This is our review of the Fairmont hotel in Austin, Texas.
After my celebratory inaugural flight to the Texas capital – you can read my review of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the 787 here – Virgin Atlantic put me up in the Fairmont, Austin’s largest new hotel.
Austin is still getting used to its status as a rapidly growing city and hotels aren’t going up fast enough. I stayed during a big crypto conference and – as you’ll find out in my next review – struggled to find any decent hotel accommodation over the weekend. A big conference can quickly wipe out availability.
This was my first stay in a Fairmont and I was intrigued to see what it was all about. I wasn’t sure how the brand was positioned – was it like a St Regis or more like an InterContinental? It’s obviously a five star hotel, but of what calibre?
Where is the Fairmont Austin?
With 1,048 rooms across 37 floors, the Fairmont is a landmark in Austin and features a fairly simple rectangular construction with mirrored glass and a big rooftop spike:
The location is excellent – just fifteen to twenty minutes away from Austin Bergstrom International Airport and on the Southern end of downtown. It’s also just off the I35, for anyone planning a road trip.
The hotel is right next to Austin Convention Center and just a couple of blocks from Rainey Street, a popular area with restaurants, bars and food trucks.
Inside the Fairmont Austin hotel
The Fairmont is as grand as you would expect for a thousand-room convention center hotel, and it needs to be – the lobby was swarming with conference attendees when we arrived.
There are several check-in desks, flanked by some large bronze statues of galloping horses:
A couple of overflow desks also means that group arrivals don’t block the main reception area.
The lobby is large and wraps around two sides of the building:
Beyond the escalators you’ll find a lovely bar called Fulton, as well as a takeaway cafe and another restaurant called Revue that features a food market buffet. This is also where breakfast is served – more on that later.
I was checked in quickly and given a standard room on the 18th floor – about midway up this 37-storey tower.
Rooms at the Fairmont Austin
There’s one place we can all agree that bigger is better and that’s in room size. The good news is that even the Fairmont’s entry level rooms are built to Texan proportions at 38 square meters.
A large bathroom is on the left:
Despite being a new-build hotel there is no rainfall shower, just one of those typically American shower heads:
The shower controls are also typically American – the ones which you turn in a circle depending on the temperature and with no control over flow.
Toiletries are Rose 31 by Le Labo, created for the Fairmont, which I thought was suitably premium.
The toilet has a separate door which is always good news!
Opposite the bathroom is the wardrobe, with robes, ironing board etc. The robes were very comfortable and soft:
Beyond this is the main bedroom:
A large king size bed is standard in the Fairmont’s entry-level rooms:
Connectivity is good, with USB and mains plug sockets on both sides. What was missing were global lighting controls – there is no master switch at the bed so you have to get up and turn lights off individually. A weird omission for such a modern property.
Here is the view from the corner of the room:
The TV sits on a side console which features the mini bar:
The mini bar is touch-sensitive, which means you can’t really put your own items in the fridge without triggering a charge.
Coffee is from a Nespresso machine:
Next to the TV is a small desk:
Whilst, on the other side, is an armchair:
All in all the room is nice and modern, with a clean and fresh design, although it doesn’t feel particularly luxe – there is no stone in the bathroom, for example, and the lack of master light switches by the bed (and even electric curtains) is disappointing.
Get ready to pay for the wifi
I can’t remember the last time I had to pay for wifi at a hotel, but you’ll have to at the Fairmont Austin.
This may have been a glitch, because the pricing I saw was $13.95 for ‘Business Access’ and $23.95 for premium access. That’s per day.
I tried to log in with my Accor Live Limitless account, which in theory gives you free wifi, but the portal kept glitching and saying there was an error. In the end, I was given a promo code to use instead.
Pool, gym and spa
Given its size, I assume the Fairmont Austin also has one of the largest hotel pools in the city, on the 8th floor roof terrace. It is split into two and also features a hot tub:
There are plenty of lounges as well as 14 cabanas available, although you will struggle to find a spot if you head down after midday on a busy weekend – it does fill up.
