63 things to do in Brisbane City

Between the heritage buildings and sleek glass skyscrapers Brisbane City is treasure trove of things to do. Explore everything from busy shopping streets, through to relaxed gallery strolls, or chic high-end restaurants and laid-back laneway beers. 

If you’re looking for a lunch break discovery through to days out worth bragging about, read our comprehensive guide of where to eat, drink, shop and play in the CBD.

1. But first, coffee. 

If you’re a specialty coffee snob, it’s easy to find fancy single origin espresso and cafes using all sorts of brewing methods (chemex, v60, filter etc) in the city centre. Have a read of our favourite haunts to get your caffeine fix before you conquer the day (and also save your $$$ and check out Brisbane City's best KeepCup discounts). And if you need a hearty breakfast to go with your coffee, here’s everything you need to know.

2. Shop up a storm 

With over 1000 stores ranging from local boutiques through to international high street and luxury brands, Brisbane City is a fashion lover’s heaven. If you don't know where to start, we’ve pulled together a guide to shopping in the heart of the city.

3. Visit the Brisbane City Markets 

Jan Power Farmer Markets, Image Jared Vethaak

Pick up some fresh goodness for the week or conveniently “forget your lunch” and visit one of the tasty food stalls for a mid-week treat. The Brisbane City Markets pop up in Reddacliff Place every Wednesday from 8am-6pm. 

4. Explore the wharves

Down a spritz with seafood under the Story Bridge, drink craft beer from a micro brewery by the river, and indulge in a long, lazy Greek feast. In late 2018 the Howard Smith Wharves precinct opened on the city fringe with a stash of new venues to explore and river views that rival all others.

5. Find your centre with yoga

Tucked away in Burnett Lane, Shri Yoga is a peaceful sanctuary for you to retreat to from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. Classes range from challenging to playful and meditative. The other studio to check out is Stretch Yoga, with classes ranging from a ‘Simple Stretch’ through to a ‘Deep Stretch’.

6. Eat at an award-winning restaurant

OTTO

The CBD is home to the highest number of hatted restaurants in Queensland. Make a reservation the Good Food Guide 2019 two-hatted Otto or Aria, or try one-hatted Blackbird Bar & Grill.

7. Go on a laneway crawl

Raw and historic Burnett Lane is filled with gems, while new and shiny Albert Lane is the perfect for stop for lunch. Have a read of the hidden gems you can find weaved through the busy city streets.

8. Relax in a park with Gigs & Picnics

Gather the family, pack a picnic rug (or borrow ours) and spend a lazy afternoon in the sunshine. Once a month on a Saturday, the City Botanic Gardens come alive with food trucks, free live music and hundreds of people picnicking. Relax to sweet mellow jazz sounds, modern reggae and dub vibes, gypsy swing and more.

9. Ride up the old clock tower

CityHall
Go on a tour of the heritage-listed City Hall building or the organ and auditorium, then head up to the clock tower (from Level 3) to experience incredible views of the CBD below you. Don’t forget to explore the amazing Museum of Brisbane's latest show.

10. Live and local

Keep your ears on alert. City Sounds is Australia’s largest free music program with local and touring artists performing from Wednesday to Sunday through the CBD. See who is coming up here.

11. Explore the Brisbane Quarter

Beneath the five-star W Hotel that opened in 2018 sits the Brisbane Quarter. Here Heritij offers a modern brand of fine Indian-inspired cuisine by a Michelin-starred chef, while Persone brings homely Italian from Brisbane hospitality family the Gambaro Group.     

12. Get your chops around a steak

Cha Cha Char
As the capital of a beef-producing state, it’s not surprise that Brisbane CBD is stacked with amazing steak restaurants. Between Black Hide, Cha Cha Char, Walter’s and more it’s easy to satisfy a red meat craving. 

13. Hunt for fairies in the city centre

Did you know Brisbane is filled with fairies? From beer to botanic gardens and a whole bunch of places in between, enchanting fairy lights are spread over the city

14. Wine and dine at Eagle Street

What's better than sipping fancy cocktails or eating an incredible meal with the glistening city as your backdrop? Not much. Get down to Eagle Street Pier for those riverside views.

