Canberra City Guide
Nestled in south eastern Australia, Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory is the capital of Australia. It’s a city flanked by mountains, villages and wineries.
Walk up to Capital Hill and visit Parliament House, the home of Australia’s Federal Government. With its enormous spire topped by the large Australian flag, the building has 4,700 rooms, many of which are open to the public!
Whether Parliament is in session or not, you can go in and take a look. If the House and Senate are in session, you can watch the proceedings. There is only room for 388 people, so make reservations ahead of time if you’re dying to get a spot.
The most famous neighbourhood in Canberra is on Embassy Drive in the suburb of Yarralumla. Home to almost 80 different embassies, you’ll feel like you’re in a different country with each one that you pass! The biggest embassies are the American, the Mexican, and the Chinese.
The architecture of each embassy pays homage to its home country. Driving around the street is like driving around the world!
In the heart of town, Canberra is chock full of culture. If you are a museum or an art junkie, this is the place for you! For an unparalleled experience, head to the National Gallery of Australia. With more than 100,000 pieces of art, it is the biggest museum in the city but it certainly isn’t the only one! There are countless museums and art galleries to choose from.
The National Portrait Gallery offers more than 400 portraits that can help you learn more about the history, the creativity, and the culture of Australia. In fact, the gallery is deemed so important that it sits in between the High Court of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia, on King Edward Terrace.
If you want to learn more about the last century of Australia’s TV, radio and film achievements, head over to the National Film and Sound Archive. There are plenty of interactive exhibits that people of all ages will enjoy!
At the Gallery of Australian Design, you can see how various designs showcase Australia’s national identity and cultural values. You can even learn how designers plan for different Australian audiences!
Culture and heritage play a big role in one of Canberra’s most popular annual events – the Canberra Festival. For a week in March, the city comes alive with dance performances, live music, films and art exhibitions – all to honour Canberra’s birthday.
On the other side of Lake Burley Griffin, you’ll find the National Museum of Australia – which is dedicated to sharing all of the wonderful stories of Australia and its people. Be sure to check out the “First Australians" exhibit, which will tell you all about the Aborigines!
There’s one place in town that’s truly out of this world – the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex. The Complex is chock full of engineers and specialists who are in charge of furthering Australia’s role in studying outer space. Inside, you can look at moon rocks, look at a variety of spacecrafts, and even try the food that the astronauts eat!
Canberra is home to some great food.
If you want to experience a true Canberra institution, head to Gus’s – on Bunda Street. Open from 7:30am until “late" 7 days a week, this grungy establishment claims to be the very first outdoor cafe in all of Canberra. If you need a snack, try the garlic mushrooms, and see why everyone raves about them! The original Gus was actually a Vienna native who brought a little bit of his homeland to Canberra... and the rest is history!
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, there are plenty of more modern eateries right across the street.
If you want to rub elbows with a more “dignified" crowd, head to Manuka – a district on Canberra’s south side. That’s where many of the politicians, dignitaries, and embassy employees eat.
Saffron is a small restaurant with big quality. Featuring East Mediterranean cuisine, Saffron is known for its Castaletta – or, lamb cutlets marinated in tomato puree, chilli, and red wine.
If you’re in the mood for Asian cuisine, head to Dickson – Canberra’s unofficial Asian food capital! The Dickson Noodle House is one of the most popular restaurants in Canberra – so be prepared to wait a while for a table if you don’t have a reservation.
Whether you’re hungry at lunchtime or late at night, Ruby Chinese offers both Chinese and Cantonese food. They also offer a ton of seafood – much of which can be selected right from the tank!
For some history, head to the Australian War Memorial. Located at the top of Anzac Parade – about five minutes from the city centre – the Memorial is a tribute to all of the Australian men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. There’s also a museum that will help you learn more about Australian armed forces.
If you’re into mountain biking, than Canberra is the place for you! The city is home to five main biking areas that make up more than 150km of trails. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, there is a trail that’s perfect for you.
In fact, Canberra is such a mountain biking hot spot, that the city hosts several festivals and other events throughout the year. The biggest is the Scott Australian 24 Hours Mountain Bike Championships. Held every October, the race is the biggest of its kind in the entire world. If you think you’re up for the challenge, you can sign up to take part!
If you are lucky enough to be in Canberra in the middle of September through the middle of October, you will get to take in the magic of Floriade – or, Canberra’s celebration of spring. The locals call it a “feast for the senses", and they are absolutely right! With, thousands of flowers in bloom, it’s something that you have to see – and smell – to believe!
Once the sun goes down, the Floriade celebration continues with concerts. Plus, you can check out the exhibits – and learn how to cultivate your own green thumb – anytime, day or night. If you get hungry, there are a few outdoor restaurants where you can dine without missing any of the beauty.
For a true taste of what Canberra has to offer, head on the Poacher’s Way. Created by a group of people who wanted to showcase the very best of Canberra, the Poacher’s Way features wineries, art, gourmet foods, and rural landmarks.
While all of the Poacher’s Way is interesting, some of the most popular stops are the vineyards – where you can learn more about the specifics of Canberra’s wine region and taste the finished products!
- Lambert Vineyards offer an intimate environment – complete with fireplaces and a terrace that overlooks the vineyard below!
- The Shaw Vineyard Estate is larger, but it offers the same comfortable setting – complete with live Jazz on the terrace at sunset!
- Clonakilla Winery was one of the first wineries in the region – created because the owners didn’t understand why Canberra’s great climate didn’t have a wine industry. Clonakilla only makes a limited number of each type of wine, so that customers will think of each bottle as a rare jewel.
While there are hotels all over Canberra, the biggest selections are in two areas – just southeast of Capital Hill and near City Hill, on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin.
There are also a few hotels along Embassy Drive. That way, you can pretend you’re an Ambassador during your stay!
In addition to traditional hotels, there are also a number of serviced apartments around Canberra. That way, you can get the space you need, without paying for an expensive hotel suite.
Luckily, Canberra’s city centre is big enough to accommodate hotels in virtually every price range. That way, you can stay close to the action – without breaking your budget!