Guide courtesy of HerCanberra
Feature image of XO Restaurant by Rodrigo Vargas
No longer synonymous for boring or bureaucratic, the nation’s capital has racked up some serious cool credo in recent years.
Come for the coffee and culture, stay for the shopping, serious gastronomy and sight-seeing. Home to the country’s landmark institutions and set out around picturesque Lake Burley Griffin, Canberra possesses a quiet elegance, and, dare we say it, a powerful attraction.
Chairman & Yip
In a city which boasts a dynamic food scene, Chairman & Yip is something of an icon—having been a consistently popular, hatted, and inventive modern Cantonese restaurant for more than 20 years.
Its moody and dark Barton location contains both private dining rooms and a fully-enclosed balcony garden. And while you can order some menu items which have been popular for more than two decades—twice-cooked crispy duck pancakes we’re looking at you—there’s also an ever-changing array of dishes which show true expertise in the kitchen.
1 Burbury Close, Barton
Loud, crowded and with a thumping good soundtrack, XO is a restaurant with energy. Yet somehow, with everything going on around you, the food is so arrestingly good that once it arrives at your table, nothing else seems to matter.
Try the famed Asian Bolognese, or the “Strange Flavour Eggplant” and wash it down with calamansi and mandarin soft serve. You’ll feel like dancing.
16 Iluka Street Narrabundah
The Italian Place
If you want to be greeted by a true Italian host, then say hi to Tony Lo Torzo at the door and begin your journey to a rustic and casual trattoria.
The Italian Place is as pared back as any suburban eatery in Naples, a place to revel in authentic Italian cooking rather than ritzy décor—think Sardinian fish stew, or pork kneck and fennel ragout.
There’s a strong focus on local, but if it is not from the Canberra region, chances are your ingredients and wine have come from Italy.
38 Mort Street, Braddon
Bar Rochford put Canberra’s bar scene on the national map when it won Australia’s Best Bar in the 2018 Gourmet Australia Traveller Awards. And since then the accolades have continued to flow.
Located under the graceful arches of the historic Melbourne Building in Canberra’s Civic centre, here is a place with an inventive menu, skilled bar team and moody/retro vibe helped out by an excellent vinyl collection courtesy of its co-owner Nick Smith. Cool though it might be, here is a space where everyone is welcomed.
First Floor, 65 London Circuit, Civic
Beirut Bunker Bar
Opened in 2019 by one of the veterans of Canberra’s cocktail scene, Soumi Tannous, Beirut Bunker Bar boats some of Canberra’s most inventive drinks, with as many ingredients as possible made in-house. Think: the ‘Jacinda Ardern’ with Germana Cachaca, kiwi, aloe vera and lime, and the ‘Archie Visits Japan’ with Archie Rose White Rye Whisky, sake and house made rosewater.
Soumi and wife Chantelle have sought to bring a slice of Lebanese nightlife to Canberra with an industrial ‘bunker’ themed bar where things heat up after dark. In a COVID-safe manner, of course.
Garema Place, Civic
Located within Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle, Hotel Realm is a place where the country’s movers and shakers check in to do business. But it is also a beautiful haven for a staycation in the national capital.
Part of the multi-award-winning Realm Precinct in Barton, you’ll be surrounded by fine dining restaurants like Buvette Bistro & Wine Bar, or Maple & Clove wholefoods café, health clubs, day spas, hair salons and some cosmopolitan shopping districts in close-by Kingston and Manuka.
18 National Circuit, Barton
Little National Hotel
The flagship for this ground-breaking DOMA hotel model, LNH has “everything you need, and nothing you don’t”. These compact rooms focus on what matters most in a hotel stay—an amazing bed and shower experience, luxury communal spaces and a location right in the middle of all the action.
Perfect for singles or couples who like the finer things in life, each room includes all the amenities of a 5-star hotel in a compact space, with guests able to work or relax in the library or lounge.
21 National Circuit, Barton
National Gallery of Australia
Holding more than 150,000 works of art, the NGA is home to a mind-boggling collection of must-see works: from medieval to modern, photography to sculpture, and Eastern to Indigenous creations and iconic works such as Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles.
Try and time your visit for a blockbuster exhibition such as Botticelli to Van Gogh coming in March 2021, or simply wander your own points of interest. The Indigenous Collection is mesmerising, as is James Turrell’s Within Without sky space.
Parkes Place East, Parkes
Australian War Memorial
It’s an awe-inspiring building, which attracts more visitors to Canberra than any other national attraction and serves as a permanent reminder of the cost and sacrifice of war.
The Commemorative Courtyard is a place of reflection as you stand before a Roll of Honour, listing the names of every Australian who has died in war since 1885.
The eternal flame on the Pool of Reflection, the stained-glass windows of the Hall of Memory, and the Byzantine dome suspended 24 metres above the ground and above the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Solider may well bring a tear to your eye.
Treloar Crescent, Campbell
Lonsdale Street in Braddon
Chances are if you are visiting Canberra for a few days, something on your itinerary will feature on Lonsdale Street.
A hipster haven full of small and independent traders, cafes and restaurants, Lonsdale Street showed the rest of the country that Canberra has a beating heart fuelled by young and edgy locals who don’t aspire to work in the public service and instead have created their own retail and hospitality pathways.
Don’t miss Bisonhome (pictured), HIVE, POP Canberra (filled with small local makers), Moxom + Whitney, Timber Tailor, DEREK Kollective, Saloon and more. Also, coffee. The best of it lives here.
Lonsdale Street, Braddon
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If it’s part of Canberra life, you’ll find it at HerCanberra.
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