Comprehensive weekend guide to Canberra – What to see and do and Where to stay?

I never thought I would say this…. BUT I don’t think a weekend (or a long weekend) is long enough in Canberra….. I know I’m shocked too! I have always thought Canberra would be boring because its all about politics and politicians, it’s not exactly a travel destination like Sydney or Melbourne but wow I had so much fun in Canberra!!!!

Personally I think walking is one of the best ways to experience Canberra, Australia’s National Capital. Not only do you get fit and see more than you would in a car but you are also saving money on taxis (which were quite expensive!).

You’re probably wondering what’s so great about Canberra? I’ve complied the perfect list of where to go, what to see and do and of course where to stay while in Canberra.

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Captial Hill (aka Parliament house):

So I ended up at capital hill by accident… I took a left instead of a right but hey it paid off. This impressive building is the focal point of Canberra, which if you didn’t already know, is Australia’s capital (no, its not Melbourne or Sydney… they are just more popular).

You can actually go into parliament house, I didn’t realise this so i didnt get to see inside. Entry is free of charge, and there is also a 40min free tour if you wish to know more about Parliament house or for a more detailed tour you just pay $15-$25 (adult). 

Captial Hill (aka Parliament house) Canberra

Lonsdale street:

Lonsdale Street, located in Braddon is Canberra’s new hot spot; it’s a hive of ammmmazing eateries and fashion popups.

Don’t get this Lonsdale street mixed up with the Lonsdale street in Melbourne, however it is very “Melbourne” with unique restaurants and café’s dotted throughout.

You could probably dine out in Braddon almost every night for a month and still not be able to try everything on offer.

Lonsdale street Cafe

National museum of Australia:

The National Museum is located on the Acton Peninsula, it’s open from 9am to 5pm everyday (except Christmas) and entry to the museum is free. You can check what the current exhibitions are here.

You can take a guided tour through the museum starting at $10AUD per person or enjoy the ultimate Museum Experience for $35AUD, which includes your choice of a guided tour, plus a meal and a glass of wine at the stunning waterfront cafe and a voucher to receive 10 per cent off purchases at the Museum Shop.

National Gallery of Australia:

The National Gallery of Australia is located close to Capital Hill and old parliament house, it’s open from 10am to 5pm everyday (except Christmas) and entry to NGA is free.

Free guided tours are offered during certain times of the day, than run for 30mins- 1 hour.

The NGA was established in 1967 by the Australia government, it is the largest art museum in Australia holding over 166,000 works of art!

National museum of Australia Canberra

Old Bus depot markets (Sunday only):

The Old Bus depot markets are open every Sunday from 10am to 4pm. This is not your average market, each week you will find over 200 stalls, featuring items all handcrafted by local and regional people. From clothing, to artwork, collectable items and various amounts of foods.

Canberra Old Bus depot markets

Canberra Glassworks:

Located right next door to the Old Bus depot Markets, the Canberra glassworks.

Take a guided or self guided tour of the Glassworks factory, the unique thing about visiting the Canberra Glassworks is the opportunity to view art in the making, to make it yourself and to view it in their galleries.

To get the full experience, Canberra Glassworks suggests “an ideal visit would include a tour, a wander round the gallery spaces, watching artists blowing glass in the Hotshop, signing up for a Make Your Own hot glass experience yourself, browsing the shop and finishing with a burger at Brodburger – a great day out.”

You can make your own paperweight or tumbler between 10am and 4pm everyday Saturday and Sunday, it takes approx 20minutes for a paperweight and 40mins for a tumbler. The experienced is hands on with one of the artists (if you can, request Sui Jackson – entertainment is guaranteed – hilarious bloke!)

Canberra Glassworks
Canberra Glassworks

Anzac Parade Walk:

The Anzac Parade is visually powerful, with a red gravel central strip and dark eucalypt ‘walls’. The red gravel of the central strip was originally made from crushed Canberra house bricks. The ‘walls’ are created by the Victorian Blue Gum.

There are different memorials along this walk for the different wars and different sections of the military eg: army, navy, air force, nurses etc.

At the top end of Anzac Parade stands the Australian War Memorial and behind this is Mt Ainslie.

Australian War memorial Canberra

Australian War memorial:

The foundation stone for the Australian War Memorial was laid on Anzac Day 1929 but, due to the Great Depression in the 1930s, it was not until Remembrance Day 11 November 1941 that it was officially opened.

You can easily spend hours and hours here wandering through the research centre and the memorial itself.

If you would like to learn more you can join one of the free tours which go for 30, 60 and 90 minutes, the highlight tours of the galleries are conducted daily by the Memorial’s voluntary guides.

The Australian war memorial is open from 10am to 5pm everyday (except Christmas). 

Australian War memorial Canberra

Mount Ainslie:

The Mount Ainslie is a free 4.5km (around trip walk) is a free activity and the view from the top is definitely worth the walk! (Keep telling yourself this as you walk up the mountain, it can be hard work!).

