The Essential Brisbane Travel Guide

Surrounded by stunning scenery, Brisbane is a city in a league of its own and it’s begging for you to explore it.

brisbane travel guide

Brisbane is the capital of Australia’s sunshine state, and it lives up to its reputation. Life in Brisbane revolves around spending time outdoors and enjoying the warm, sun-filled days Queensland is known for.


Brisbane is a culturally dense city with something new and exciting to see or do around every corner. The modern, vibrant energy of Brisbane will inspire you to explore the city’s fantastic eats and unmissable scenic locations.

When to Visit Brisbane

Brisbane is one of the few cities in Australia where you can enjoy good weather all year.


Visit in the summer for warm days (mid-to-high 30s on average) and the occasional exciting thunderstorm (best enjoyed from your hotel window as the lightning lights up the city).


In autumn, you’ll enjoy slightly cooler days (low-mid 20s) with lower humidity too. Winter stays mostly dry with cooler temperatures (10s and low 20s) and the occasional sub-10° crisp morning.


Spring matches autumn with warm days met with a cool sea breeze. 

Eat in Brisbane

Where to eat in Brisbane

From street food to world-class restaurants, Brisbane has everything you could possibly desire. 


For a quick lunch, try a trip to Wrapture, a healthy wrap café that’s popular with the locals. Or you can always wander through some of Brisbane’s iconic markets. Visit Eat Street Northshore in Hamilton for an inspiring, eclectic mix of food and drink as well as the occasional live performance.


Similarly, the Davies Park Market in West End is the perfect spot to do some casual weekend shopping while grabbing some street eats on the go.


Enjoy an evening at Spice Central and sample their internationally inspired menu. Modern simplicity marks their style in both interior aesthetic and food presentation. Each element of a dish is carefully considered and arranged to deliver the most enjoyable experience possible.


Brisbane has developed into a hub of international cuisine. Lefkas Taverna is home to traditional Greek food and drink (you’ll have your pick of several Ouzo options on the menu). If you’re visiting Brisbane with family and friends, Lefkas is a great, lively spot to enjoy a meal together with their sharing-friendly dishes.


When you can’t decide what you want, visit Howard Smith Wharves. The waterside development is home to a collection of bars and restaurants. You’ll find a brewery and bar, an overwater bar, another Greek taverna, an amazing yum cha spot, classic Italian dining, a Japanese izakaya, a rooftop bar, and a gelato shop. The Howard Smith Wharves are the perfect spot to visit when you can’t agree on where to eat.

Play in Brisbane

Cultural things to do in Brisbane

There are so many amazing Brisbane activities, deciding where to start can be the hardest part.


Start your time in Brisbane by soaking up the culture with a visit to the Queensland Cultural Centre. The Centre sits on Brisbane’s South Bank and is home to several leading institutions. You’ll find the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), the Queensland Museum and  SparkLab, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, and The State Library of Queensland, which includes The Edge, a library for digital creatives. 


QAGOMA alone houses a fantastic array of modern art that’s bound to excite you for a few hours. The gallery has installations from a range of international artists, including Asian artists and Indigenous Australian Artists, as well as some pieces from world-renowned artists like Picasso.


If you’re the type who enjoys spending their day wandering through a museum or gallery, visiting new exhibitions, and grabbing a memento from the gift shop, you’ll want to visit the Queensland Cultural Centre. From there, it’s just a short, 10-minute walk along the south bank to the Wheel of Brisbane.

Awe-inspiring things to do in Brisbane

Where London has the London Eye, Brisbane has the Wheel of Brisbane. What better way is there to get an understanding of the layout of a city than from high above the city in a Ferris wheel? For a romantic escape, book a VIP gondola and enjoy a glass of wine with your partner in the sky.


To get another fantastic birds’ eye view of the city, consider climbing the Story Bridge. Climb at twilight and watch the city come alive at night. Or go the thrill-seeker's route and try the cantilevered lean out—lean out over the bridge at an angle and get your heart racing. It’s one of only 3 bridge climbs in the world!


Escape the excitement of the city for a moment and visit Mount Coot-Tha. The Brisbane Lookout at Mount Coot-Tha is the ultimate vantage point to see the city and the stunning natural scenery surrounding it.


Enjoy a cup of coffee at the café lookout before wandering along one of the tracks and trails that begin at the lookout area or head down the mountain for a stroll through the Mount Coot-Tha Botanic Gardens. And when you decide to look to the stars the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is right next door where you can learn all about the stars above you.


If you’re in Brisbane in the warmer months, you won’t want to miss Streets Beach. Queensland is known for its great beaches, but Brisbane sits on a river, not by the ocean. To make up for this, the city took matters into their own hands and built a man-made beach in the centre of the city.


Relax on the sand or splash about in the water for summer fun in the city. If you’re in Brisbane with kids, they’ll be begging you to take them to Aquativity, the interactive water-play park designed just for kids, right next to the beach.


Throughout the year, Brisbane is home to many farmer’s markets that serve the freshest food in the city. Farmers markets in Brisbane run on different days of the week and at several locations, so whenever and wherever you are in Brisbane, you should be able to visit at least one. The Jan Powers Powerhouse markets are one of the most popular, and perfect for grabbing a fresh juice and lunch


If the markets sparked your shopping instinct, head to Queen Street Mall for some of the best shopping in Brisbane. The mall is home to over 700 different stores and is truly the place to be when you need some retail therapy.


For higher-end boutique shopping, head to James Street in Fortitude Valley. Many Australian boutique labels have set up shop on James Street, including Brisbane fashion designer, Gail Sorronga and Australian jewellery success story, Natasha Schweitzer. Even an afternoon of window shopping means discovering something new in fashion.


