Discover the chicest fashions, foods and views in Canberra with this stylish guide of what to see, eat and do.
What to see in Canberra
Canberra has a cleverly distinctive layout and the perfect way to get acquainted with it is to head to the lookout at Mount Ainslie and soak up 360-degree views of the city and surrounding mountain ranges. If you’re short on time you can cheat your way to the top by driving but if you’re feeling more active you can tackle the 1.5hr return climb to counter-act all the sweet treats you’ll want to try later. Signs at the top will help you identify the significant sites below, including the Australian War Memorial, Anzac Parade and Capital Hill.
In the cultural circle surrounding Parliament House you’ll find some of Australia’s best museums and galleries. In one afternoon in Canberra I learnt more about Australian culture and history than I have in the last few years of living here.
The National Gallery of Australia holds an incredible collection of Indigenous Australian artwork and iconic images including Sidney Nolan’s work based on infamous bushranger Ned Kelly. Down the road, the National Portrait Gallery is home to a number of familiar Australian faces – including a beguiling painting of Barry Humphries, the comic behind the character of Dame Edna Everage. For those who like their museums to be hands on Questacon has a wealth of interactive science and technology exhibits, whereas bookworms like myself will appreciate the rare and historic tomes at The National Library of Australia.
Where to shop in Canberra
To shop for gifts, home wares and clothing as creative as their surroundings, head to the Ori Building in Braddon, an interesting building so named after the folds and origami references within its architecture. Rummage around The Hive for quirky vases, bold scarves and sweet-smelling candles and visit Rebel Muse for a well-curated collection of up-and-coming Aussie designers.
Pop into the Designer Op Shop (also in Braddon) for pre-loved and vintage fashion. As well as retro designer clothing, the Designer Op Shop have a charming selection of vintage crockery that will look great in an eclectically decorated home.
Where to eat in Canberra
For food as pretty as the plates it’s served on you must visit the Bookplate Café at the National Library of Australia. Bookplate serve fresh salads and sumptuous cakes in two stunning settings. Sit indoors and your meal will be framed by the Library’s famous Leonard French stained-glass windows or choose to sit outdoors and you can soak up the waterfront views of Lake Burley Griffin. Either way, promise me you’ll order one of their picture-perfect floral sponge cakes.
If you’re looking for a good spot to brunch you’ll be spoilt for choice on Lonsdale Street in Braddon – check out Elk and Pea, Eighty/Twenty and EightySix, to name a few. There are plenty of great coffee houses in this area too including Lonsdale Street Roasters who were among the first wave of speciality coffee shops to set up shop here. More recently Lonsdale Street Eatery have become known for being one of the first eateries in Australia to own a custom made barbeque pit from Missouri, USA. If you’re a fan of Beef Brisket you’ll be drawn in by the smell alone!
Lonsdale Street offers a few temptations for sweet tooths too. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the intensely chocolaty gelato at Frugii Dessert Laboratory. Frugii make all their iced treats from scratch in-house and you can taste the thought that went into every bite.
Where to stay in Canberra
Just a short walk from Parliament House is the chic Little National Hotel who have beds worth raving about. Not only are their luxurious linens sublime for snuggling in but the bed is strategically positioned directly in front of the window. You feel as if you’re sleeping in a cosy cube with pretty views and, rather handily, the TV, light switches and plug sockets are all snugly positioned nearby too. Little touches like a teapot and T2 teabags left in the room make you feel very welcome, as does the free-flowing hot beverages in the lounge and helpful staff on the desk 24/7.
If you’d like to stay somewhere more creative Peppers Gallery Hotel in NewActon is an arty alternative. Quirky works of art are hung not just in the hotel’s foyer and corridors but followed through to the guest rooms too. In my case that meant an eye-catching ceiling decorated with richly patterned wallpaper. With life-sized sculptures also dotted around the NewActon precinct, you’ll certainly be immersed in (and amused by) art when staying in this neighbourhood.
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This post was written as part of a project with Wotif and Visit Canberra. All opinions are my own. For more information on these activities plus further trip ideas, have a play on this handy trip builder. This post was originally published here.