Would you like to discover Canberra, the Australian capital? Come and stroll through its streets and discover its cultural and political spots. Canberra, whose Aboriginal name means “meeting place”, is a small territory located in the southeast of Australia. Although it is the capital, its surface area does not exceed 2400 km² (it is 15 times smaller than Sydney!). This peaceful haven, both lush and multicultural, is the work of architects Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin. Designed in the 19th century, the capital has been able to evolve with the times thanks to its contemporary infrastructure. The city of Canberra is rich in discovery. Its location allows you to move from urban to rural landscapes in just a few minutes.
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Climb Mount Majura (893m) at sunrise (Day 1)
To start your discovery of Canberra, there is nothing like starting your first day with a sunrise hike. The Mount Majura Nature Reserve is part of the Canberra Nature Park. It is located north of the capital and easily accessible (even on foot). If you walk there, you are sure to see kangaroos along the footpath. Canberra is one of the most kangaroo-friendly cities in the country, so keep your eyes open.
Mainly made up of hills and ridges, there are several walks that allow you to climb this mountain. Among these, you will find Casuarina Walking Trail (3.8 km – 2h – moderate level – family) and the Mount Majura Circuit which forms a loop (6.1 km – 1.25h – difficult). Once at the top, take time to admire the splendid view on the valley.
Australian War Memorial (Day 1)
On your way down the hill, stop at the Australian War Memorial. This grand building is one of Canberra’s landmarks. Soak up the atmosphere here. You will be amazed by its white columns, its flowery walls and its water mirror. On the other hand, you can also visit the site museum and discover its incredible design. The place opened its doors during the Second World War (1941) and traces the military history of the country.
Admission to the site is free. The gallery is open from 10am to 4pm, so allow 2 hours for the visit.
Discover the CBD (Day 1)
For a change of scenery head for the CBD. Take time to stroll through the pedestrian streets of the city where colorful murals, statues and fountains mingle. The buzz of the CBD is unmissable as you will find many shops, restaurants, lively bars, parks and shaded terraces to relax and absorb the atmosphere. After your hike, enjoy a well deserved treat at Via Dolce, a deliciously tasty pastry shop offering the best baked goods in the city. So, sit back and enjoy!
National Capital Exhibition: The story of Canberra (Day 2)
After your pleasant break, head to the National Capital Exhibition near Lake Burley Griffin. This free, small-scale museum explains how Canberra became the capital of Australia. In addition to the exhibits, the museum also has an audio-visual room where the city’s archives are shown. Ideal for understanding the political climate of the time. In addition, you can examine and enjoy various architectural models and watercolour drawings. These were selected during the international architectural competition, before the its construction in 1913.
The National Capital Exhibition is open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays and from 10am to 4pm on weekends.
Australian National Botanic Garden (Day 1)
In the same bank, the Botanic Garden of Canberra is one of the largest botanical gardens in Australia. Indeed, this one extends on 35acres of garden and 50hectares more of bush. We advise you to discover the flora and its 1.2 million plant species thanks to the thematic routes indicated. The main trail is one of the best walks to follow. In 30 to 45 minutes, you will discover the eucalyptus and its 70 species, the rainforest and many other secrets. Don’t miss the nature trail (3.2 km) that takes you to the top of the gardens to discover the Australian bush.
Night out at MooseHeads (Day 1)
Not satisfied with such a busy day and want to end the day with some fun? Mingle with the Australian crowd on Saturday night at trendy pub MooseHeads which is a hot spot here. Students and locals alike enjoy meeting up with friends for some great beers. But when night falls, the MooseHeads transforms into a nightclub across two rooms with a very festive atmosphere. For a successful evening, we advise you to come early enough to avoid the long lines at the entrance. Once inside, all you have to do is set the dance floor on fire!
Walk along Lake Burley Griffin (Day 2)
For some, the night was short. For others, they will have recharged their batteries. In order to start this second day well, we’d head to Parkes where a nice walk along the lakeside awaits you. This district of Canberra is one of the greenest and most cultural of the city. Lake Burley Griffin is an artificial lake with a circumference of 28 km. On its shores you will find many important institutions and monuments.
Feel free to walk along the trails where cyclists and pedestrians enjoy the groves to relax. If you choose to ride your bike, it will take you 2 hours. On foot, the walk may be long… don’t hesitate to take one of the bridges to save time. Occasionally, you may come across a street theatre performance. Indeed, troupes regularly perform throughout the parks.
