The only way to really embrace the spirit of this city is to explore its many suburbs.
By Anna Lavdaras
Brisbane has quite a reputation for being a city in rapid flux. Not to long ago, it more resembled a laid-back country town. Today, this Queensland capital is heaving with big live-music institutions, innovative art spaces, and award-winning food venues- but they aren't to be found in the city centre. You'll need to head for the suburbs if you want to really experience the life of this city.
Perched on a ridge between the increasingly cool neighbourhood of Newstead and the elegant, well-heeled New Farm, you can reach Teneriffe on a 30-minute CityCat ferry ride from the city's Riverside ferry terminal.
Upon arrival, take in the history of the area by reading the plaques along the riverfront walk, detailing its past as both the country's primary submarine base in World War ll and as an important wool trading area. Century-old bollards mark the old wool ship loading docks, while the giant Goldsborough Mort and Elder Smith Woolstore buildings (now apartments) are local landmarks. Explore the bushland paths around Teneriffe park and enjoy the picnic spots and views of the historic storybook cottages below. In spring and summer there is plenty of colour thanks to Brisbane's famous purple Jacaranda trees.
The ridge along the waterfront from Teneriffe down to New Farm Park is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful in Brisbane. Sign up for the CityCycle bike hire, then grab a bike from a station next to Teneriffe ferry stop. From there, head south along the water and enjoy river views to your left all the way down the bikeway boardwalk to Powerhouse Park and New Farm. These boardwalks come alive every July when about 50,000 revellers descend on the neighbourhood to enjoy the Teneriffe Festival. As well as street performances and live music, there are food stalls from 40 eateries, and 60 market stalls selling toys, crafts and one-of-a-kind keepsakes.
There is no missing Brisbanes's love affair with craft beer. Microbreweries have become an important part of the fabric of city life. In Teneriffe, Green Beacon Brewering Co. has become a much-loved institution, with every preservative-free beer handmade on the premises. The food here goes way beyond the usual brewery fare, with luxurious platters of Moreton Bay bugs, king prawns and oysters served fresh beneath the beer tanks. Take a backlot tour on Monday evenings to see behind the scenes in the brewhouse, or have a tasting adventure by also trying the 12 renowned lagers, ales and ciders in the nearby brewery of Newstead Brewing Co.
One of the most exclusive of Brisbane's inner-city suburbs (a five-minute drive from the centre of the city) is an enclave of tree-lined streets, elaborate raised Queenslander houses (recognisable for their breezy wrap around verandas and ornate timber detailing) and gourmet cafes and delis.
Right next to the famous New Farm cinemas, you'll find the sweet spot of New Farm - literally. On one side, New Farm Confectionery serves up sugary treats like homeade nougat and Belgian chocolate-coated honeycomb, while just next door, the buttery smells emanating from the ovens of Parisian-style boulangerie and patisserie Chouquette hint at authentic breads, flaky pasteries and eclairs. Take a piece of New Farm style home with you, with a visit to the showroom of renowned interior designer Anna Spiro, Black & Spiro, for inspirational homewares, textiles and antiques. New Farm Editions is packed to the rafters with books, homewares, gifts and keepsakes, while the Edwina Corlette Gallery curates some of the best contemporary local art in the city - with plenty in the stockroom for sale. The scent of luxury lingers throughout Libertine Parfumerie, New Farm's beautiful perfume boutique that works hard to stock some of the rarest perfumes and scented products in the world.
As the Queensland sun strengthens, brunch is a popular local activity. Eat colourful, flower-strewn almond granola at Pablo, or smashed avocado and roasted beetroot at funky and health-loving Little Loco. All-day breakfast can easily turn into Italian-style lunch and excellent coffee at New Farm Deli, or settle into the traditional European dining room of The Continental cafe for chilli-salt cuttlefish or a twice-cooked lamb shank with figs and goats curd salad. Get cosy with contemporary Australian share plates and a local microbrew at Bitter Suite as the day wears on, or relax in charming al fresco style with classic cocktails alongside cheese and charcuterie boards at the airy Gaslight Bistro. And for those who want to add a local vibe to their luxury stay, Spicers Balfour is one of the area's most beautiful Queenslander houses. On the inside, each of the boutique hotel's rooms is exquisitely styled, from the Art Deco finery of the Balfour suites to chic designer furnishings.
By day, Fortitude Valley - two kilometres (1.2 miles) north-east of Brisbane's city centre - offers bustling streets of boutiques, markets and cafes. By night it puts on a party. The Valley, as it's referred to by locals, is known throughout Australia for its funky bars, eateries and one of the best live music scenes in the country.
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 local fashion offerings. Get a taste of everything at the weekly Valley Markets, one of the oldest markets in Brisbane. The Valley's laneways are made for exploring, and when you walk into Winn Lane, just off Ann Street, it feels like you've uncovered a treasure trove of creativity. Squeeze into the compact Culprit Club to shop for edgy and original local artworks, then grab a towering cheesy burger at Ben's Burgers.
