From national monuments to boutique galleries and open-air festivals, Australia’s cities have a rich and thriving creative culture. Attend a full-scale performance at Sydney’s iconic Opera House and discover Canberra’s treasure trove of national attractions. Contrast epic exhibitions with laneway art in Melbourne, home to the national opera and ballet companies. Soak up Aboriginal and European culture along Adelaide’s North Terrace and browse Aboriginal art or celebrate at an outdoor festival in Darwin. Explore Brisbane’s sprawling cultural spaces, from the Queensland Cultural Centre to the futuristic Powerhouse. See a play in Australia’s oldest theatre in Hobart and amble from Perth’s galleries and museums to Fremantle’s seaside art strip.
See a lavish production of theatre, symphony or ballet at the iconic Sydney Opera House, where glittering harbour views enhance the experience at intermission. Catch a performance by the Sydney Theatre Company or Bangarra Dance Theatre at elegant Walsh Bay, or visit the independent theatres in Surry Hills and Kings Cross. Cut a cultural trail from The Rocks to Hyde Park, taking in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales and Australian Museum. Browse art galleries from big to boutique in Paddington, Surry Hills and Redfern, also home to the futuristic performance space of CarriageWorks. Enjoy jazz at the Basement in Circular Quay, a high-energy musical at Pyrmont’s Lyric Theatre or a concert at the opulent State Theatre. In the inner-west, Enmore and Newtown host a range of edgy live music venues. Experience the buzz of the Sydney Festival in January, Sydney Writers’ Festival in May and Sydney Film Festival in June.
Browse a huge collection of Australian art at the National Gallery of Victoria, just one of the galleries within the landmark cultural space of Federation Square. Visit the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in nearby Southbank, where you can also catch a Melbourne Theatre Company or Melbourne Symphony Orchestra production. Discover public art in Docklands and murals, installations and artist-run galleries in the city’s winding laneways. Watch the Australian Ballet or Opera Australia perform on their home stage in the Arts Centre. Dress up for a blockbuster musical in the opulent theatre district or intimate cabaret, drama or music in the CBD laneways. Visit the City Museum and Melbourne Museum, which offers a window onto Victoria’s Aboriginal culture. Learn more at the Koorie Heritage Trust or on an Aboriginal Heritage Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens. Melbourne hosts many cultural events, including the Melbourne Comedy Festival in April, International Jazz Festival in May and International Arts Festival in September.
Lose time in the Gallery of Modern Art, the largest of its kind in Australia, and see the skeleton of a Queensland dinosaur in the Queensland Museum. Browse the work of famous Australian artists in the Queensland Art Gallery and watch ballet, opera or orchestra in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. All sit beneath the architecturally-designed roof of the Queensland Cultural Centre on South Bank. In New Farm, the transformed industrial space of the Brisbane Powerhouse is the venue for theatre, comedy, dance, art, markets and restaurants. See live music in neighbouring Fortitude Valley or experience independent theatre in the West End. See an orchestra play between the grand Corinthian columns of Customs House. Catch everything from cabaret to comedy in Treasury Building, built in the style of an Italian palazzo, or watch community concerts in the historic Brisbane City Hall. Attend the Brisbane Writers Festival in September and the Brisbane Festival in October.
Marvel at the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal artefacts in the South Australian Museum and a comprehensive collection of Australian colonial art in the Art Gallery of South Australia. Further along North Terrace, visit the State Library, Parliament House and Government House. See the art collection in the Adelaide Festival Centre, the home base for the State Opera, State Theatre, Australian Dance Theatre and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Watch artists and sculptors in action in the West End or follow a gallery trail from the elegant CBD streets to neighbouring Kent Town and Norwood. Hit the streets for outdoor theatre, art, music, dance and film at the month-long Adelaide Fringe Festival in late February. Listen to world music at WOMADelaide, held every second March in the city’s lush Botanic Park. Watch fabulous performances at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June or celebrate ‘queer’ culture at the Feast Festival in November.
View Aboriginal art in the Art Gallery of Western Australia and visual and performing arts in The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. Explore the state’s geological origins, rich Aboriginal history and European settlement in the Western Australian Museum. All sit within the sprawling Perth Cultural Centre in Northbridge. A few blocks away, watch the Western Australian Ballet, Opera or Symphony Orchestra perform in Australia’s only remaining Edwardian theatre. See a play at the Playhouse and Perth Theatres or hear soul singers and symphonies carry through the superb acoustic architecture of Perth Concert Hall. Visit the Aboriginal Art Gallery in Kings Park before exploring Fremantle’s museums and artistic enclaves. Wander between the Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle Museum and the neo-Gothic Fremantle Arts Centre. See Aboriginal and contemporary art in galleries along High Street, in Mosman Park and Cottesloe. Each summer the Perth International Arts festival offers a jam-packed program of theatre, music, dance and visual arts.
Stare at early settler art and a pair of preserved Tasmanian Devils in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, which embraces heritage buildings on the Sullivans Cove waterfront. Visit artist studios and watch performing arts in the heritage warehouses of the Salamanca Arts Centre. See the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra play in the Federation Concert Hall on Davey Street or listen to live jazz in one of the bars in Salamanca Place. Watch international ballet, opera, drama and musicals or glimpse the rumoured ghost at the Theatre Royal, Australia’s oldest theatre. Noel Coward played here and Sir Laurence Olivier urged Tasmanians to retain the building. See leading Tasmanian artists at the Lady Franklin Gallery in Lenah Valley and check out the colourful murals, patterned pavements and ornamented light poles lining the North Hobart streets. Musicians hit Hobart’s streets for the Hobart Summer Festival and the week-long Taste of Tasmania Festival, over the new year.
Learn about the birth of Australia’s political system in Old Parliament House, then watch politicians debate today’s issues from the public gallery of modern Parliament House. See the nation’s finest collection of Australian art at the National Gallery of Australia and famous Australians on canvass at the National Portrait Gallery. Visit the National Museum of Australia, the War Memorial and the National Capital Exhibition. Pore over historical documents at the National Library of Australia or Australia’s first constitution at the nearby National Archives. Browse art and craft in the Canberra Museum and Gallery or enjoy visual and performing arts at the ANCA Gallery. Watch opera, ballet, theatre or musical performance at the Canberra Theatre Centre in Civic. See a local production at the Street Theatre or opt for classic musical at the School of Music in The Australian National University. Don’t miss the Canberra International Music Festival in May. Drive the Poachers Trail to galleries, studios and craft workshops dotting the Canberra countryside.
Explore Darwin’s rich Aboriginal heritage and relive the tragic 1974 Cyclone Tracy in the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. See traditional and contemporary Aboriginal art and craft in the galleries along palm-lined Mitchell St. Watch footage of the World War II air raids on Darwin at East Point Military Museum and visit the unique cottages at Myilly Point Historical Precinct. Darwin’s tropical climate means much of the cultural action happens outdoors. Watch art house movies under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema, from April to November. Listen to powerhouse bands at Bass in the Grass at the Darwin Amphitheatre in late May. Don’t miss the Darwin Festival in August – 18 days of music, dance, theatre, comedy, cabaret, film and visual art at the George Brown Botanic Gardens. The same month the Darwin Fringe Festival hits town for a fortnight of seminars, aerial acts, Aboriginal films, a poetry cup, musical street jams, burlesque and art exhibitions.