What comes to mind when you think of Canberra? Vast expanses of flat green grass and cement? Legal porn and fireworks, or perhaps Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott or old mate Turnbull? If you’re wondering what to do in Canberra, wonder no more.
Our quintessential gentleman’s guide to what to do in Canberra features all the city’s best spots where you can eat, drink, sleep and shop in magnificent bastard style.
Where To Eat
18 Barker St, Griffith
With a growing collection of prestigious awards and 2 SMH Chef Hats for the last 5 consecutive years, Aubergine is a must-go if you’re looking for fine dining in Canberra. The kitchen, which churns out delicacies like cured salmon, strawberry gazpacho, spiced duck breast, indulgent desserts and an optional cheese course, plus an award-winning wine list featuring over 500 labels, focuses on a philosophy of supporting local farmers and benchmark suppliers. In an intimate space with high ceilings, beautiful lights and simple, elegant decor, you can get back to your authentic foodie roots in style at Aubergine.
Monster Kitchen & Bar
25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra
Located inside the uber hipster Hotel Hotel, Monster is all about seasonal produce prepared for sharing. Monster, fondly referred to as ‘She’, spreads across four separate spaces featuring a lounge of concrete structural lintels, giant original artworks and a dining room that tells a story of Australian immigration. As for food and drink? Well, Monster offers more of the same hipster aesthetic. Shared plates of Jerusalem artichokes, free range spatchcock and pulled lamb, or breakfast favourites like baked eggs, kale, avocado and an essential Bloody Mary make Monster as Instagram-worthy as it sounds on paper.
15 Moore St, Canberra
For laid back dining and late night eats, look no further than Canberra’s Temporada. Ben Willis, the chef and owner of previously listed Aubergine, has lent his talents to Temporada, a restaurant based around the concept of a wood fired grill. A fresh menu is reflective of the restaurant’s name, Temporada, which in Spanish means ‘the season’, and offers up plates like grilled jurassic quail, truffle tortellini and roasted snapper alongside a wine list of local exclusives and international delights.
Močan & Green Grout
1/19 Marcus Clarke St, Newacton South
As your first introduction to Canberra’s burgeoning foodie scene, you can’t go past Močan & Green Grout. It’s a lush cafe (and maker of Godspeed Bicycles) that prides itself on supporting fair trade, sustainability and local produce. You can almost taste seasonal freshness from just looking at the menu. We recommend Cotechino sausage with poached eggs, pea, mint and lentils or the Beetroot Quinoa Salad with Labneh to get your day started the right way.
Italian & Sons
7 Lonsdale St, Braddon
Described by multiple publications as Canberra’s most kick-ass places to get stuck into authentic Italian food, Italian & Sons is all your carb-loading dreams come true. Pizza, pasta, dolci and dessert wine make up the restaurant’s quintessentially Italian menu, but Italian & Son’s bright and bustling ambience is what keeps Canberra locals coming back for more. The restaurant also offers some pretty enticing Piatti del Giorno, or ‘dishes of the day’, like wood braised macleay valley rabbit on a Monday, suckling pig on Tuesdays and wet roast white suffolk lamb on Saturdays.
Where To Drink
35-37 London Circuit, Canberra
If you’re a fan of the low-key liquor swilling of Speakeasy bars then Canberra’s Molly is the city’s best kept secret. Basement-cloaked Molly recreates the sex appeal and mystery of the authentic Speakeasies of the prohibition era with an extensive wall of spirits and classic whisky and rum cocktails to wet your whistle in style. Molly even offers a secret charcuterie salon selling freshly sliced and cured meats, but don’t expect to settle your bill in public. “You won’t even see any technology in Molly. All the point of sale is hidden – we tried to hide as much as possible to add to the authenticity,” owner Antony Arena told the Canberra Times.
Parlour Wine Room
16 Kendall Ln, New Acton
A gorgeous and elegant space, with polished wooden tables, soft luxurious furnishings and glowing lighting, Canberra’s Parlour Wine Room is truly a romantic afternoon oasis. We recommend a selection of the freshly shucked natural and elderflower sorbet oysters with a glass or two of the Politini Prosecco.
3 Barrine Dr, Acton
With the title of Canberra’s first ever rooftop bar, there’s high expectations for Aviary but it is determined not to disappoint. Made primarily out of shipping containers and recycled materials, you can soak up Canberra’s skyline guilt-free with a bespoke menu of crisp cocktails or sit on a boutique brew while the bar’s DJs provide the perfect soundscape to the panoramic views over Lake Burley Griffin.
1/17 Garema Pl, Canberra
Big whisky fan? Get your arse down to Canberra’s Hippo Co. Apart from being a dark and sexy watering hole to booze up and blow off some steam, Hippo Co also offers cocktail masterclasses, weekly whisky tastings with over 250+ available, and live jazz every Wednesday, hosting some of the best musicians from Australia and around the world.
17 Garema Pl, Canberra
Described as “sangria, tacos, interesting beer, good tunes and fun times”, Honkytonks is all about letting your hair down with a focus on the more ‘cultured’ Canberra travellers. Like many ‘trending’ bars of the moment, Honkytonks is heavy on the themed nights. From Taco Tuesday, to Beer Tap Takeovers and local art exhibition night Wednesdays At The Wall, this Garema Place watering hole has all the basics of a good old fashioned bar covered.
Where To Stay
NewActon Nishi, 25 Edinburgh Ave, Canberra
Anyone who is anyone is talking about Canberra’s Hotel Hotel. Design takes centre stage at the Japanese-inspired Hotel Hotel, making it a must-stay for anyone who is into art or architecture.
