Calling all Canberra sceptics! Forget thoughts of freezing weather, parliament, politics and Lake Burley Griffin, because Australia’s capital city has much, much more to offer. There are festivals and events galore, covering everything from films and comedy to folk music and hot air balloons (yes, really). Then you have its on-the-up food scene, with cool bars, quirky cafés and white-cloth restaurants aplenty. Plus, this town is also home to some of the country’s best museum and galleries. To help you navigate the city’s must-dos and must-sees, we’ve crafted an itinerary for your first (jam-packed) 24 hours. All you have to do is grab your bags…
Just arrived at Canberra Airport? To head into the city you can catch the Airport Express Shuttle Bus. The airport-to-airport service runs on both weekdays and weekends, with a string of buses operating from morning to evening. The service makes four stops, and a one-way ticket will set you back $12. Buses also happen to be Canberra’s primary mode of public transport, so be sure to pick up a MyWay card and top it with some cash for your stay. Hiring a car or jumping into a taxi are also options.
Morning buzz | 8am
If there's one thing to get you out of bed in the morning, it’s likely the promise of a great breakfast. Mocan & Green Grout, an ethical café in New Acton, is a foodie’s dream, with fair-trade coffee, creative dishes and an open kitchen. Menus here reflect Canberra's seasons. The café doubles as a bike maker (under the label Goodspeed Bicycle Co) and is open for breakfast and lunch every day, and dinner on Tuesday through Saturday nights.
Gallery gaze | 10am
Museum lovers, you are in for a treat - Canberra is home to more than 40 museums and galleries. Make your way over to the National Museum of Australia for an in-depth look into Australia’s history. There are a selection of permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, and entry is free. Other museums and galleries of note include the National Gallery of Australia, Questacon(this one will be a hit with the kids!) and the Australian War Memorial.
Foodie heaven | 12pm
Lonsdale Street in the heart of Braddon is your next stop. A shopping and food precinct, the area is known for its eclectic mix of homewares stores, vintage op shops and art displays. It is also home to The Hamlet, an urban pocket brimming with food vans and pop-up stores. Local designers also sell jewellery, clothes and gifts. Be warned: you will be tempted to linger by the on-site food vendors. Crowd favourites are Dream Cuisine, Spit Shack, Mr Morris and Broddogs, so follow the pack and grab an early lunch or snack while you're here.
Walk it off | 1:30pm
It’s back on the road for an afternoon of taking in fresh air and the great outdoors. A short bus ride will take you to the native plants and flowers of the Australian National Botanic Gardens. Work off some of your lunch by wandering one of the walking trails or, if upping your heart rate doesn't take your fancy, pick a spot in the shade and settle in for a dose of people-watching.
Wine country | 3:30pm
Worked up a thirst? That calls for a drop of ACT’s finest. Make an afternoon of sampling Canberra’s best vintages by heading to the stunning Pialligo Estate for a wine tasting. The vineyard is just a 15-minute drive from the city centre. The estate has olive gardens, an orchard and market garden, too. To make sure you don’t miss out, it’s best to book in advance.
Early dinner | 6:30pm
Canberra is giving Melbourne and Sydney a run for their money in the foodie stakes, thanks to a burgeoning collection of acclaimed eateries. For fine dining, seek out Sage Dining Rooms, but if you’re in the mood for modern tapas and sharing plates, Temporada is for you. Italian & Sons serves up hearty fare and belt-tightening dishes.
Theatre time | 8pm
Balance out the day's indulgence with a splash of culture. Canberra Theatre Centre has something to suit every taste from comedy and dance displays to music performances and family-friendly acts. Check out the program of upcoming events here to make sure you snag a ticket to whatever takes your fancy.
Final act | 10pm
There's still time for one last drink before you call it a night. To get your fix of classic cocktails, Lucky’s Speakeasy is for you. Expect a stylish bar and leather seats. Other nearby alternatives include the underground Molly and lodge-style jazz joint Hippo Co.
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