How to get around Brisbane

Like most Australian states, Queensland uses a tap on/off card for public transport access. In Queensland you’ll need a go card to effortlessly tap on and off all public transport.


Once you have your go card, you can hop on trains, buses, trams, and (importantly) ferries with one tap. You might think getting a go card isn’t worth it, but the public ferry that sails up and down the Brisbane River is one of the best means of transport to take in both the north and south banks at once.


If you prefer to go at your own pace, Brisbane is very pedestrian-friendly. You can get almost anywhere in the city on foot, there are even pedestrian-specific bridges to get you across the river.


Rest in Brisbane

Where to stay in Brisbane

Choosing your Brisbane accommodation means taking into account a few things. First, what kind of view you want to enjoy each morning you wake up in the city. Second, what kind of amenities you want to enjoy in your hotel. And third, what location you want to call home during your time in Brisbane. 


You will also need to consider who you are travelling with. If it’s a family trip you’ll need to consider some family-friendly Brisbane accommodation, or if you are exploring the Sunshine State with friends then a budget hotel in Brisbane should do the trick.


For views of the river, the city, and the parklands, the South Bank Novotel is the place to be. Within the hotel you’ll find a swimming pool, gym, and terrace as well as a world-class restaurant. And when it comes to location, the South Bank Novotel is just a short walk from the arts precinct and the Queensland Cultural Centre.


In the centre of Brisbane, seconds away from city amenities and all the excitement, is the Sofitel Brisbane Central. The Sofitel is located above Central Station, so if you’re visiting Brisbane and planning to rely on public transport, you couldn’t pick a more convenient location.


Enjoy the luxury Brisbane hotel by heading up to the roof and looking out over the city or pop down to Cuvée Lounge Bar and enjoy a cocktail as you look out over the floor-to-ceiling windows that show off Brisbane’s varied architecture.


To settle into the city and immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of Brisbane, waking up to views of the skyline and the busy people on the street, book your stay at Mantra Midtown Brisbane.


Mantra Midtown offers individual studio rooms with fully equipped kitchens so that you can establish daily routines while you stay and live like Brisbanites do and explore all the city has to offer.

Party in Brisbane

The diverse city of Brisbane has plenty to offer when it comes to nightlife.


Discover the best Brisbane Cocktail Bars

Start your evening with a cocktail in a cosy bar like Saville Row. You’ll be able to spot the bar by its trademark orange door and dark curtains, but don’t be put off by the imposing exterior. Indoors it’s all warm lighting, leather seating, and a wall of drinks so high the staff regularly need to climb up their ladder to reach the top-shelf stuff. 


Black Bear Lodge is in the heart of Fortitude Valley and it’s a must-visit spot for anyone looking to sample all that Brisbane nightlife has to offer. Walk in and head upstairs to enjoy an inviting atmosphere and live music. Grab yourself a craft beer, cocktail, or specialty shot and settle in for a good show or lively conversation. 


Hop over to The End, a bar that used to be a VHS store. While most bars in the city have some kind of theme or aesthetic, The End defies classification. Even the exterior is nondescript. Keep your eyes peeled for the chalkboard outside indicating the way. Then enjoy a German-inspired beer, a rum-based cocktail, or whatever takes your fancy at the time. There are no rules at The End.


While you’re in the West End, take a trip over to the lively Jungle Tiki Bar for fruity drinks served with mini umbrellas in hollowed out pineapples. Stop by on a night out in the city or for a cheeky drink on a hot day with some friends.


Go with the flow

Along the South Bank, you can wander Grey Street and pop into whatever bar takes your fancy. From the lively Tipplers Tap to the classic Plough Inn (a great place for a pub feed and a pint) to the New Orleans-inspired Bourbon Street bar where you can grab Louisiana Creole-style food and a cocktail.


One of the best things about nightlife in Brisbane is that there's always something new to discover around the corner. Whether you like to plan out your evenings to pop into all the must-visit nightlife spots or if you prefer to take it easy and walk into whatever place seems interesting, Brisbane has something for you. You never have to travel too far to find the next good vibes destination.

Unwind in Brisbane

After spending days on your feet exploring the city and nights on your feet making the most of the city’s nightlife, you might need to take a break and unwind for an afternoon.


How to Unwind when visiting Brisbane with a spa day

Treat yourself to an indulgent treatment at one of Brisbane’s day spas. Ask your hotel concierge for help finding a popular spa nearby or if there’s a spa within your hotel.


If you’re staying at Sofitel Brisbane Central, you can head to level three to visit one of Brisbane’s most popular day spas. Stephanies Spa Retreat is open to hotel guests as well as anyone needing a moment of relaxation in the city. Book yourself in for a massage, a skin treatment, a manicure, or anything from their treatments menu that will ease your unnecessary stress.


How to unwind in Brisbane on your own

Spas aren’t the only way to relax in the city though. A leisurely strolling through the City Botanic Gardens and reconnecting with nature could be just what you need to recharge. Bring a book with you and take a seat in the shade under one of the mighty willow trees to enjoy a moment of tranquillity in nature.


When you’re ready to return to the sunlight pop on over to Streets Beach. Sometimes the best way to relax is by floating in the cool waters or sinking your feet into the soft sand. Just remember to bring your sunscreen.

Book Your Brisbane Holiday

Ready to start planning your Brisbane holiday? Book your Brisbane accommodation and bring that perfect Queensland holiday you’ve been dreaming about into reality.

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