Parliamentary Zone

Parliamentary Zone

Home to the Australian story

Embrace Australia’s story as you wander through the insightful galleries and museums within Canberra’s Parliamentary Zone. Then sit down for a bite to eat or get some fresh air on a stroll around the lake. The Parliamentary Zone is a must-visit precinct on any trip to Canberra.

Democratic culture loop

High on Capital Hill at the apex of the Parliamentary Zone is Parliament House, home to Australia’s federal democratic system. A spectacular site from afar with its 81-metre flag mast, Parliament House also features an impressive collection of Australian art and tapestries. Join a tour to uncover the art housed in the building or Indigenous experiences of Parliament and watch Australian politicians in action.

Australia’s first parliament house is now the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. The museum tells the story of Australia’s democratic system since 1901 – the year Australia was federated – through portraiture, photographs, transcripts and events. Take a tour of the historic corridors of power, or book into the range of children's activities. 

A child at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.
Great learning spaces for children at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

Making history and science entertaining

More than a library, the National Library of Australia provides unparalleled access to Australia's heritage including books, serials, maps, newspapers, music and ephemera. The National Archives of Australia, housed in Canberra’s original post office, is also home to documents from our history. Search government records or reflect on our history in their ever-changing exhibitions.

The award-winning Questacon – The National Science and Technology Centre is a massive hit for children of all ages. Even the big kids can get hands-on at Questacon. Watch a live Spectacular Science Show or get involved in an experiment of your own – Questacon has more than 200 exhibits in interactive galleries, as well as in the foyer and outdoor Science Garden.

Light it up

The annual Enlighten Illuminations transforms the Parliamentary Zone each autumn with architectural projections lighting up these iconic buildings. Featuring a mix of pop-up performances, food experiences, free entertainment and ticketed events, you’ll be mesmerised by this stunning feast for the senses.

An arts extravaganza

A spacious and inviting space, the National Gallery of Australia features inspiring collections of art of both Australian and international acclaim. Regular blockbuster exhibitions draw huge crowds, while the permanent galleries offer art and sculpture displays that each tell a unique story. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection is the largest in the world.

Bert Flugelman, Cones 1982 at the National Gallery of Australia's Sculpture Garden
Bert Flugelman, Cones 1982 at the National Gallery of Australia's Sculpture Garden

Across the road you’ll find the popular and diverse National Portrait Gallery. It’s easy to become captivated by the faces of the famous, infamous and everyday people with extraordinary stories. There are more than 450 portraits on display, as well as regular themed exhibitions.

Dining delights

All the national attractions in the Parliamentary Zone have cafes so you can take a break and enjoy a cuppa or meal while you’re exploring.

For elegant dining, you can absorb the sweeping views of Lake Burley Griffin and Anzac Parade while you enjoy a top dining experience at Water's Edge, a one-hatted restaurant with exceptional service.

Across the lake drop by the Canberra and Region Visitors Centre to pick up local artisan product including cool-climate wines, fudge with unconventional flavours and delightful teas. Be sure to ask the friendly staff at the centre for their help crafting the perfect weekend itinerary.

Lake sights

A central feature of the Parliamentary Zone is Lake Burley Griffin, where you can pedal a paddleboat, take a cruise, ride, run, walk or Segway around its perimeter – so many options. You can been have a floating picnic on a self-captained GoBoat.

For a different perspective, take to the air in a hot air balloon with Dawn Drifters or Balloon Aloft, or book another expert tour, to really appreciate the design of the Parliamentary Zone, its buildings and the vista of surrounding hills and trees.

After all that exploring, you'll need a place to rest your head. Check out the wide range of accommodation options in Canberra - you're bound to find something to suit your taste and budget.