Canberra Travel Guide
Introduction to Canberra
Ask the average person on the street which city is the capital of Australia, and the vast majority will answer, ‘Sydney’. It is not – Canberra is. Founded in 1913, this pre-planned capital at the centre of the Australian Capital Territory may get passed by by many visitors in favour of its flashier counterparts on the coasts, but it isn’t without its own set of noteworthy attractions.
With plenty of significant museums, galleries, and examples of modern urban design, this is certainly a place of interest to cultural travellers.
Cultural Attractions in Canberra
Begin your sightseeing in Canberra by paying tribute to this nation’s departed soldiers at the Australian War Memorial. A grand Art Deco-style complex that is breathtaking in scale, it is considered by many to be among the most impressive buildings of its kind in the world.
Built in remembrance of those who served in the First World War, it was completed at an ironic time – it opened in 1941, while the Second World War was well underway. There is more to this place than its grand arches and dome, as it is also home to a museum which includes exhibits that show off uniforms, artillery guns, and even whole Lancaster bombers.
Canberra is the capital of Australia. As such, it would be a shame if you didn’t drop by the Australian Parliament House during your visit. In addition to admiring its modern architecture, you should also take advantage of a chance to watch democracy in action if the legislature is in session.
For a more comprehensive experience, sign up for a free tour. In addition to highlighting the political history of Oz, they will also show you the original copy of the Magna Carta, which was one of the first documents to spell out the rights of citizens within a sovereign state (it was made in the Kingdom of England in the 13th century).
Are you a fan of the visual arts? Make sure the National Gallery of Australia is on your list when visiting Canberra. With over 166,000 works in its collection, it is one of the largest art museums in the country.
Be on the lookout for pieces by famed artists like Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, and Claude Monet. In addition to this, you’ll find plenty of paintings, drawings, and sculpture created by Australian artists, including the Aboriginal Memorial. A striking work memorializing those who died defending their lands against European colonizers from 18th to the 20th century, it is a sobering reminder of what was done to the longtime inhabitants of this land at the hands of their invaders.
Other Attractions in Canberra
After you have gotten your fill of art over at the National Gallery, learn about the rich and eventful history of Oz at the National Museum of Australia. Opened in 2001, it hosts exhibits which cover everything from the 50,000 years Australia’s First Nations people called this nation home to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
You’ll also find the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal stone tools here, as well as curiosities such as a Holden prototype car and the heart of prizewinning racehorse Phar Lap. While it is a great place to visit, note that this attraction gets crowded during school holidays, so plan your visit accordingly during this time.
Both the National Gallery and the National Museum of Australia are located on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. A stunning man-made body of water that was completed in 1963, it isn’t just an ornamental piece designed to make this part of Canberra stand out, it is also a focal point of recreation for locals.
During the warm months of the year, you’ll find residents here rowing, paddle boarding, kayaking, sailing, and fishing on/along its waters. Additionally, many people love to go for a run around its perimeter, so if you need to get some exercising in during your stay in Canberra, this is an amazing location to get it done.
End your visit to Australia’s Capital Territory by paying a visit to the National Arboretum of Canberra. Created in the wake of a pair of devastating bushfires in 2001 and 2003, this facility contains 94 different species of tree from Australia and around the world.
Many of the specimens are endemic to the continent (some being endangered), making this place a vitally important place for research. Don’t miss this attraction’s outstanding bonsai collection, nor the excellent views of the city of Canberra below.