Where to Stay in Houston, Texas
The nation’s fourth largest city, Houston is a vast, sprawling metropolis comprising numerous, very unique neighborhoods. Though it’s better known as a booming commercial and financial center than a tourist destination, it’s one of the biggest cultural hubs in Texas, with top-notch art museums, a thriving performing arts scene, and excellent food and nightlife. Though skyscraper-heavy Downtown might seem the obvious place to stay, the Montrose neighborhood and Museum District to the southwest have a lot more character and things to do, while Galleria/Uptown to the west is the major shopping hub with its own spread of hotels, including some of the best in the city. There are some attractive B&Bs in the hip neighborhood of Houston Heights, and you could also opt to stay outside the center in what’s known as Bay Area Houston, enjoying the lakes and wetlands towards Galveston Island.
The best place to stay will depend on your budget, what your main focus will be, and what sort of transport you’ll be using. Downtown is relatively convenient if you don’t want to drive, though the Montrose/Museum District is better if art and culture are the primary draws. Shoppers will prefer Galleria/Uptown, though you’ll need a car here and a decent budget. Those looking for bargains should consider the clusters of motels and hotel chains near the 2 main airports – you’ll definitely need a car here.
• We recommend renting a car to make the most of Houston. The city is so spread out that traveling solely by public transport can be extremely time-consuming and taxis are expensive. All the major rental companies are represented at the airports. When it comes to parking, Spot Hero and Parking.com are useful in Houston. Alternatively, if you intend to shuttle solely between Downtown and the Museum District, you can rely on the public transport system.
• Houston has a decent public transport system. METRORail is a convenient way to zip between Downtown, NRG Park, EADO, and the Museum District. Fares are just $1.25. Local bus services also fan out across the city, but are not especially convenient for visitors.
• Taking taxis within Downtown isn’t too expensive thanks to a city-imposed $6 flat fare (in the area bounded by I-45, I-10, and I-69). Beyond here, fares rise quickly for regular taxis and Uber rides as distances are considerable (it’s 9 miles one way just to the Galleria from Downtown).
• George Bush Intercontinental Airport, 23 miles north of Downtown, is the city’s main airport, while the smaller, primarily domestic William P. Hobby Airport is just 7 miles southeast of Downtown. Taxi fares into Downtown from the former are around $58 and from the latter, $31.
• Biking around the city – or at least Downtown and the Museum District – is easy thanks to flat terrain, bike lanes, and the BCycle bike-share program.
Best Places to Stay in Houston
We’ve covered our favorite neighborhoods to visit and stay in more detail below, but there are also numerous accommodation options around the NRG Stadium (home of the Houston Texans), 6 miles southwest of Downtown. Staying here is convenient for NFL games (and the annual Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March as well as Texas Bowl in January), but not especially useful for the rest of the city. Good choices include the Residence Inn Medical Center/NRG Park, Hotel Ylem, and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites S-Medical Ctr Area.
- Best Luxury Hotels in Houston
Four Seasons • Granduca • Hilton Americas • Houstonian • JW Marriott Downtown • JW Marriott by The Galleria • Marriott Marquis • Post Oak at Uptown • St Regis
- Best Boutique Hotels in Houston
Blossom • Lancaster • La Colombe d’Or • Hotel ZaZa Museum District
- Best B&Bs in Houston
Modern B&B • Sara’s Inn • Pelican’s Nest Bed & Breakfast • Clipper House Inn • La Maison in Midtown
- Best Cheap & Midrange Hotels in Houston
Courtyard Downtown/Convention Center • Baymont Hobby Airport • Best Western Plus Downtown Inn & Suites • Drury Inn & Suites Near the Galleria • Indigo at the Galleria • Palace Inn Blue US-59 & Gessner • Hotel Solara Hobby • Tru Webster NASA
- Best Hostel in Houston
Best Neighborhoods in Houston for…
- Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Downtown/Museum District/Montrose
If Houston’s big museums appeal most – The Menil Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, plus the Rothko Chapel – it makes sense to stay in Montrose or in the Museum District. Both neighborhoods feature walkable, oak-lined streets, lots of hip cafes and restaurants, and numerous attractions. Families will enjoy being close to the Houston Zoo, Hermann Park, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Children’s Museum Houston. Realistically, though, you will find a far greater choice of accommodation in Downtown Houston. Though this is not a great place to be for tourists, there are a few things to see and plenty of places to eat – there’s also a convenient Metro link to the Museum District.
- Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: Montrose and Midtown
While downtown has a few good bars, you’ll find more appealing offerings in Montrose, particularly along Westheimer Road and in adjacent Midtown. In Montrose, we like the cocktails at Anvil Bar & Refuge and AvantGarden, plus the hip dive bar Catbirds. Montrose is also Houston’s LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood, with popular gay bars like The Eagle, JR’s, Ripcord, and Numbers top choices.
In Midtown we like the live bands and DJs at the Continental Club and the vast range of beer on tap at Holman Draft Hall. The retro Unicorn Disco, quirky Wonder Bar, and neon-themed Electric FeelGood are also lots of fun.
Midtown lies just south of Downtown and is an easy taxi ride from there or Montrose/Museum District. Otherwise the only place recommended to stay here is La Maison in Midtown, an excellent B&B. Midtown is also fun to explore during the day, with a blend of bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants within walking distance. There’s also the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum and several performance venues, including the Midtown Arts & Theater Center Houston and Ensemble Theatre.
- Best Neighborhoods for Food and Restaurants: Montrose, Chinatown & Houston Heights
Foodies could quite happily spend their whole time in Houston trawling the restaurant-rich streets of Montrose, beginning with pastries at Common Bond or Vietnamese steak and eggs at David Buehrer’s Blacksmith. Celebrity chef Hugo Ortega serves up ceviches and Mexican food at Hugo’s, while quality Texan steaks are the main event at Chris Shepherd’s Georgia James. One of the best restaurants in Texas is the Mediterranean tasting-menu-only March, helmed by Felipe Riccio.
Houston’s Chinatown – which is really more of an “Asiatown” – is a little out of the way, anchored by Bellaire Boulevard some 13 miles west of Downtown, but is another eater’s paradise. Highlights include Mala Sichuan Bistro, the Viet-Cajun cuisine at Crawfish & Noodles, or the phở at Pho A Hung by Night (11900 Bellaire Blvd). The best accommodation near Chinatown lies on the western fringe of the neighborhood along Beltway 8 (Sam Houston Tollway): SpringHill Suites Westchase, La Quinta Inn & Suites Westchase, Hilton Garden Inn Westbelt, Comfort Suites Near Westchase On Beltway 8, and the bargain Palace Inn Blue US-59 & Gessner.
- Best Neighborhood for Shopping: Galleria/Uptown
Serious shoppers should opt for the Galleria/Uptown area, home of Texas’ largest mall, The Galleria, open-air shopping districts Uptown Park and Highland Village, and some of the best hotels in the city. The Galleria alone contains over 400 stores, food courts, over 60 restaurants, and a large ice rink. The nearby Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park features a 64-feet tall cascading wall of water. Chic Uptown Park lies just north of Post Oak Boulevard, a landscaped shopping village featuring branches of Loft, Longoria Collection, Lucho, and Ethan Allen. Similarly upscale Highland Village lies along Westheimer Road, home to favorites such as Kiehl’s, Crate & Barrel, lululemon, Pottery Barn, and Sephora.
- Best Neighborhoods for Local Vibe: Houston Heights
Some 5 miles northwest of Downtown, Houston Heights is one of the city’s most historic and diverse neighborhoods, full of character-filled architecture, mom-and-pop stores, and hip restaurants. There are no major sights here, but it’s entertaining to stroll along 19th Street and peruse the boutiques, thrift stores, antique shops, and cafes, or attend the “First Saturday Arts Market” on the first Saturday of each month. Highlights include the superb coffee at Boomtown, Vinyl Edge Records, the performances at Heights Theater, and the concerts at White Oak Music Hall. There’s not a lot of accommodation here, but we love Sara’s Inn, a perfect B&B, or you can rent the whole of Uphouse Manor. Courtyard Heights/I-10 is a solid chain alternative.
- Unsafe Areas of Houston
Though Houston does post relatively high crime rates overall, as long as you take the usual precautions at night, you should have few problems – most of the neighborhoods listed here are relatively safe. Midtown and Downtown in general post the lowest crime rates, but you should take care in the Third Ward.
