Twighlight view of Parliament House in Canberra

Things to do in  Canberra

Beat around the bush

Surrounded by mountains and nature, Canberra—Australia’s capital—is a destination often unfairly written off as a place just for politics. But look past that role, and you’ll see that this small city provides plenty of things to do for receptive visitors: visit museums, galleries, and monuments that reflect Australian culture or hike peaceful nature trails to panoramic viewpoints that look out over the city’s lakefront locale.

Top 15 attractions in Canberra

Australian Parliament House

Two parliament houses sit atop Capital Hill in Canberra, the old art deco parliament building from the 1920s and the new Australian Parliament House, built in the 1980s. The grassed roof and triangular metal flagpole of the building have become a national symbol of Australia. Works by some of the country's top contemporary artists hang within.More

Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial is one of Canberra’s most prominent landmarks and home to the National Military Museum. Standing at the head of Anzac Parade and surrounded by Remembrance Nature Park, it’s a moving tribute to the many Australian soldiers that fought and died in wars throughout the years.More

National Museum of Australia

Like a big abstract Australian storybook, the National Museum of Australia uses controversy and humor to get you thinking about Australian national identity and heritage. The diverse collection focuses on Indigenous cultures and histories, settlement by Europeans, and the interaction between Australians and the environment.More

Mt. Ainslie

See the planned city of Canberra from above from the top of Mt. Ainslie, which you can visit by hiking or driving. Reaching a height of 2,766 feet (843 meters), this small mountain in the northeast of Canberra hosts a popular tourist lookout with unparalleled views of the city and its deliberate, geometric layout.More

National Gallery of Australia

The National Gallery of Australia has a stunning permanent collection of art focusing on four areas: Australian art, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, Asian and Pacific art, and European and American Art. Highlights include works by Australian artists Sidney Nolan, Tom Roberts, and Arthur Streeton.More

Lake Burley Griffin

Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin is at the heart of the capital, providing the focal point around which much of the city’s official and recreational life revolves. Formed by the damming of the Molonglo River in 1963—about half a century after Canberra’s founding—it’s now difficult to imagine the city without the defining body of water.More

National Library of Australia

If you have a question about Australia, you’ll find an answer here. The National Library of Australia holds the world’s largest collection of “Australiana,” with more than 10 million items—from books, photographs, and newspapers to unpublished manuscripts and oral histories—in aid of its mission to document the Australian experience.More

National Portrait Gallery

The National Portrait Gallery in Canberra tells the story of Australia through the portraits of Australians who helped shape the country. Established in 1998, this art gallery holds a collection of portraits, both contemporary and historic, of people from all walks of life that reflect Australian history and society.More

High Court of Australia

It’s fitting that the High Court of Australia, where the country’s most important cases are decided, sits at the heart of Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle. The symbolism doesn't stop there though, as the court’s award-winning building dominates the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. Parts of the courthouse are open to the public.More

Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex

Owned by NASA and managed by CSIRO, Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex is one of three NASA tracking stations around the world. Integral to NASA missions, it’s also home to the Canberra Space Centre, where visitors can get a behind-the-scenes peek at NASA missions and learn more about the mysteries of outer space.More

Australian Institute of Sport

Want to get a look inside how elite Australian athletes train? Stop by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra to experience what it’s like to eat, work and sweat like one of the players. One of Australia’s most-loved sites, AIS welcomes more than 200,000 visitors each year.Take a guided tour for a behind-the-scenes look into the lives of world-class Australian athletes. The 160-acre campus includes top-notch sports facilities, training camps and lodging for some of the most renowned athletes in the world. The AIS Arena hosts well-known events, concerts shows such as Cirque du Soleil — don’t forget to check what’s on! Grab an espresso at the AIS café or pick up a souvenir at the shop, and soak up the sporting atmosphere.More

Australian National Botanic Gardens

The Australian National Botanic Gardens reimagines natural environments from around the country in its 86 acres (35 hectares) of former bushland on the lower slopes of Black Mountain. Home to 75,000 plants from more than 6,000 species, it's the world’s most comprehensive display of native Australian plant life.More
Questacon: the National Science and Technology Centre