15. Shop down Edward Street

While Queen Street Mall is the heart of shopping in the CBD, neighbouring Edward Street is the spot for luxury, high end and unique clothing, shoes, accessories and gifts. Here you’ll find bespoke menswear, international luxury labels, and local brands The 400 Co and Issada.

16. Organise the perfect picnic 

Anzac Square Park
There’s a surprising amount of green space in the city hear. Dine al fresco at these parks in Brisbane City that are ideal for picnics (and wine). Pick up takeaway on the way, or pass by The Cheese Pleaser for supplies.

17. Go on a craft beer crawl

Crawl your way from Mr Edwards to Embassy to and finish with a sunset and riverside and city views at Felons micro-brewery, Howard Smith Wharves. Add in Brew and Super Whatnot if more hops is needed.  

18. Sell your unwanted clothes at Suitcase Rummage

Pile up the clothes that are pushed to the back of your closet and sell them at Suitcase Rummage. It’s a great place to nab some bargains too. The market pops up at least once a month in the CBD.

19. Satisfy the chocolate craving

Noosa Chocolate Factory

If you want to beat that 3pm hankering for sugar, Noosa Chocolate Factory or Amy Sargeantson dish out soft rocky road, chocolate slabs, and icy drinks. Then there’s Chocolate Moments on Albert Street, and Mayfield Chocolates on Edward Street for more refined truffles and treats. 

20. Listen to live music as the stars twinkle above you at Riverstage

It’s a 9000 person grass-covered arena, but there’s still something intimate about shows at the Riverstage. Browse the schedule to see if any upcoming touring artists interest you.

21. Drinks taste better in a higher altitude

W Brisbane

Sipping cocktails and sinking ales is much more fun sky-high, and with so many perfect skyscrapers – Brisbane CBD is king of the rooftop bar. Have a read of our favourite rooftop bars.

22. Get to know Brisbane better 

The Museum of Brisbane has a special place in our hearts. Its incredible program of exhibitions always provoke thought and discussion, and the MoB gift shop is a must visit for Brisbane made and Brisbane designed treasures.

23. Bust a move

Mad Dance House studio offers a wide range of dance classes taught by industry recognised teachers including ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, hip hop and more. Whether you are a beginner, professional or in between, there is a class for all on Adelaide St.

24. Dress up for the theatre

Visit the Gardens Theatre at the Queensland University of Technology to watch one of the professional theatre productions and student showcases. 

25. Or experience contemporary art

Metro Arts

Don’t miss the pop up exhibitions and performances from emerging artists at Metro Arts. This five-storey arts house has studios, an arts cinema, restaurant and more inside.

26. Celebrate “la dolce vita”

There’s nothing sweeter than Italian cuisine. Coppa Spuntino, OTTO Brisbane, Jamie's Italian and Marchetti are some of our Italian favourites for when those pizza and pasta cravings kick in.

27. Roll on the river 

Enjoy spectacular views from the iconic paddle wheelers of Kookaburra Showboat Cruises with a lunch, dinner, sunset or high tea cruise. Or take it more casual with a ride on the CityCat.

28. Wander with the Greeters

Have you seen the friendly people in the red “Brisbane Greeter” shirts? You can join one for a free walking excursion around the city and discover Brisbane in a whole new light. These amazing volunteers are passionate city advocates who know more than enough to win any trivia night.

29. Konichiwa, delicious food!

Indulge in quality sashimi, rich ramen or crispy karaage at Brisbane's best Japanese restaurants. From cheap and cheerful to top quality fine dining – CBD has them all.

30. Seek out a bar with an epic view

New Shanghai Dumplings

Grab an ice-cold beer, pop champagne or order a cocktail jug and kick back with picture-perfect panoramas of the CBD and Story Bridge, and over the Brisbane River to South Bank and Kangaroo Point.

