Considering the city was still under construction less than a hundred years ago, you might not expect to find a lot of history in Australia’s capital. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, with some of the country’s most important historical buildings located within the city boundaries. Take a read of our quick guide to Canberra’s history and historical highlights worth exploring during your visit to the ACT.
The Birth of Australia
01ST January 1901 saw the beginning of the nation, when the six British colonies that made up the country becoming one unified nation. The Federation saw the formation of the Commonwealth of Australia and an opportunity for new beginnings with less colonial involvement, including a self-decided capital. Melbourne at the time was the country’s largest city, booming thanks to a goldrush, Sydney however had age on its side, as the oldest city in the country. Rather than choosing either, a new capital was decided upon, and Canberra was born in 1913.
Shaping the City
A competition winning design by American architect and his wife, Walter and Marion Griffin allowed for a from-scratch design for this new capital. With a central focal point of a large lake, big open spaces and tree lined avenues and the impressive Mount Ainslie and Mount Bimberi, the city didn’t need grand buildings to give it presence and stature. Relying heavily on natural elements and existing landscapes, the city layout encouraged nature to weave throughout.
Naming the City
The name was chosen in 1913, and there’s been disagreements ever since as to its origin. Many agree that it has an Aboriginal language source, perhaps meaning the ‘head of the river’, or maybe ‘a meeting place’, perhaps even ‘neutral place’ or even ‘laughing jackass’. Everyone agrees though that some name meanings are a better fit than others.
Albert Hall (100 Commonwealth Avenue) – a Canberra icon with a history dating back almost to the birth of the city. Opened in 1928 by the then Prime Minister who chose its name as a nod to its English cousin, the Royal Albert Hall in London. A recent significant refurbishment has restored the hall to its former glory.
Lanyon Homestead (30-minute drive from Central Canberra in Tharwa south of the Capital) – regarded as a gem of Canberra’s history with building that dates back to more than 50 years before the city was even conceived, it’s little wonder why. Take a tour of the homestead and appreciate a snapshot of life as it was in the 1850s. The buildings each carry stories of the past, with tales of convicts and tragedy as well as insights into the Aboriginal way of life that existed long before the homestead. Picnic in the garden, enjoy coffee in the café or discover of the city’s history. The homestead is open every day of the week except Mondays.
Australian War Memorial (Located at the foot of Mount Ainslie – 5-minutes from the city centre) – part memorial to those who died in conflict and part military museum, the Australian War Memorial is regarded as one of the most important memorials of its kind in the world. The memorial was conceived at the end of the great war, ‘the war to end all wars’, and with tragic irony was opened in 1941 at the height of the Second World War. The impressive art-deco design adds to the memorial’s importance. Visitors can explore the inside galleries, records centre, shrine and the sculpture garden as well as take a contemplative walk along Anzac Parade.
Museum of Australian Democracy (City-centre, located opposite the new Parliament House) – dating back to 1927 this grand building was the seat of Government for 60 years, and an integral part of Canberra’s and Australia’s history. The museum unsurprisingly focuses on the history of Australian government, both on the individuals involved and the impact on the country. It might not be your first choice for a family outing, but the Open Air PlayUP (School Holidays only), the PlayUP area inside and the DressUP zone has more than enough to keep the kids entertained and educated.
Modern Comfort in Historical Canberra
A day exploring the history of Canberra is best appreciated in the contemporary surroundings of Knightsbridge Canberra. Located on a tree-lined street a 5-minute drive from Old Parliament House, the rooms celebrate the best of modern comfort, with your favourite amenities like air-conditioning, Nespresso machines, rainfall showers and an infinity pool.
Accommodation Offers in Australia’s Capital
Budget saving doesn’t tend to go hand in hand with luxury living and homely comforts, but at Knightsbridge Canberra our collection of special offers and serviced apartment packages, cuts costs not comfort. Our serviced apartments combine luxury hotel amenities, a reputation for 5-star service with a space in the city you can call your own at a price point you can relate to. Discover the best of our Canberra accommodation offers and save on your stay, whatever brings you to the ACT.
The thrill of tracking down the best rate might appeal to die-hard bargain hunters, but if hours of online searching isn’t your thing, then our book direct promise has all the savings without the searching. Not only will you get the best rate when you book direct, you’ll also get included extras. And because we like saving you time so much you’ll even find time-saving amenities in your room like push button blackout blinds. Spend more time relaxing and still get all the savings.
Book in Advance
The fabled last-minute booking might actually not be the bargain you think it is. With our book in advance special offer you get more room choices and guaranteed instant savings. All you have to do is book your stay 28 days or more in advance. That way you have less of that last-minute stress about finding accommodation and you can focus on getting your big presentation just right or plan some romantic surprises for your couples’ time in Canberra.
