Canberra is Australia’s proud purpose-built capital city. It is an enclave within the state of New South Wales, known as the Australian Capital Territory, or ACT. Established in 1913, Canberra’s name means ‘meeting place,’ and it is Australia’s largest inland city, nestled at the foothills of the Brindabella Ranges. It’s renowned for its significance as the administrative centre of Australia, housing crucial Federal Government institutions such as Parliament House, Government House, and the High Court of Australia.
With a population of around 450,000 residents, Canberra is a unique blend of modern urban infrastructure and natural beauty, centred around the vast artificial lake known as Lake Burley Griffin. Sprawling green spaces, such as Commonwealth Park and the Australian National Botanic Gardens interlace the cityscape, offering welcome open spaces and recreational respite from the bustle of city life.
Designed by visionary architect Walter Burley Griffin, Canberra's layout is a testament to thoughtful city planning. The city's grid-like layout is punctuated by geometric motifs and centred on axes aligned with significant landmarks such as Black Mountain, Mount Ainslie, Capital Hill, and City Hill. This unique design has earned Canberra recognition as one of the world's most liveable cities. Visitors to Canberra can explore the city's history and cultural heritage through an array of significant museums and galleries. The National Gallery of Australia showcases an extensive collection of significant artworks, while the Australian War Memorial and the National Museum of Australia provide profound insights into the nation's history. Guided tours of Parliament House offer visitors a chance to witness the country's political processes firsthand.
Nature enthusiasts can appreciate Canberra's natural beauty. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Namadgi National Park offer hiking trails, wildlife encounters, and glimpses of ancient indigenous rock art. Nearby, the picturesque village of Tidbinbilla is a great place to explore, while the charming town of Bungendore offers numerous quaint galleries and craft stores to browse.
Canberra serves as a convenient central hub for exploring the broader rural NSW region. Nearby Yass Valley and the Murrumbateman Winery Region are renowned for their cellar doors and wineries, attracting visitors interested in vineyard tours and wine tastings.
Whether immersing in the cultural treasures of the National Library or savouring the tranquillity of the Australian National Arboretum, Canberra entices visitors with its blend of history, art, and natural beauty, offering a multifaceted experience at the heart of Australia.
Top five things to do in Canberra
Here are some suggestions for the top five things to do if you are visiting Canberra for the first time:
This iconic building is the seat of the Australian Parliament and is located on Capital Hill, in the centre of Canberra. It was designed by architect Romaldo Giurgola, and opened in 1988. Take a guided tour to discover the inner workings of the chambers and art collections, and enjoy panoramic views from the roof. Guided public tours are available free of charge at 10am and 2pm on weekdays, whenever Parliament is not sitting.
The Australian War Memorial is a must-see for any visitor to Canberra. It is a beautiful and moving tribute to all Australians who have served in wars and conflicts. The memorial is home to a wide range of exhibits, including the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Roll of Honour, and the Hall of Memory. Entry is free, but you do need to purchase a ticket in advance. The memorial is open from 10am to 4pm every day.
The National Museum of Australia is home to a vast collection of artefacts and exhibits that tell the story of Australia's history and culture. The museum is a great place to learn about Australia’s indigenous people, its European settlers, and its multicultural society. Questacon is Australia’s National Science and Technology Centre, offering interactive exhibits for all ages.
Lake Burley Griffin is the city's centrepiece, and it is a great place to take a walk, have a picnic, or go for a swim. Hire a kayak or paddleboard, or take a scenic cruise to admire the iconic landmarks dotting the lake's shores. The lake is surrounded by a number of parks and gardens, and it is also home to a number of cafes and restaurants.
The National Gallery of Australia is home to more than 155,000 works of art, a world-class collection including works by Aboriginal artists, Australian painters, and international artists. Here you can see works by Sidney Nolan, Albert Namatjira, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet. The gallery is a great place to learn about the history of art, and to see some of the most famous works of art in the world.
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