The 6 Best Neighborhoods in Houston for Tourists
The central business hub for the whole region, Downtown Houston is peppered with skyscrapers and hotels, though there’s actually little to see in terms of major sights. The tallest building in the city (and the tallest in Texas) is the 1,002-foot high JP Morgan Chase Tower, designed by IM Pei, though its lofty sky lobby is now closed to the public. You can, however, check out Joan Miró’s colorful “Personage with Birds” sculpture, installed in the plaza outside. Downtown’s biggest attractions are its Theater District and its sports teams. In the former you’ll find Alley Theatre, Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Symphony, Theater Under the Stars in the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, and the Wortham Theater Center. Downtown’s Minute Maid Park is the home of the MLB’s Houston Astros, while the NBA’s Houston Rockets play at the Toyota Center. The 2 stadiums have helped transform Downtown, though evenings remain relatively quiet on non-game days.
Families will enjoy the Downtown Aquarium and the playground at Discovery Green, but the most interesting attractions otherwise are the underground Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern in Eleanor Tinsley Park and the nearby Sam Houston Park, home to 8 historic structures dating back to the 1820s.
Downtown does boast some pretty good restaurants. Market Square Park, with its nearby “Houston is Inspired” mural, is host to popular Niko Niko’s Greek & American Café and several bars and restaurants, but there are good spots scattered throughout Downtown, including the burgers at Miller’s Cafe Downtown. We also like the stalls at Finn Hall and Underground Hall food courts.
- Downtown has the largest selection of accommodation, along with the Galleria/Uptown district.
- Note that most of Downtown empties out at night and at the weekends, though there are clusters of bars along Main Street, and Caroline Street at Dallas Street.
- Best Hotels:
Embassy Suites Downtown • Four Seasons • Hilton Americas • Homewood Suites Downtown • Hyatt Place Downtown • Hyatt Regency • Hotel ICON • JW Marriott Downtown • Lancaster • Marriott Marquis • Westin Downtown
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels:
Courtyard Downtown/Convention Center • Best Western Plus Downtown Inn & Suites • Hampton Inn Downtown
Just southwest of downtown Houston, Montrose is an artsy neighborhood of galleries, indie stores, restaurants, and bars, anchored by the main drag, Westheimer Road. Montrose is also the hub of the city’s LGBTQ community. The main sights lie a few blocks south of Westheimer, beginning with the exceptional Menil Collection, in an elegant building designed by Renzo Piano. The huge ensemble of art here includes rooms dedicated to Picasso, Max Ernst, and René Magritte, as well as the separate Cy Twombly Gallery. Nearby, the octagonal Rothko Chapel is adorned by 14 religious paintings by artist Mark Rothko (commissioned by the de Menils). There’s also the excellent Houston Center For Photography, which features work from emerging American photographers. In the northern part of Montrose, the Printing Museum offers a family-friendly take on the history of printing, while over in neighboring River Oaks, the Rienzi Museum of Fine Arts occupies the former home of philanthropists Carroll Sterling Masterson and Harris Masterson III, focusing on American decorative arts and paintings.
- Montrose can be a fun place to stay and is a lot more interesting than Downtown. There are lots of apartment rentals here, but sadly few hotels or B&Bs.
- Best Hotel:
La Colombe d’Or
- Best B&B:
About 5 miles southwest of Downtown, the Museum District is home to some of the city’s biggest cultural attractions. It’s also a pleasant neighborhood to explore on foot, which is unusual in Houston. Though it’s a relatively easy train ride from Downtown, staying here makes a lot more sense if museums (some 19 at last count) are your main focus. Highlights include the Museum of Fine Arts, which houses one of the largest art collections in the US: everything from Renaissance art to rare African gold jewelry and Rodins in the Cullen Sculpture Garden. Also here are the moving Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston Museum of African American Culture, Czech Center Museum, and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston – many of them free.
For families, adjacent Hermann Park includes various gardens, playgrounds, and the Houston Zoo, while the Children’s Museum Houston offers interactive exhibits for kids under 12, and the huge Houston Museum of Natural Science features dinosaurs, a butterfly house, planetarium, and IMAX theater.
- The best hostel accommodation in the city is Wanderstay Hostel.
- There is a convenient cluster of hotels around the Texas Medical Center just to the south of the Museum District, included here.