18 National Circuit, Canberra
Bubble baths, complimentary chocolates and huge pillows await you Hotel Realm….Especially if you’re lucky enough to stay in the Upper House Suite. This room boasts a massive plush king sized bed, a massive view and, an even more massive TV. Beautiful wooden partitions break up the architecturally designed space which features a gas fireplace, balcony, motorised block-out blinds and the most epic spa bath you will ever experience. We are not joking. It’s incredible.
“Located an easy 2.5 hour drive from the M5 Sydney, passing by the Southern Highlands, the nation’s Capital is truly a hidden gem worth finding. New life flows through the city with swanky new restaurants and bars, internationally recognised hotels and an impressive art collection at the National Gallery of Australia. The pure easy of getting to Canberra and forgetting all the hustle and bustle of major cities, allows our guests to unwind in total sophistication. The local produce from the likes of Piallago Estate’s award winning bacon, to wines from the Poaches Trail including Clonakilla, Silo Bakery which was recognised by the New York Times and the international viral sensation of the ‘freak shake’ for those needing their sugar hit,” says Realm’s Group Marketing Manager, Martina Males.
133 Russell St, Melbourne
Described as “an eclectic mix of design and art, style and luxury with a touch of quirk,” Canberra’s QT Hotel has earnt a reputation for a slightly cheeky and unorthodox brand of hospitality, which carries through in the hotel’s meticulous attention to detail, industrial-styled spaces, laneway speakeasy and rooftop bar perfect for business travellers and romantic weekenders alike.
80 Northbourne Ave, Canberra
If checking out Parliament House and Canberra’s museums is on your agenda while in the city, book yourself into Avenue Hotel. Lush rooms with modern furnishings, spa suites and a stylish European steakhouse inspired gastro-pub serving up delicious paddock-to-plate delicacies during your stay, Avenue Hotel is for those who want a little taste of luxury.
Little National Hotel
21 National Circuit, Barton
If you’re exploring Canberra on a budget, Little National Hotel provides affordable and effortlessly chic accommodation. Located just a stone’s throw from previously listed Hotel Realm, Little National offers 120 rooms that are small on space but big on character and sophistication. It’s all about the business, conference and leisure guest who demands smart luxury and a spot-on location without going broke.
Where To Shop
The Canberra Centre
Bunda St, Canberra
If you’re in the mood to shop, head down to the Canberra Centre which over the past 50 years (and after many revamps) has flourished into the city’s go-to shopping destination. For menswear, hit up the Canberra Centre for brands like Hugo Boss, R.M. Williams, Rodd & Gunn, Roger David,Saba and Zara, but prepare for crowds if you’re heading in on the weekend.
Capital Region Farmer’s Market
Flemington Rd, Kenny
Every Saturday from 7:30am – 11:30am foodies and families head down to the award-winning Capital Region Farmer’s Market to sample the city’s freshly picked, grown and hand-crafted produce. With milk straight from the cow and honey straight from the bees, Capital Region Farmer’s Market offers produce like fresh seafood and meat, fruit, vegetables and wine for the Masterchef in all of us.
Old Bus Depot Markets
21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston
If you’re a bit of a hoarder or just love filling your home with kitschy bits and pieces then you’ll love Canberra’s Old Bus Depot Markets. It’s not your average market, offering over 200 stalls of hand-crafted homewares, clothing and jewellery inside a stunning industrial space for a little taste of ‘Canberra’s Sunday Best’.
Bungendore Wood Works Gallery
18 Malbon St, Bungendore
Looking to add a few statement pieces to your eclectic interior mix? The Bungendore Wood Works Gallery exhibits and promotes Australian wood art, giftware, sculpture and contemporary furniture by the country’s foremost designers and makers in wood.
What To See
National Gallery of Australia
Parkes Pl, Canberra
If you love a bit of culture, a must-see is the National Gallery of Australia. There’s free parking on the weekend, plus plenty of walking around and admiring art you don’t really understand. There’s also the bookstore and Tom Roberts Emporium pop-up which sells old Australiana themed books, homewares and men’s grooming products.
Australian War Memorial
Treloar Cres, Campbell
Opened in 1941, Canberra’s Australian War Memorial is a must-see if you’re up for a bit of good old fashioned Aussie appreciation. The memorial is massive: broken up into the Commemorative Area, the Memorial’s galleries and the Research Centre. Even just walking through the museum section of the memorial is enough to give you chills and feel proud to be from the land down under.
Capital Hill, Canberra
It wouldn’t be a Canberra city guide without mentioning the iconic Parliament House. See democracy in action, take a guided tour, view historic documents and spam your mate’s newsfeeds with photos next to the building’s massive 81-metre high flag mast, one of the world’s largest stainless steel structures.
NewActon Nishi, 2 Phillip Law St, Canberra
Fancing catching a flick whilst in Melbourne? Well, do it in style at Palace Electric, an indie cinema suitably located beneath the hipster Hotel Hotel. With an awesome selection of international cinema, arthouse, documentary, independent and new release films, Palace Electric is the perfect place to escape reality or enjoy a sophisticated drink at the Prosecco Bar.
Mount Ainslie Lookout
Mount Ainslie Drive, Ainslie
For picture-perfect views of Canberra a little off the beaten track, head to the Mount Ainslie. You can walk, cycle or drive to the lookout and soak up the impressive landscape, from Lake Burley Griffin to the city’s picturesque mountain ranges. A popular spot for photographers and Instagrammers alike, Mount Ainslie will speak to the adventurer in you.