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Destination Guide: Brisbane City

Brisbane has grown to be an incredibly vibrant river city, a place with something for everyone without the high prices of Sydney. The city is home to a range of annual music and arts festivals, world class restaurants, a thriving nightlife and endless activities for tourists.

People looking to stay a while have a range of Brisbane accommodation options to choose from that include everything from the most luxurious resorts to some of the most happening backpacker hostels.

The weather in Brisbane is generally warm and sunny everyday throughout summer, sometimes with visually spectacular lightning storms in the evenings.

There is an unending list of things to do in Brisbane no matter what your interests are and a well-integrated bus and train public transport system for getting around easily.

Brisbane City Centre

Brisbane CBD aerial at duskThe city centre of Brisbane has a unique blend of modern and historic buildings, dotted with parks and gardens, museums, shopping centres, theatres and City Cat Ferry stops.

With more than 600 shops, 45 cafes and restaurants and 11 shopping malls, the Queen Street Mall is a Mecca for shopaholics. Bounce between the Myer Centre, David Jones and several other boutique arcades, designer stores and studios.

In the direct heart of Brisbane, Roma Street Parkland has been dubbed the world’s largest subtropical garden in a city centre. There is an incredibly diverse range of flora on display with over 100,000 varieties of shrubs and 1,200 trees. Pathways wind through the park with shelters, seating, barbecue facilities and viewpoints providing visitors with plenty to see and do.

The Treasury Casino is set in what was once the Treasury Building, a 19th century river side building. The casino is open 24 hours a day attracting tourists and locals alike to play at over a thousand gaming machines and 100 tables. If gaming isn’t your thing then come in for the 5 bars, 6 restaurants and a world of changing entertainment.

Chinatown

Chinese Festival, Chinatown in BrisbaneThe Chinatown Mall in Duncan Street, Fortitude Valley, was opened in 1987 with pairs of stone lions guarding either entrance to the mall to act as protectors against evil spirits. They  were gifts from the People’s Republic of China as a symbol of friendship and respect.

Though the area is centred around the mall on Duncan Street but has grown to stretch from Alfred Street to McLachlan Street and Gipps Street to Constance Street.

There’s now a huge selection of exciting and exotic restaurants to dine at including traditional Chinese dumpling houses, Korean Barbecue, Yum Cha, Indonesian, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese.

Every weekend the Chinatown markets fill the mall with curious items and Pan-Asian foods. There are shops and supermarkets open throughout the week selling similar items. It’s a colourful and vibrant part of Brisbane and one not to miss.

City Botanic Gardens

City Botanic GardensBotanic Gardens today are the city’s oldest and most mature with a number of rare and unusual plant species. On the edge of the CBD and fronting the Brisbane River, the gardens offer a great escape for the busy city workers as well as students at the neighbouring Queensland University of Technology.

Within the greenery of the gardens there is also the City Gardens Cafe which has a fresh, innovative menu as well as freshly ground coffee.

It’s located in what was once the curator’s cottage in the middle of the parklands.

There are free guided walks for visitors Monday to Saturdays that show you some of the more rare plant types and give a rundown of the history of the parklands. At the Alice Street Main Entrance you can hire a bicycle with which to explore the gardens paths and even the further 500km of bike paths throughout the city.

Also within the Botanic Gardens is the Gardens Point Riverstage which is home to a number of concerts, music festivals, exhibitions and shows throughout the year.

Fortitude Valley

Live Music in the ValleyLocated just outside the city, Fortitude Valley (known locally as “The Valley”) is the trendy suburb of Brisbane. It has grown to become the epicentre for live music in Queensland as well as being the main night club district, trendy pubs, markets and studios. It is a nurturing home for many up and coming designers, artists and musicians.

For the fashion conscious the Valley will prove to be a hub of designer boutiques, street wear, charity shops and trendy home wares stores creating a brilliant shopping strip. The luxurious hotel Emporium is home to 35 specialty retailers of high fashion, footwear and lifestyle stores alongside funky bars and restaurants. Every weekend Brunswick Mall hosts the Valley Markets with a whole street of stalls selling local arts, fashion, jewellery and other unique pieces while live bands and street theatre entertain the crowds.

Between Chinatown and all the other restaurants and food stores in the Valley you could just about eat your way around the world in the one suburb. Take your pick of dumpling houses, kebab stores, tapas bars and a never ending supply of bars to follow up your meal.

As the night wears on the clubs come alive with an assortment of different live music acts, nightclubs with award winning DJs and international acts and some great dance floors that don’t stop until the sun comes up.

Kangaroo Point

Bike riding at Kangaroo PointJust over the river from the CBD is the riverside suburb of Kangaroo Point, known for the Kangaroo Point Cliffs that are immensely popular for local rock climbers and abseilers.

Of a night time the cliffs are lit up by ground lights and you can see ropes and people scaling up and down the cliffs for hundreds of metres.

There are walking tracks both at the top of the cliffs and at their base running along the river.

You’ll find a number of picnic spots and children’s playgrounds around this area, along with some marvellous views of the river, city and the Story Bridge.

Milton

La Dolce Vita Restaurant MiltonIn spite of being hit hard by the Brisbane Floods in 2011, Milton has rebuilt and flourished into the beautiful suburb it was before. It’s a great area full of shady streets, parklands and old Queenslander style houses.

The strip of restaurants in Park Road is part of a bustling village style dining area, the first of its kind in Brisbane. The centre of this collection of restaurants is recognisable for the iconic miniature Eiffel Tower rising out of the cobblestones.

