Since its design in 1911 and naming in 1913, Australia’s capital city Canberra has grown from a vision and a set of drawings into a cosmopolitan metropolis, with exciting urban adventures and scenic outdoor spaces just waiting to be discovered.
Originally planned for 25,000 people, Canberra is now home to nearly 400,000 people, many of whom believe it’s Australia’s coolest city — and we’re not only talking about the winter temperatures!
Historical aerial view from 1939, looking south that shows Childers Street as it comes off University Avenue and leads to a loop of lawn at the front entrance of the School of Art and Design.
Many of the capital’s renowned attractions are around the city’s centre (and the ANU campus), making exploring it a breeze!
Here are some of the best things to do in Canberra.
If you love architecture, history, art and immersing yourself in a city’s true character, then Canberra’s iconic national attractions will amaze and delight you.
View one of the world’s most architecturally-acclaimed buildings, Parliament House, place a poppy on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial, or walk through the hypnotising exhibitions at the National Gallery of Australia.
If you love books, don’t miss the treasure trove of rarities at the National Library of Australia. And for an intriguing look into the country’s social history, spend a day exploring its culture, land and people at the National Museum of Australia.
Coin saver: Although you may have to pre-book a ticket to visit some exhibitions in these venues, all of them are free to enter.
The Muttaburrasaurus in the Gandel Atrium at the National Museum of Australia.
Need a furry or feathered friend fix? Canberra has a range of animal-inspired sites, including the National Zoo & Aquarium, where you can see some of the world’s most fascinating creatures — both on land and in water. You can even feed a tiger, meet a meerkat and become best friends with a red panda during the zoo's unique close encounters.
If you’re a little more specific about how you encounter your favourite fauna, check out the beautiful birdlife at the Canberra Walk-in Aviary or meet your new cold-blooded friends at the Canberra Reptile Zoo.
Coin saver: Flash your student ID and get discounted entry at the National Zoo & Aquarium (discounts also apply for online bookings).
A male visitor feeds a hungry tiger through a gate.
Canberra is a sports-mad city with a calendar that features AFL, rugby union, rugby league, soccer, horse racing, international cricket, netball, hockey and more! Gear-up in your team’s favourite colours, grab a few friends and cheer yourself hoarse at one or all of these events.
Or, if you prefer to get amongst the action yourself, consider joining the ANU Fitness Centre or one of 32 campus sporting clubs. From A (AFL) to V (volleyball) — and heaps in between — joining up is an opportunity to meet new friends, up your fitness levels and, best of all, have some fun!
Coin saver: The Fitness Centre at ANU offers a free 7-day trial to ANU students as well as ongoing discounted gym memberships.
A packed crowd at Manuka Oval watching a 20-20 cricket match.
The national capital has a range of fab festivals and events during its four distinct seasons. In spring, one of the best things to do in Canberra is to celebrate nature in all its glory at the (blooming) amazing flower and entertainment festival, Floriade. Then experience the warm-weather delights of cars (at Summernats) and culture (at the National Multicultural Festival) in summer.
When autumn comes around, add some illumination to your life at the Enlighten Festival – and make sure you check out the Night Noodle Markets that open a week before Enlighten begins each year… so yummy! In between, you can keep your finger on Canberra’s event pulse — including its awesome music scene.
Coin saver: Festival freebies abound with free entry to Floriade, the National Multicultural Festival and the Enlighten Festival.
Crowds gather during the 2020 Multicultural Festival in Civic.
Regarding Canberra sightseeing, you can’t go past the opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s outdoor treasures. And it all starts with the fluid fantasticness of the iconic Lake Burley Griffin.
Surrounded by walking and cycling paths, you can grab a coffee-to-go on the “bridge to bridge” path or negotiate the lake’s calming waters by paddle or Go-Boat.
Two men ride electric scooters across the bridge from the Carillion on Lake Burley Griffin.
There are also many stunning parks and mountains to explore. Bushwalking bliss can be experienced at a range of peaks. The Centenary Trail and Stromlo Forest Park are nirvana for bike riders and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve offers trails for walkers of all experience levels and the chance to spot an Aussie animal icon, like a koala, platypus, kangaroo, emu or wombat. There are also many other national parks and reserves surrounding Canberra, where you can fish, swim, horse ride, camp, throw snowballs, toboggan, take a picnic or have a BBQ with friends and family. Get amongst it!
Coin saver: Zero coin needed. Which is lucky – exploring nature is one of the best things to do in Canberra.