Brisbane loves to eat out, and the Valley's dining spots like to add a little spice. Les Bubbles, a chic Paris-style steakhouse, glories in its notorious past as an illegal casino and bath house. Gerard's Bistro serves innovative Middle Eastern dishes, while micro-winery City Winery serves a uniquely Australian menu alongside minimal-intervention drops. What you 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. Well worth the hunt is Greaser Bar, in the red-light district of Brunswick Street - just head through the red door and follow the lights and industrial pipes down the alleyway. Above all, the Valley is known and loved by locals as a live entertainment precinct. From the Art Deco finery of The Tivoli theatre, where bigger acts play, to the garage band vibe of creative hub The Foundry, you can book 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.
If you're looking to stay locally in accommodation that's as chic as the fashionable offering, there are options en masse. The Emporium Hotel has been a top pick for years thanks to its all-suite boutique style and luxe rooftop terrace. In equal demand is The Calile, with a distinct 'urban resort' feel, as the vast majority of the 175 rooms overlook the palm-tree lined pool and plush cabanas below.
The vibrant, buzzing precinct along Brisbane's southern riverbank - an easy 10-minute walk across the Victoria Bridge - is a must-see for international visitors wanting a taste of this sun-loving city.
South Bank is Brisbane's culture centre, with Grey Street and its Cultural Forecourt collectively home to such institutions as the Queensland Museum, Sciencentre, and the State Library of Queeensland. Catch a live performance of ballet, music or theatre at QPAC (the Queensland Performing Arts Centre) and see groundbreaking visual art exhibitions and famous visiting international artworks at the innovative QAGOMA (the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art). Queensland's symphony orchestra and opera company can also be found here. And at any time of year you can enjoy performances by local and international music acts thanks to Australia's biggest live music program, City Sounds.
This is a city that absolutely loves its food - and that includes appreciating where it comes from. The Epicurious Garden grows everything from figs and avocado to papaya and sunflowers, in an environment where kids can touch, taste and learn about where food comes from. Then take them to Streets Beach to cool off at the freshwater man-made, lifeguard-protected lagoon. Then grab a bite at the waterfront River Quay Green, an outdoor space and backdrop for some of the city's finest restaurants. Gaze across the river at the city skyline at sunset as you dine on award-winning cuisine at an al fresco-loving restaurant: the seafood and Mediterranean-styled Stokehouse Q, Asian-Australian fusion among the Balinese-inspired daybeds of The Jetty, the classic French fare and relaxed ambience of Aquitaine Brasserie, an urban take on Italian cuisine at Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar, or River Quay Fish, dishing up Brisbane's famous fresh seafood with style.
Finish your South Bank adventure with a trip to Fish Lane, a lively alleyway stretching along six gloriously eclectic city blocks from South Bank all the way to West End, and find tiny bespoke bars, popular eateries, and Brisbane life at its most up to the minute. Just steps from QPAC, The Fox contains one of the city's iconic rooftop bars, called Dandy's. There's great dining at Fish Lane Bistro, and in the art gallery and design space of Fish Lane Creative Studios visitors are equally likely to see an art installation or avant garde performance. Further down the laneway, past Merivale Street, squeeze into the intimate bar, Maker; it's dedicated to local produce, Australian wines and spirits, and house-made liqueurs.
A leafy, coveted neighbourhood that sits on a hill just north of town (a 10-minute drive), with a prime view overlooking the city, Paddington is one of Brisbane's oldest suburbs. The area boasts beautiful tree-lined streets and bountiful heritage buildings, with cafes and boutiques a plenty.
If you love to brunch, you're in the right place. Anouk Cafe is located in an old apothecary shop on Paddington's main stretch and has an established cult following of fans who return regularly for its Instagram-worthy cinnamon fried fruit toast served with summer stone fruit and blackberry compote. Around the corner stands Naim, a cafe serving delicous Middle Eastern cuisine including a breakfast shakshuka and hummus bowl. Atticus Finch Cafe and Kettle & Tin Bar and Eatery are also huge drawcards, attracting hungry customers from all over Brisbane.
Paddington's boutiques and eateries are mostly located in two main hubs, Latrobe and Given Terrace, making it super easy to explore and get around once you're in the area. In the heart of Latrobe, you'll find the Empire Revival (formerly the Paddington Antique Centre) located in the converted old theatre. The velvet curtains and Juliet balconies have remained, but every other square metre of space in the venue has been filled with vintage memorabilia, furniture, art, lamps, clothing and jewellery. Once you're done rummaging through the old, check out the new art prints, homewares and crafts sold at Black & Taylor, curated by its owner Ellie. Around the corner you'll also find Biome, an eco-friendly boutique selling a chic curation of ethical accessories like natural skincare and reusable coffee cups.
Treat yourself to a delicous macaron of freshly baked croissant courtesy of Le Bon Choix patisserie, tucked in a historic terrace building on Given Terrace. Then wash that down with a drink at one of the area's cool bars. Darling & Co is a light, breezy open space that serves local cuisine using regional ingredients, while Hope & Anchor are more low-key. Housed in a heritage-listed cottage, they serve a delicious farmhouse board and fish finger sandwich (something every Brisbane local would have grown up with). Remy's put on live jazz every Thursday and serve some of the finest burgers this side of Brooklyn. Finish your evening with a choc cookie indulgence sundae and a new release flick at the Blue Room Cinebar.