Let us take the stress out of your next holiday to the ACT with this two-day itinerary of the top places to visit in Canberra.
Canberra has to be one of the most underrated capital cities in Australia. Yet it boasts an incredible art and culture scene with some of the best galleries and museums in the country as well as a strong foodie ethos with a focus on highlighting fresh, local produce, straight from the farm.
Only a short drive (or flight) from most capital cities along the East Coast, Canberra is the perfect city escape that can be enjoyed throughout the whole year, making it ideal for long weekends or those leftover days of annual leave.
Cafes, Bars & Restaurants
Everyone thinks that Melbourne is the foodie capital of the country but Canberra is well and truly nipping at its heels. With easy access to great produce, Canberra follows the “paddock to plate” mentality. Everywhere from hole-in-the-wall cafes to fine dining restaurants show an appreciation of local produce, making visits to cafes and restaurants one of the best things to do in Canberra.
If you’re looking for a world-class coffee to kick-start your weekend, then The Cupping Room is the place to be. Promising to “take you on a flavour journey”, The Cupping Room comes from the much-loved ONA Coffee family. With an international award-winning barista serving up utterly delicious cups of Joe you’d almost forget to check out their mouth-watering menu. With everything from Hoisin glazed pork belly burgers to Poached Pear French toast, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Looking for somewhere for dinner? Italian & Sons is a Canberra institution serving contemporary Italian favourites in an authentic setting, that would make even a restaurateur in Rome envious.
If you want something a little more casual, then The Hamlet is for you. It’s a little food truck village nestled in Braddon, serving all the food and drink you could imagine, like fancy hot dogs, spicy wings and Pho.
Want to finish your dinner with something sweet? Frugii Dessert Laboratory is a family-owned ice creamery with an extensive range of cakes and ice creams that are made in-house.
Excursions out of the city
Just on Canberra’s doorstep is the Canberra Wine Region, which is known for its Sangiovese, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo.
The Brindabella Hills vineyard is situated just to the north-west of Canberra in the rolling hills just above the Murrumbidgee. It’s famous for its Chardonnay and Shiraz as well as its Riesling, Cabernets, and Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon. Spend your afternoon here admiring the rolling hills with a glass of wine and a meal at the Vineyard Café. Try the much-loved Vineyard Tasting Plate which comes with Duck Liver Pate, hummus, caramelised onions, caramelised olives, basil pesto and Poachers Pantry prosciutto and brie served with warm ciabatta bread – yum!
Galleries & Exhibitions
For any of you history buffs out there, there is no shortage of interesting museums and galleries in Canberra. Stop by the Australian War Museum, dedicated to members of its armed forces who have died or participated in wars involving the Commonwealth. And don’t miss the free guided tours of Parliament House that run daily at 9.30am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3.30pm where you can learn how our country is governed.
If you only have time to visit one of Canberra’s cultural institutions, then the National Gallery of Australia is the one to choose. It houses over 150,000 artworks including works by Pollock, Bacon and Hockney as well as the best Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection in the world. Be sure to not miss the secluded sculpture where you can perch on a bench and admire views out over the lake.
If you don’t think history is really your thing, the Canberra Ghost and History Tour is sure to change your mind. Covering the history that they don’t put in the guidebooks these tours shine a spotlight into the hidden underbelly of the nation’s capital, including the Canberra funeral parlour that was once a hotbed of espionage activity.
Want to discover the city like a local? Then Canberra’s weekend markets are a must-do. Visit Kingston Old Bus Depot Markets (Sundays 10am to 4pm), where you can pick up original art and handmade jewellery, accessories and homewares.
The Fyshwick Fresh Food Market is Canberra’s oldest market serving up fresh produce including fruit and vegetables, meats, seafood, delicatessens and baked good. You can also sit down at any of the stalls and cafes inside to enjoy a delicious breakfast, brunch or lunch.
Capital Region Farmers Market on Saturdays has over 100 stallholders each week who bring their freshly picked, grown and handcrafted products to the market. You’re also encouraged to have a chat with the stallholders to learn about where theior produce is from as well as learn helpful recipes and storage tips.
Stretch your legs
After all this wining and dining you may feel the need to stretch your legs and fill your lungs with some fresh Canberra air. The Australian National Botanic Gardens is the place to do it. With over 78,00 plants (including 6,300 native species) covering 35 hectares, these gardens are truly breathtaking. There are many sections to the garden so you can really escape from the city. However, the real highlight is the Rainforest Gully, where you can meander along the upper and lower boardwalks and admire the lush plants belows. There are even daily “mistings” to enhance the ambience and maintain refreshing temperatures.
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