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Art and culture lover's guide to 72 hours in Canberra

Updated 18 Mar 2024

Top galleries, museums, and historic sites in Canberra.

Art lovers  flock to the artistic corners of Canberra, discovering national treasures alongside astounding local artworks. This itinerary for a long weekend full of art and history is a taste of what Canberra has on offer, from regional art galleries to world renown national museums.

Friday afternoon

Before dinner, catch the latest exhibition of local arts at Beaver Galleries, one of Canberra's oldest and most renown locally owned galleries. Next, head to the National Portrait Gallery or nearby National Gallery of Australia which is privledged to host the world's largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. 

Check in to the contemporary Little National Hotel, located in the inner south Barton precint, close to all of Canberra's national museums, monuments, and largest art galleries. The hotel room design is cosy and chic, boasting the comfort of a King mattress you'll never want to leave.

Alternatively, try Midnight Hotel in Canberra's inner city precinct, close to the hustle and bustle of some of Canberra's newest and most sought after dining experiences.

Friday night

An evening of impressive dining awaits at Vincent, which specialises in pairing exquisite food with unconventional, specifically sourced wines from around the world. Select from a variety of small plate delicacies, or for something to fill the belly, choose one of their satisfying main meals. A perfect place to wind down with a wine.

One of Canberra's newest and most exciting feeds is at INKA, a modern fusion Japanese / Peruvian Restaurant. If you're feeling adventurous, you can explore an enticing scope of cocktail styles and flavours from both Japan and South America, combining finesse and balance with the wild and tropical.

Saturday morning 

Enjoy an inspiring morning at Straithnairn Arts, a not for profit arts association that provides working spaces, studios and facilities for a range of artists, crafts people and local community groups. While you're there, have breakfast on-site at Cafe Stepping Stone, which is a social enterprise cafe that employs and trains migrant and refugee women from diverse backgrounds through a vegetarian kitchen.

In addition to the galleries at Straithnairn, while you're there you can enjoy their giftshop set in a 1920's rural homestead on 9.5 hectares overlooking the Brindabella mountains.

You can also drop into the Capital Region Farmers Markets for some fresh local fare and unbeatable Saturday morning nibbles. Discover some handmade craft while you're there from local artisans, and get a real sense of local produce and culture at this weekly Canberran tradition. 

 

Saturday afternoon 

Be humbled by the monuments at the Australian War Memorial, which brings together a world-class museum, shrine, and research centre. The memorial tells the stories of men and women who have served, and continue to serve our nation in war, conflict and operations.  Each day, commencing at approximately 4:45 pm, the Memorial farewells visitors with its moving Last Post Ceremony in the Commemorative Courtyard. Each night the ceremony shares the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour.

Take a trip back in time to one of the first cottages ever built in Canberra and tour the displays at Blundells Cottage. The historical site gives an insight into the lives of the families who lived here during the colonial period and Canberra's humble beginnings.

For inspiring  exhibitions showcasing Australian stories head to the National Museum of Australia. Before you head inside to see history brough to life be sure to spend some time taking in the jaw-dropping design of the Museum. Join a daily  building and architecture tours to discover the stories and meanings hidden in the Museum building, design, and landscapes.

Saturday night

See amazing architecture from around the world in Yarralumla, home to many embassies and high commissions. Take a self-guided driving tour of the precinct to see designs by everywhere from Somoa to Finland.

Wine and dine into the night at one of Canberra's newest hatted restaurants, RAKU which combines the precision and artfulness of Japanese culinary history, with the vibrant energy of modern Australian dining. Alternatively you can enjoy dinner and atmosphere at Monster Kitchen and Bar nestled beautifully within the beating heart of the Ovolo Nishi hotel and pairing a love of wine and good food in one eclectic dining space.

Just next door you can wrap the evening up by taking in a movie at the Palace Electric Cinema, which always has an impressive line-up of independent and inspiring films from around the world.

Sunday

Fresh food with a funky vibe

Mocan & Green Grout

Sunday morning 

Start the morning off right with coffee at Local Press Cafe on the Kingston foreshore, waving hello to the iconic Lake Burley Griffin as the sun rises. You can begin your day with an inspiring stroll around Canberra Glassworks, which is Australia's leading centre for contemporary glass art, craft and design, housed in the historic Kingston Power House. You're never more close to art than when you're watching the artists themselves create the masterpieces right inside the hot shop. 

Right next door you can enjoy a wander through the Old Bus Depot Markets, where each Sunday you'll find over 200 stalls of exceptional quality, local food, wares, and collectables. There is no better way to spend your Sunday in Canberra.

Sunday afternoon

Enjoy lunch in a cosy environment at Mocan & Green Grout, an ethical and eco-friendly cafe housed in the cultural and creative New Acton precinct. There you'll enjoy fair trade coffee, produce from local farmers, and herbs on top of your poached eggs that were grown right outside the front door.

You won't want to miss the Canberra Museum and Gallery which celebrates the region's social history and visual arts with dynamic exhibitions, unique programs & events.

Why not take a tour of Parliament House to discover exclusive behind-the-scenes access to rarely seen private, official and ceremonial spaces in Parliament House, along with a traditional high tea with a contemporary twist?

Extra time 

Have more time to spend in Canberra? There's still an endless list of art-lovers curios awaiting. Be sure to see what's on in Canberra during your stay to find surprising and delightful events to attend - from outdoor tours to exhibition openings, artist talks and new dining experiences, there's something for every culture lover in Canberra.

More local galleries

If you're enjoying extra time in Canberra, immerse yourself in the artwork of the Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery, Grainger Gallery, or Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre, to learn more about how the local scene is supporting artists with exhibitions, workshops, and annual celebrations of all-things-art.

Canberra tracks 

To revel in some of the beautiful scenery of Canberra and learn more about it's origin story, take some time to explore Canberra Tracks, which are eight self-drive heritage trails that will enhance your appreciation of the ACT. Discover the storyline of Canberra yourself by finding your way to the interpretive route signs that bring the city's rich history to life.

National museum and galleries

Canberra is not short of national musems and galleries that bring visitors from far and wide. There is always fresh and exciting exhibitions, guided tours, and featured events at attractions like the National Library of Australia and the National Film & Sound Archive of Australia which are just a few icons to check out during your visit to Canberra.

Annual festivals

Canberra celebrates arts and culture at every possible opportunity. To enjoy more celebrations of some of the city's most vibrant offerings, make plans to visit during Design Canberra Festival, Canberra Writers Festival, National Folk Festival, Enlighten Festival, and the myriad of celebrations of culture put on each year by one of Canberra's many embassies.

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