Check out the coolest suburbs in Brisbane
Right now Brisbane is having a renaissance. We’ve grown up, we’re trying on new clothes, we’re innovating and exploring a new chapter in our history. Suburbs that were once not worth a moment’s thought about have flipped into some of the coolest spots to eat, drink, shop and dance in the entire city. It’s an exciting time to be here.
If when you visit a new city you love to explore the inner-city suburbs, soak in each individual vibe and pretend you’re a local for the day, this is the Brisbane guide for you.
The beating heart of Brisbane has a new focus – the riverfront. While in the centre of the CBD you can find the state’s best shopping and cool laneways stuffed with great bars, it’s down by the river that new developments have reclaimed the waterfront and are making the City pump more than ever.
The funky, fresh and very Queensland five-star W Hotel opened to fanfare off George Street with farm-to-table Three Blue Ducks as the signature restaurant. Nearby, Sydney favourite has opened Phoenix, a contemporary yum cha restaurant, and Persone is an Italian concept from the Gambaro family. A stone’s throw away, high-end Chinese diner Donna Chang wows with more marble and crystal than you can poke a stick at, and downstairs find glitzy cocktail bar The Boom Boom Room.
Right now we’re eagerly awaiting the opening of Howard Smith Wharves (especially the hexagon over-water bar), and the epic Queens Wharf (which will have the city’s first six-star hotel and an incredible sky deck). Riverside darling Eagle Street Pier (where you currently find some of the city’s best fine dining) is also set for a complete makeover. We told you it was an exciting chapter for Brisbane!
Unwrap Brisbane City:
This suburb has been for a ride over the decades – from the grand department stores of the 1940s, through to police corruption and illegal casinos in the ‘80s. Music venues and studios took up cheap rent in the ‘90s, and luckily some smart-thinking local councillors changed laws to protect them from noise complaints. Boom – Australia’s first entertainment precinct was born.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and Fortitude Valley is at the centre of Brisbane’s epic music scene, with the super cool annual festival BIGSOUND using most venues, and one of the most exciting music projects on the horizon – a 3500-person arena in the heart of Brunswick Street Mall.
With a slightly grungy edge, Fortitude Valley is a melting pot of all nightlife after dark. Head in for a BYO dinner in Chinatown Mall or try more upmarket LongTime, Honto, Little Valley or Happy Boy. Then kick on to a boutique wine bar, pub or cocktail den before hitting a nightclub or live music venue until the wee hours.
Explore Fortitude Valley
Five years ago the area between South Bank and West End was a wasteland, but now there’s nowhere we’d rather embark on a food safari in Brisbane. At the heart of this change, the historic Fish Lane is the centrepiece of the puzzle.
By day explore street art just a stone’s throw from the state’s main art galleries, and by night bar hop between glasses of heavy French Bordeaux at La Lune, crafty pints at SBC and creative cocktails at tiny Maker. We feel confident recommending this area as whether you want Italian, Balinese, Vietnamese, fish ‘n’ chips or something weird and wonderful, Fish Lane delivers the best.
Visit South Brisbane
The first thing that comes to mind? The Gabba! Around this hallowed sports ground expect to find some of the city’s best heritage pubs and the historic German Club, but most importantly a bunch of new developments and classic spots in the Gabba Fiveways. A suburb once known for its antique shopping, most stores have moved further from the centre and now it’s all about kick-ass pizza, excellent cocktail bars and some of the city’s best breakfast spots.
In the Gabba Fiveways precinct, give classic Roman Italian spot 1889 Enoteca a whirl or try something edgy at Detour. After dinner pop to neighbouring cocktail bar Canvas, or try and find the secret whisky den inside Electric Avenue. Good luck.
The charming streets of Paddington have a special place in our hearts, mostly thanks to the gorgeous wooden, stilted Queenslander homes caked in decorative metal lace. This is a suburb best explored by day, so start early. Plan to brunch at one of the many excellent cafes such as Naim, Chapter IV, Kettle & Tin or Sassafras – all are set inside these cute Queenslanders.
Wear walking shoes so after brunch you can trek between wooden homes that have been converted into fashion boutiques, antique havens and homeware stores. Soon enough you’ll be hungry again – try Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers, Remys or Hai Hai Ramen for a quick feed, drop into Hope & Anchor for a pint and gastropub feed, or Sichuan Bang Bang for Asian fusion.