- Best Hotels:
Blossom • Hilton Garden Inn Medical Center • Houston Towers Inn • Marriott Medical Center/Museum District • InterContinental Medical Center • Westin Medical Center • Hotel ZaZa Museum District
- Best Hostel:
Just across I-69 from Downtown lie the emerging EaDo (short for East Downtown) and East End neighborhoods. Anchored by the PNC Stadium, home of Major League Soccer team the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League, it’s known as a burgeoning entertainment district with diverse restaurants, breweries, and galleries, as well as mural-smothered Graffiti Park on the corner of Leeland and St. Emanuel streets. We also love the 36-foot-tall sculpture of The Beatles by David Adickes, installed outside the 8th Wonder Brewery, itself full of Astros memorabilia. EaDo is also known for its live music venues such as Warehouse Live and The Secret Group.
- Accommodation choices here comprise of apartment rentals and cheap (and fairly poor quality) motels along the I-45 corridor, but it’s otherwise easy to visit EaDo from Downtown.
5. Third Ward
Houston’s historic African-American community, the Third Ward (aka the ‘Tre), lies southeast from Downtown, it’s southern boundary marked roughly by the Brays Bayou river. It contains a few interesting sights for visitors as well as some appealing restaurants like Soul Food Vegan. The area also encompasses the campuses of Texas Southern University and the University of Houston where the free University Museum at Texas Southern University, which focuses on the art of the African Diaspora, and the Blaffer Art Museum always hold absorbing events or exhibitions. The community-based Project Row Houses has boosted the local arts scene, covering 5 blocks and comprising almost 40 structures dedicated to art programs. The Orange Show Center for Visionary Arts features a whimsical maze-like folk art monument, built between 1956 and 1979, by the late Jefferson Davis McKissack, a Houston postal worker. It contains an oasis, a pond, stage, museum, and several upper decks. Neighboring Smither Park is smothered in mosaics created by local artists.
- Other than cheap no-frills motels, there’s not much choice when it comes to accommodation here; we recommend the Hilton University of Houston.
- There is a cluster of standard chain hotels around William P. Hobby Airport, a short drive southeast, especially around I-45 exit 35.
- Best Hotels near Hobby Airport (south of Third Ward):
DoubleTree Hobby Airport • Hilton Garden Inn Hobby Airport • Marriott South at Hobby Airport
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels:
Baymont Hobby Airport • Best Western Plus Hobby Airport Inn & Suites • Holiday Inn Express & Suites Hobby Airport Area • Hotel Solara Hobby
The eastern outskirts of Houston brush up against Galveston Bay, a huge estuary surrounded by sub-tropical marshes. Despite the busy port traffic, Bay Area Houston provides plenty of rustic and water-based entertainment for city-weary travelers, not least excellent seafood and tranquil nature preserves. It’s primary attraction, though, is Space Center Houston, dedicated to the history of the NASA missions controlled from here since 1965 – it’s especially fun for families, with enough tours and activities to take up much of the day.
Assuming you have a car, you can easily tour the rest of area from the city, though staying out here has its charms, with a smattering of hotels and attractive B&Bs in Kemah, League City, Nassau Bay, and Seabrook. Clear Lake is a popular target for fishing and water sports, while the family-friendly Kemah Boardwalk features old-fashioned seaside entertainment, rides, and amusements. You’ll find more serene walking trails in preserves such as the Armand Bayou Nature Center. To the north, in the otherwise industrial area beyond La Porte, the San Jacinto Battleground and museum commemorates the Texans’ decisive victory over Santa Anna’s Mexican army in 1836 with a 570-foot tall stone monument. Nearby on Buffalo Bayou is the Battleship Texas, a US Navy ship museum dating back to 1914.
- Best Hotels:
Beacon Hill Guest Houses • Boardwalk Inn • Courtyard Kemah • Hampton Inn NASA-Johnson Space Center • Holiday Inn Express Space Ctr-Clear Lake • Home2 Suites Webster • South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center • SpringHill Suites NASA/Seabrook • SpringHill Suites NASA/Webster • Staybridge Suites Nasa/Clear Lake
- Best B&Bs:
Captains Quarters Inn • Clipper House Inn • Pelican’s Nest Bed & Breakfast
- Best Cheap/Midrange Hotels:
Quality Inn & Suites Seabrook-NASA-Kemah • Sonesta ES Suites NASA Clear Lake • Tru Webster NASA
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