51 things to do in Brisbane City - Visit Brisbane

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51 things to do in Brisbane City

Whether you consider yourself a Brisbane City expert or are exploring the CBD for the first time, this list reveals the best things to do in the city heart – and *spoiler alert* – you're going to need more than one day. Between the heritage buildings and sleek glass skyscrapers Brisbane City's boundaries contain a treasure trove of things to do. 

From hitting busy shopping streets to quiet riverside strolls, and chic high-end restaurants to laid-back laneway beers – discover awesome things to fill just a lunchbreak or a whole weekend worth bragging about. Read on to discover our comprehensive guide of where to eat, drink, shop and play in the CBD.

1. But first, coffee. 

Coffee Iconic

If you’re a specialty coffee snob it’s easy to find fancy single origin espresso and cafes using all sorts of alternative brewing methods (chemex, v60, filter etc) in the city centre. And if you need a hearty breakfast to go with your coffee, here’s everything you need to know.

2. Shop up a storm

Queen Street Mall by Mitchell Talbot

Brisbane City is a fashion lover's heaven with more than 1000 stores ranging from local boutiques through to international high street and luxury brands. Start in the centre at Queen Street Mall where hundreds of stores await. If you're looking for something specific, 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 and in Cathedral Square  every Thursday from 8am-2.30pm. 

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 lunch, Japanese feast or Chinese banquet. In late 2018 the Howard Smith Wharves precinct opened on the city fringe with a stash of new venues opening the doors throughout 2019. Now is the time to explore with river views that rival all others.

5. Find your centre with yoga

Make your way to 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 some of the best fine dining in all of Queensland. Make a reservation with the Good Food Guide 2020 two-hatted OTTO Brisbane, or try Blackbird Bar & Grill, Donna Chang or Greca. 

7. Go on a laneway crawl

Raw and historic Burnett Lane is filled with cool bars, 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 the botanic gardens 

Gather the family, pack a picnic rug (or borrow ours) and spend a lazy afternoon in the sunshine. Wear comfortable shoes, find some sweet tunes and speed walk along the river on your lunch break. Whatever your style, the City Botanic Gardens is a relaxing green space to chill on the lawn or wander the many pathways and themed gardens.

9. Visit the Museum of Brisbane

CityHall

Be captivated by the stories of Brisbane through curated exhibitions that feature local artists and the culture and history of the city (reopens 17 July). The MoB gift shop is a must visit for Brisbane made and Brisbane designed treasures by local artisans (opening July 17).

10. Live and local music

Keep your ears on red alert. City Sounds is Australia’s largest free music program with local and touring artists performing from Wednesday to Sunday in Queen Street Mall and other locations in the CBD. 

11. Explore the Brisbane Quarter

Beneath the five-star W Hotel sits the Brisbane Quarter. Here Phoenix offers a contemporary brand of traditional yum cha while Persone brings homely Italian from Brisbane hospitality family the Gambaro Group.     

12. Get your chops around a steak

As the capital of a beef-producing state, it’s not surprise that Brisbane CBD is stacked with amazing steak restaurants. Between Black HideWalter’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? It's true. From beer to botanic gardens and a whole bunch of places in between, enchanting fairy lights are spread over the city

14. 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 boutiques.

15. Organise the perfect picnic 

Post Office Square by Mitchell Talbot

There’s a surprising amount of green space in the City centre. Dine al fresco in Post Office Square, take a quick break at Queens Gardens or kick back with a picnic (and wine) at the licensed Roma Street Parkland. Pick up takeaway on the way, or pass by The Cheese Pleaser for supplies.

16. Go on a craft beer crawl

Put aside an afternoon to tackle this craft beer trail hopping you between breweries, bars and bottle shops in Brisbane City. Sure, these days you can walk into any pub, bar or restaurant and order a local craft beer (which we think is great, by the way) – but there are so many bars and pubs that turned a love of craft beer into an obsession.  

17. Sell your unwanted clothes at Suitcase Rummage

Take action against the pile of clothes shoved at the back of your closet by booking a stall at a Suitcase Rummage market. On the other hand, it’s a great place to nab some bargains, and you can barter your way to great brands at a steal. The market pops up at least once a month in the CBD.

18. Satisfy the chocolate craving

Noosa Chocolate Factory

If you want to beat that 3pm hankering for sugar, Noosa Chocolate Factory dish out soft rocky road, chocolate slabs and icy drinks. Then there’s also Chocolate Moments on Albert Street. 

19. Drink cocktails at 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.

20. 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.

21. Eat Asian street food in this laneway

Matcha soft-serve, Asian hot dogs, Japanese barbecue, tea-based cocktails and kawaii desserts fill Elizabeth Street’s Asian food laneway, FudoDori. The laneway connects Elizabeth and Charlotte streets in the epicentre of Brisbane’s Korean and Asian restaurants, tea shops and dessert cafes.

22. Celebrate “la dolce vita”

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

23. Kick putt at Holey Moley

Holey Moley have swung open the doors on a golf club inside the Wintergarden centre on Queen Street Mall. There’s nine holes to putt your stuff with names like ‘Drop it Like It’s Slot’.

24. Seek out a bar with an epic view

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.

25. Shop locally made fashion

In a world of fast fashion and fast trends, the idea of having something timeless made for you by someone local is the definition of luxury. Meet Brisbane’s local fashion designers inside the storefronts of Brisbane Arcade, the boutique 95-year-old gallery mall where small fashion houses and couture designers work and play. 

26. Follow this self-guided art trail

Brisbane City is filled with incredible public art hidden down laneways, in foyers or on the facades of buildings – this trail will help you hunt out art in Brisbane CBD. Best of all we've thrown in some suggestions for lunch or cocktails.

27. 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.

28. Shop small with the Brisbane Twilight Markets

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

29. Sweet dreams are made of cheese 

Cheese Pleaser

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.

30. 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. 

31. 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 Fine Books for second-hand treasures, and Dymocks for the more mega mainstream new titles on every topic.

32. Take a little staycation

If you've caught the wanderlust bug but don't have funds or annual leave for a huge vacation, 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. 

33. Put the focus on paddock-to-plate dining

OTTO Brisbane
If you love to experience a city via your plate  OTTO, Customs House, Three Blue Ducks 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!

34. 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.

35. Find that perfect ring

There's more than 50 jewellers located in Brisbane City, so if you're looking for that special engagement ring or treating yourself to celebrate a promotion or birthday – take a look and go hunt them out.

36. 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.

37. 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. 

38. 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.

39. 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. 

40. 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, Death & Taxes and Grape Therapy.

41. Markets in the gardens

Go back to the City Botanic Gardens for the Riverside Gardens Markets. This market pops up by the river every Sunday from 8am-3pm.

42. Cut laps in the City

Next to the City Botanic Gardens at the QUT Gardens Point campus is a huge YMCA fitness and aquatic centre with a big 50 metre Olympic swimming pool. Swimming is a great way to work your whole body and cardiovascular system, plus you’ll burn almost as many calories as while running.

43. Drink gin at these cocktail bars

These rooftop, riverside and laneway bars offer variety and focus on quality drinking – with large ranges of gin. Yes, the CBD is yet to have a bar dedicated solely to the spirit but you can experiment with new age Australian and international gins or cocktails, drop into these bars in Brisbane City.

44. Explore Old Government House 

You can 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.

45. 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.

46. 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.

47.  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 2016, and it’s won a stack of accolades since. Nab a chesterfield couch and settle in for a session.

48. Get your mouth around a burger

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

49. 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. 

50. 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.

51. 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.

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