National Gallery of Australia (Day 2)
Art enthusiasts will love the National Gallery of Australia as not only is admission to this free, but it is home to one of the biggest collections in Australia. Also situated in the Parkes district, this establishment is full of international masterpieces (Salvador Dali, Monet, Sydney Nolan and Andy Warhol, to name a few..). It also features sculptures, engravings and paintings, ranging from Chinese dynasty to Australian art right through to modern American art – this museum is a must for art fans. Whilst here, visit the gardens where many other surprises await. Definitely something you should do on your 2 days in Canberra.
Admission is free (except for some rare exhibitions) and free guided tours are organized. The gallery is open from 10am to 5pm.
The old Parliament (Day 2)
With its real name “Museum of Australian Democracy“, the visit of this museum of Australian democracy will immerse you in the parliamentary atmosphere of the 1900s. It is a treat for history lovers. Indeed, you will have the opportunity to get into the heart of the Senate and the Government since the museum was built in the old Parliament. Finally, all you have to do is stroll through the Prime Minister’s office and you are immersed.
Admission is free but reservations are recommended. Moreover, guided tours are offered at no extra cost (just show your entrance ticket).
On the other hand, a little further on the lawn, you will also see the Aboriginal Embassy. This tents is a testimony to the struggle for equal rights and recognition of this people. It was erected in January 1972, on the Australian national day, as a symbol that of the continued fight for equal rights.
Australian Parliament House (Day 2)
In the center of Canberra is the Federal Parliament of Australia, the political capital. This place is in use today, but it is still possible to visit it. Its geometrical forms and its 81m high flagpole make it an impressive architectural work. You may even be able to observe the sessions taking place – and why not even participate in one of them. The interior decoration is inspired by the London model par excellence, unsurprising when you learn that Queen Elizabeth II inaugurated this place in 1988.
You can take a free guided tour of the Australian Parliament and learn about the history and functioning of the Australian political system.
Do an activity (Day 2)
What would you say to ending this two day visit in style? For those who dream of flying over Canberra, you can! Go to the Hyatt lobby where you can climb inside a hot air balloon. A unique experience that will only add to your memories of your stay in Australia.
For those with a more limited budget, no worries. A nice, one-hour cruise at a reasonable price is offered by Lake Burley Griffin Cruises from mid-September to May. Definitely enough to remember your trip to the capital.
Finally, you can also take a more gastronomically inclined tour. Some tour operators offer guided tours to discover the breweries or wineries of the region.
Best period to visit Canberra
The best time to visit Canberra is during the summer months from December to February. The weather is ideal during this period with sunny days and terraces to relax. Take advantage of the good weather to discover the capital on foot.
If you didn’t already know, the city offers many festivals throughout the year. You can check out all the events at Visitcanberrra.com.au/events
If you’re passing through Canberra in March, the Enlighten Festival & Canberra Balloon Spectacular is beautiful. The city’s most iconic institutions are illuminated with sound and light shows. The city’s symphony orchestra performs on stage and you can enjoy the show with a bite to eat. Local food and drink stands are set up nearby. Finally, a string of colorful hot air balloons will be flying over the capital for nine days. For the early birds, you will have the possibility to enjoy the show at dawn, under a sky with the colours of the sun.
Getting around Canberra
The city is quite spread out although everything can be done on foot. So to avoid getting blisters, here are some practical tips for visiting Canberra:
It is the essential element that will allow you to travel the length and breadth of the capital. It’s a good thing that Canberra has one of the most extensive networks of bike paths in Australia.
There are two options:
- Go to the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre to rent a Brompton Bikes. The little plus: they are foldable and therefore easy to transport (especially if you use public transport). Count 20$ for 2 hours and 45$ for a day.
- The second option is the self-service bike rental (Share A Bike). Several stations are installed in the city and even south of Lake Burley Griffin. To use this service, simply swipe your credit card at the station. Rates range from $1.50 per hour (for a 24-hour rental) to $12 for a one-hour rental.
If you’re interested, you can also “pre-order” your bike and have it delivered wherever you want. The company offers a delivery service called Bikes2You.
Equally convenient, the bus remains the capital’s preferred means of public transport. You can buy a day pass for an affordable sum ($9.60 where it is usually $5 per trip) from Transport Canberra. For those who just want a round trip, you can also buy your ticket (but only with cash) directly from the driver.