How to spend 24 hours in Canberra

Travellers to Canberra in 2018 are in for a real culture trip.

Many wouldn't really consider the Australian capital to be a bucket list destination. The semi-rural city doesn't pump with the driving energy of Sydney or Melbourne, nor does it really showcase Australia's one-of-a-kind natural beauties.

However, like any good travel destination, it does offer something unique. In fact, it caught Lonely Planet's eye as one of the best cities in the world to visit in 2018. 

"Criminally overlooked Canberra packs a big punch for such a small city," Lonely Planet declared. "National treasures are found around almost every corner and exciting new boutique precincts have emerged, bulging with gastronomic highlights and cultural must-dos."

With the backing of an internationally looked-to travel publication, we're bound to see a growing curiosity in the capital over the next few years. 

All Aussies should head there at least once and 2018 is the perfect time to discover a renewed Canberra with its incredibly fresh produce, hip eateries and fascinating historical and cultural exhibits. If you've only got a short time to spend in the capital - say a full 24 hours - here's everything you need to tick off your list.

9:00 AM: Breakfast at The Cupping Room

This Canberra institution is actually home to some of the best coffee in Australia. Specialty roasters, Ona Coffee, are behind The Cupping Room's brew, and their Barista Hugh Kelley was named Australia's champion for 2016 and 2017. The menu here changes seasonally, of course, but the eggs and smashed avo continue to please.

Within walking distance is another Canberra favourite, Mocan and Green Grout, with equally delicious fare.

The Cupping Room. Credit: VisitCanberra

10:30 AM: Cycle to the National Gallery of Australia

After breakfast, track down your nearest bike rental via Share A Bike. You will find pay-per hour bike stands at several destinations around the city, but the Novotel or Crowne Plaza will be closest to the aforementioned breakfast spot! Alternatively, Cycle Canberra will deliver a bike to your hotel. (Note: the light rail will open in 2018, making getting around via public transport easier. However, I'm still a fan of taking a bike for the ease of travelling in your own time.)

Ride across Lake Burley Griffin, stopping in front of Parliament House for a photo opportunity. There are cycle paths all around the lake, ranging from 5km (Central Loop) to 16km (Western Loop). 

After your ride, pull up at the National Gallery of Australia to see Australia's very own Jackson Pollock masterpieces, as well as brilliant artworks by Albert Namatjira, Mark Rothko and Claude Monet.

Take your time to wander around and stop for a break at the gallery cafe for a cuppa.  

National Gallery, Canberra. Credit: VisitCanberra

1:30 PM: Lunch in Kingston

Jump back on your bike and cycle down the Kingston foreshore. For a lakeside feed, try Brodburger, Molto Italian or Morks thai restaurant (tip: be sure to check opening hours as they only do lunch on certain days!). Alternatively, head a few streets back for a meal at the acclaimed Otis Dining Hall or Pomegranate restaurants. 

If you're there on a Sunday, check out the Old Bus Depot Markets for some local boutique wares.

3:00 PM: Pay your respects at the Australian War Memorial

This museum dedicated to Australia's war efforts is a fascinating history lesson and a first rate exhibit. Many will attest that one visit is not enough to digest the troves of information and visual experiences at the war memorial

Read diaries and records from the front lines and pay tribute to the Roll of Honour - the wall featuring the names of Australia's fallen soldiers.

The Last Post is played daily at 4:55pm each day and is a moving experience for those willing to stick around until the museum's closing time.

November this year will mark the centenary of end of World War I with a special multi-media exhibition and the installation of 62,000 ruby red poppies.

The Australian War Memorial. Credit: VisitCanberra

5:00 PM: Pre-dinner drinks

For something casual, head to BentSpoke brewery in Braddon to sample some locally brewed beer. For something a bit more sophisticated, head to the centrally located Bar Rochford (the entry is a bit of a secret, but look for an R marked on the door). If you're hungry, Bar Rochford also does some great snacks, from oysters to cold cuts and cheese boards.

7:00 PM: Dinner 

From the aforementioned drinks venues, it would only be a short trip to a dinner spot in Braddon. Try Les Bistronomes for French bistro, Lazy Su for hip Japanese-Korean fusion, or Italian and Sons for a traditional pizza or pasta, or if you want to make the journey to Ainslie, try the newly hatted Pulp Kitchen.

We would be remiss if we didn't recommend a trip to the highly acclaimed Canberra icon, Chairman & Yip. Back across the lake in Barton, Chairman & Yip isn't for visitors with a strict budget, but the $88 tasting menu will make your heart sing. 

If you're heading to Canberra in March, keep a look out for ticketed dinner events, or try he Night Noodle Markets for something cheap and cheerful. 

Chairman and Yip. Credit: VisitCanberra

10:00 PM: Kick-ons

While university students may beg to differ, Canberra isn't well known for its pumping nightlife. However, people who aren't ready to retire to their hotel rooms just yet should try some local wines at the Parlour Wine Room, a G&T at Joe's, or settle in for some live jazz at Hippo Co.

8:00 AM - Day 2: Breakfast at The Local Press

Capping off a full 24-hours, get up early and have breakfast at The Local Press Cafe in Kingston, where you can enjoy a hearty breakfast with a cold pressed juice and coffee.

You could also try Patissez - the cafe and patisserie that introduced highly decorated 'Freak Shakes' to the world.

Where to stay?

  • QT Canberra: 1 London Circuit, Canberra - rooms from $165/night
  • Little National: 21 National Circuit, Barton - rooms from $143/night
  • East Hotel: 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston - rooms from $199/night
  • Crowne Plaza: 1 Binara St, Canberra - rooms from $148/night
  • Hotel Hotel: 25 Edinburgh Avenue, Canberra - rooms from $180/night (Note: Hotel Hotel was sold to Ovolo in January 2018 and a name change is expected.)

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