Canberra is, arguably, one of the most overlooked cities in the world. If you ask someone to name the capital of Australia, more likely than not, they’ll be inclined to answer Sydney, or maybe Melbourne. Whilst they would not be entirely wrong, (it was, after all, created as a capital city between the two), the simple fact remains that Canberra does not receive the credit which it deserves.
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Despite being so often swept under the rug, this city truly is a little gem. Really, it does get the best of everything. Here, you will experience the hot, sweet warmth of a summer afternoon, as well as the cool splendor of a frosted winter morning. Autumn and spring both paint the town with their own splendid palettes. You will find the beach two hours to the east, and snowy slopes two hours to the north. It has all the vibrancy of a city, without the traffic.
And, to top it all off, Canberra was named the most livable city in the world in 2017 by the OECD.
Whilst it may not be the most glamourous or spectacular activity, something you must do whilst in Canberra is visit Lake Burley Griffin.
An artificial lake designed by, unsurprisingly, Walter Burley Griffin, (the same architect who designed the rest of the city), it is the center of the Canberra – and what a most beautiful center it makes. You can take walk, run, bike, or even segway on any loop you choose – which range anywhere from 5km (3mi), to upwards of 20km (12.5mi).
What do you like best about your city?
My favorite thing about Canberra is just how easy-going it is. It sits right in the sweet spot between a sprawling city and a smaller country town. Whilst it doesn’t lack any of the liveliness or the nightlife that any other major city may offer, there is a certain air of easiness that simply cannot be found anywhere else.
Sydney and Melbourne may be nice, but they are hurried and bustling, and never seem to stop for a break. I love the way my city seems to breathe, without making any sacrifice as to it’s wonderfully dynamic nature.
Best Walk in Canberra
If you like a little bit of a challenge, then the hills all around the city will undoubtedly please you. For beginners, there is the aptly named Mount Pleasant, which will provide a gorgeous view over the center of the city. Red Hill is slightly steeper, but still very manageable – and the view is just as pretty. More difficult still are Black Mountain and Mount Ainslie, which will have even the most avid runners and climbers huffing and puffing, but do, of course, provide even more sensational views. If you time it right, sunset or sunrise from any of these lookouts will make all your effort more than worthwhile.
For those who prefer something flat and scenic, try checking out the National Arboretum, which also hosts an amazing cafe. Or, of course, take a stroll around the lake.
Best Restaurants in Canberra
Canberra is near heavenly for any foodie. It hosts a great number of restaurants, cafes, and bars that will meet any and all of your culinary needs.
If you are looking for something fancy, check out the buffet dinner at The Hyatt, degustation at The Courgette, or Raku for phenomenal Japanese dishes.
For a family-friendly option, try Agostinis (who serve some of the best pizza in the city), Jewel of India, or the Dumpling House, who never disappoint.
Finally, if you are looking for a cafe where you can get some smashed avocado, look no further than the entire suburb of Braddon. Here, any cafe you enter will provide you will a plenteous selection of all the trendiest and most delicious foods you can imagine. Or, you could visit Patissez – the home of the original freakshake.
Canberra also has a great music life. A trip to any of the markets will greet you with talented buskers you’ll be compelled to stay and listen to, and Friday nights in many restaurants will provide you with great live performers as well.
Whilst it may not seem typical of a relatively small city such as Canberra, the town actually hosts a thriving night scene. You will have to look no further than the trendy streets of Kingston for something upbeat and fresh, or else the beloved Mooseheads, Canberra’s clubbing center. Around Mooseheads, (which is in the city center), you will also find many other clubs and bars to pop in and out of during the night.
Best Day Trip Out of the City
Canberrans are especially lucky in the fact that they are so close to so many of the best places the country has to offer. Whilst there are some trips you can make that are just out of the city, the fact that a day at the beach or at the snow is only slightly further away is perhaps even more exciting.
In just over two hours, you can find yourself in Kosciuszko National Park, home to, of course, Mount Kosciuszko. This is the highest point in Australia, and open year-round. In summer, you can even hike all the way up the (very well-paved) trail, although you can choose to take the chairlift if you’d prefer. Summer or winter, though, be sure to pack some warm clothes – as it’s always cold at the peak!
Something not many travellers would know about Canberra
Perhaps one of Canberra’s best-kept secrets is its annual ‘Balloon Spectacular‘, held in the brisk mornings of the beginning of autumn, (March). It makes up a part of the Enlighten Festival, which involves beautiful light shows on Canberra’s most well-known monuments. Night noodle markets and Australia’s biggest firework show are just a few of the other great parts of this celebration.
However, nothing really tops the view of dozens of hot air balloons floating through the sky on a clear blue morning. It is a rare sight, and perhaps also the most breathtaking that the city can offer.