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5 things to do in my city: Canberra, Australia

AUSTRALIA | Thursday, 8 September 2011 | Views [4822] | Comments [3]

"Where are you from?” This question is one of the most common to be asked of you by your fellow traveller. It is usually the conversation starter as you sit next to someone on a bus or get chatting at a hostel. If either of you has been to the others home country or town you usually exchange stories along the lines of "I had a great time there, my favourite place/beach/restaurant/town was....".

I, however, often get a slightly different reaction when I respond with the town I am from. As I say "Canberra" the eyes widen and a slow "ohhhhhh" escapes as they struggle to make sense of my response.

"You live in Canberra...?", they ask (for added confirmation, did I really say Canberra?). The question is said lightly with a slight smile, trying to conceal the judgement that is taking place just below the surface.

"Yes" I confirm. 

"Sure, okay, that is great. For work or study?", they ask, but plain as day you can see the unspoken part of their question, "because surely no one would live there out of choice right?".

Sometimes, those who are more polite, try to hide the smirk or the look of pity, but others finish the question with a 'rather you than me mate' expression or chuckle.

At this point I usually launch into my tightly rehearsed spiel about the positives of living in Canberra and how good it is, in an effort to remove that that smirk quick fast. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Unfortunately, the average tourist in Australia has the same attitude towards visiting our Nation’s Capital as Australians around the country do to living there. They would rather not.

I will be the first to admit that Canberra may not have the bustling, fast paced, coastal feel of Sydney feel nor the laid back, artistic, hipster vibe of Melbourne but I urge you not to write it off just yet.

If you have the chance to pay Canberra a visit then here are 5 things to do in my city, and even better they are all free.


Get to know Australia.

If you interested in war history then the Australian War Memorial is a must. It has a number of permanent exhibitions, including World War I and World War II as well as rotating exhibits throughout the year. Even if you are not a war history buff, the museum is still worth a visit. Rather than just displaying war memorabilia and facts about Australia's involvement in various wars, the museum showcases the wars from all  perspectives and paints a narrative of people’s lives during war. Including the lesser told stories of those still in Australia during wartime.

The National Museum of Australia showcases the land and the people of Australia. The permanent exhibition is free, and will take a full morning or afternoon to explore.


You haven't had a burger until you have eaten at Broadburger. 

Being a passionate chef but not having the money to start up his own restaurant, the owner of Broadburger installed a kitchen in his caravan instead, and has been serving up the best hamburgers in Canberra for several years now.

The small red van on the banks of Lake Burley Griffin is one of Canberra most celebrated weekend destinations.

Cars roll in, a queue forms and people chat excitedly long before the shutters even go up at midday on Saturday and Sunday. There are only 6 options of burger; Beef, Double Beef, Chicken, Fish, Vegetarian and Bacon and Egg. Don't be mistaken though, this is no fast food hamburger joint, as they say good food takes time, but don't worry it is worth the wait. All burgers come in a freshly cooked bun with salad, homemade tomato relish, homemade aioli and your choice of cheese. Orders and taken in batches, once you have placed yours you are given a number. Head down and spread out your picnic blanket and wait in the sunshine.

In recent months the council has been trying to shut Broadburger down as they don't comply with the image of Canberra being a planned city (basically everything in its place and a place for everything). This has caused much outcry from local Canberrians, so while you are there make sure you sign the petition to allow them to keep serving up these gastromonical delights.

For a more fine dining experience head to 'Italian and Sons' in Braddon, where authentic Italian food is served up in the cosy dining room. This restaurant, which has been voted as one of the country’s top, rotates the main dishes throughout the week and there is only one main on offer each evening. But not matter which day you go, you can be assured that it will be sensational. Aside from the main of the day you can also order fresh wood fired pizzas and traditional Italian antipasti dishes.

For free food experiences, take a wander through some of the local markets:

Thursday to Sunday: Fyshwick fresh food markets have everything from fruit and vegetables to fish, meat, liquor, cheese, game, nuts and a number of bakeries and cafes if you are feeling peckish.

Saturday morning: fresh produce at the farmers market at EPIC (Exhibition Park in Canberra, Northbourne Avenue).

Sunday: Head to Kingston markets for food stalls and fresh produce as well as local arts and crafts.


Many might think Melbourne has Australia's best coffee but Canberra packs a punch well above its weight when it comes to brewing up a good coffee. In the city head to Lonsdale Roasters (Lonsdale street, Braddon) for more types of coffee that you can poke a spoon at or Tonic on Mort Street. South of the city, in Kingston and Manuka you can take your pick from one of the many gorgeous cafes and roasters, many with award winning baristas.


A visit to the National Portrait Gallery will have you viewing some of the stars of today and yesteryear in a whole new light. The collection features some incredible portraits in a range of mediums including those of; Barry Humphries, Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett, Germaine Greer, Michael Hutchence and Mick Jagger.  

The National Art Gallery hosts an amazing collection on national and international artworks. You can practice your art appraisal skills on the many permanent and visiting collections. 

Some notable works not to miss include:

"Aboriginal Memorial" of 200 painted tree trunks commemorating Indigenous people who dies defending their land from European invaders.

A selection of paintings by famous Australian artists including; Tom Roberts, Arthur Streeton and Sidney Nolan. 

"Water lilies" by Claude Monet. 

"Blue Poles" by Jason Pollack, was purchased by the then Australian Prime Minister in 1973. At the time it was the highest amount ever paid for a modern painting which caused media outrage and a political scandal. 


Take a walk up Mount Ainslie which casts it shadow over the northern side of the city. At the top you can admire the spectacular views all the way to the Brindabella ranges. To get to Mount Ainslie, park at the back of the War Memorial and head up to the start of the track at the back of the park. There are water bubblers at the bottom and the top and on the weekend there is a cold drink and ice cream vendor at the top to reward you after the hot climb.


Other good walks in the city include; the Botanical Gardens, Black Mountain, and Red Hill. 

If walking is not your thing, then don't sweat, Canberrians also LOVE to cycle, so why not rent a bike and join the crowds for a pleasant cycle around Lake Burley Griffin. If you want to venture further afield there are many bike paths as well as mountain bike trails in and around Canberra.


Tags: #blogyourbackyard



I've never understood why Australians give Canberra such a bad name. I quite enjoyed my visit there - I love that it had such a small town feel for quite a big city! And I ate some of the best tapas I've ever had in my life there :)

  Deidre Sep 9, 2011 9:37 AM


Hi sam_louiseb,

Congratulations! This ‘Blog your Backyard’ submission has been chosen as one of the 20 winners of an Urban Adventures voucher. Please email [email protected] to find out how to redeem your experience.

Thanks for being part of our ‘Blog your Backyard’ project and sharing your local knowledge with our community!


  travel-competitions Sep 14, 2011 9:43 AM


Hi Deidre,

Glad to hear you had a great time in Canberra! There is definitely more to the city than meets the eye.

  Sam Sep 14, 2011 7:08 PM

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