The bohemian heart of the city is changing – but the local community is working hard to keep things real, alternative and just a bit weird. An annual street art festival, streetcar derby, weekly farmers’ market and Boundary Street’s variety of vegan stores, delis, breweries, music spots and small bars keep this inner-city suburb hip without being shiny.
West End is a great spot for vintage and ethical shopping, you can embark on a local craft breweries trail, and there’s always trivia, music or special nights happening at one of the local small bars. West End is a suburb that puts the community back into city living – be in the right place at the right time to experience the Full Moon Fire Festival, visit a community garden and, if you’re lucky, rock out to the Junkyard Orchestra in all their glory.
Uncover West End
While we’ve unofficially renamed this suburb Brewstead, there’s more to this suburb than excellent craft beer. Five years ago you mightn’t have heard of it, but now this is a dense inner-city suburb of new apartments, dining and weird ways to get fit.
When you’re finished downing a schooner at Range Brewing, Green Beacon and Newstead Brewing Co (do yourself a favour and order the wings), head towards Gasworks and Haven where more than a dozen cool dining spots will fight for your attention, including 20-something-year-old CBD fine-dining stalwart E’cco, which relocated to Haven in early 2018.
Deeper in the suburb, hunt out Brisbane’s famous ‘baked not fried’ gluten-free donuts at Nodo, amazing fabrics at The Fabric Store, a warehouse-sized free-roam virtual reality game Zero Latency, throw an axe at Lumber Punks, and uncover more yoga studios and gyms than you can count on two hands.
Confession: we’ve got a huge crush. Yep, QAGOMA makes our stomach flutter and heart skip a beat. The state’s major art galleries leave us in a constant state of awe and wonder, with incredible, ever-changing and thought-provoking exhibitions, a fantastic restaurant and gorgeous building. They’re just two favourites in Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct, where amazing theatre and world-class ballet take to the stage at QPAC nightly and Queensland Museum displays fascinating exhibitions from around the world.
Keep walking along the river and you’ll hit the South Bank Parklands. More than your average city park, this place is for discovering – with a man-made beach, edible garden, Nepalese Pagoda and more tucked within 17 hectares of riverfront garden. Its latest attraction is Flowstate, an innovate outdoor space for creative collisions. Witness performance work in development, attend workshops and engage in discussion with some of Queensland’s most compelling artists.
Explore South Bank
Honestly, we never thought we’d be recommending Bowen Hills as a cool spot to hang out – but here we stand. Known as the suburb where the 10-day Ekka pops up every August, part of the Brisbane Showgrounds at Bowen Hills has been transformed into an inner-city dining precinct. Yep, King Street is open and home to a strip of super trendy restaurants and bars.
The best time to visit is around dinner when the buzz hits. Welcome To Bowen Hills is a huge bar in the old dairy shed that has different food trucks parked up most days. Nearby the giant Bavarian Beerhaus is the spot for a pork knuckle, stein and pretzel. One of Brisbane’s finest French restaurants moved to King Street from Paddington; Montrachet reopened with a boulangerie attached. You'll also find a world class food marketplace at Mercado. Fill your basket with the freshest food ingrediants or take a seat and enjoy an unforgettable food experience in house. Then there’s Banoi for Vietnamese, The Lamb Shop for Greek, Il Verde for Italian and Fat Dumpling for, well, bulk dumplings.
Queensland’s home of craft and design, Artisan, has also relocated to King Street too. Look out for exhibitions and workshops with the state’s favourites makers.
Discover Bowen Hills
There’s a lot to love about New Farm. Since 2000 the super edgy, heritage Brisbane Powerhouse has been putting on amazing shows by the river, New Farm Park is a darling place to laze about and eat cheese on weekends, and about a dozen small and independent art galleries are scattered within walking distance of each other.
Then there’s James Street. This small and leafy strip is crammed with local and national flagship boutiques, a miniature David Jones and now the super chic and upmarket The Calile Hotel. Shopping, eating and drinking along these few blocks is highly recommended if you like nice clothes, one-of-a-kind goods, excellent cocktails, and flaky pastries.
Explore New Farm