27 things every local should have done in the CBD

North side or south side? That is the age-old question that one Brisbanite will ask another upon meeting. Despite their differences and this decades-old rivalry, if they have one thing in common it is that every Brisbane local should have done these 27 things in the CBD.

1. Dine at Eagle Street Pier

Eagle Street Pier

Can you even say you’re from Brisbane if you haven’t had dinner at Eagle Street Pier? A breezy evening (or long lunch – we don’t discriminate) along the river is particularly relaxing with a wine in hand. Some of the city’s best and most awarded restaurants live along the riverfront including Aria Brisbane, Cha Cha Char, Il Centro, Esquire, Customs House, Riverbar + Kitchen, Pony, Sake and Fratelli Fresh. During the week Bar Pacino, Friday’s, Bavarian Bier Cafe and Riverbar are popular for after-work drinks.

2. Take the historic lift up the City Hall clock tower

Having stood proudly since it was built between 1920 and 1930, Brisbane City Hall is known today as ‘the people’s place’. A visit to the clock tower takes you up in a beautiful hand-operated lift and gives a bird-eye view of Brisbane’s ever-changing city landscape and an opportunity to wonder how the cityscape looked in years gone by. The Museum of Brisbane is also tucked away inside City Hall, with collections and exhibitions that explore Brisbane and how it has changed over time. 

3. Coffee crawl

Duce & Co
Duce & Co

If you’re like us and can’t function without your morning cup of Joe, we have your guide to the City’s best coffee spots. Office favourite is hole-in-the-wall Duce & Co who use locally roasted beans from Bear Bones Society. Also reliable are Coffee Anthology and John Mills Himself, which were both listed in the top 10 of Brisbane’s Top Cafes 2016 by Beanhunter.

4. Eat at a fancy-pants hatted restaurant

Esquire, Eagle Street
Esquire

Each year the Brisbane Times Good Food Guide shines a light on the state’s best restaurants, cafes and bars who strive to deliver the full experience. With three hats (the highest honour), Esquire and Urbane can both be found dishing out degustation delights in the City. For two-hat dining, try a la carte restaurants Aria Brisbane, e’cco bistro, and Esq. Last but not least, one hatted Alchemy, Black Bird Bar and Grill, The Euro, Il Centro, Moda Restaurant, Otto Ristorante, Public, Sake, The Survey Co. and Thomson’s Reserve are all found in the City.

5. Shop the mall (yes, obvious we know)

Queen Street Mall

We know this is an obvious one, but there is so much to explore in and around Queen Street Mall. With over 700 stores in the mall alone and over 1000 in the CBD, it will take more than one trip to see it all. You can find our comprehensive shopping guide here.

If you’re not fond of crowds, pay a visit on a Sunday when it’s not as hectic – here’s our guide to what’s open in the City on Sundays.

6. Attend a dawn service in Anzac Square

Anzac Square

As one of Australia’s most significant historical days, Australians all over the country – and overseas – flock to memorials to commemorate the Gallipoli landings. Anzac Square hosts Brisbane’s biggest dawn service annually at the Shrine of Remembrance. There is nothing quite like hearing the Last Post play as the sun begins to rise. The ANZAC parade through the City commences at 10am.

7. Climb the Story Bridge

Story Bridge Adventure Climb at dusk

We drive across it, cruise under it, so why not climb over it? Guided by an experienced team member from Story Bridge Adventure Climb, you’ll be exhilarated (and exhausted) by the climb that, at its summit, offers a panoramic view of Brisbane and the surrounding natural beauty. The stories associated with the bridge are also interesting to hear – did you know the bridge was originally painted red? 

8. Shop at the Jan Power Farmers’ Markets

Jan Power Famers Markets

Local foodie Jan Power hosts a farmers’ markets in Reddacliffe Place every Wednesday. City workers, Queen Street Mall shoppers and visitors all enjoy buying the highest-quality, locally-grown produce, finding something exotic for lunch and a sweet treat for the afternoon.

9. Visit Pancake Manor at 4am

Adulthood isn't real until you’ve had 4am pancakes at Pancake Manor, which is naturally open 24/7. Housed in a former church that was built in 1904, this Brisbane icon has a dedicated pancake menu (butterscotch sauce anyone?), but also serves crepes, salads and steaks. Are you really going to go and not have pancakes though?

10. Stop in at Australia’s best bar, The Gresham

The Gresham Bar

Housed on the ground floor of the historic NAB building, The Gresham is both a whisky bar and an ode to yesteryear. As winner of awards such as Australian Gourmet Traveller’s Bar of the Year 2015 and Australian Bartender Magazine’s 2016 Bar of the Year, The Gresham is a popular Brisbane haunt and absolute must-do for locals and visitors alike.

11. Relax in the deck chairs at Post Office Square

Post Office Square

Soak up some sun during lunch with the skyscrapers for shade. Post Office Square has a bunch of deck chairs for city-goers to enjoy and to get their daily dose of Vitamin D.

12. Hop between the city’s laneways


Coop Espresso

There are a number of laneways in the City to explore. Albert Lane is a food-lovers delight – sink shots of sake, watch pasta being tossed and tuck into Latin American cuisine. Burnett Lane houses coffee havens Brew and Felix For Goodness, The Survey Co. bistro and petite laneway bar Super Whatnot.  

