No longer satisfied in the shadow of Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane is subverting stereotypes and surprising the critics. Welcome to Australia's new subtropical 'It kid'.
Alfresco Living, Year-round
Brisbane has a climate its more famous southern rivals would kill for (despite what they may tell you). When Sydney and Melbourne shiver through the winter months, Brisbane continues basking in the sun. After all, this is the capital city of the Sunshine State, a meteorological Promised Land where winters are mild and short enough for a daytime alfresco toast. It’s a fact not lost on Brisbanites, who indulge in outdoor thrills all year round, from inner-city rock-climbing and kayaking, to riverside cycling and sunning on the nation’s only man-made city beach.
The Brisbane food scene is booming. Innovation and ingenuity are the key words these days, driving everything from Gauge’s cult-status black garlic bread to Nodo’s Valrhona chocolate and beetroot dougnuts. Menus across the city are flaunting the seasonal and the regional, transforming top-notch produce into beautiful, confident dishes spanning all budgets and countless cuisines. Imbibing in Brisbane is no less impressive, with a sharp, competent booty of specialty coffee microroasteries, microbreweries and cocktail bars pouring faultless single-origin brews, seasonal beers and out-of-the-box cocktails crafted with everything from lemon myrtle to local Brisbane honey.
Forget the ‘cultural backwater’ tag. Brisbane 2.0 is a kicking hub of creativity, with an expanding arsenal of enlightening, thought-provoking drawcards. It’s here that you’ll find the Australia’s largest public gallery of modern art (GOMA), its most important festival of new Australian music (Bigsound Festival), not to mention one of its most innovative and enlightened annual film festivals (the Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival). Whether you’re up for catching a cult-status band in a state-of-the-art hangar, a subversive cabaret in a one-time power station, or an opera in a subterranean reservoir, this town has you covered.
Urbane Technically brilliant degustation menus for serious food lovers.
Stokehouse Q Polished, modern Australian cuisine with knockout water and skyline views.
E’cco Contemporary culinary ingenuity and a good-value tasting menu to boot.
Gauge Bold takes on cafe nosh in a modern, casual space by major galleries and museums.
1889 Enoteca Authentic, sophisticated Italian fare with cognoscenti vino to match.
Gallery of Modern Art A blockbuster public gallery with commanding architecture and refreshing exhibitions.
Queensland Art Gallery Australian and international artworks that span the centuries.
The Pillars Project Epic street-art murals on the pillars of an inner-city overpass.
QUT Art Museum Rotating shows of contemporary Aussie and international creativity, including work by up-and-coming talent.
Institute of Modern Art Out-of-the-box contemporary exhibitions showcasing local and international artists.
Old Government House A heritage belle with an unexpected collection of works by lauded Brisbane painter William Robinson.
The Triffid Hot local and international acts in a wartime relic with killer acoustics.
The Zoo A Valley institution, pumping out up-and-coming talent across the musical landscape.
Brooklyn Standard Basement blues, funk, soul or rockabilly tunes six nights a week.
Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall Country and western acts in a whisky-loving honky tonk.
The Foundry A custom-built, multi-level music and arts space designed by verified musos.
Brisbane Jazz Club Smooth and sultry sax with skyline views by the glittering Brisbane River.
Max Watt’s House of Music A mixed bag of in-the-know indie acts from across the globe.
Museum of Brisbane Shop for Brisbane-themed gifts at the museum’s smart, little shop.
Collective Markets South Bank Scour the stalls for locally made leathergoods, fashion, art and edibles.
Gallery of Modern Art Local jewellery, art tomes and more at the GOMA store.
Miss Bond Handmade contemporary jewellery on a cool dead-end alley.
Maiocchi Vintage-inspired frocks for idiosyncratic fashionistas.
Stock & Supply A unisex streetwear store with a number of regional labels.
Dogstar Locally designed women’s threads with Japanese and bohemian undercurrents.
New Farm Confectionery Artisanal sweets made with foodie-approved ingredients.
Old Government House A highly esteemed heritage building, complete with Recency-inspired verandah.
Parliament House Elegant French classicism gets a tropical twist at this 19th-century powerhouse.
City Hall Home to a grand auditorium inspired by one of ancient Rome’s most celebrated buidings.
Customs House Local martime history lives on in this riverside Roman Revival belle.
Treasury Building A vainglorious palazzo designed by 19th-century starchitect John James Clark.
Brisbane Powerhouse Industrial art deco juxtaposed against contemporary ingenuity in New Farm.
Story Bridge Adventure Climb Scale the most iconic bridge in Brisbane for a suckerpunch skyline view.
Riverlife Offers a string of inner-city thrills, from cliff climbs to evening kayak trips around the city centre.
Brisbane Riverwalk It doesn’t take a miracle to walk, jog or cycle on water thanks to this innovative in-the-river track.
Mt Coot-tha Reserve Hit the bush and ascend to Brisbane’s highest natural lookout.
Golden Pig Cooking School & Cafe Sharpen your culinary skills with a talented ex-Rockpool chef.
Urban Climb Give those glutes a serious workout with an indoor climb in West End.
Commissariat Store Museum A convict-era survivor with rotating local history exhibitions.
Museum of Brisbane Innovative insights into the city’s past and present day in one of the city’s most impressive buildings.
Boggo Road Gaol Get the creeps on a tour of Brisbane’s notorious Victorian-era penitentiary.
Old Government House Savour the flavour of 19th-century privilege at this heritage standout.
Parliament House Take a tour of Brisbane’s Gallic-styled hub of power and bureaucracy.
Newstead House Snoop around the city’s oldest surviving home, decked out in Victorian-era furnishings.
Gallery of Modern Art The must-see GOMA focuses on Australian art from the 1970s to today.
Streets Beach A central spot for a quick (and free) dip.
Mt Coot-tha Reserve A huge bush reserve overlooked by 287m Mt Coot-tha and home to the botanic gardens and a planetarium.
Parliament House The only way to get a look inside this French Renaissance–style that the City Botanic Gardens is on one of the free tours.
Brisbane Powerhouse A once-derelict power station that’s been converted into a contemporary arts centre.
Museum of Brisbane An excellent, compact museum housed in City Hall.
Roma Street Parkland One of the world’s largest subtropical urban gardens.
Paddington Antique Centre One of Brisbane’s biggest antiques emporiums.
Davies Park Market Organic goods and buskers aplenty.
St John’s Cathedral A beautiful piece of 19th-century Gothic Revival architecture, only completed in 2009.
Old Government House Hailed as Queensland’s most important historic building; phone for bookings.