With a thriving underground nightlife scene, some of the best restaurants and wineries in Australia, and arts and culture to boot— you best believe our capital city is on the up and up.
Where self-professed foodies can unfold a napkin at award-winning restaurants like Aubergine or sip cocktails at watering holes like Hippo Co, where luxe travellers can relax at the Jindii Eco Spa or indulge in an overnight zoo stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, and the culturally curious can soak in the best art at Australian Love Stories or the Gallery Of Small Things—Canberra is bursting with appeal.
Not to mention, these city experiences are just a short stroll to the natural splendour of wild national parks, mountainous vistas, waterfalls, the National Arboretum Canberra and stunning wineries like Mount Majura where you can glamp beneath the stars.
Still don’t believe us? See what these recent vacayers have to say about Canberra.
Claire loves Canberra for its easy-going energy, and the incredible wineries, breweries and restaurants. “For such a small place Canberra punches well above its weight,” she says.
You’ll find Claire lining up for burgers at Brodburger in Kingston, which she says is “an institution and must try. If you can grab a table you’re doing well, otherwise, take your burgers down to the water's edge and enjoy the view.” For fancy dining, Claire loves Pilot in Ainslie and says “the food is visually stunning, surprising and a little adventurous but always delicious, and they offer interesting wines you might not otherwise think to try.”
Otherwise, you can find Claire at Monster Bar and Kitchen. “It’s such a cosy venue in winter and is open late—grabbing a table by the open fireplace for an impromptu glass of wine or hot chocolate is a treat. The restaurant is pretty incredible too. Monster is best saved for dark and moody nights.”
When it comes to Canberra’s nightlife? Claire says there’s plenty to check out and get excited about. “Head to Tipsy Bull in Braddon for gin and tonics and if you feel like a dance, 88MPH is dorky 80s party vibes and a really good time. Afterwards, maybe walk over to Molly for a nightcap—if you can find the door!”
When we asked Claire why people should book a weekend in Canberra, she said “Canberra is never going to be Sydney or Melbourne, and I think people who visit expecting that miss out on a lot of the magic—let Canberra be its own thing, it will charm you.”
James, Town Planner
For James, a short city break to Canberra is all about exploring Australia’s original planned city and soaking up the grand architecture and design. “It lends a unique insight into the history of the city's development which you can explore at the National Capital Exhibition.”
“On my last trip, I stayed in the Hyatt which I've always wanted to do. Canberra has such a rich tapestry of art deco and modernist architecture it was fantastic to stay and explore the oldest hotel in the Capital.”
“On my last trip, my partner and I cycled around Lake Burley Griffin which was a completely new way for us to see the city. Stopping at museums and galleries along the way and admiring the vistas, allowed us to appreciate Canberra from a different perspective.”
Beyond this, James says there’s plenty more to get excited about in Canberra. “Whether you're attending the latest exhibition in the National Gallery of Australia or sampling Shiraz at a nearby winery, your options are endless.”
As for the burgeoning foodie scene in Canberra, James says there’s something for all tastes and budgets. “From brunches and amazing coffee in Braddon at Rye, dumplings in Manuka at Bambusa, Italian in Kingston at La Rustica by the lake or fine dining at Pomegranate you can sample a new restaurant on each visit and not be disappointed.”
When we asked James what he wanted our Urban List readers to know about Canberra is that it’s a changing city that’s certainly worth the visit. “Give it a go and take a weekend trip. Canberra has long had a reputation as lacking the excitement of other major cities but it definitely has a buzz and vibrancy to make it a fun and memorable visit.”
Lauren, University Student
Lauren is a 20-year-old University of Sydney student who recently popped down to visit her best friend who studies at ANU during the Enlighten Festival held annually in March. When we asked her about her trip highlight, Lauren said “the Canberra Symphony Orchestra played the best of ABBA in the Commonwealth Park and it was the most incredible experience that I got to share with my best friend of 7 years.”
Of her favourite places in Canberra, Lauren says she has a real soft spot for the Australian National Botanic Gardens. “The rainforest area is truly breathtaking, and walking along the boardwalk under bridges felt like I was escaping to an entirely different country, which is just what you want from an everyday life escape. The whole garden was the perfect picnic spot after picking up some freshly squeezed apple and orange juice and a bacon and egg roll from Pollen, the local cafe, we sat on the lawns and soaked in the beauty of the natural landscape.”
“We even managed to fit in a paddleboat ride around the lake, something I haven't done since I was about 10 years old when I used to visit more often with my family. It's such a great way to get a more holistic picture of Canberra, with all the grand monuments easily viewed from the lake. We had great banter with people walking beside us on the sidewalks, and we got so caught up in the beauty of the lake and spending time with each other we almost didn't make it back in time for the end of our session!"
“Also the mass introduction of electric scooters in the city was honestly some of the most fun I've had on a night out. Because Canberra's so flat it was so easy to travel everywhere, it felt great to be more environmentally conscious and reduce my carbon footprint whilst adding to my overall experience as a fun and relatively cheap activity."
“Canberra will always have a special place in my heart. I have a lot of family history there—Canberra is where my parents met, still together after 25 years!—some friends and the most amazing memories. I look forward to going back and rediscovering all the magic little things that make me love Canberra so much.”
Where wine meets wilderness, luxe hotels meet glamping beneath the stars, and award-winning cuisine meets a booming nightlife and arts scene—you’ll discover more than you ever could have imagined in Canberra. It’s time to explore beneath the surface of our capital city.
Image credit: Matt Evans (hero image of National Arboretum), @travelswithmichelle (image of woman wearing a hat with hot air balloons in the distance), Brodburger Instagram, 88pmh Bar Instagram, Visit Canberra Instagram, Rye Cafe Instagram
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