Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory © Tourism Australia
9 of Canberra’s best museums, galleries and theatres
Connect with stories of the people that have shaped Australia through Canberra’s diverse art, culture and history.
By Lana Bogunovich
Home to some of the finest museums, galleries and theatres in the country, Australia’s capital city has an abundance of national cultural treasures. Acclaimed masterpieces, tales of wartime, vibrant street art and grand theatres make Canberra's museums and galleries nothing short of spectacular.
National Gallery of Australia
Located on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the National Gallery of Australia is a must-see for fine art enthusiasts. As the country’s premier art museum, it regularly hosts some of the world’s most prestigious works and exhibitions, including contemporary artworks by artists such as Yayoi Kusama right through to the classic masterpieces of Van Gogh, Botticelli and Rembrandt. Browse the world's largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection, then step outside to marvel at the impressive Sculpture Garden overlooking the lake.
National Portrait Gallery
When to go
Time your visit to coincide with the Living Memory: National Photographic Portrait Prize, which exhibits photographic portraits from established and aspiring Australian photographers.
Come face to face with some of Australia’s most renowned personalities at the National Portrait Gallery. It is a true celebration of the people that have made a significant impact in shaping Australia into the nation it is today. The captivating collection includes portraits of artists, musicians, politicians, athletes, entertainers and even royalty, telling their remarkable stories and offering rare insights into the indelible mark they have made on Australia’s culture and identity.
Australian War Memorial
Don’t miss the Last Post Ceremony which commemorates a different Australian named on the Roll of Honour each day. This poignant event takes place in the Commemorative Area every day at 4:55pm.
The Australian War Memorial is one of Canberra's top attractions, commemorating the Australian men and women who have sacrificed their life serving the nation, as well as those who continue to serve today. Explore the Commemorative Courtyard where you’ll find a peaceful setting featuring the Pool of Reflection, the Eternal Flame and 26 sandstone sculptures representing Australia’s people and animals. Surrounding the courtyard you’ll see the Roll of Honour inscribed with more than 102,000 names of those who have died serving since 1885 and decorated with bright red poppies from visitors paying their respects.
National Museum of Australia
From its beautiful setting on the Acton Peninsula, the National Museum of Australia is the place to learn all you’ve ever wanted to know about Australia’s past, present and future. Home to an incredible array of artefacts, the museum is great for all ages, offering interactive ways for younger visitors to get involved. Take a walk through the Garden of Australian Dreams, a symbolic outdoor area comprising water features, lighting effects and creative landscaping to explore place and country, or join one of the guided tours for a deeper insight into this brilliant museum.
Canberra Museum and Gallery
Where: City centre
Located on London Circuit, Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) highlights the region’s history and culture. Its claim to fame is The Nolan Collection, which features more than 140 works by the esteemed late artist Sidney Nolan, who donated his paintings to the nation in 1974. The gallery manages the collection on behalf of the Australian Government and displays the work through a series of changing exhibitions that tell the different stories of Nolan’s work and life.
Where: Canberra and surrounds
While Canberra’s street art scene isn’t as prominent as its art galleries, it’s certainly rewarding. Check out Tocumwal Lane in the city centre – this once nondescript lane of rubbish bins was given a new lease on life during a street art party in 2015 and has never looked back. Make your way down Petrie Plaza where you’ll encounter painted benches, walls and murals. Head across to the hip neighbourhood of Braddon and be awestruck by the murals and artworks that adorn the walls. And that's just a taste of the art you can discover.
Located near the Parliament buildings on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, Questacon is the National Science and Technology Centre. While it may have been created with kids in mind, it’s a place where everyone can come and experience the weird, wonderful and wacky world of science and technology. There is a vast array of interactive exhibits and demonstrations designed to pique and satisfy your curiosity. Conduct a science experiment in the Q Lab, explore the red landscape of Mars, get up close to more 10,000 buzzing worker bees and watch explosive experiments take place in Questacon’s unmissable Spectacular Science Show.
National Dinosaur Museum
Where: Gold Creek Village, a 20-minute drive from the city
Step back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth at Canberra’s very own version of Jurassic Park, the National Dinosaur Museum. The museum has the largest permanent display of prehistoric life in the country. It offers a fun day out for all ages as it teaches about the evolution of life on our planet. In addition to its impressive collection of everything from skeletons and murals to fossils and models, the main highlight is the museum’s Dinosaur Garden which features lifelike dinosaur models.
Canberra Theatre Centre
Where: City centre
For live entertainment, head to Canberra Theatre Centre. Located in Civic Square, it has been the premier performing arts destination for the Canberra region since it opened in 1965. It features three performance venues with an abundant and diverse schedule of shows on offer for all ages. From comedy to drama, music to dance and circus to cabaret, there’s always something to satisfy all tastes and genres. Some of the most respected names and performing arts institutions have performed here, including Sydney Theatre Company, and The Australian Ballet.