12 things to do in Canberra and events to enjoy
The best activities to enjoy in Canberra during your upcoming holiday.
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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 12 things to do
1. Have a close encounter at the National Zoo and AquariumThe 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 several 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.
The ultimate experience:
Cheetah Encounter at the National Zoo - Weekday from RedBalloon
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 a comprehensive collection of Aboriginal art.
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.
Our top pick:
Canberra's Capital City Landmarks - Full Day Tour from RedBalloon
3. Pay your respects at the Australian War Memorial
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 plays a vital role in commemorate days, particular ANZAC Day.
The complex houses a museum with exhibits that showcase Australian military weapons and artefacts. You can join the 90-minute free guided tour that highlights the most outstanding features of the monument.
Australian War Memorial from TripAdvisor
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 courtyard, gaze on the 220-tonne mast flying an equally impressive Australian flag and enjoy views of the city and Lake Burley Griffin.
Inside, are historic artefacts including one of the world’s largest tapestries. 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.
Our top pick:
Parliament House from TripAdvisor
5. Connect with nature at the Australian National Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens are located on the foot of the Black Mountain and is 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.
Our top pick:
Australian National Botanic Gardens from Expedia.com.au
6. See Canberra from above with a helicopter ride or walk up Telstra Tower
With its mountainous surrounds, nearby wineries and farms and 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 leg it to Telstra Tower.
This iconic landmark houses the telecommunication company, Telstra's facilities, and is also known by its former nickname, "Black Mountain Tower". The needle has a height of 195 metres and its position on the Black Mountain lets you to enjoy views of the parks and gardens and Burley Griffin Lake.
On floors reserved for visitors, you can enjoy 360-degree views of Canberra. Look for a mailbox near the top; it is the highest mailbox in the whole city.
Helicopter Flying Lesson Over Canberra
Helicopter Flight Over Canberra - 15 Minutes - For 2
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 on every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, attract foodies, handicraft aficionados and unique clothing collectors.
You will find a multitude of items to peruse and purchase, ranging from organic products to trendy clothes and home decor items.
Our top pick:
Old Bus Depot Markets from TripAdvisor
8. Smell the flowers at the spectacular Canberra Floriade
Held annually, Floriade is Canberra's spring garden and flower festival. It started in 2005 and is now the largest flower festival in the southern hemisphere. The event features 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 variety of water activities including sailing, rowing, kayaking, fishing and windsurfing.
If water sports aren't your thing, you can hire a bike and cycle the 40-kilometre perimeter of the lake instead. Alternatively, you can book a ferry or cruise on the lake or take a seat in one of many lakeside restaurants and cafes and relish the views.
Our top pick:
Lake Burley Griffin from Expedia.com.au
10. Take in the sunset Mount Ainslie
If you're after a bit of a hike, you can't look past Mount Ainslie. Take in the views of the city with the option to walk, cycle or drive up to the top.
Need an impressive yet relaxed date idea? We recommend heading up in the late afternoon to catch the sunset.
Mount Ainslie from Expedia.com.au
11. Have a BBQ at Pina Island Reserve
Bask in that beautiful Canberra sun with a BBQ down at the Pina Island Reserve. The whole family can enjoy a day in the Murrumbidgee river, with kid-friendly water no one misses out.
Bring along your best sausage sizzles, bread rolls and tomato sauce (or barbecue) and fire up one of the BBQs' for a family picnic. Enjoy a walk riverside and take in the fresh air.
12. Have some fun at Questacon, National Science and Technology Centre
For a day of fun for the kids (and you parents and caregivers) when you're down in Canberra, you can't look past Questacon.
The National Science and Technology Centre hosts a multitude of events and activities that combine excitement and learning. From science experiments to engineering and technology, there's something for every age group.
Our top pick:
Questacon National Science & Technology Centre from Expedia.com.au
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