9 Canberra attractions and events to enjoy
The best activities to enjoy in Canberra during your upcoming holiday.
Canberra is the centre of Australian politics and an ideal city for museum hopping. It is also home to several cultural institutions, many of which you can visit for free.
It is easy to get around Canberra as most major attractions are within walking distance from each other.
If the journey is longer, you can take a bus or taxi without worrying too much about the price, since the rates are affordable. Visit Parliament House where Australian politicians address the most important issues. Approximately 20% of Parliament House is open to the public and it is even possible to attend a plenary and watch the politicians in action from the galleries.
Join a guided tour of the Old Parliament building or visit the museum to learn about the most important events in the country's political and cultural history.
Due to its size, it’s popular for people visiting Sydney to go on day trips or day-tours to Canberra.
Here are our top picks for the top places to visit in Canberra.
Top 9 things to do
1. Have a close encounter at the National Zoo and Aquarium
The National Zoo and Aquarium is the only zoo of its kind in Australia that also houses an aquarium. This zoo is making impressive efforts to conserve a large number of endangered animals, including the king cheetah.
Other animals at the Canberra National Zoo and Aquarium include pumas, lions and bears as well as Sumatran and Bengal tigers.
You can take a guided tour through the zoo and learn more about the animals’ behaviour and habits. If you are an adventurous spirit, join the brave and feed a bear, pat a cheetah and play with other animals. For a more intimate experience, stay overnight in the Jamala Wildlife Lodge within the zoo premises and participate in exclusive tours.
2. Go museum hopping
If there’s one thing that’ll keep the whole party entertained, it’s the sheer number of museums available to explore.
The National Gallery of Australia (pictured) is the largest art museum in the city, boasting more than 160,000 works, including the most comprehensive collection of Aboriginal art in the world.
Questacon is a kid’s delight, offering interactive scientific models and displays for young and old.
The National Museum of Australia houses thousands of objects on Australia’s history and culture, ranging from our Aboriginal and gold mining days to immigration and industrial growth.
3. Pay your respects at the Australian War Memorial
Walk through the aisles of this monument to experience the remnants of battles fought by Australians soldiers and see the military armament used.
The Australian War Memorial is the place where the country pays tribute to the Australian soldiers who died in combat around the world. Construction was completed in 1941 and the memorial was dedicated to military activities from the colonial era until the present time.
The complex houses a museum with exhibits that showcase Australian military weapons and artefacts. Make sure you spend at least half a day to see everything. You can join the 90-minute free guided tour that highlights the most outstanding features of the monument.
4. See where the magic happens in Parliament House
Parliament House is located in the heart of the city and is spread across 25 hectares. Admire the grandeur of the building as you walk through the mosaic courtyard, gaze on the 220-tonne mast flying a huge Australian flag and enjoy wonderful views of the city and Lake Burley Griffin.
Inside, you can explore historic artefacts and one of the world’s largest tapestries, which is based on a painting by the renowned Australian artist, Arthur Boyd, join a free guided tour to learn all the details of the building and its history or visit the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Politics lovers can sit in public galleries and attend a questioning session between members of parliament and ministers.
5. Connect with nature at the Australian National Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens are located on the foot of the Black Mountain where you will discover the largest collection of native flora in the country.
Although these gardens are beautiful places for a picnic at any time of year, they spring to life during the summer when you can also enjoy jazz concerts on weekend evenings.
You can also stroll through the rainforest area and admire more than 600 species of eucalyptus trees.
6. See Canberra from above with a helicopter ride or walk up Telstra Tower
With its mountainous surrounds, nearby wineries and farms and beautifully serene lake, Canberra looks immaculate from above. Hot air balloon rides depart daily, but if you’re feeling like a hike, an attractive alternative is to hike to Telstra Tower.
This iconic landmark of the city is also known by its former nickname, "Black Mountain Tower", and houses the facilities of Telstra, the national telecommunications company. The needle has a height of 195 metres and its position on the Black Mountain allows you to enjoy spectacular views of the parks and gardens, Burley Griffin Lake and the lush inland lands.
On floors reserved for visitors in the tower, you can enjoy 360-degree views of Canberra. Look for a mailbox near the tip; it is the highest mailbox in the whole city.
7. Souvenir shop at the Old Bus Depot markets
Take a break from the museums, galleries and government buildings to discover the trendy side of Canberra. The markets of the Old Bus Depot, which are organised every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, attract foodies, handicraft aficionados and unique clothing collectors.
You will find a multitude of interesting things to eat or buy, ranging from delicious organic products to trendy clothes and home decor items. It is an ideal place to pick up some authentic souvenirs to take back home.
8. Smell the flowers at the spectacular Canberra Floriade
Attend the annual spring garden and flower festival, Canberra's most colourful event, attracting gardening, horticulture and landscaping lovers from around the world.
Floriade, which started in 2005, is the largest flower festival in the southern hemisphere. The event features around 48,000 trees and over a million planted bulbs. This is not just a plant festival but is also an event marked by night markets, music concerts and workshops.
The best thing about Floriade is that it is free and attracts huge crowds, making it the most popular tourist event in Canberra.
9. Sail, row or kayak Lake Burley Griffin
Discover Lake Burley Griffin, the go-to place in Canberra for a multitude of water activities. You can use this fascinating water playground for leisure activities such as sailing, rowing, kayaking, fishing and windsurfing.
If water sports are not among your favourite activities, you can still find pleasure in hiring a bike and cycling the 40-kilometre perimeter of the lake. If you are too lazy to cycle, book a ferry or cruise to explore the lake or take a seat in one of many lakeside restaurants and cafes and relish the views.
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