31. Shop local

Cheese Pleaser

On top of the big name brand stores, Brisbane City is home to stacks of local fashion and small designers boutiques (most produce clothing here in Brisbane) including Tengdahl, Maiocchi, CONTRA as well as Pistol at Dawns range at The Clockroom. Then there is small made-with-love food businesses like Noosa Chocolate Factory, Amy Sargeantson, The Cheese Pleaser and I Heart Brownies.

32. Party on the street with Latin Friday Nights

Every Friday night, Latin beats and dancing feet take over Reddacliff Place where a passionate crowd of visitors and locals shake their hips with frankly astonishing style and grace. Don’t miss the 8pm dance lesson. 

33. Be a visitor in your own city

Did you know there is an official public art walking trail, and city centre heritage trail? Yep, look them up via Brisbane City Council and hit the footpath.

34. Make a splash at the baths

Cool off at the ridiculously cute Spring Hill Baths. They were Brisbane’s first in-ground pool, and the heritage-listed building looks like it belongs in a Wes Anderson film.

35. Shop small with the Brisbane Twilight Markets

This is the only Brisbane-based market that sell 100% locally made products – yep, it’s your chance to meet the makers and shop artisan goods. The market pops up once about every two months. 

36. Discover cool science at The Cube

The Cube at QUT
Bring the kids (small, or big) to experience the Queensland University of Technology's extraordinary two-storey digital interactive learning and display space. The exhibitions change, but they’re always awesome.

37. Pay a visit to the high rollers and fine diners 

Take a spin on the gaming floor and when you need to refuel, stop by one of the Treasury Brisbane’s several deluxe eating spots and chic bars. Black Hide Steakhouse will cook a steak better than anybody, and Fat Noodle will treat you to its tasty signature pho.

38. Always time for a boogie

Love live music? You’ll love Brooklyn Standard. Six nights a week the super cool bar hosts local live bands with upbeat, jazzy tunes perfect to dance until the wee hours. Speaking of jazz, give the basement of Doo Bop Jazz Bar a whirl for brassy sounds until 3am most nights.

39. Sweet dreams are made of cheese 

Who are we to dis-a-brie? Grape Therapy’s extensive wine list features impossible-to-find vintages, small-batch boutique gems and iconic Australian wines alongside carefully selected wines imported from the world’s classic wine regions. Pair your bottle with an artisan cheese or charcuterie board. Or drop by The Cheese Pleaser to pick up a selection of international cheese to DIY your own picnic board.

40. Experience history underground at the Spring Hill Reservoir

Discover the arched brick interiors of this 19th century structure that provided a vital role in providing fresh water to Brisbane from 1871-1962. Keep a look out for the occasional historic tour and theatre production that pops up. 

41. Lose track of time at Folio Books

Browse through the extensive range of books in many subjects including cooking, photography, history, gardening, graphic design, art, fiction and much more. Also hunt out Archive Books for second-hand treasures, and Dymocks for the more mega mainstream.

42. Take a little staycation

If you've caught the wanderlust bug but don't have funds or annual leave to travel afar, treat yourself to an inner-city staycation for some quality R&R, an epic shopping trip or just to use the fancy hotel spa and pool. In 2018 two five-star hotels opened - give Westin or W Hotel a whirl. 

43. Eat local

OTTO Brisbane
If you love to experience a city via your plate Aria Brisbane, OTTO, Customs House and John Mills Himself go above and beyond to ensure where possible that its dishes and drinks come from within the local region. Customs House even grow mushrooms in the heritage cellar!

44. Discover the role Brisbane played in the Second World War

Visit the MacArthur Museum to look behind the front lines of the Second World War and see the role Brisbane played from 1939-1945. You can even visit the office of General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces in the South West Pacific Area. Extra hint: Brisbane Greeters run a special World Wars tour through the city on request.

45. Order the Sand Crab Lasagne at Il Centro

The decadent Sand Crab Lasagne is a long-standing item on the Il Centro menu - and with good reason. Hunt it out.