Book Bed & Breakfast
A sweet night’s sleep is made even sweeter knowing you can wake up to fresh bakery goodness and fresh ground coffee excellence. The Knightsbridge Canberra bed and breakfast package includes a $25 breakfast voucher for you to spend with our friends Penny University Café just around the corner. Not only do they serve excellent coffee, but with a menu of everything from smashed avo on toasted rye to banoffee croissant French toast, this is breakfast well worth waking up for. Plus, because no one likes breakfast in a rush, we’ll extend your check out time to 12 so you can linger a little longer over your flat white.
Book A Bundle
Don’t be fooled by too-good-to-be-true hotel prices that cut services to cut costs. At Knightsbridge Canberra our rates look good and come with nice-to-have extras, included. Free Foxtel, free movies-on-demand, free high-speed Wi-Fi, and complimentary welcome minibar snacks for your arrival all just because you booked direct.
While it’s larger siblings, Sydney (to the North) and Melbourne (to the South) might be the more famous of the nation’s cities, Canberra has a charm and a cool of its own. As the nation’s capital and the seat of government, you might assume Canberra is filled with old men talking politics, but as the first city in Australia planned out from its beginning and at just over a hundred years old, Canberra is youthful and vibrant, with a vibe and aesthetic unique in Australia.
All of Australia’s big cities from Adelaide to Sydney are positioned around the coast, but Canberra’s inland ACT (Australian Capital Territory) location gives a different feel for visitors keen to discover another side of Australian cities and a whole other level of natural beauty. The Brindabella Ranges provide a gently mountainous view to the west, Lake Burley Griffin dominates the city centre, and plenty of pretty suburbs, points of interest and green tree lined walkways makes Canberra quiet and relaxed.
Art lovers rejoice, Canberra is home to collections of some of the country’s finest. Discover the face of Australia at the National Portrait Gallery where their permanent collection includes a wide representation of Australian art through the ages from indigenous to colonial and everything in between and after. Alternatively, take one of the free guided tours offered at the National Gallery of Australia and get close to works by everyone from Dali to Warhol, Monet to Cézanne, Hockney to Lichtenstein, Picasso to Pollock as well as Australia’s most recognised and important artists. With more than 166,000 works of art housed in the brutalist building, there’s no shortage of art to be discovered.
Canberra and government go hand in hand, and even if politics-talk bores you, the Australian Parliament House is worth exploring. It’s boomerang inspired shape is complemented by a unique design that focuses on green lawn spaces and landscaped gardens. Inside, the design continues to impress, with most areas open to the public to explore. Of course, for those with an affinity for the political, there is nowhere better than the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House for discovering Australia’s political history.
Offering one of the best viewpoints in Canberra, at 850m, Mount Ainslie is worth the hike. Take a walk to the top for some daytime exercise or take a drive as the sun sets for some night time views over the city. The Canberra Nature Park (not one, but 33 separate protected wild spaces in and around the city), promises no shortage of up close nature experiences, with pretty little pink and grey galahs and cockatoos providing entertainment. Aside from Mount Ainslie, Black Mountain on the north shore of Lake Burley Griffin and Mount Taylor offer different city views and different levels of walking and hiking for all age and fitness levels.
If you’re looking for a little more wild in your wilderness adventure, then a short drive southwest of Canberra is the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. The reserve has ranger guided options for kangaroo, koala, emu and platypus encounters.
Knightsbridge Canberra’s new furnished apartments give Canberra visitors more freedom to experience the best the city has to offer in no-compromise accommodation. Premium fittings in executive comfort combine with a state of the art gym, pool and BBQ terrace makes it easy to live the Canberra life.
Melbourne might get all the gourmet attention, but for foodies in the know, Canberra hides some scrumptious-sense-savouring-secrets. From food trucks to fine dining, from the classics to the game-changers, visitors to Canberra can experience some of the best eateries in the country. Of course, if you’re not here on a palate pilgrimage, but here for business, that doesn’t mean you need to settle for bland hotel food or eating-on-the-go indigestion. Here’s our recommended Canberra spots for eating out even when you’re here for work not pleasure.
Making A Good Impression
Nestled on the corner of Giles and Tench Streets is Pomegranate Restaurant, this popular dining destination that once housed Artespresso, and The European is now in the charge of chef Erkin Esen and his wife Ziba. The culinary power couple bring a vision of contemporary Australian cuisine fused with a Mediterranean influence, delivering simple, tasty food that's sure to make a good impression.
