A little bit fancy, a little bit rock'n'roll, Fortitude Valley is simply a place to have fun.
By Jac Taylor
By day Fortitude Valley offers bustling streets of boutiques, markets and one-off purchases that have even the most experienced shopper swooning. By night it puts on a party: the Valley, as it's referred to by locals, is known throughout Australia for its funky bars, on-trend eateries and one of the most enjoyable live music scenes in the Southern Hemisphere. Stay awhile and enjoy the many faces of this thriving, eclectic neighbourhood.
- Pick up some designer clothes in the boutiques or the Saturday markets
- Make a night of it in the Valley’s hidden bars and famous night spots
- Stroll the little laneways and enjoy the bohemian vibe
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Top things to do in Fortitude Valley
Discover chic local designers
The Valley has long been a great place to shop in the boutiques of both young, emerging designers and more famous Australian names. On fashionable James Street you can find the signature kaftans and vibrant prints of Camilla Franks, or breezy and beautiful pieces from renowned local label Zimmermann. Over on Ann Street, the famed fashion and costume designer Akira Isogawa’s boutique sits among a whole row of smaller shops such as Principessa, stocking rare small brands, and Maiocchi, a Brisbane-made success story. Meanwhile, the new Emporium shopping centre brings a raft of labels, old and new, to the area.
Lose yourself in a laneway
Brisbane's laneways are made for exploring, and when you walk into Winn Lane, just off Ann Street, it feels like you've uncovered a little treasure trove of creativity and fun. Squeeze into the compact Culprit Club to shop for edgy and original local artworks, then grab a towering, cheesy burger at Ben's Burgers. Tym Guitars stocks not only instruments and accessories for neighbourhood musicians, but also hard-to-find vinyl records. And you can fit right in with some grungy new clothes from legendary local store The Outpost, or unique and quirky jewellery pieces from Miss Bond.
Dine in unconventional eateries
Brisbane loves to eat out, and the Valley's dining spots like to add a little spice. Les Bubbles glories in its notorious past as an illegal casino and bath house. Though it is now a chic Paris-style steakhouse, the underground bar still retains its 15-person spa bath as a little piece of history. Inside Scrumptious Reads, a James Street bookstore, you'll find an exquisite Chinese tea house with floral brews and perfect miniature matcha cakes, while the Asian food at Kwan Brothers couldn’t be more different – try the exuberant "Pork bao bao yippie yo yippie yay" pork sliders.
Visit secret bars
What you can see is only half the story when it comes to the bar scene in Fortitude Valley, with secret entrances and hidden locations enclosing some of the area's best drinking spots. The cold-room door at Kwan Brothers restaurant slides open to reveal its secret back bar. The Air Raid Shelter bar, in the wonderful collection of bars known as Alfred & Constance, is simply found by going downstairs instead of up. The former stables behind the Queens Arms Hotel (known as the ‘QA’) is now Farrier, a sophisticated supper club serving food until 2am.
Enjoy the famed live music scene
Above all, Fortitude Valley is known and loved by locals as a live entertainment precinct. From the art deco finery of The Tivoli theatre, where bigger local and international acts play, to the garage band vibe of creative hub The Foundry, you can book up every night with live music if you want. Catch funky jazz or soulful blues in the cosy Bowery, or go straight to the heart of the Valley at The Zoo, a venue with no dress code or particular philosophy, all of which inspires its cult status among locals.
Stay at the Emporium Hotel
Hendrick's gin in the minibar, animal prints everywhere and a luxe rooftop terrace: the stylish Emporium Hotel deserves its spot right in the design haven of Ann Street. This all-suite boutique stay is smothered in marble, leather and crystal chandeliers yet retains a bohemian edge. There are five kinds of suite to choose from, a heated pool on the rooftop and an award-winning cocktail bar. Don’t miss the decadent champagne high teas, or at least a bite to eat in the chic patisserie, but with so many dining options in the attached Emporium shopping precinct, you'll be spoilt for choice.
Browse the markets
Get a taste of a little bit of everything that Fortitude Valley has to offer at its weekly Valley Markets. This is one of the oldest markets in Brisbane, having run for more than 20 years, and has stalls including quirky crafts, emerging fashion labels, handmade jewellery and takeaway dishes from local food outlets. Some of the area's biggest names were given their start at the markets – you may yet discover the Valley's next big thing. Walk the markets every Saturday from 9am until 4pm, from Brunswick Street mall and through Brisbane’s Chinatown down the paved length of Duncan Street.
How to get there
Fortitude Valley is two kilometres (1.2 miles) north-east of Brisbane's city centre. Simply walk up Ann Street until you reach Brunswick Street. It will take about 25 minutes. Alternatively, hop on the 370 bus to Brunswick Street, or take the train and be at Fortitude Valley Station in minutes.