Recently voted the coolest city in Australia by Lonely Planet, Brisbane is attracting more visitors than ever. I hope you’ll be one of them. But once you get here, what should you do in Queensland’s capital?
Brisbane is one of those cities which isn’t about staring at a famous building for a minute, taking a few cheesy photos and shuffling along among the crowds. Brisbane has to be explored, discovered and enjoyed. Luckily, today it is easier than ever to enjoy every minute in this vibrant river city.
If you’re here on a Saturday, make a beeline for the Davies Park Farmers Markets, known to locals as the West End Markets. Check out the weird and wonderful fresh produce, grab a delicious green Juice in a Jar, petit fours or crepes from the Frenchie and wander amongst the stalls shaded by trees. This open-air farmers market is one of the prettiest & most chilled out markets I’ve ever visited. In summer, I get there at around 7am to avoid the crowds (and the heat).
I hope you didn’t eat too much at the markets, because you’re heading a lazy brunch in Paddington. Brunch is unofficially Brisbane’s favourite meal and we do it well. You can start at the top of Caxton Street at The Barracks complex and eat at The Chelsea, pop into local legend Sassafras or one of Brisbane’s most popular cafes, Shouk. Shouk has only been on the scene for a few months, but already racks up a short queue on a weekend morning – unheard of in Brisbane. Their insanely instagrammable Israeli-inspired breakfast menu is definitely worth the wait.
Take a lazy stroll up and down the Paddington shopping strip, Latrobe Terrace, and browse through antiques and boutiques housed in converted cottages. Easily the most blissful shopping strip in Brisbane.
The Paddington Antique Barn, housed in an old picture theatre is the antiques centre to end all antiques centre. For eclectic and stylish homewares, look no further than Du Monde, The Happiness Place and Thousand Island Dressing. Before you go, chocoholics have to stop in to Monty’s Chocolates for their super indulgent tasting plate which includes a Madagascan hot chocolate, fine German handmade chocolates and salted caramel chocolates made for Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant.
When you’re back on your feet, take a stroll through South Bank if for no other reason that to walk under the beautiful arbor, covered in brilliant purple flowers.Every time I walk underneath I feel so lucky to live in Brisbane.
Stop in for a hearty lunch at Popolo. South Bank is also home to Sunday markets, which are either for young designers or artisan products, and Brisbane’s famous Streets Beach, a manmade beach with city views.
South Bank is in the heart of the Cultural Centre, so pop over to GoMA and see why it’s Australia’s most visited art gallery, despite being one of the youngest. There’s almost always something cool on, so you’re in good hands.
I was standing at the lookout at Mt Coot-tha when I realised I’d fallen in love with Brisbane. It was the night before I flew to Paris for my exchange. The little pagoda is where my dad proposed to my Mum. It’s one of the loveliest spots in Brisbane. For a romantic meal on a bit of a budget, look no further than The Summit Restaurant. If you eat at 5pm, you can enjoy sunset views and their $40 pp Sunset Menu. It seems like an early time to eat, but you get to watch the sunset from the mountain so it is definitely worth it. Otherwise, take in the views from the lookout, best enjoyed with an ice cream in hand.
Hop on Brisbane’s ferry, the City Cat, in the city and enjoy the ride around to Hamilton. The river is the perfect vantage point for photographing Brisbane while you take the scenic route to the Eat Street Markets, just a short walk from the ferry stop. Follow the hungry crowds. (Note: Markets are on Friday & Saturday nights).
Voted the #1 thing to do in Brisbane, the markets are the perfect place to fill up on delicious, innovative street food. Cuisines from all over the world are represented and the quality is top notch, but be warn
ed – this is not your standard, dirt cheap street food.
Choose your own adventure tonight. Head to the cultural melting pot of West End or explore the best of Fortitude Valley (while avoiding the worst, i.e. steroid-loving beefcakes). Alternatively, visit one of my favourite bars, Blackbird, in the city.
You’re spoilt for choice with the likes of Lychee Lounge, Laruche, Bosc, Jungle, The End, Archive, Cobbler or for late craft beers and yummy snacks, The Burrow. One of Brisbane’s benefits is that generally bars and clubs stick together in little entertainment strips, rather than spread out (looking at you, Melbourne and Sydney). Make the most of it and bar hop. If you get hungry again, stop in at any of the many cheap and delicious restaurants – Little Greek Taverna is a real winner.
Cloudland is a jaw-dropper, but it suits a more mature crowd who don’t care for a dance floor. Stop in for a cocktail while your eyes pop out of your head at the extravagant, lavish decor and then make a move. Oh Hello is cool, but painfully self-aware, and houses the bulk of Brisbane’s student crowd out on the town. Elixir and Capulet the best of the bunch for pretty little bars. The former is an exceptionally ambient rooftop bar and the latter is housed in a garden, inspired by the Shakespeare’s two star-crossed lovers.
My favourite valley haunt is Alfred & Constance, which houses five themed bars inside a renovated Queenslander. If you get hungry, pop next door to Alfredo’s Pizza (they go all night) or Kwan Brothers, for innovative pan-Asian share plates. For a more dedicated dance floor, head downstairs from A&C to The Fever Club.
Day Trips from Brisbane
Extra time up your sleeve?
What is your number one tip for your home town?