‘Brissy’, as the locals call it, has a compact city centre, built on a single bend of the river and it is easy to explore on foot; museums, galleries, heritage buildings, parks and gardens are all within walking distance, even the city`s major attraction – koala bear –  can be cuddled a stone`s throw of the CBD.

Brisbane River is pivotal in the life of the city



Brisbane is one of the oldest cities in Australia, and it boasts history and architecture. The riverbank and its surrounds are defined by stately old buildings, including the Customs House (1889), Old Government House (1862), Old Windmill (1828, the oldest surviving building in Queensland), Commissariat Store Museum (1829), (Parliament House (1867 French Renaissance Revival building), Concert Hall (Old Museum, 1890), Boggo Road Gaol (1883), Treasury Casino (1900), St John Anglican Cathedral (1901), City Hall (1920) and ANZAC Square (1930).

Most of the buildings are open to public and tours can be booked at the Brisbane Visitor Centre or directly at the sites.

"The historic Brisbane Treasury Casino, dating back to 1900, set against the cityscape, reflecting Brisbane's rich architectural heritage."
Brisbane Treasury Casino dates back to 1900


Brisbane City Botanic Gardens is a tropical oasis in the city. Formerly known as Queens Park, the domain is situated right on the riverfront, not far from the campus of the Technology University. Young people and students often take refuge in the garden`s delightful greenery. This beautifully arranged, 56-hectare green area has various themed sections such as ornamental lily ponds, weeping fig avenue, bamboo grove, mangrove boardwalk and it is the oldest park in Brisbane built by convicts in 1825.

Roma Street Gardens, especially their Spectacle Garden is another beautiful example of contemporary display gardens. Their close distance to the vibrant neighbourhood of Spring Hill makes them a popular spot to unwind for both locals and tourists.

 "Tranquil view of Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, a lush tropical oasis in the heart of the city, offering a peaceful retreat."
Brisbane City Botanic Gardens is a wonderful place to unwind and enjoy nature

The second botanic garden of Brisbane – The Botanic Gardens – is a gorgeous parkland complex and home to the largest Australian native rainforest collection as well as a tropical greenhouse. The reserve enjoys a scented garden, cactus garden, arid zone, Japanese Gardens, duck ponds, waterfalls and it promotes cultural events, wedding & function venues, herbarium, cemetery, library, planetarium, cafes and restaurant.

Brisbane Botanic Garden offers the largest Australian native rainforest collection

There are numerouspicnic areas, walking tracks, bicycle trails and the visitors can book guided Toowong Cemetery Ghost Tours but also do other self-guided walks. Bike and rollerblade hire is also available.

Nevertheless, the highlight of the domain is undoubtedly the Mount Coo-Tha Lookout – the highest point of Brisbane (287 m). You can drive via the Sir Samuel Griffit Scenic Drive or take a bus tour to the summit and enjoy the 360-degree views of Brisbane City, either from the Observation Deck or the Summit Restaurant (best views at sunset).

"Spectacular view from Mount Coo-tha Lookout, Brisbane's highest point, offering panoramic views of the city skyline."
The Mount Coo-tha Lookout is one of the highlights of Brisbane and its highest point (287 m)

Rocks Riverside Park is the largest riverfront park in Brisbane, with a good network of walking and biking trails and fantastic facilities; playgrounds, flying fox, electric barbecues, amphitheatre, a promenade and swimming pools.

The Rocks Riverside Park makes a hotspot for outdoor sports and relaxation


These extensive parklands consist of numerous gardens, green areas, waterways, riverside walks, picnic spots, shops, cafes and restaurants. The parkland is connected to the city by the Victoria and Goodwill Bridges. There is a pretty riverfront promenade that features rainforest, grassed areas, fountains and plazas.

The Courier-Mail Piazza is a multi-purpose venue with frequent cultural events and art, craft, sport and music festivals. One of the most significant heritage buildings is the Nepal Peace Pagoda, located within the World Expo` 88 sites just at the iconic Wheel of Brisbane – a 60 metres tall Ferris Wheel installation.

"The bustling South Bank area by the Brisbane River, featuring the iconic Wheel of Brisbane, a popular tourist attraction."
The South Bank and Wheel of Brisbane, Brisbane River

Just opposite the central business district, there is a great spot for watching sunsets reflected in the city skyline. The South Bank is perfect for window shopping at the boutiques of the Little Stanley Street but also taking a stroll down the romantic Grand Arbour upon which a bougainvillaea canopy is grown.

Little Stanley Street & the Grand Arbour, one of Brissy`s popular promenades

On a hot summer day, Street Beach is much appreciated by most of the residents. The only beach in Brisbane City is located at the town`s hearth – in the South Bank Parklands. It is artificially created lagoon with soft sand, subtropical vegetation, aquatic playground, patrolled beach and freshwater pools. The beach is mostly visited by families, and it often gets overcrowded. Nonetheless, it provides well-deserved refreshment on sticky summer days in Brissy.

The Street Beach is Brisbane only beach, albeit artificially created, as the city does not lie directly on the coast


Located on southern banks of the Brisbane River, this sprawling complex comprises of Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, State Library and Performing Art Complex. The Queensland Cultural Centre provides a wide range of free attractions and frequently held events as well as paid music performances, film screenings, various shows and local exhibitions.

Performing Art Centre, Brisbane


One of the best spots to go in Brissy is the Kangaroo Point. There are spectacular cliffs along the Brisbane River that can be climbed. Visitors can also walk up to the iconic Storey Bridge and get rewarded with great river views, especially at sunset. This is another Brisbane`s riverfront picnic and recreation area with pleasant vibes, good facilities, where kayaking, climbing, biking and jogging are among the favourite.

