The first inhabitants of the area were the Tonkawa tribe and the Comanches and Lipan Apaches would travel through the area. Settlers came in the mid 18th century when the San Xavier Missions set down along the San Gabriel River. In the early 1800s, Spanish forts were established.
From 1835 – 1836 Texans fought for independence in the Texas Revolution. When Texas won it became an independent country on its own with a president, congress and monetary system. The Texas Congress stated looking for a capital in 1839 and chose to name it for Stephen F. Austin. They investigated the area that was named Waterloo and changed its name to Austin. It became a crossroads for trade routes between Santa Fe and Galveston Bay. The city is also the site where the southern leg of the Chisholm Trail leads to the Colorado River.
In September 1881 the public schools in Austin first held classes and that same year Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute opened their doors. The University of Texas dates from 1883. The state capitol building was completed in 1888 and was claimed to be the 7th largest building in the world.
After the mid-1900s Austin became established as one of the major metropolitan centers in Texas and by the late 20th century the city emerged as an important high tech center for semiconductors and software. Austin came into the national music scene in the 1970s with artists like Willie Nelson and venues like the Armadillo World Headquarters. This is the place of the long-running TV program Austin City Limits and the annual South by the Southwest musical festival.
Austin is known for its bats. Between March and October, an estimated 1.5 million bats come out from under the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge just before sunset. This is the largest bat colony in North America.
The Circuit of the Americas is the only Formula One race track in the U.S. and has been host to the U.S. Grand Prix since 2012.
Actress Sandra Bullock owns the downtown restaurant Bess Bistro.