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Travel plans cancelled? Why not play tourist in your own backyard with this detailed itinerary of Canberra city?
Canberra’s city centre is full of surprises. Memorable foodie experiences combined with boutique shops, galleries, bars and entertainment hubs are just waiting to be explored. And best of all, you won’t need a car.
Not sure where to start? Here’s how to make the most of a quick trip to Canberra’s city centre, the capital’s urban heart.
Brunch and street shopping in Braddon
Kick-start the day with a quality brew in Braddon. This former industrial area is located just a few streets back from the city centre, otherwise referred to by locals as its suburb name, Civic. It’s now one of Canberra’s more creative destinations, with memorable eats, artisan shops, and bespoke bars and micro-breweries.
Check out the locals (and their doggos) at Barrio Collective which features a simple, but mouth-watering and unforgettable coffee and food menu. Other popular breakfast spots include Kyo Coffee Project, Gather and EightyTwenty. For a breakfast twist try Rye’s mimosas and for vegans, you can’t go past Sweet Bones Bakery and Café’s smoothies and sweets.
Once you have had your fill, stroll down Lonsdale Street peeking in the laneways for some great street art and check out the many boutiques at your leisure. Popular shops include Bisonhome, Kin Gallery, The Hive and Enigma Fine Chocolates.
Art, craft and design galleries
You’ll find more than galleries and museums of national status in the capital. The city centre is home to many hidden arty gems and is bursting with local creative talent. Located in Civic Square near the Canberra Theatre, both Canberra Museum + Art Gallery (CMAG) and Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre are great spots to visit.
CMAG features both temporary and permanent exhibitions that explore Canberra’s diverse history and contemporary culture. The Gallery also manages the Australian Government’s Sidney Nolan collection – one of Australia’s most iconic artists – and for this reason alone, is a must see.
Afterwards, head upstairs to Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre. Their gallery space and retail store is always a feast for the eyes and the mind, with many emerging and established makers, designers and artists on show waiting to be discovered – a great place for some unique and locally made gifts.
‘Eat Street’ Dickson
From the gallery, head to Alinga Street and jump on board the light rail and get off at the Dickson stop to explore its ‘Eat Street’ otherwise known as Woolley Street. Dickson has a thriving foodie culture and is full of a diversity of great restaurants, eateries and Asian grocers.
From here you can take your pick from a broad array of cuisines including Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Indian, fusion and much more. There are really too many to name, but popular spots include Mozzarella & Co, Super Bao, High Road, Pho Phu Quoc Dickson, Asian Noodle House and Hangari Kimchi.
Hot tip – If you don’t want to eat in, grab some takeaway and enjoy alfresco by sitting in one of Dickson’s quirky noodle bowls – street furniture with a twist.
Explore the historic Sydney and Melbourne buildings
Rent one of the orange or purple e-scooters or a bike and head back into the city to the Sydney and Melbourne buildings. The Sydney building opened in 1927 and Melbourne in 1946. Both are iconic historic buildings, once home to the city’s first retail hubs where people could live, work and play.
Reportedly, locals used to go rabbit shooting just 50 metres away from the buildings when they were once surrounded by paddocks. Today the city has grown up around them, and they are now full of interesting bars and eateries. But to this day, rabbits are still spotted around City Hill.
If looking for entertainment, catch a performance at Smiths Alternative or head to Reload Bar and Games for some retro gaming fun. For a more sophisticated experience, Bar Rochford offers an extensive wine menu and award-winning food.
Long-time Italian favourite, Mezzalira, is located on the London Circuit side of the Melbourne Building. For a more casual laneway experience, Verity Lane Market behind the Sydney building offers high-end cocktails, woodfired pizza, ramen or Asian fusion delights.
Dine and then bar hop in Garema Place
With so many options, choosing where to eat is always going to be a challenge. Options about around Bunda Street and Lonsdale Street in Braddon. If in doubt, ask a local! If hearty pub meals and craft brews are more your scene, then Garema Place is where you can bar hop with the locals and grab a great bite. For an iconic Canberra pub experience head to King O’Malley’s Irish Pub, the namesake for which is a colourful Canberra politician who passionately advocated for alcohol bans in the early 1900s. From there take your pick of Hippo Co whiskey bar, Honkytonks, Beirut Bunker Bar, Kokomo’s and more.
Chill with a film at Dendy or Palace Cinemas
Feel like a more laid-back night? Catch a film at the Dendy Canberra or Palace Electric cinemas. Set in the award-winning NewActon Nishi building, Palace Electric offers a broad range of quality blockbusters, arthouse, foreign film, events and film festivals. Visitors can also indulge in the stunning Prosecco Bar either pre or post-film.
The Dendy Canberra is located in Australia’s first-ever fully enclosed shopping mall, now known as the Canberra Centre. It has something for everyone as well as the advantage of being located upstairs from Koko Black, so you can analyse all the ins and outs of your film over a Belgium hot chocolate.