The Kangaroo Point provides fabulous opportunities for a sunset photography


This is a perfect spot to head out at night! Fortitude Valley is a cosmopolitan area and home to Chinatown, has great restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and it offers excellent shopping. This quirky suburb is a mix of rough beauty and elegance. From Asian fast-food restaurants and vegetable markets to chick bars and stylish malls, there is always something going on.

The Fortitude Valley is home to Brisbane`s Chinatown


One of the shopping highlights in Brisbane is the Sunday Riverside Craft Market renowned for the stylish, original material offered to shoppers. It is located at the Eagle Street Pier – otherwise aniconic waterfront precinct with world-class dining venues and unrivalled views of the Brisbane River.

West End Markets are held every Saturday morning at Davies Park, sheltered by the giant fig trees. Featuring local organic produce, food tasting, freshly cooked meals, jewellery and clothing stalls and live music, the venue is always packed.

Brisbane Southbank Market during the Christmas time

Portside Wharf in Hamilton is home to the refined Boutique Markets that showcase high-quality, hand-made art, craft and design goods (every quarter of a year).

This is the favourite shopping spree hub. Queen Street Mall attracts millions of visitors every year a large network of retails, designer stores, luxurious boutiques and markets. With regular events, but also hotels, museums, galleries, parklands, spas, bars, restaurants and other entertainment options, the Queen Street Mall is the best place where to spend a night in Brissy. The must-visits include Queens Plaza, Wintergarden, McArthur Central, The Myer, Tattersall`s and Brisbane Arcades and the famous Treasury Casino, cannot be skipped, of course.

Queen Street Mall – the shopping icon of Brisbane


When it comes to tourism, the star of the show in Brisbane is the very symbol of the city – koala. The Koala Sanctuary in Fig Tree Pocket is the world`s oldest and largest koala reserve, opened in 1927.

Apart from getting close to other Australian native species such as kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils, wombats, echidnas, platypuses, emus, cassowaries, parrots and reptiles, the visitors can hold a koala free of charge! There are several performances and feeding shows throughout a day, and plenty of lovely souvenirs to purchase at the sanctuary shop.

"The serene environment of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world's oldest and largest koala reserve, a symbol of Brisbane."
The Koala Sanctuary is the world`s oldest and largest koala reserve (operating in Brisbane since 1927)


  • City Botanic Gardens – discover the unique collection of Australian native flora, have a picnic on a pond, walk or hire a bicycle to ride the wide network of cycling trails within the domain, take a Toowong Cemetery Ghost Tour if you like it spooky!
  • Mount Coo-the Lookout – drive up to the highest peak of Brissy to watch the city panorama (take the Sir Samuel Griffit Scenic Drive )
  • South Bank – explore the riverfront domain by taking a languid stroll down the romantic Grand Arbour promenade, see if there is an event in the Courier Mail Piazza, search around the Nepal Peace Pagoda and take a ride on the iconic Wheel of Brisbane, watch the sunset at the Street Beach or have a dip on sticky
  • Kangaroo Point – some of the best spots in Brisbane views and sunsets. Enjoy the sight from atop of the cliffs or climb the Storey Bridge to the lookout (by joining a tour). Take the Brisbane Riverwalk, starting at the Kangaroo Point Park and ending at the New Farm Park (the walk is good for photographers)
  • Queensland Cultural Centre – discover the sophisticated side of Brisbane by visiting Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, State Library or Performing Art Complex. Check out the calendar of events and choose one of a wide range of free or paid music performances, film screenings, shows and local exhibitions
  • Fortitude Valley – let your senses be stimulated at the local Chinatown, this quirky suburb is filled with hospitality, good vibes and entertainment. From Asian restaurants and markets to chick bars and stylish clubs, Fortitude Valley is best to enjoy by night
  • Eagle Street Pier – one of the shopping highlights in the city is the Sunday Riverside Craft Market renowned for the stylish, original material offered to shoppers. However, this gorgeous waterfront precinct is mainly known for the world-class dining venues and unrivalled views of the Brisbane River – so dress up and have fun!
  • Queen Street Mall – the most famous shopping precinct at the heart of Brisbane City, boasts a retail shop, designer stores, luxurious boutiques and markets as well as hotels, museums, galleries, parklands, spas, bars, restaurants and countless entertainment options
  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary –  cuddle a koala for free in the world`s oldest and largest koala reserve and get closer to other Australian native species such as kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils, wombats, echidnas, platypuses, emus, cassowaries, parrots and reptiles
The Storey Bridge and City Cat water taxi, Brisbane River


Brisbane is a compact city, and the best way to explore Brisbane is combining walking and the free of charge City Hopper ferry but there are many other water taxi operators, e.g. the City Cat.


  • NIGHT THE RIVER SINGS (Christmas Festival/December)
Brisbane`s Laneway Festival is held each February on the traditional lands of the indigenous Turrbal people


Brisbane is a sunny place all year round, but it gets very hot and humid in summer (Dec-Feb). This is also school holiday time in Australia when prices rise, and tourism is at its peak. The shoulder season seems to be an ideal time to travel (April-May & Oct-Nov) unless you are visiting for a particular festival.

If you are travelling around Australia and you are wondering where to go next, check our articles about The city of festivals: Adelaide or Kangaroo Island, a destination for all seasons.


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Eva Bodova

Monday 6 April 2020

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