The menu focuses on local seasonal produce and fresh ingredients without overcomplicating matters. Seafood features highly, especially with starters, where you can enjoy the delights of Kingfish cerviché marinated with lemon, olive oil & herbs, and served with herbed lavosh bread or pan seared scallops come with shaved fennel salad, Ligurian olive relish and Dijon lime dressing, and cheeky haloumi moussaka is stacked with grilled eggplant, zucchini and tomato. The desserts make for a perfect finale, beautifully presented and even more beautiful to taste. Pomegranate also boasts a diverse and very accessible wine list to complete your dining experience.
Celebrate Over Dinner
With Carlo Tosolini at the helm (a name in need of little introduction in Canberra) Molto Italian offers a sublime mix of modern and traditional. With the aesthetically pleasing appeal of a modern seaside trattoria, the 130-seat restaurant boasts sleek interiors, high ceilings, an open kitchen and bar and a feature wood fire pizza oven, contributing to a celebration of classic Italy set against the beautiful backdrop of Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin.
As for Molto’s menu, it is simple yet profoundly satisfying, showcasing classic Italian cuisine served with a modern finesse. Where possible menu items are made by hand (fatto a mano) in the traditional Italian way including hand cut pastas, wood fired pizzas and an extensive stuzzichini menu designed to share. Celebrating fine, fresh produce sourced both internationally and locally, Molto is a truly authentic out-of-Italy experience best enjoyed with family and friends.
For The Casual Meeting Or When You're Missing Home
Otis Dining Hall in Kingston Canberra is indeed a dining hall, not just any dining hall though, it is a baronial dining hall, by way of a wild west saloon, featuring serious wood panelling, loads of mirrors, broad leather dining chairs, dark wooden floors, leather menus and an expansive wooden bar running down one length of the room.
The restaurant is the first solo adventure of former Sage chef, Damian Brabender, and while the somehow homely decor might suggest you're there for roast beef and a Yorkshire pudding, Brabender and head chef Adam Wilson are more about the contemporary French bistro classics, such as their beef tartare with smoked eel, sesame and sago crisps, and creme caramel with whisky and smoked sea salt. Otis brings a new dimension of dining to the capital, with clever, contemporary cooking matched to an enjoyably casual, relaxed vibe.
Canberra has been ranked the no.3 city in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2018, and it's hardly any wonder why! This beautifully diverse city offers something for everyone, whether you're a solo traveller or with family in tow; from the great outdoors to world class attractions and award-winning restaurants, Canberra is a city full of surprises.
Getting Around In Canberra
Getting around in Canberra is simple, with plenty of transport options to choose from, whether you prefer public transport, driving, cycling, or walking.
One of the best ways to see the city is by car, while this can be a daunting prospect while away from home, in Canberra you'll find it a breeze, with no tolls and hardly any congestion. Of course, if driving isn't your thing there are plenty of public transport options to get you to your destination, the most convenient and cost-effective of them being the ACTION Buses. Aboard ACTION’s Tourist Loop service you’ll be able to travel to some of Canberra’s most iconic attractions with ease.
As Australia's cycling capital, Canberra has an excellent network of cycle paths and off-road mountain bike trails to discover. Why not hire a bike or bring your own and explore Australia's spectacular scenery from two wheels. If you prefer to don the walking boots and leave the two wheels to someone else, Canberra is also a great city for walking, whether an energetic bushwalk or gentle stroll. Plus, you can learn as you walk with a self-guided walking tour.
Don’t Miss Out
Australian War Memorial – The Australian War Memorial is an insightful and moving experience, that brings together a world-class museum and an extensive archive. Discover the diverse Australian experiences of war and connect with the stories of people and events that shaped Australia.
National Gallery of Australia – Enjoy art and world-class exhibitions, as you meander through the galleries and admire the collection; which includes the famous ‘Blue Poles’ by Jackson Pollock and the Ned Kelly series by Sidney Nolan. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection is the largest in the world, comprising over 7500 works.
Manuka Oval – The Manuka Oval has been a fixture in Canberra since the 1920s, and is home to local and national AFL matches, as well as local cricket and the famous Prime Minister’s XI. Catching a game at this incredible historic venue is a must for any sports fan of the bat or ball variety.
National Zoo & Aquarium - Get up close and personal with some of the world's most amazing creatures at the National Zoo & Aquarium in Canberra. The Zoo features a variety of native and exotic animals, from lions and tigers to giraffes and penguins, plus the zoo boasts the largest inland saltwater tank in Australia. Visit the zoo and stroke a cheetah or make friends with a meerkat during a hands-on animal experience.
National Arboretum Canberra – Home to a staggering 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from Australia and around the world. Discover the stunning range of botanical beauty, including the living artworks in the National Bonsai and Penjing Collection. You can choose to explore the National Arboretum by foot, car, bicycle or even by horse-back, and don't forget to take advantage of the free guided and self-guided tours, interactive displays, cafe and picnic areas.
