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Canberra: Culture in Australia’s Capital

Canberra, located in the eastern highlands, is Australia’s little capital city and oft overlooked as holiday destination, but there are loads of reasons to go…

Specifically designed as Australia’s capital, the city is just over a century old, master planned to revolve around parliament; but there is much more to Canberra than just existing as the seat of government. Over the past century, Canberra has slowly grown to become a thriving city with its own identity.

The locals are proud of their city, which boasts some of the country’s best museums, galleries and monuments. Along with an eclectic range of restaurants and cafes, and a thriving outdoor culture, Canberra has grown to become a real cultural city. There is an excellent range of hotels and accommodation in Canberra, along with a long list of activities to enjoy as a visitor, but it is within the city’s culture that you will find out what Canberra is all about. Check out these places of culture when you visit Canberra.

National Museum of Australia

History buffs will love The National Museum of Australia, housed in an architecturally unique building in a spectacular location on Lake Burley Griffin. The museum’s purpose is to portray the story of Australia’s history, from the thousands of years of Indigenous history, through to the European settlement of the country, along with the natural environment. The museum is full of interesting artefacts, displays and interactive experiences that involve you in learning about the country’s history. The museum is free to visit, and there is an excellent waterfront café to sit down and enjoy a coffee while looking out over the lake.

Canberra museum of australia

National Museum of Australia Photo credit:


Australian War Memorial

One of the most iconic landmarks in Canberra, and indeed in the whole country, would have to be the Australian War Memorial. Visiting the memorial and the attached war museum is an interesting, educational and sombre experience. The war memorial is a visually stunning monument that is built to remember Australia’s fallen war heroes. An eternal flame burns here constantly, and the names of all the fallen line the walls of the Hall of Memory, where thousands of red poppies have been placed in tribute to their sacrifice. Perhaps the most sombre part of any visit to the Australian War Memorial is the visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where an Australian soldier whose name was long forgotten in the First World War, rests in peace and stands in remembrance of all other soldiers who died and were never identified or found.

The attached War Museum is an interesting museum to visit if you enjoy wartime history, and takes you through all the history of the wars that Australia has fought in, with a strong focus on the two world wars. There are lots of interesting artefacts and exhibits to view.

Canberra war memorial

Australian war memorial Photo credit:


National Gallery of Australia

Art lovers will be intrigued by the excellent collection at the National Gallery of Australia, located on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. The museum is all about Australian art with some excellent pieces on display, including artworks by some of Australia’s most famous artists. Perhaps the biggest drawcard to this museum is the collection of Australian Indigenous art, which is the largest in the world with over 7500 pieces on display.

National Portrait Gallery

Next to the National Gallery is the National Portrait Gallery, focused specifically on portrait art. This museum displays hundreds of portraits of important national icons, from musicians and actors to sports people and politicians. If you enjoy portraiture, this is a must see in Canberra.

Lake Burley Griffin

At the heart of Canberra is the picturesque Lake Burley Griffin, which is incorporated into the city’s design, with the Parliament buildings, museums and galleries all surrounding it. The lake is a hotspot for local Canberrans, with a whole range of excellent waterfront cafes and restaurants to enjoy, along with walking and cycle trails that follow along the 40kms of lake shoreline. The lake is a popular picnic spot with plenty of parks and greenspace to enjoy, while on the water itself you can paddle around in a kayak, go sailing or enjoy a lake cruise. A popular activity is to hire a bike and ride around the whole lake.

Canberra lake

Lake Burley Griffin Photo credit:


Old Bus Depot Markets

The thing to do on Sundays in Canberra is to visit the Old Bus Depot Markets. This hip market has become a true Canberra institution, and locals flock here every Sunday to shop, eat and socialise. The market is all about locally hand crafted goods, with stalls selling all kinds of items from clothing and homewares to arts, crafts and fresh produce, along with plenty of great food stalls to try out. The market is located in an old repurposed industrial building and is open from 10am-4pm every Sunday.

Canberra markets

Old bus depot markets Photo credit:


Restaurants & Cafes

Canberra’s café and dining scene has grown huge over the years, becoming an intrinsic part of the city’s culture. Start off your day with a visit to one of Canberra’s charming cafes, with local favourites such as The Cupping Room and Mocan and Green Grout; or enjoy stunning water views from the Deck at Regatta Point. You’ll find some of Canberra’s best restaurants and bars in the dining precincts of Manuka and the Kingston Foreshore in the south and Braddon in the north. Enjoy fine dining at Courgette Restaurant and Les Bistronomes, popular Thai food at Morks on the Kingston Foreshore, and locals swear by the “Freakshakes” at Patissez in Manuka.


Most people don’t think of Canberra when it comes to Australian wine regions, but Canberra has some excellent wineries located not far from the city. If you enjoy your wine, spend a day heading out to one of Canberra’s great wine regions and visit a few cellar doors. Cool climate wines do well in the region such as Pinot Noir and Riesling. There are over 30 cellar doors to visit all within a short drive from the city.

A city of festivals

Canberra is home to lots of interesting festivals and events to check out throughout the different seasons. One of the most popular is Floriade – a huge flower festival, celebrating Spring and the new flower blooms that the season brings. Other big events include the Remembrance Day services at the War Memorial in November, and the amazing fireworks displays on Lake Burley Griffin on Australia Day.

Festivals in Canberra

Festivals Photo credit:


With so many amazing museums and galleries, an exciting dining and café scene, along with a culture that mingles with the outdoors, there is so much more to Canberra beyond parliament. Canberra truly is a city of culture.

*This post is sponsored with thanks to Accor Hotels



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Joanne Smith

Tuesday 13th of February 2018

Australia is famous when it comes to wine, could you suggest places what's the best wine region in Australia? I and my family will visit there after our visa gets approved. So anyhow, I really need to know something from you. Thanks in advance!


Wednesday 14th of February 2018

Hi Joanne, I love the Barossa wine region in South Australia - and you could even do a houseboat cruise and then organise to be picked up and do a day tour. I have a post on here on doing just that!

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!