Canberra, Australian Capital Territory © Chris Holly/VisitCanberra
Canberra suburb guide
With its landmark cultural institutions, a blossoming culinary scene and outdoor activities aplenty, Australia’s capital city is big on attractions, easily reached from its central ‘hoods.
By Natasha Dragun and Carly Spek
Australia’s capital city, Canberra appeals to culturists, culinary enthusiasts, nature lovers and history buffs in equal measure. The city is a place of architectural drama and creativity that spirals from the central Lake Burley Griffin. Find the perfect base for your explorations with our handy guide.
The compact streets north of London Circuit are the heart of Canberra – aside from Capital Hill (the home of Australia’s parliament), of course. Central Canberra (also known as “Civic”), is the main business district, but just as many people come here to enjoy retail therapy in its malls and boutiques. If you want to be in the centre of Canberra’s action, this spot is for you.
Known for its collection of heritage-listed buildings, Civic also has plenty of vibrant shops, hidden bars, cafés, and restaurants. Start your day with a perfectly brewed coffee at The Cupping Room, and end it at hipster favourite Bar Rochford. Follow the locals’ lead and head to Courgette for upscale European fare or Raku for modern Japanese.
The Canberra Centre is bursting with boutique designer labels to be browsed, but this area offers more than retail opportunities. Catch a show at the nearby Canberra Theatre, the city’s top performing arts venue; picnic in leafy Glebe Park, which was designed to transform with the four seasons; or sip creative cocktails at some of the city’s best bars.
Stay at the comfy and convenient Crowne Plaza just moments from the city's must-see icons, and make use of the outdoor pool when you're not busy wandering galleries and museums. Or, book a room at the quirky-chic QT Canberra for stylish rooms and thoughtful touches – not to mention you'll be just a few metres away from some of the best eateries in town.
North of the city centre
Where: Braddon, Ainslie
Within easy walking distance to the city centre, Braddon and neighbouring Ainslie enjoy a more relaxed residential vibe. The streets are wide and leafy, boutique lodgings abound, and shopping here is by way of independent artisanal stores. The area’s restaurants offer a diverse mix of dining options and cuisine styles, showcasing Canberra’s multiculturalism.
Come mealtime, Braddon is the perfect base to sample Canberra’s diverse dining scene, from classic Mediterranean at award-winning Italian & Sons to modern Chinese from Lazy Su. Grab a coffee made with love from cafés like Lonsdale St Roasters, or indulge in a craft beer or two in the beer garden at BentSpoke Brewing Co.
North of the city, play is all about creativity. Make a beeline for the Ainslie + Gorman Arts Centres, a hub for live performances from emerging and independent artists. Another place celebrating top creative talent in this precinct is Lonsdale St Traders, a Braddon warehouse space within the Ori building where hip boutiques feature the wares of local designers.
Hotels north of the city offer convenience and relaxation. The Midnight Hotel in Braddon exudes style, and comes with expansive wellness facilities as well as a deli with cured meats and cheeses. The Mercure Canberra also offers another charming and central base, set in the century-old former Ainslie Hotel building which surrounds a picturesque garden.
South of London Circuit
Did you know?
Every March, the Canberra Balloon Spectacular sees hundreds of hot air balloons colour the sky.
Where: NewActon, Commonwealth Park
On the north shore of Lake Burley Griffin, south-west of London Circuit, the funky NewActon precinct sets the creative mood for the city. Here, you’ll find design-driven hotels, oh-so-cool cafés and restaurants (frequented by an equally cool creative crowd), and Art House cinemas and boutiques that celebrate originality.
South of London Circuit you'll find modern venues with flare. Get your caffeine hit from local favourite Mocan & Green Grout, and your tipple of choice from Lucky’s Speakeasy or Parlour Wine Room. At Monster restaurant modern Australian dishes feature seasonal local ingredients and, nearby, the David Bowie-inspired Rebel Rebel serves up delicious farm-to-table fare.
Live like the locals and enjoy the fresh Canberra air by walking, cycling, or paddling around the lake. Picnic on the grass in waterside Acton or Commonwealth parks – the former has a historic grove of beautiful sheoaks (Australian pines) while the latter is the site of Canberra’s annual spring flower festival, Floriade, held every September/October.
The Ovolo Nishi hotel was one of Canberra’s pioneers in modern hotel design, with an impressive foyer made of local recycled timber and vibrant artworks on display. Right next door, the Peppers Gallery Hotel offers another stylish sleeping option with rooms flooded with natural light and a sleek Italian restaurant onsite.
South of the lake
Where: Capital Hill, Barton, Parkes, Kingston
The precinct of suburbs just south of the lake is one of Canberra’s most vibrant, particularly for art, design and architecture – after all, it’s the home of Parliament House, which you can visit on an insightful tour. You can easily spend a day enjoying the area’s countless galleries and creative hubs, big and small, with a highlight being the National Gallery of Australia in Parkes.
With wellness-focused cafés and a wide range of eateries, south of the lake is a great place for foodies. Grab a bite to eat at one of Kingston's quality cafés such as Local Press or Maple + Clove, where you'll find menus centred around nourishing wholefoods. Stop in at Walt & Burley for an afternoon cocktail, or book a table at The Boat House for an elegant dinner by the water.
Southern neighbourhoods are perfect for exploring Lake Burley Griffin and its parklands on foot, on two wheels or on the water. Hope aboard a GoBoat for a picnic on the lake, or get your art and culture fix at the National Gallery of Australia. Stop in at the Old Bus Depot Markets to browse everything from handmade jewellery to collectibles.
South of the lake are hotels within easy reach of it all, including Kingston’s edgy East Hotel, which comes with one and two-bedroom apartments with full kitchens, if you prefer to self-cater. In Barton, the Hotel Kurrajong captures the character of old Canberra, while just a few blocks south, the Little National Hotel is popular with politicians for its elegant simplicity.