest-running music series on television. There's no bad seat at the 2,750-person venue, and the theatre's cutting-edge lighting and sound technology often facilitate epic performances from some of music's greatest artists. If Austin is the Live Music Capital of the World, then Moody Theatre is the capital building.