Vibrant Brisbane attracts tourists all year round with its laid-back, friendly atmosphere. Situated on the shores of Brisbane River, the city is renowned for its lively music scene, prestigious universities and flourishing economy. There’s no shortage of exciting things to see and do in and around Queensland’s capital; plan your visit with this handy Finnair travel guide to Brisbane.
Sights in Brisbane
Visit King George Square and see Brisbane City Hall, the city’s most important historical site, and take a picture of the Old Windmill. Although not open to members of the public, observing the windmill from the outside is still impressive given that it dates back to the 1820s and is the oldest remaining building in Brisbane. Other interesting buildings around Brisbane include the Gothic Revival St. John’s Church, the neo-Gothic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Old Government House and Parliament House. Brisbane has its fair share of museums too, with the Maritime Museum, the Museum of Brisbane and Commissariat Store just to name a few. Queensland Cultural Centre is the perfect place for art lovers, with Queensland Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre found inside.
Ride the Wheel of Brisbane for stretching city views; for another bird’s eye view of the city, take a hot-air balloon tour—you can see all the way to the Gold Coast and the islands of Moreton Bay. And what trip to Australia would be complete without cuddling a koala? The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary really should not be missed! Watch the hustle and bustle at Manly Boat Harbour, cruise along the Brisbane River, climb Mount Coot-tha and experience a thrill scaling Story Bridge. Brisbane has a good selection of parks and gardens where you can unwind in a natural setting; City Botanic Gardens, Roma Street Parklands and New Farm Park are among the best. Children and adults alike are sure to enjoy a star-gazing and informative visit to Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. Named one of the world’s top cities for music lovers, head to one of the many bars, clubs and specialist venues for live music in the evenings, or experience Fortitude Valley’s colourful nightlife and the bohemian scene at the West End.
Things to See and Do Near Brisbane
- Queensland Zoo – An especially great day trip for families, this large and well-maintained zoo is home to many animals and it is located just an hour away from the city. You can also stop and take a picture of Nambour’s Big Pineapple too.
- Moreton Bay Marine Park – Easily accessible by boat, there are several islands and pretty waterways to explore here. Activities include diving and snorkelling, sand tobogganing and spotting dolphins, turtles, dugongs and whales. The bird life is diverse as well.
- Fraser Island – Discover the world’s biggest sand island and enjoy beautiful lakes, wildlife-rich forests and rolling dunes at this UNESCO-listed site.
- Glass House Mountains National Park – Drive or hike through these mountains and soak up the terrific views.
Shopping in Brisbane
You could spend days shopping in Brisbane and still come nowhere close to having explored the city’s extensive retail scene. In short, the malls, markets and boutiques make this a prime destination for people who love to shop!
- Queen Street Mall – The main place for shopping in the city, this pedestrianised area is home to several malls and around 700 retailers. Malls include the heritage Brisbane Arcade, Broadway on the Mall and Queen Adelaide Building. Brands include Pandora, Swatch, H&M, Zara, Kathmandu, Lush, Nike and many, many more.
- Westfield Chermside – The second-largest shopping centre in Australia in terms of number of retailers, major shops and brands include Woolworths, Uniqlo, H&M, Apple, Target and Mayer.
- Albert Street – As well as a large selection of bookshops, this street has a variety of sporting shops and stores that sell adventure gear.
- Elizabeth Street Arcade – A great place to find unique fashions in independent boutiques.
- Valley Markets – Popular with locals and tourists alike, these markets are open every weekend, selling an array of handicrafts, art, accessories and clothes from up-and-coming designers.
- Davies Park Market – This large farmers market is open every Saturday morning. You’ll find fresh fruits and vegetables, cuts of meat, diverse cheeses and a selection of handmade items.
Food and Drink
- Prawns – Obtained from the Moreton Bay area, fresh prawns are readily available around Brisbane.
- Wine – With several wineries and vineyards within close proximity of Brisbane, finding the perfect red, white or rosé to pair with your meal is easy. Sirromet Winery, Flame Hill Vineyard, Cedar Creek Estates and Ocean View Estate are just a few of the nearby wine-making establishments.
- Moreton Bay bugs – A type of lobster, look out for these local delicacies on menus in Brisbane.
- Castlemaine XXXX – This beer is brewed in Queensland and it’s a popular choice in Brisbane’s pubs.
- Macadamia nuts – Grown locally, these nuts can be found in various dishes from salads to desserts.
Transport in Brisbane
The heart of Brisbane is fairly compact and easy to navigate. Many visitors opt to walk between places of interest and there’s also a good public transportation system for exploring areas farther afield. An integrated ticketing system applies to buses, trains and ferries.
- By foot – The sites in the CBD are relatively close to each other and easy to walk between.
- By bicycle – Many cycle paths run around the city and its suburbs. It is also legal to ride on footpaths, but do keep in mind that pedestrians have right of way. There are several places where you can rent a bicycle, including from designated rental stations. Rental costs are cheap, and you can rent a bike for a day or a week. Keep in mind that you will need to wear a helmet (laws are strictly enforced) and that some parts of the city are very hilly—check your route first!
- Rickshaws – Known locally as Green Cabs, rickshaws operate in flat areas of the city. Agree the price before your journey.
- Buses – Buses in Brisbane operate in almost all parts of the city; the bus network is extensive. Dedicated bus lanes in many city areas help to keep services on time and avoid congestion on the roads. Some services operate all through the night on Fridays and Saturdays. You can generally pay the driver; though they may have change, having the correct fare ready is advised. Do note that some services require that you have a pre-purchased ticket or travel card. Single-ride tickets, three- and five-day passes and top-up cards, which yield discounts on fares, are among the ticketing options. Hop-on hop-off buses, aimed at tourists, can be a good way to hit a lot of major sights in a short period of time.
- Trains – Most trains in Brisbane run directly from their origin to their destination with few stops on the way. Services typically operate from 6am to midnight, but some services finish later on Fridays and Saturdays. Tickets can be bought in stations.
- Ferries and catamarans – Water-based transport runs along the river, offering a great way of getting from A to B as well as a different experience. Some city centre ferries are free to use.
- Taxis – Brisbane taxis are expensive. They are, however, plentiful. Rides can be pre-booked, you can queue at a rank (advisable for weekend nights when drivers are busy) or you can hail a cab on the streets.