The Regatta Hotel faces the river on Coronation Drive more on the Toowong side of Milton. The pub has a rather long history and has only recently fully reopened after the massive renovation that followed the Brisbane floods.

The new venue has an element of old fashioned elegance you can relax in while enjoying a beer on the decks on a Sunday afternoon… or any other day of the week for that matter.

New Farm

The Powerhouse, New Farm One of Brisbane’s oldest suburbs, New Farm is a quiet suburb hidden between the Valley and the Brisbane River. You can always find a decent restaurant or cup of coffee here for the long established Italian community that gives the area its ‘little Italy’ type atmosphere.

New Farm Park is home to a renowned rose garden of over forty thousand individual plants, popular for walks when the flowers are in bloom. A gazebo in the park plays host to many weddings every year with the roses providing a glorious backdrop for wedding photos. With plenty of room to run around and the river running right along the park it is also popular for barbeques and picnics.

Sitting beside the park on the riverfront, the Brisbane Powerhouse is home to a fantastic arts centre. Once a power station that powered the Brisbane Tram network, the building has been renovated as a performing arts centre that hosts theatre productions, live music, comedy film, visual arts and a variety of festivals on a regular basis.

If you’ll get up early on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month the grounds around the Powerhouse are home to the Jan Power’s Farmer Markets. There are around 120 stalls of fresh seasonal produce, baked and bottled organic foods, fresh seafood, local fish, flowers, coffee, wild honey and everything an avid cook could hope for.

Paddington

Shelter, PaddingtonLocated in Brisbane’s inner west, Paddington is another one of the city’s old suburbs of classic Queenslanders, many of which converted into boutiques and restaurants. There are some gorgeous restaurants in the busy strips where you can enjoy breakfast in the shade amid the youthful, vibrant settings.

The Latrobe Terrace and Given Terrace areas of Paddington are known for their diverse range of boutique stores that include home wares and antiques, upscale designer fashion as well as some really retro vintage clothing stores.

In Caxton Street you’ll find a thriving dining and entertainment precinct that is famed for its gourmet food. Every year on the Sunday of the Labour Day long weekend in May the streets are closed off to cars so thousands of people can wander the precinct as part of the Caxton Street Seafood & Wine Festival. There’s a myriad of delicious aromas, vibrantly coloured seafood and some of the best oysters you’ll ever eat. Spend the day letting your taste buds have a good time before letting your hair down for the night festivities.

Rocks Riverside Park

Fronting a good 800 metres of the Brisbane River and covering 26 hectares is the Rocks Riverside Park out in Seventeen Mile Rocks. There is a range of features here that make the park a wonderful place for a day out with the family.

For the children there is an adventure playground, climbing web, bike paths, basketball court and even a flying fox. The playground also includes a Liberty Swing so that children with disabilities can have a good time.

The water play area is perfect for Queensland’s hot summer days. Take the kids for a dip in the shallow pools or head to the deeper pool for the more confident swimmers, complete with pop up fountains. The whole area is under shade cloth to protect you from the hot sun.

Roma Street Parklands

Roma Street ParklandsRight in the middle of the city beside the Brisbane Transit Centre is the world’s largest subtropical garden in a city centre. The Roma Street Parklands are a veritable oasis that city workers can be seen laying on the grass for relaxing lunches while visitors roam the gardens. There are grassy picnic spots, rocky peninsulas, elaborate gardens, running streams, barbeque areas and playgrounds

There are free guided walks departing from The Hub at 10am and 2pm every day. An experienced volunteer guide will take you through the park for an hour past displays like the Spectacle Garden, Misty Fern Gully, by the lake and even views of the city.

If you haven’t prepared a picnic lunch then head down to the Melange Café on the ground floor of the Carriage Shed. It’s a popular spot for lunch, a quick sandwich, ice cream or even to say your wedding vows.

The open air amphitheatre in the park puts on a variety of plays each year performed by different Queensland playgroups. Shakespearian plays in the park are among the more popular shows.

South Bank

Grand Arbour, South Bank ParklandsRight on the Brisbane River facing the city is the heart of Brisbane’s entertainment, culture and recreation.

South Bank attracts around 11 million locals and tourists every year for its combination of gourmet restaurants, boutique shopping, trendy bars, markets and fun activities.

There is also a range of South Bank accommodation options that will place you in prime positions to enjoy the city sights and entertainment.

The South Bank Parklands were originally constructed on the site of Brisbane’s World Expo 88.

The unique destination has been built on over the years and now includes plazas, rainforests, the Wheel of Brisbane granting a bird’s eye view of the city and even a tropical lagoon style man made beach.

Take a walk by the river along a pathway that connects with Kangaroo Point, several bridges and the entire Brisbane riverwalk system.

View of The Eye, South Bank

There’s a bustling abundance of cuisines on offer throughout South Bank’s Little Stanley Street, Grey Street and down on the river in the Parklands. With more than 50 different restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs there’s plenty of choice in this beautiful holiday resort setting.

Throughout the day there are several boutique stores that emerge from between all the cafes and restaurants. Browse through a range of fashion, gourmet food products, flowers and business options.

The weekend is a thriving shopping time in South Bank with crowds flocking to the Lifestyle Markets every Friday night, Saturday and Sunday to browse through arts, crafts, home wares, fashion and unique Australian gifts. Head to Little Stanley Street on the first Sunday of every month for the Young Designers Market; home to one off art pieces, fashion and jewellery designs at more than 80 stalls.

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