I recently spent a bit of time in Canberra which is (if you didn’t already know,) the capital of Australia. Canberra has always gotten a bad rap for being a boring city that is filled with government buildings and only inhabited by public servants and politicians. But I’m here to tell you that it’s actually a really cool city! There has been a lot of new development in the last couple of years, some beautiful architecture is mixed amongst hipster suburbs and there is a pretty big foodie scene happening all around Canberra. So what is there to do in a weekend in Canberra? Let me show you!
To begin with, the new suburb of New Acton is definitely worth checking out and staying at. I stayed at Hotel Hotel which is a big, new development that was completed in 2013 and houses Monster Bar and Kitchen, an art house cinema and Max Brenner chocolatier and has 68 rooms – which are Cosy, Original, Creative and Meandering. Each one is unique. There are also apartments known as Design Icons. Hotel Hotel is where all the local Canberrians hang out after work and this place is off the charts with modern luxury and coolness. From the rain shower, to the Aesop products, sound proofing for an ultra quiet sleep, the most comfortable bed and pillows. There is nothing that you could want for. I will write a separate blog about how cool this place is because theres too much to mention in this blog.
Within the New Action precinct you have the Nishi Gallery which is a blank space for artists and curators to display all types of visual art.
New Acton is also home to some of the best restaurants and cafes in Canberra including A.Baker. This place is filled with the buzz of an inner city environment seven days a week whether it be for lovely daily baked artisan breads, contemporary dining in the regional produce restaurant, a relaxing cocktail in the downstairs bar or an evening event amongst the trees in the NewActon courtyard. It’s a place for all people, all times. The pastries are pretty damn delicious too.
New Acton is also home to The Cupping room which is known by the locals to pour the best coffee in Canberra. Coffee so good it rivals Melbourne baristas. There is also Mocan and Grout which do amazing food and is a cute little cosy cafe in amongst the New Acton precinct.
Another cool suburb of Canberra is Braddon. In particular Lonsdale street, Braddon. This area used to be old car yards and has now been developed into a funky hipster hangout for 20 to 30 somethings. Braddon is home to The Hamlet which is a space created for food vans. I highly recommend Mr.Pappas pork belly sandwich. Carlos has brought his peruvian heritage and talent with him to Australia to serve up the tastiest dishes to the locals.
But really you can’t go wrong with any of the food vans at The Hamlet. There is always a string of people coming and going and just hanging out. Braddon is also home to other funky cafes and hidden behind the food vans at The Hamlet are a number of local designers that have opened pop-up shops selling jewellery, fashion, furniture and homewares.
In the newly opened ORI building which is another amazing architectural structure in itself is the famous Frugii Desert and laboratory for artisan ice cream made by the ice-cream alchemist John Marshall who I actually met while eating my pork belly sandwich at The Hamlet. He is the loveliest guy, and also loves the pork belly sandwich from Mr Papas! The ORI building is also home to Hive, Groom, Handsome Pretty and a mix of other quirky and fun homewares, art and fashion boutiques.
Lake Burley Griffin
You can’t come to Canberra without seeing the Lake Burley Griffin. Numerous important institutions, such as the National Gallery, National Library, and the High Court were built on its shores, and Parliament House is a short distance away. Its surrounds, consisting mainly of parklands, are popular with the locals who love to walk, run, cycle and relax by this beautiful lake. You can also sail and go for a cruise on the lake.
The Australian War Memorial
I am not a fan of war but this place is beautiful and is a really touching tribute to the sacrifice that our fellows Australians made for the freedom of this country so that we have the wonderful life and freedom that we have today. The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941, and is widely regarded as one of the most significant memorials of its type in the world. At 11am each morning there is the very moving Last Post Ceremony and each day honours one of the 62,000 who gave their lives in service.
National Gallery of Australia
The National Gallery of Australia is the national art museum of Australia as well as the largest art museum in the country, holding more than 166,000 works of art. The gallery itself is hugely impressive with works by Pollock, Monet and Bacon and Hockney, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection is, understandably, the best in the world but another part to this gallery that a lot of people miss is the sculpture garden. Highlights are Fukiko Nakaya’s meditative fog sculpture and James Turells Skyspace “Within Without” which invites you to lie down inside a viewing chamber and watch the sky through a hole in the roof.
You can’t come to Canberra without visiting Parliament House. You have to take the obligatory selfie out the front and then walk up onto the grass roof and even roll back down the hill if you are a big kid! You can also take a tour of the inside which is actually quite impressive. If Parliament is not sitting then you can visit the House of Representatives Room and the Senate Room. Its actually not as big as it looks on television when they are yelling across the room to each other! The principal design of the structure is based on the shape of two boomerangs and is topped by an 81-metre (266 ft) flagpole with an Australian flag bigger than a double decker bus.
Sunset at Mount Ainslie Lookout
You can’t leave Canberra without watching the sun go down from Mount Ainslie Lookout. This view point sees you looking straight down Anzac Parade from behind the Australian War Memorial all the way to Parliament House.
I hope you enjoyed this tour of Canberra. I was really impressed with this city and look forward to returning again. There is so much more to do than what I have listed here too like the National Museum of Australia which tells the story and history of Australia, the National Arboretum which was a suburb that got burnt down in a horrific fire and has been regenerated into a green space, Mout Majura Vineyard, the only vineyard in the ACT with a vineyard that grows in red volcanic soil, Telstra Tower and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Have you been to Canberra recently or in the past? I would love to know your thoughts on it so leave a comment below and let me know!
25 Edinburgh Avenue
Canberra ACT 2601