Down Gresham Lane find Coppa Spuntino doing a mean cheese platter, Red Hook’s quality American-style burgers, gourmet cheese toasties at Melt Brothers and Brisbane icon and much awarded bar The Gresham with its excellent whiskey selection and old-world charm. 

Towards the river, Eagle Lane is home to underground bar Brooklyn Standard, the laid-back tacqueria Chingon (frozen margarita anyone?) and hole-in-the-wall coffee haunt the Coop Espresso.

13. See Brisbane through the eyes of a local, and then some

Brisbane Greeters explore St John's Cathedral

Brisbane Greeters take free tours around the City, teaching even those that have called Brisbane home their entire lives new things. Unlock their intimate knowledge of the history and story of Brisbane on foot, or via CityCycle.

14. Happy hour on Fridays at Friday’s

You’re not a true Brisbanite until you’ve been to Friday’s Riverside on Friday for a happy hour. After-work drinks are a weekly occurrence for most CBD workers, and we’ve found the most popular city hotspots for an end-of-week tipple.

15. Shop local labels down historic Brisbane Arcade

Brisbane Arcade

Built in 1923, the heritage-listed Brisbane Arcade is one of the City’s oldest shopping malls. From the Terrazzo floors and balustrades to dado panelling, the interiors reflect the award-winning shopping contained within. With just 50 specialist retailers – many of which are local – a wander through the arcade is always unique. 

16. Go on a rooftop bar hop

Next Hotel

Be it for a Saturday night out, after-work drinks or a classic Sunday session, rooftop bars are where to go to take full advantage of Brisbane’s excellent weather. Overlooking King George Square, Sixteen Antlers Rooftop Bar offers a selection of craft beers, curated cocktails, quality wines and snacks. Sazerac Bar sits 30 floors up. Lennon’s Pool Terrace at Next Hotel and is a great place to people watch over the mall. The Stock Exchange rooftop is an airy spot with fairy lights and drink specials – the perfect garden party.

17. Discover a new local band with City Sounds

The City Sounds

City Sounds is Australia’s largest free live music program, so where better to find your new favourite band? Local and touring acts playing anything from folk and jazz to alternative and electro perform at a number of venues through the CBD. You can check out the upcoming City Sounds gigs here.

18. Hop on the CityHopper

Discover – or rediscover – the city sights on Brisbane’s free CityHopper service. Running every half hour seven days a week, it takes you from Sydney St to North Quay with plenty of stops along the way.

19. Dance the night away at Brooklyn Standard

Brooklyn Standard

Located underground on Eagle Lane, Brooklyn Standard hosts live music six nights a week specialising in jazz, funk and blues – all accompanied by a well-stocked bar of whiskeys and classic cocktails. Oh, and you get free table pretzels. #winning

20. High tea at Customs House

Customs House

Luxury is the order of the day along the banks of the Brisbane River. For a traditional high tea, look no further than the historic Customs House, built in 1886. Sip on tea (or champagne) with a cucumber sandwich in hand in this elegant spot. For more high tea options in the City, check out our guide to high tea fit for a queen.

21. All aboard Steam Train Sunday

Steam Train Sunday

Run by the Workshops Rail Museum, Steam Train Sunday departs from Roma Street Station for a one-hour trip through the City aboard vintage carriage on the first Sunday of each month. If you like a little blues with your journey, Destination Blues departs from Roma Street Station one Sunday a month and takes guests on a journey to the Glasshouse Mountains, complete with live music for the journey.

22. Cruise the Brisbane River

brisbanestarcruises
Brisbane Star Cruises

One of the best ways to see the City sights is by taking a cruise along the Brisbane River. There are a number of cruises to choose from including Aquarius Charters, Brisbane Cruises, Star, Mirimar Cruises and River City Cruises. The iconic Kookaburra Queen paddle wheelers take diners on a three-course river journey.

23. Catch a show at Riverstage

Brisbane’s year-round balmy weather means that outdoor shows at the Riverstage amphitheatre are always an excellent night out. Scramble to the front of the pit or pick a patch of grass on the hill and kick back and enjoy a show under the stars.

24. Eat a family sized block of rocky road from Noosa Chocolate Factory

Rocky road Noosa Chocolate Factory

Noosa Chocolate Factory never disappoints in the sugar stakes. Hard to resist, its famous rocky road is made fresh daily using fluffy marshmallows and strawberry pectin jelly made from scratch.

25. Pack a picnic

Anzac Square Park

There are some beautiful outdoor spaces in the City perfect for a picnic. Anzac Square and Post Office Square are beautiful green spaces to enjoy in the heart, but our pick of the litter is the City Botanic Gardens. If you don’t feel like bringing a picnic in from home, pre-order a basket from the Gardens Club.

26. Watch the St Paddy’s Day Parade

For nearly 30 years now, Brisbane turns green for the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade. This year, the parade will be taking a new route, with the festivities kicking off from 10.30am on Saturday 11 March. Living up to the stereotype that the Irish know how to celebrate, get among the celebrations of St Patrick's Day on March 17, starting with the parade through the City.

27. Play with The Cube at QUT

QUT Cube

The Cube at QUT is the world’s largest interactive learning display space and is designed to support interactive displays of research projects using advanced digital technology. The Cube is designed to inspire the next generation of thinkers and is a fun way to encourage interactive and hands-on learning experiences.

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