Canberra city guide

Australia is a peculiar country and its capital city Canberra, even more so. The whole continent used to be split into independent British colonies. One day they decided they needed a centralized administration and so Australia became a “Commonwealth”. Something like the US with their federal government. What about a capital? Melbourne and Sydney were out of the question. Those two were in a state of constant petty rivalry. Australians decided they’d rather build themselves a brand-new city. Canberra was designed by two architects from Chicago; and what a design it was! They came up with a concept of a garden city built around an artificial lake. I think the blueprint looks like a temple complex, almost alchemical. I suppose you can just go wild if you’re building a capital from scratch. You can get a bird’s eye view of the city from Mt. Ainslie. It’s a nice and not very challenging hike. The Telstra tower is another viewing point worth visiting. You’ll see geometrical shapes and a lot of open space. Canberra is almost utopian; peaceful, not overcrowded or deformed by dozens of skyscrapers.

Front view of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra

The Australian War Memorial commemorates and pays tribute to all Australians who died in the war; a visit to this austere complex that resembles a mosque is an engaging and moving experience

I make it sounds as if it was a detached colony somewhere on Mars. I can assure you it’s not. Canberra is very grounded where it needs to be. Canberra is a monument to Australia’s controversial history. You’ll see it on display in numerous museums, monuments, and plaques throughout the city. Australian War Memorial might be the most impressive of them all. It’s an engaging memorial to all countrymen who participated in the wars in which the Australian Commonwealth was involved over the years. But it's also an enormous museum dedicated to military equipment and history. People seem to think that Australia is all about funny accents and deadly creatures crawling out of toilet bowls. Truth is that its history might not be long but it’s far from uneventful. The building looks like a mosque with a beautiful courtyard and gardens. Perfect for a picnic. If you like these outdoor artsy activities then you can’t miss out on the National Gallery. The main building is cool, but the Sculpture Garden is the real treat. It’s a garden of nightmarish sculptures like a bunch of heads sticking out of a pond. It’s super cool, especially after dark. All the typical touristy things like museums, galleries, parks, etc. are conveniently located around the Parliamentary Zone. It’s both the cultural and administrative heart of the capital.

Canberra is the seat of the Australian government with a remarkable Parliament House. In fact: there are two actually; to be more precise. The Old Parliament House became the Museum of Australian Democracy. The building is the same as it was until 1988 when it “retired” as the seat of the government. All the offices and rooms are untouched. The new Parliament is a different story. It’s a true marvel of modern architecture. Also known as Parliament Hill, it looks like it was built into a grassy plateau. Again it looks like a temple. The best part is that it’s open to the public. I can respect politicians who don’t separate themselves from the common people. You can explore almost every room in the building. I love the green roof, where you can chill with a blanket and sunbathe. I think it’s very symbolic how people walk “above” the politicians.

Parliament House by evening on Capital Hill in Canberra

Parliament House is also often referred to as Capital Hill, its magnificent location in Canberra

A rather young capital is inhabited mostly by the younger generations. Everything is fun, from the art galleries to the food and nightlife. Everything is hipster here. Micro breweries are around every corner and almost all bars have industrial décor. A large part of it is centred around Lake Burley Griffin. It’s named after the architects who designed Canberra, so it’s important. People love to take walks around the lake while enjoying the breeze during those famously hot summers. The Botanical Gardens are also amazing if you’d like to get in touch with local fauna. You could just drive outside of the city and explore. Are you brave enough to face the deadly Outback? Can you face dangers such as a flat tire or no phone reception? Canberra is only the centre of the ACT- Australian Capital Territory. Be sure to rent a car, the Territory is vast and Canberran public transport is bad. Buy a map and discover hidden gems like the Corin Forest, the Gibraltar Falls, or the numerous vineyards.

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