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Twighlight view of Parliament House in Canberra

Things to do in  Canberra

Australia’s bush capital

Surrounded by mountains and nature, Canberra—Australia’s capital—is a destination often unfairly written off as a place just for politics. But look past that role, and you’ll see that this small city provides plenty of things to do for receptive visitors: visit museums, galleries, and monuments that reflect Australian culture or hike peaceful nature trails to panoramic viewpoints that look out over the city’s lakefront locale.

Top 15 attractions in Canberra

Mt. Ainslie

The city of Canberra was master-planned by an American designer from Chicago, but you will never recognize the genius of his plan until you see it from the top of Mt. Ainslie. From the lookout point of this 2,700 ft. hill that rises to the north of Canberra, you can finally understand the geometric formations that comprise the modern city. The lakes, hills, avenues, and buildings all seem neatly cradled in the valley’s amphitheater and the view towards the west during sunset hours is the best in all of Canberra.To reach the famously breathtaking lookout, choose from one of the numerous walking tracks that ascend the side of the mountain. One trail—the Kokoda Track—departs from the back of the Australian War Memorial and has placards that honor Australian soldiers who fought in World War II. Other trails, such as the Mt. Ainslie Walking Trail, weave their way from the base of the mountain up towards the summit lookout, and keep your eyes peeled for small kangaroos as they rustle about in the bush. If, on the other hand, you would prefer to simply see the view without working up a sweat, a road leading to the summit lookout is the easiest way to the top.More

Australian Parliament House

Two parliament houses sit atop Capital Hill in Canberra, the old Art Deco parliament building from the 1920s and the new Australian Parliament House, built in the 1980s. The grassed roof and triangular metal flagpole of the building have become a national symbol of Australia. Works by some of Australia’s top contemporary artists hang within.More

Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial is one of Canberra’s most prominent landmarks and home to the National Military Museum. Standing at the head of Anzac Parade and surrounded by Remembrance Nature Park, it’s a moving tribute to the many Australian soldiers that fought and died in wars throughout the years.More

National Museum of Australia

Like a big abstract Australian storybook, the National Museum of Australia uses controversy and humor to get you thinking about Australian national identity and heritage. The diverse collection focuses on Indigenous cultures and histories, settlement by Europeans, and the interaction between Australians and the environment.More

Lake Burley Griffin

Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin is at the heart of the capital, providing the focal point around which much of the city’s official and recreational life revolves. Formed by the damming of the Molonglo River in 1963—about half a century after Canberra’s founding—it’s now difficult to imagine the city without the defining body of water.More

National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia has a stunning permanent collection of art focusing on four areas: Australian art, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Asian and Pacific art, and European and American Art. Highlights include works by Australian artists Sidney Nolan, Tom Roberts, and Arthur Streeton.More

National Library of Australia

If you have any question about Australia, you will find an answer here. The National Library boasts the largest collection of “Australiana” in the world, and over 10 million pieces of printed material—from books, magazines, photographs, and newspapers—has been preserved by the library system. Read accounts of the earliest explorers as they found this new southern land, or find books on Aboriginal folklore and the evolution of Australian culture. You will also find exhibits and printed material on neighboring Pacific nations, where books provide windows into New Zealand New Guinea in a way no library can. Perhaps most striking are handwritten manuscripts that have defined Australia’s history, from the original journals of Captain Cook to letters from World War I. Exhibits in the library change regularly, and you can easily lose yourself for an hour or a week in the fascinating, historical, and literary windows that line the walls of this palace of knowledge.More

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

Owned by NASA and managed by CSIRO, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three NASA tracking stations around the world. Integral to NASA missions, it’s also home to the Canberra Space Centre, where visitors can get a behind-the-scenes peek at NASA missions and learn more about the mysteries of outer space.More

High Court of Australia

Anyone standing in the Parliamentary Triangle will notice the High Court of Australia. A towering building of concrete and glass that rises 130 feet, the court is an award-winning piece of architecture on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The glass is meant to symbolize transparency in Australia’s judicial process, and visitors are welcome to sit on proceedings whenever court is in session. Many of Australia’s most notable cases have been conducted here in this building, and the laws that govern the entire nation are handed down from these halls.Three different courtrooms and a public hall are accessible to courthouse visitors, and even during times when court isn’t in session, the public hall can host cultural events or even afternoon concerts. Informative placards highlight events that have shaped the court system’s past, and with the exception of marble that has been imported from Italy, all of the timber and beams in the courthouse are made from Australian wood. Part functioning legal facility and part design attraction, the High Court of Australia is a noble stop when visiting downtown Canberra.More

National Portrait Gallery

A great city and a great country must first be home to great people. After all, it’s the lives and actions of its exemplary citizens that lay the foundation for greatness, and at Canberra’s National Portrait Gallery, empowering portraits create an historical mosaic of the people who molded Australia.All art mediums are utilized here, from paintings, drawings, sketches, and photography—even sculpture and film. Portrait subjects are drawn from all corners of modern Australian society, from politicians and athletes to musicians and royalty. More than simply an art gallery, however, portraits are accompanied my multimedia guides and provide detailed background on the iconic figures who are literally staring you in the face. With over 400 portraits on the gallery grounds, and rotating exhibits that richly explore different segments of Australian culture, there is no better place hear the stories and see the faces of Australia’s most inspiring citizens.More