Unlike the Telstra tower (which is slightly higher and on the right of Mount Ainslie), it has the best view of the Australian War Memorial and Anzac parade and new parliament house.

Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, take lots of water and a little snack or treat to reward yourself when you get to the top! 

Views from Mount Ainslie Canberra

New Acton:

Here you will a mix of residential and commercial buildings incorporating landscaped gardens, public art, cafes, restaurants, bars, community gardens, Nishi Gallery, an art-house cinema and the uber-cool Monster Kitchen and Bar within the Hotel Hotel (hotel). New Acton is definitely a place to spend time challenging your perceptions of Canberra.

This precinct has won more awards (local and national) across architecture, property development and urban design than any other in Canberra’s history.

Have a late lunch at one of the many restaurants or cafes and then head to Monster for an evening drink and some nibbles.

New Acton

Suburb of Kingston

Kingston is the oldest and one of the most densely populated suburbs of Canberra. The suburb is named after Charles Cameron Kingston, the former Premier of South Australia and minister in the first Australian Commonwealth Government.

It’s situated about 4 km from the centre of Canberra. Kingston houses the heritage listed “Old Bus Depot Markets” and Canberra Glassworks.

More recently the Kingston Foreshore developments have provided high-value/upper class apartments which has also given rise to a café society that has reformed Kingston as one of the most exclusive suburbs in Canberra.

Suburb of Manuka:

Explore the lovely arcades and variety of chic boutique shops offering Australian and International designer labels, exquisite jewelry, beautiful antiques, high-end homewares and plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars to rest your tired shopping feet.

To relax at Patissez, the home of the famous freakshakes (and good looking men)! I would suggest stopping at Patissez first as their table wait times can be up to an hour (!!!!), so stop by and put your name on the waiting list and then they will then send you a text when your table is ready.

Patissez, the home of the famous freakshakes

Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium

Canberra’s National Zoo is Australia’s only combined Zoo & Aquarium, which is privately owned and situated just 10 minutes from the centre of Canberra.

Make the most of the wild animal encounters offered at the National Zoo & Aquarium and have hands-on contact, pat, stroke and play with one of the amazing Cheetahs.

During the experience you will be in the same enclosure as an unrestrained cheetah but of course, at all times an experienced zookeeper will be with you to keep you safe, to answer your questions and guide you as you interact with this incredible animal.

Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium

The cost to meet a Cheetah is fairly reasonable at $160 per person (this includes your zoo entry!) AND you can take your camera in so you can take plenty of photos of your experience, and if you can one of the zookeepers can of photos of you with the Cheetah. (none of this “one souvenir” photo rubbish).

The one MAIN feature that I think sets apart the Canberra Zoo from any other Zoo in Australia is Jamala Wildlife lodge

Here you can stay overnight in the zoo (not in a separate compound next to the zoo like most other “in zoo lodges”. A post on Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium post to come.

Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium

The Zoo is currently undergoing renovations to expand and are hopeful it will be completed by the end of this year/beginning of next year – Bigger and better!

Bridge to bridge walk:

Do as the locals do and complete the bridge to bridge walk. Start from Commonwealth Avenue Bridge and walk around Lake Burley Griffin to Kings Avenue Bridge, if you are feeling particularly “spritely” you can continue you walk on the otherwise of the lake back to where you started. It’s a nice relaxed and peaceful walk with some great views of the lake.

Canberra Bridge to bridge walk

Where to stay?

Where to stay in Canberra

My personal  favourite is the Hotel Kurrajong. Hotel Kurrajong is in the heart of the Parliamentary circle, on the National Circuit, in Barton. This central position places you close to the current and old Parliament Houses, as well as many other Canberra attractions.

On the left (up the road) is Capital hill and Canberra CBD is less than a 10-minute drive away giving you access to a wide range of restaurants, cafés and bars. Read my recent review of the Hotel Kurrajong.

You might even be lucky to meet our very nice Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Chifley’s Bar and Grill one night. (It’s said that most of the local politicians head there for Friday night drinks!) Airbnb is also a great option for short or long stays.

Jamala Wildlife Lodge is the ultimate luxury overnight safari and Australia’s first all-inclusive wildlife lodge experience of its kind. With just 18 rooms this amazing package gives guests exclusive access to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the Zoo’s beautiful residents. 

QT Canberra, for the perfect hotel stay you need a strong service team, a great bar and restaurant, and to keep an eye on guests needs at all times (well most of the time anyway because what happens in your room is a closed door meeting).

What are you waiting for… Get off your ass and get to Canberra now!

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  • Samantha King

    Sam, a seasoned traveler across four continents and 49 countries, is a leading authority in travel planning. Her website, Travelling King, offers tailored itineraries and expert guides for seamless trips. Sam's expertise in luxury travel, fast travel, and destination guides keeps her at the forefront of the travel community.

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  1. Lonsdale street will be my go to place in Canberra next time. An open hamburger seems to be delicious and offers something new, Also, as this is the capital, A war memorial, the parade ground, and the Mountain view of the whole city should not be missed. Looking forward to the city with great hope.

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