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I'm staying in a hostel on the river which has a great view of the downtown skyline of Austin (the HI hostel).

However, I'm wondering if there's a tower that's publicly accessible in downtown Austin for a (preferably 360 degree) view of the city and surrounding area.

Free is preferred, but would be prepared to pay if need be.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Have you tried University of Texas' Observation Deck.

It's not free but not even in the range of Empire state building or Rockefeller Center. You can also see the virtual tour of the tower and the views on their website as well.

Plus it also has some history though pretty gruesome.

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They're closed at present, but I may try to contact them tomorrow, apparently you have to reserve in advance, and they're only open on weekends. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm eyeing up, however, one of the giant towers downtown as ideal - although it might be like the Empire State Building in NYC - a great view but the only place in NYC where you don't get a view of the Empire State Building! :) – Mark Mayo Apr 26 '13 at 23:25

The UT Tower and the Frost Bank building are the tallest structures in Austin; It helps preserve the smaller town feel. I thoroughly explored the city in my time as a college student. I highly recommend the Highway 360 bridge and Mount Bonnell. As far as skyline views, a secret spot is the campus of St. Edwards University on South Lamar (15-20 min drive south of downtown). It's built on a hill so you can see the entire skyline.

View their flickr searches to see what I mean.

And St. Edwards campus

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