46. Go on a twilight paddle

Take in the beautiful sights of our river city at twilight from your own illuminated Riverlife kayak. When you return to the shore feast on buckets of fresh, ocean king prawns, bread rolls with views of the City. Heaven.

47. Play tabletop games

Put down your phone and embrace offline boardgames. Head to Vault Games where they let you play hundreds of games for free (just buy a drink) or pick up some unusual titles to take home. 

48. Be fancy with ALL of the high teas

Customs House

The old world glamour of putting on your best frock and sitting down for high tea can be found in the CBD. From ritzy hotels to heritage venues, Brisbane City is home to a variety of high tea settings.

49. Go bowling

Grab a group of mates and test your skills at Strike Bowling in Wintergarden. It’s also perfect for a super-cute date night. Strike also offers laser tag and an escape room. 

50. Settle in for a tipple at Brisbane City's cosiest bars

Brooklyn Standard
If the weather turns crisp or you want to hide indoors, snuggle up at Super Whatnot, The Gresham, Brooklyn Standard, and Grape Therapy.

51. Markets in the gardens

Every Sunday from 8am-3pm, the Riverside Gardens Markets pop up in the stunning City Botanic Gardens.

52. Transport yourself to Germany

Eat a warm pretzel the size of your head and drink pure biers at Bavarian Bier Cafe. The riverside views are the wurst…. Sorry.

53. Mix it up 

Round up the gang for a cocktail-making class at The Laneway. Pick three cocktails you’d like to add to your repertoire from a huge list of options. Perfect for a hens or girls night out, or team bonding with workmates.

54. Catch a blockbuster flick 

Elizabeth Picture Theatre

Watch a film on the big screen at Event Cinemas in The Myer Centre then channel your inner-child at FunZone next door. Or go back in time with the glitz and glamour of the Elizabeth Picture Theatre. It still plays all the latest hits, but you can sit under a historic ballroom ceiling in the Tara Room.

55. Explore Old Government House 

You can now tour Queensland’s first public and heritage listed building, Old Government House, and enjoy the restored grandeur of 1860 architecture. There’s often art exhibitions at the William Robinson Gallery within.

56. Spruce up your home

Lovers or knick knacks, cool art and things for interiors, we’ve rounded up the best homeware stores in the CBD here.

57. Fine dining palette with student budget?

A week to go before pay-day and you're feeling the pinch? There’s plenty of spots to eat out. Read through our cheap eats round-up.

58.  Sip single malts at The Gresham

The Gresham Bar
It's not just us that raves about beloved small bar The Gresham. Gourmet Traveller awarded this whisky saloon Best Bar in Australia in 2015, and it’s won a stack of accolades since. Nab a chesterfield couch and settle in for a session.

59. Love those crime podcasts?

The Queensland Police Museum showcases some of the city’s most notorious crimes. Discover police heritage, Queensland crimes, investigative techniques, medals, the history of police women, operational equipment and transport. 

60. Get your mouth around a burger

The classic can’t be beaten. Try Red Hook, Chur Burger Express, Miel Container, Miss Kay's and Burger Project for the very best. 

61. Eat KFD at Public

The beautifully crunchy and meaty Kentucky Fried Duck dish at Public keeps patrons coming back again and again. Definitely a must-try if you live in Brisbane or are visiting. 

62. See Queensland democracy in action

A free half-hour tour is on offer to marvel at Parliament House and its antiques or watch parliament in session from the visitor’s gallery. 

63. Tummy rumbling past 9pm?

Coppa
It’s true, Brisbane people wake up early and eat dinner early. But don't worry you're not destined for greasy fast food after 9pm. We've sourced the best late night eats in Brisbane City that you won't regret in the morning. 

63. Explore the QUT Art Gallery

There are more than 2000 pieces of art in this gallery, making it one of the largest collections in Queensland. Expect a dynamic program of exhibitions from the QUT Art Collection, touring exhibitions and new works by QUT staff and students.

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