30 things every local should have done in the CBD - Visit Brisbane

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30 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 30 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 Cha Cha Char, Il Centro, Customs House, MassimoRiverbar + Kitchen, Sake and Fratelli Fresh. During the week Bar Pacino, Friday’s, The Bavarian and Riverbar + Kitchen 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

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. Our office favourite's are Edward Specialty CoffeeCoffee Anthology, Marchetti and John Mills Himself

4. Eat at a fancy-pants hatted restaurant

Each year the Good Food Guide shines a light on the state’s best restaurants, cafes and bars who strive to deliver the full experience. For two-hat dining, try Otto Ristorante, or try one-hatted Black Bird Bar and GrillDonna Chang, Arc Dining or Greca.

5. Shop the mall

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 Brisbane City Markets

Jan Power Famers Markets

The country comes to the city when one of Brisbane’s best farmers’ markets pops up in Brisbane Square from 8am-6pm on Wednesdays, and in Cathedral Square from 8am-2.30pm on Thursdays. Take the kids along to meet farmers and producers, buy fresh produce and pasta, taste cheese and jams, and find meat, seafood and hot smoked salmon to take home.

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. A few years back the bar took out the Australian Gourmet Traveller and Australian Bartender Magazine Bar of the Year two years running. We're holding onto that fact.

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 rolls out coloured 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, and laneway bars Super Whatnot, Death & Taxes and Alba.  

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, aforementioned bar The Gresham with its excellent whiskey selection and old-world charm. 

Towards the river, Eagle Lane is home to underground bar Brooklyn Standard and hole-in-the-wall coffee haunt the Coop Espresso.

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

Walk Brisbane offer walking tours around the city, teaching even those that have called Brisbane home their entire lives new things. Seriously. Unlock intimate knowledge of the history and stories of Brisbane on the City Essentials tour, or do something a little different and discover laneway cafes, enjoy sundowners in the city or join an art + design tour. 

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, owner operated boutiques – 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, while Lennon’s Pool Terrace at Next Hotel 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 or double-decker CityCat

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. 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 Brisbane Cruises, Star, Mirimar Cruises and River City Cruises. The iconic Kookaburra Queen paddle wheelers take diners on a three-course river journey.

22. 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.

23. 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. We won't judge if you consume the entire block yourself.

24. 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 or stop by The Cheese Pleaser.

25. Watch the St Paddy’s Day Parade

For over 30 years now, Brisbane turns green for the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade. Unfortunately, to tick this off your Brisbanite bucket list you'll have to wait until March 14  But knowing how the Irish like to celebrate, it makes for a worth-while wait. 

26. 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.

27. Take a dip at the Spring Hill Baths

A quick, refreshing dip at the indoor Spring Hill Baths will cool you off. As Brisbane’s first in-ground pool built in 1886, you’ll be swimming through history in this classically built and styled aquatic centre.

28. Pretend you're in France at The Cheese Pleaser 

Cheese Pleaser

True to its name – Cheese Pleaser has the goods to please a crowd, with its ready-made French, Italian, Spanish and Australian cheese boards. Want something on the go? Get stuck into the famous Croque-Monsieur, Three Cheese Mix or indulge in a takeaway cheese platter and wash down with a freshly brewed coffee

29. Grab a bargain at Suitcase Rummage 

A bargain hunter’s haven, a $10 note will hopefully buy you a great piece (or five) with change to spare. Brisbane’s Suitcase Rummage is held on the first and third Sunday of every month in Reddacliff Place, selling anything and everything from clothes to bric-a-brac to handmade goods.

30. Entertain the kids

Visiting the city with your ankle biters? Looking for something fun to do? Check out this list of kid-friendly fun for you and the whole family.  

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