Questacon: the National Science and Technology Centre

The young (and the young at heart) can interact with more than 200 exhibits divided between eight hands-on galleries and an outdoor Science Garden at Questacon. Learn how tsunamis form, feel the shake of an earthquake, gaze at the surface of a giant model of the moon, or catch a show in the on-site theater.More
National Carillon

National Carillon

No trip to Australia’s capital is complete without a visit to the National Carillon. The 164-foot (50 meter) architectural landmark originally gifted to Australia by the British government is touted for its’ unique design. In addition to its’ towering height, the structure is also a musical instrument! Have a picnic beneath the striking tower and listen to chimining of its’ 55 bronze bells each week at free concerts. The sheer height of the tower allows the musical melodies to drift across Lake Burley Griffin all the way to Kings and Commonwealth Parks. Visit at night when the structure is illuminated for an unforgettable view.More
National Zoo & Aquarium

National Zoo & Aquarium

With a huge range of resident critters, from native Australian animals to exotic species, the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra has plenty for wildlife lovers to get excited about. In addition to housing Australia’s most extensive collection of big cats, it also has the largest inland saltwater tank in the country.More
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All about Canberra

When to visit

Following chilly and windy winters, spring brings welcome relief to Canberrans and large crowds of tourists due to one of the city’s largest festivals, Floriade—a month-long flower festival with vivid floral displays and illuminations. Despite its hot and dry weather, summer also draws in plenty of visitors with festivals, from the family-friendly fireworks of Skyfire to the rubber-burning mayhem of the Summernats car festival.

Getting around

Driving remains the easiest way to get around Canberra when sightseeing due to the city's layout and limited local public transport timetables. Canberra’s bus network operates across the city, with its central station at the City Interchange on Alinga Street in Civic. A new light rail system also connects the Canberra city center with the showgrounds in the northern suburbs. Some areas of attractions are easily walkable, though, such as in Parkes and Kingston.

Traveler tips

If you’re after cocktails and a novel Canberra drinking experience, add the speakeasy Molly to your evening plans. To get there, follow the GPS coordinates 35°16'44.5"S+149°07'42.0"E, and don’t be discouraged if you find yourself in an unexciting back alley. Help your recovery the next day with a Canberra staple, Brodburger in Kingston, to see if you think their burgers are worth the hype—and the lines. (You can order ahead online.)

Local Currency
Australian Dollar (A$)
Time Zone
AEDT (UTC +10)
Country Code

People Also Ask

How do I spend a day in Canberra?

Begin a day in Canberra with a visit to the Australian War Memorial and its world-class museum before getting a coffee at one of the cafes on Lonsdale Street in Braddon. Then cross Lake Burley Griffin to see Parliament House and the art inside the National Gallery of Australia before having a drink by the waterfront in Kingston.

Is it worth visiting Canberra?

Yes, Canberra is worth visiting if you’re curious about the Australian capital and enjoy museums, art, culture, and panoramic viewpoints. Despite Canberra’s stuffy reputation, the city is an excellent destination for food and nightlife and also a great choice for outdoor lovers with plenty of mountain trails to hike on.

How do I spend a weekend in Canberra?

For an entertaining weekend in Canberra, spend your Saturday exploring the War Memorial, relaxing at a cafe in Braddon, and admiring the view from Mount Ainslie. First thing Sunday, head to the Old Bus Depot Markets for food and shopping, followed by sightseeing around Parliament House and drinks at the Kingston Foreshore.

What is Canberra famous for?

Canberra is best known as the capital city of Australia and home to the country’s government and politics. The city’s most famous attractions are its national museums, art galleries, and cultural institutions, such as the Royal Australian Mint and the National Arboretum Canberra.

Does Canberra have good nightlife?

Canberra has a healthy nightlife scene, thanks to the city’s large population of both students and young professionals. Civic in the city center is the central hub of nightlife activity, with smaller hubs in the suburbs of Acton (near the Australian National University), Kingston, and Braddon.

Why do tourists visit Canberra?

Tourists visit Canberra for many reasons, but typically it is to see the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Parliament House, and to visit many of the city’s fine museums, including Questacon and the National Museum of Australia. People also often travel to Canberra for festivals like the Canberra Balloon Spectacular and Floriade.

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