Welcome to Canberra: your new favorite Australian city, and a place that’s full of surprises. This is your guide to getting the most out of the country’s cultured, cosmopolitan capital, where a vibrant food and drink scene, the great outdoors and a unique history and heritage await.
Thanks to visionary architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin, Canberra is easily navigated; expect plenty of green, open spaces, pretty boulevards and iconic architecture. The city is also an excellent launch pad for outdoor adventures: mountains, bush and beaches beckon, all within two hours’ drive away. Hire a car from Canberra Airport and explore at your own pace.
First though, stay put for at least three nights, getting a taste for the bars, restaurants, boutiques, galleries and other adventures. Here are some of the headline acts…
Champagne breakfasts are already pretty perfect, but in Canberra, you can take them up a level (literally) and team them with the unforgettable experience of hot-air ballooning over Parliament House. Opt for a sky-high expedition with Balloon Aloft (book with Austravel) and you’ll begin with a balloon flight over the city, followed by a champagne breakfast at Hyatt Hotel Canberra.
After all that, you’ll want to take a little piece of Canberra home with you. Don’t miss the gift shops at the national museums and galleries: we love the National Portrait Gallery for its impressive stash of books; the National Museum of Australia for indigenous souvenirs (the store’s manager sources directly from indigenous artists and artisans in the Northern Territory); and the National Gallery of Australia for covetable jewelry.
Find out more about Canberra’s indulgent side or read up on the top 10 unmissable Canberra experiences…
There are plenty of special restaurants to try while you’re here, too. Sample Asian-fusion food served in a fun, relaxed environment at Akiba; dress to impress for elegant Aubergine and its fine-dining menu; have an indulgent modern Australian dinner at the Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant, which serves up the perfect foodie experience (keep an eye out for their special themed nights, which get booked up fast). Bacon-lovers will be in heaven: Pialligo’s bacon, smoked on-site, has been officially named Australia’s tastiest.
Local tip… ‘Barflies will love Highball Express for rum (ask the bartenders to make you their favorite cocktail and you won’t be disappointed); Tipsy Bull for gin (there are more than 80 types on their menu!), where they’ll serve your G&T deconstructed, so you can try the gin and put in whatever aromatics or however much tonic you like; Bar Rochford for its gorgeous green-leather booths, awesome music, table service and white negronis. Beer-lovers should check out Dave’s Brewery Tours and discover the top brews in Canberra.’
If you like the idea of getting out amid nature to enjoy delicious food and drink, you’ve come to the right place. Sign up for a guided truffle hunt with The Truffle Farm in season (June–August) and enjoy a truffle-centric meal as part of the day.
If you’re thirsty for a grape escape, discover one or as many as 140 cool climate vineyards and 30 characterful cellar doors within 35 minutes’ drive north of the city centre. To cut to the chase, Canberra Guided Tours will arrange an amazing day among the vines (they also offer a range of city tours). If you’re touring the wineries yourself, don’t miss lunch or dinner at the popular Poachers Pantry or Grazing at Gundaroo.
For a quirky stay in the capital, check in to QT Canberra. Choose from a selection of minimalist-design rooms and suites that will most definitely meet all of your cravings for luxury. There’s even a resident barber shop, a tasty bar and grill and a luxurious lounge to relax in.
Stroll a few streets down and you’ll stumble across Bar Rochford, full of pride having been knighted the 2018 Australian Bar of the Year in the esteemed Gourmet Traveller Australia awards. There’s no chance you’ll go thirsty or hungry here.
Begin the day in caffeinated style by paying a trip to ONA Coffee, a local roasting house whose owner (Sasa Sestic) was crowned World Barista Champion in 2015 (the following year, another ONA barista, Hugh Kelly, took the Australian Barista Champion title). There are various ONA outposts to choose from, including the Cupping Room (prepare to join the line for brunch on the weekend – it’s totally worth it), GreenHouse Coffee and Co, ONA Manuka and the brand’s full-of-beans HQ, ONA Coffee House.
Local tip… ‘Looking to stuff yourself silly? Opt for all-you-can-eat at Eightysix for $86 a person and just keep ordering; the petit feast at Buvette (in Hotel Realm) is a savory-and-sweet afternoon-tea sensation; Akiba’s ‘Just feed me!’ menu is a selection of the restaurant’s eight favourite dishes.’
We’ve never heard of any other city that invites visitors to bed down for the night next to bears and lions – but you can do exactly that, in complete safety, at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge in the National Zoo & Aquarium. Just a sheet of glass will separate you from the mighty beasties; you’ll also get the chance to feed giraffes from your balcony in the morning, making for a more-than-memorable breakfast. Rates at the Lodge, which is inspired by South African safari stays, include all your food and drink; it’s an unforgettable treat.
Getting to Canberra is a smooth adventure with Singapore Airlines. To make the most of your stopover in Singapore, book a Singapore Airlines’ Singapore Stopover Holiday, which gives passengers access to a great selection of three- or five-star hotels and more than 15 attractions, plus free airport transfers and free rides on the SIA Hop-on Bus.