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Since 1927 Canberra has been the capital city of Australia and the seat of the Federal Parliament. It’s also out to claim the title of the coolest city in Aus, and they don’t just mean the temperature. Flanked by glorious mountain ranges and housing some of the best museums in art galleries that Australia has to offer. It’s unique blend of wide-open spaces interspersed by dense pockets of urban activity make for a city break like no other. Set right on the edge of some incredible bushland reserves, serene lakeside views and some world class cultural experiences there really is nothing that this city can’t provide.
A brief overview of Canberra
Some interesting information about Canberra
- Canberra has 3 sister cities: The Japanese city of Nara, Beijing in China, and Wellington in New Zealand
- Canberra has developed a love for hot air balloon riding, it’s on of the only places that you can take a balloon ride.
- Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of only three space stations in the world.
- Canberra ranked third on Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel — Top Cities’ list for 2018. In 1912, the Australian Government hosted a Federal Capital Design Competition to find a design for the nation's capital. They received over 137 applications from all over the world.
- Canberra is the only city in the world where you can skydive over the country’s parliament house.
- Canberra’s name is thought to mean ‘meeting place’ derived from the Aboriginal word Kamberra.
- Canberra boasts several award-winning urban developments and architecture that are astoundingly beautiful.
Things to do in Canberra
The National Gallery of Australia acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples who are the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and it recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country. The NGA is Australia’s leading national visual arts institution and since its opening in 1982 the Gallery has played a leadership role in shaping visual arts culture across Australia. The collection comprises almost 160,000 works of art, including the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and Australia’s pre-eminent collection of modern international art. Entry to the Gallery is free although there may be a small charge for some of the temporary exhibits. There are also free guided tours are offered hourly from 10.30am to 2.30pm.
The National Portrait Gallery is set just around the corner from the National Gallery of Australia, their mission is to develop, preserve, maintain and promote a national collection of portraits and other works of art. This purpose-built building houses over 3500 works of art of which only around 10% are on display at anyone time. Combine this with the fact that they are commissioning new works of art annually and you can visit this amazing gallery time and time again. Entry into the gallery is free and you can visit daily from 10am-5pm.
Modern architecture in Australia
One of the finest examples of modern architecture in Australia is the Australian Parliament House. Built in 1988 and sitting atop Capitol Hill, the building is crossed by two axes, north–south and east–west, representing the historical progression and legislative progression of Australian democracy. Visitors can take a free guided tour through the building every day at 9.30am, 11am, 1pm, 2pm and 3.30pm. When Parliament is in session you can watch Question Time for a small fee (from 2pm onwards), at which government ministers are questioned by other members of parliament. There is also a one-hour 'Behind the Scenes' tour ($15, 10am, noon and 3pm, outside parliamentary sitting weeks), which gives a more intimate look into the machinations of Australian democracy.
If you want a change of pace from the art galleries and museums take a stop at Questacon. Fun interactive exhibits and tinker in supervised workshops are just some of the features at Australia’s premier science museum. Most families visiting Canberra head straight here to take in the earthquake simulators, gigantic model of the moon and terrifying vertical slide. Try to time your visit to catch one of the regular science shows at the on-site theatre, they are usually at 11am, noon, 1.30pm and 2.30pm, but check online for updated times before your visit.
If you're craving a little adventure head to Wee Jasper Caves for some caving. Describes as one of the most beautiful and captivating cave tours in Australia you’ll get to sample geology, chemistry, palaeontology, history, music and more. As you descend into darkness, you will be able to see the rays of sun slowly getting thinner. Wee Jasper Caves are known for their peculiar limestone features and they are sure to take your breath away.