There is a good atmosphere around the pool although it is not particularly child friendly. There are lots of adult groups (including stag and hen groups, which Austin appears to attract) drinking and chatting – not aggressively or drunkenly, mind you.
The spa and gym are on the seventh floor. The gym is fairly big:
The spa features gender-separated steam room, sauna and hot tub facilities:
Note that there are NO public showers in the gym or the spa, so you have to make alternative arrangements if staying at the pool after check-out. This is a major oversight in my opinion.
Breakfast at the Fairmont Austin hotel
Breakfast is where the Fairmont starts to fall apart a little. The main breakfast buffet is in Revue, the food market area, which has no natural light – a shame for breakfast service.
That’s if you can get in. On our first morning, the host wasn’t able to seat guests fast enough, leading some to queue for 20 or 30 minutes or more. I managed to avoid this by sitting with some friends who already had a table but others were waiting for a very long time – despite there being plenty of available tables. It’s not entirely clear what was going on and, frankly, the hotel needs to do better.
The buffet is equally lacklustre for a hotel of this size. I was expecting a lavish spread – there are 1,048 rooms, after all – but instead you just get this one room:
The selection is minimal. There is a decent breakfast burrito bar with hot items but beyond this there are slim pickings. There is just one type of cereal and one flavour of yoghurt, for example.
There is, at least, a bagel station with smoked salmon and cream cheese:
There is an a la carte menu in addition to the buffet but this does not appear to be included in the breakfast rate – at least for us.
Fundamentally, however, a hotel of this size and calibre should have an extensive breakfast buffet, which it doesn’t.
A few notes on Austin, Texas ….
By now I think Austin has a reputation as being the liberal capital of Texas, but I was surprised how liberal it really is.
Pride flags are everywhere in June, including on one of the Fairmont’s three poles, and there is a phenomenal gay scene on 4th Street between Lavaca and Colorado. Oilcan Harry’s features nightly drag performances, although this tends to feature lots of lip syncing and walking the tip jar around in the US. We ended up starting our night at Rain before heading to Highlander around midnight on both nights and had a fantastic time, although Fridays seems to be a bit more playful and fun whilst Saturdays a bit more serious and with a marginally older crowd.
Remember that last orders are by 2am, although most clubs seem to let you hang round until 3am. Be warned – they will confiscate your drink if you’ve still got one!
For day time activities I can firmly back Barton Springs as an excellent activity. All of Austin descends on this natural (cold) spring on hot weekends, and the facility is split into two areas – the fenced off part (entry is $5 for residents and $9 for visitors although nobody seems to check) with grass verges and a vast pool fed by the spring. Just be aware you can’t eat or drink alcohol in the area.
Alternatively, you can head just downstream of the pool to the natural creek area, which is just as busy and much more lively, with people drinking, BBQing and yes, smoking weed. This part feels a lot more like the ‘real’ part of Texas and has a superb atmosphere, although the sides are quite rocky so you’ll want some kind of water shoes and camping chairs for ultimate comfort. Don’t forget to bring inflatables!
I enjoyed my stay at the Fairmont Austin. I appreciated the large rooms and the design scheme which, although they didn’t scream luxury, were clean and calming with tones of cream and blue.
There are things missing that really shouldn’t be missing given that it is a new build hotel – such as the lack of a master switch in the bedrooms and a rainfall shower.
There are also things that the Fairmont really ought to be doing better at, such as the shambolic breakfast service and disappointing buffet spread.
Despite these things I still had a good time, with the massive pool and rooftop terrace a standout feature. The facilities and large modern rooms make up for a lot of the service failings.
Rates start at $261 for a weekday night in July. Remember that your Accor ALL points are basically a cashback scheme – you can redeem 2,000 points for a €40 Accor voucher.
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