Questacon – Experience science in extraordinary ways and discover something for everyone at the Questacon Technology Centre. Questacon’s eight interactive exhibitions feature some 200 hands-on experiences, each designed for visitors of all ages to touch, play and explore. With the opportunity to free-fall down an awesome six-metre slide, feel the force of an earthquake, challenge a robot to a game of air hockey or freeze your own shadow, it's no wonder Questacon took Gold in the Australian Tourism Award.
Cockington Green Gardens – Experience the world at your feet at this unique and fascinating display of intricately handcrafted miniature buildings from more than 30 different countries, ranging from Scotland’s Braemer Castle to Peru’s Machu Picchu. Complete your visit to this enchanting world of miniature with a ride on the miniature steam train.
Australian Institute Of Sport – Nestled in native bushland and situated just moments from Canberra's city centre is the AIS - the cradle of Australia's national sports system since 1981. Go behind the scenes on an award-winning 90 minute guided tour and discover where Australia’s sporting champions are created, while gaining an insight into the life of leading athletes. Why not have a go at wheelchair basketball, virtual downhill skiing, rock climbing, football penalty shootouts and more.
Food & Drink
The Cupping Room – Start your day with the perfect coffee, at Canberra’s very own place of coffee worship. This concept cafe takes its customers on a journey of flavour across a range of coffee blends and delicious meals. The Cupping Room is a definite must for all coffee devotees.
Mount Majura Vineyard - This dynamic boutique winery and vineyard, features a unique seated tasting allowing an interactive yet relaxing tasting experience. Mount Majura's single vineyard site of red clay loam soils containing limestone produces Tempranillo, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, a Cabernet Blend and Shiraz, as well as experimental varieties such as Graciano, Touriga and Mondeuse. Opt for a self guided 'gumboot tour', that allows participants to learn more about viticulture or simply indulge in the cheese and regional tasting platters available to accompany tasting.
Courgette - Offering French-inspired Australian cuisine, Courgette's philosophy is rooted in the combination of simplicity and freshness of the basic elements. While emphasis is more upon the seafood at Courgette, great effort is also made to source excellent meats from around the country. Of course, to perfectly accompany your meal there is a wide array of international and domestic beers to whet your appetite.
AKIBA - In 2016, AKIBA was voted Australia’s favourite restaurant, bringing the informal and exciting atmosphere of East-Asia’s great food halls and dining rooms to Canberra. See first hand why AKIBA was awarded top restaurant as you experience the buzzing ambience that perfectly compliments the food, which features a dazzling array of fresh flavours found in styles of Asian barbecue, raw bar and modern-day Dim Sum.
Aubergine – Enjoy contemporary dining in this elegantly intimate space. The kitchen is supplied by local farmers and benchmark suppliers that understand Aubergine's objective, and provide the best produce for each day. You'll also find an extensive wine list at Aubergine, that has won numerous awards and has over 500 labels of interesting and classic wines.
On Red – Since opening in 2007, On Red has brought the iconic venue of "Carousel" back to life along with its sibling establishment on the ground floor, Little Brother. Offering stunning views of Canberra in a comfortable, yet classy dining room, owner Ben Johnson and chef Jenson Heycox provide a friendly environment to indulge in their delicious creations. It's all about “food you want to eat in a place you want to be.”
The Conservatory Restaurant – “Contemporary Australian cuisine, with dishes simply prepared with care, to share.” At The Conservatory Restaurant produce is sourced as locally as possible to support good farming in the region, with focus on organic and biodynamic produce, heirloom meats, seasonal vegetables and fruits, and sustainable sea and fresh water foods. The result? A menu that showcases the best local produce in simple elegant style.
Stay Near The Action
Canberra's newest luxury accommodation, Knightsbridge Canberra, is your new home away from home, combining eveything you need, with everything you want. Each spacious apartment offers all the comfort and amenities of home, with sumptuously furnished living and dining areas, fully equipped kitchens and laundries, free high-speed internet, complimentary refreshments upon arrival, plus there's a state-of-the-art gym, swimming pool, barbeque terrace, and gardens.
Knightsbridge Canberra is also conveniently close to many of the city's big attractions as well as being just 100m from Kingston Shops and a 10-minute walk from Manuka and Kingston Foreshore, where you'll find everything from supermarkets, chemists, dry cleaners, speciality fashion to eateries ranging from casual to fine dining. Make the most of your day in Canberra and whenever you're ready to head home, you can be sure that at Knightsbridge Canberra, there'll always be a light on to welcome you back.