Canberra zoo and aquarium
The National Zoo is around a five-minute drive from Canberra and is a combined zoo and aquarium. The Aquarium is home to around 30 different species and its main feature is a 1.5 million litre aquarium with an underwater viewing tunnel. The NZA is now one of the largest privately owned zoos in Australia and one of only 26 zoos that have been accredited out of the 52 zoos that are members of the Zoo and Aquarium association of Australia. The addition of Jamala Wildlife Lodge in 2014 means that you are able to experience encounters with some of the world’s most dangerous and endangered animals, as well as relaxing in the unique atmosphere of its three individually designed five star Accommodation hubs. With a wide variety of both native and exotic animals, as well as the largest inland saltwater tank in Australia, there is something for everyone and the NZA.
Eating out in Canberra
Some ideas for eating out in Canberra
Aubergine is one of the most affordably priced two hatted restaurants in Australia and regularly features on lists of best eateries. High ceilings, beautiful lights and simple, elegant decor which allow the contemporary menu to shine. The menu is updated daily because they trust local suppliers and growers to bring them the best produce of the day and from that they create delicious dishes with traditional roots. Their wine list has won numerous awards and has over 500 labels available to you again showcasing local suppliers where possible.
Pilot has an incredibly unique vibe for Canberra. Whilst at its heart is a very chef driven restaurant its vibe is almost hipster like. Every detail of this restaurant is meticulously planned out from the bespoke tableware to the small yet exquisite dining room. The young chef Malcolm Hanslow sends out plates that break good ideas down to their constituent parts and reassemble them in new and exciting ways. The drinks menu is entirely Australian and focuses on smaller producers whose values match with that of the owners. Having gained numerous accolades over the years this restaurant is at the very forefront of where Canberra’s culinary scene is headed.
Les Bistronomes brought a touch of sophisticated French chic to the north of Canberra. Over the years they have developed into a neighbourhood bistro offering upmarket bistro dishes without the fine dining price tags. The core of the menu has remained the same which some might see as a downside, but why change what works so well for them. Their clientele return time and time again so it’s easy to see why bookings are recommended. The saucisson brioche is a favourite with buttery brioche enveloping a delicious sausage filling. Their ethos is and always will be to create good food, good service in a homely, relaxed atmosphere.
If you are looking for a luxurious dining experience like no other, then Courgette is the place for you. Likened to being the Bentley of the dining world, Courgette is a seriously is known for its sophisticated ambience. Lounge like chairs invite diners to settle in and savour both the food and the setting at their own unhurried pace. Located right in the heart of Canberra this delightful restaurant serves fine French fare and has been awarded more awards than they could name. Try the lorded prosciutto wrapped, pan-seared scallops, confit chicken wings with pea mousse, lemon olive oil balsamic reduction and be prepared to never taste food this good again.
Temporada is a contemporary fresh-faced restaurant that focuses on using local ingredients and suppliers to create glorious sharing plates. Smart, sexy and stylish, but still casual enough to drop in any time of the day. The head chef Dave Young is not afraid to push boundaries but he never loses sight of quality produce and execution. Open throughout the day you will be hard pushed to find a better breakfast in Canberra.
Although new on the scene The Italian Place is almost old-fashioned in its approach to Italian cooking and that is what makes it a steadfast favourite with the locals. They serve classic but super simple, generous and everyday Italian. Homemade pastas with pork ragu, crumbed sardines and beautiful salt whipped cod all grace the menu. Whilst it might not be fine dining and can sometimes appear a little chaotic it only serves to add to the delightfully authentic Italian feel.
The capital’s airport hosts both domestic and international flights. It is located only 8 km away from the city centre, which only takes about 15 mins.
Buses and Trains in Canberra
The public bus service is called Action Buses and is free and serves all major tourist sights. There are also trains from Canberra but the road routes tend to be quicker.
Canberra is one of the easiest cities to get around by car. It is renowned for its many roundabouts, which means the traffic tends to flow smoothly and there is plenty of parking. You can drive across the city in about half an hour.
Simply be aware that there are many cyclists around who tend to stay in designated cycle lanes on the left hand side of the main roads.
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