The Texas State Capitol with flower garden. It was completed in 1888 in Downtown Austin. It contains the offices and chambers of the Texas Legislature and the Office of the Governor.

©Kushal Bose/Shutterstock

Texas State Capitol

Top choice in Austin

Completed in 1888 using sunset-red granite, Texas’ state capitol is the largest in the US, backing up the familiar claim that everything’s bigger hereabouts. Tasked with creating a bigger space for the state government after it outgrew the original capitol building, architect Elijah E. Myers submitted his design in 1881. It was his second time designing such an edifice after making a name for himself on the Michigan State Capitol Building in Detroit. However, the building that stands today reflects some changes to Myers design made after he was fired from the project in 1886.

The Capitol narrowly survived a 1983 fire, resulting in numerous renovations and restorations over the next decade. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1986. Drop in even if only to take a peek at the historic portraiture and the lovely rotunda – look up at the dome – and try out the whispering gallery created by its curved ceiling.

Eye of Texas
The centerpiece of the State Capitol dome is a lone star surrounded by the letters TEXAS ©Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson/Getty Images

The green sprawl of the capitol grounds and its monuments (which controversially still include a number of Confederate tributes) are worth a stroll. The freestanding visitor center holds an exhibit about the capitol building, while the gift shop sells Texas-themed souvenirs. Self-guided-tour brochures for both building and grounds can be picked up from a ground-floor office that’s also the starting point for an interesting array of daily 40-minute guided tours.

Want to see government in action? Take a seat in the 3rd-floor visitors balconies overlooking the House of Representatives and Senate chamber galleries, which are open to the public when the state legislature is in session (odd-numbered years from mid-January through May or June).

There’s free two-hour parking in the Capitol Visitors Parking Garage, entered from either 12th St or 13th St, off San Jacinto Blvd.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Austin attractions

2. Contemporary Austin

0.41 MILES

This museum operates two separate sites. The Jones Center, downtown, features rotating exhibits representing new artists, spreading through two gallery…

3. Blanton Museum of Art

0.45 MILES

A big university with a big endowment is bound to have a big art collection, and now, finally, it has a suitable building to show it off properly. With…

4. Museum of the Weird

0.53 MILES

Pay the entrance fee in the gift shop, then step inside Austin's version of a cabinet of curiosities. It's more of a hallway of curiosities, really, lined…

5. Mexic-Arte Museum

0.56 MILES

This wonderful, eclectic downtown museum features works from Mexican and Mexican American artists in exhibitions that change every two months. Many are…

6. Hi, How Are You Mural

0.64 MILES

Created by songwriter and artist Daniel Johnston, this iconic bug-eyed frog greets passersby near the University of Texas. Also known as Jeremiah the…

8. University of Texas at Austin

0.75 MILES

Whatever you do, don't call it 'Texas University' – them's fightin' words, usually used derisively by Texas A&M students to take their rivals down a notch…