Things to do in Brisbane

What to do in Brisbane

Queensland’s state capital, and largest city by far, Brisbane is a dynamic modern city with a wealth of museums, parks and historic buildings to discover. This inspiring list will tell you what to do in Brisbane to get the most out of your trip.

  1. Shop ‘til you drop
  2. Visit the grand City Hall
  3. Walk the beautiful Botanic Gardens
  4. Discover Queensland’s natural history
  5. Visit this excellent collection of art
  6. Explore the trendy shops and bars
  7. Climb Mount Coot-tha
  8. Cuddle a koala

From its beautiful botanic gardens and picturesque parks to its lively squares and excellent museums, Brisbane is a thriving modern city with more attractions and activities than you can shake a boomerang at. Discover the best the city has to offer with these amazing Brisbane holiday packages

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Shop ‘til you drop

Queen Street is Brisbane’s oldest thoroughfare and it contains a busy pedestrian mall flanked by multi-storey shopping centres. The area bustles with diners, window-shoppers, tourists and errand-runners, and there’s usually some kind of entertainment too: either informal efforts – acrobats, buskers and the occasional soap-box orator – or more organized events such as dancing or jazz sessions on the small stage about halfway down the street.

Extra: Don’t miss the Brisbane Arcade on the eastern end, a rather glorious 1920s shopping mall.

2. Visit the grand City Hall

The iconic Brisbane City Hall dominates the west side of King George Square, a popular gathering place for the city’s workers. It is also home to the Museum of Brisbane, which hosts changing exhibitions with a Queensland theme, with an emphasis on work by emerging Brisbane artists. There’s also a permanent collection of images and films relating to the city’s history, including its Aboriginal roots. Visitors can queue to ascend City Hall’s 92m Clock Tower, which was, until 1967, the city’s tallest structure.

Extra: The nearby Treasury Building is a magnificent 1890s building that’s well worth a visit. It’s home to a 24-hour casino.

3. Walk the beautiful Botanic Gardens

Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens overlook the picturesque cliffs of Kangaroo Point. They provide a generous arrangement of flowers, shrubs, bamboo thickets and green grass for sprawling on. The formal gardens were originally laid out in 1855, on what was a vegetable patch cultivated by convicts. They experimented with local and imported plants to see which would grow well in Queensland’s then-untried climate. The more successful efforts include the oversized bunya pines and a residual patch of the rainforest that once blanketed the area, at the southern end of the park. This is one of the perfect things to do in Brisbane if you fancy a break from all the sightseeing.

Extra: Classical music recitals are held in summer on an open-air stage at the southern end of the gardens.

4. Discover Queensland’s natural history

From the humpback whale family that dangles (in model form) over the walkway outside, the Queensland Museum is largely devoted to natural history. Targeted principally at teaching local school kids about their home state, it also makes a good introduction for out-of-towners. The ‘Lost Creatures’ section celebrates long-extinct species unearthed as fossils, including a huge plesiosaur and a reconstruction of Queensland’s own Muttaburrasaurus, while smaller displays explore the marine environment, particularly turtles.

Extra: The Dandiiri Maiwar exhibition focuses on Aboriginal Queensland, using photos and accounts by early settlers.

5. Visit this excellent collection of art

The remit of the excellent Queensland Art Gallery extends well beyond Queensland itself, with its collection ranging not only all over Australia but further afield, to include Toulouse Lautrec and Japanese woodblock prints. Stand-outs include astounding paintings by Sidney Nolan from his series on Mrs Fraser, Ian Fairweather’s abstract canvases, and a nineteenth century stained-glass window of a kangaroo hunt. This broad selection traces how Australian art initially aped European tastes and then, during the twentieth century, found its own style in the alienated works of Nolan, Boyd and Whiteley, all of whom were inspired by Australian landscape and legends.

Extra: Down the road is the Gallery of Modern Art, a space that hosts a dynamic range of annual temporary exhibitions.

6. Explore the trendy shops and bars

Fortitude Valley – generally known as simply ‘the Valley’ – is a tangled mix of shops, restaurants, bars and clubs, comprising Brisbane’s unofficial centre of artistic, gastronomic and alcoholic pursuits. An eclectic mix of the gay, the groovy and the grubby, the Valley is mostly focused along partially pedestrianized Brunswick Street, which sports a kilometre-long melange of nightclubs, an Irish pub, a compact Chinatown complete with busy restaurants and stores, and a burgeoning European street-café scene.

Extra: Head south and you hit New Farm, a leafy low-slung residential suburb that’s home to sizable parklands.

7. Climb Mount Coot-tha

At the day’s end, Brisbanites and tourists alike head to the summit of Mount Coot-tha for panoramas of the city and, on a good day, the Moreton Bay islands. Walking tracks from the Brisbane Lookout offer moderate hikes of thirty minutes to an hour through dry gum woodland. They include several Aboriginal trails, the best of which branches off the Summit Track and features informative signs pointing out plants and their uses, and weaves past artwork in the form of rock paintings, tree carvings and etchings. Ask anyone from the city and they will tell you that this is one of the best things to do in Brisbane.

Extra: The lower slopes of Mount Coot-tha are the setting for Brisbane’s second botanic gardens.

8. Cuddle a koala

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has been a popular day-trip upstream since opening its gates in 1927. Australian fauna can be seen in its natural state which, in the case of the sanctuary’s 130-plus koalas, means being asleep for eighteen hours a day. In nearby cages you’ll find other slumbering animals, including Tasmanian devils and fruit bats

Extra: In the outdoor paddock, tolerant wallabies and kangaroos are petted and fed by visitors.

Find your perfect destination