Australian Institute of Sport

Want to get a look inside how elite Australian athletes train? Stop by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra to experience what it’s like to eat, work and sweat like one of the players. One of Australia’s most-loved sites, AIS welcomes more than 200,000 visitors each year.Take a guided tour for a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of world-class Australian athletes. The 160-acre campus includes top-notch sports facilities, training camps and lodging for some of the most renowned athletes in the world. The AIS Arena hosts well-known events, concerts shows such as Cirque du Soleil — don’t forget to check what’s on! Grab an espresso at the AIS café or pick up a souvenir at the shop, and soak up the sporting atmosphere.More
National Zoo & Aquarium

National Zoo & Aquarium

With a huge range of resident critters, from native Australian animals to exotic species, the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra has plenty for wildlife lovers to get excited about. In addition to housing Australia’s most extensive collection of big cats, it also has the largest inland saltwater tank in the country.More
Questacon: the National Science and Technology Centre

Questacon: the National Science and Technology Centre

The young (and the young at heart can interact with more than 200 exhibits divided between eight hands-on galleries and an outdoor Science Garden at Questacon. Learn how tsunamis form, feel the shake of an earthquake, gaze at the surface of a giant model of the moon, or catch a show in the on-site theater.More
Cockington Green Gardens

Cockington Green Gardens

Cockington Green Gardens offers visitors a trip around the world without leaving Canberra. The outdoor exhibit features meticulously crafted miniature buildings representing numerous landmarks, from Scotland’s Braemer Castle to Peru’s Machu Picchu. It’s a great option for traveling families who will be captivated by the enchanting world.More

Australian National Botanic Gardens

The Australian National Botanic Gardens re-imagines natural environments from around the country in its 86 acres (35 hectares of former bushland on the lower slopes of Black Mountain. Visitors get a glimpse at the world’s most comprehensive display of native Australian flora—75,000 plants from more than 6,000 species.More
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All about Canberra

When to visit

Following chilly and windy winters, spring brings welcome relief to Canberrans and large crowds of tourists due to one of the city’s largest festivals, Floriade—a month-long flower festival with vivid floral displays and illuminations. Despite its hot and dry weather, summer also draws in plenty of visitors with festivals, from the family-friendly fireworks of Skyfire to the rubber-burning mayhem of the Summernats car festival.

Getting around

Driving remains the easiest way to get around Canberra when sightseeing due to the city's layout and limited local public transport timetables. Canberra’s bus network operates across the city, with its central station at the City Interchange on Alinga Street in Civic. A new light rail system also connects the Canberra city center with the showgrounds in the northern suburbs. Some areas of attractions are easily walkable, though, such as in Parkes and Kingston.

Traveler tips

If you’re after cocktails and a novel Canberra drinking experience, add the speakeasy Molly to your evening plans. To get there, follow the GPS coordinates 35°16'44.5"S+149°07'42.0"E, and don’t be discouraged if you find yourself in an unexciting back alley. Help your recovery the next day with a Canberra staple, Brodburger in Kingston, to see if you think their burgers are worth the hype—and the lines. (You can order ahead online.)

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People Also Ask

How do I spend a day in Canberra?

Begin a day in Canberra with a visit to the Australian War Memorial and its world-class museum before getting a coffee at one of the cafes on Lonsdale Street in Braddon. Then cross Lake Burley Griffin to see Parliament House and the art inside the National Gallery of Australia before having a drink by the waterfront in Kingston.

Is it worth visiting Canberra?

Yes, Canberra is worth visiting if you’re curious about the Australian capital and enjoy museums, art, culture, and panoramic viewpoints. Despite Canberra’s stuffy reputation, the city is an excellent destination for food and nightlife and also a great choice for outdoor lovers with plenty of mountain trails to hike on.

How do I spend a weekend in Canberra?

For an entertaining weekend in Canberra, spend your Saturday exploring the War Memorial, relaxing at a cafe in Braddon, and admiring the view from Mount Ainslie. First thing Sunday, head to the Old Bus Depot Markets for food and shopping, followed by sightseeing around Parliament House and drinks at the Kingston Foreshore.

What is Canberra famous for?

Canberra is best known as the capital city of Australia and home to the country’s government and politics. The city’s most famous attractions are its national museums, art galleries, and cultural institutions, such as the Royal Australian Mint and the National Arboretum Canberra.

Does Canberra have good nightlife?

Canberra has a healthy nightlife scene, thanks to the city’s large population of both students and young professionals. Civic in the city center is the central hub of nightlife activity, with smaller hubs in the suburbs of Acton (near the Australian National University), Kingston, and Braddon.

Why do tourists visit Canberra?

Tourists visit Canberra for many reasons, but typically it is to see the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Parliament House, and to visit many of the city’s fine museums, including Questacon and the National Museum of Australia. People also often travel to Canberra for festivals like the Canberra Balloon Spectacular and Floriade.


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