Brisbane is the third-most populous city in Australia. It sits on the banks of the meandering Brisbane River, its name which it takes after. Brisbane is an art lover’s dream, with world-class museums and art galleries (most are free admission), lovely bridges and weekend craft markets. A perennial cool breeze blows throughout the city thanks to the river, setting the scene for a relaxing waterfront vacation.
A history trip downtown
I started my tour of downtown Brisbane by visiting the ANZAC Square War Memorial, a tranquil spot of reflection in the busy Brisbane city centre. It is named in honour of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and consists of the Shrine of Remembrance and Eternal Flame.
The ANZAC Square War Memorial with the Shrine of Remembrance and Eternal Flame.
A few blocks from ANZAC Square is the Brisbane City Hall. Now the seat of the Brisbane City Council, the Brisbane City Hall was the tallest building in Brisbane once upon a time. Its most striking feature is the 92 m-high clock tower, which I struggled to fit into my camera screen.
The striking clock tower of the Brisbane City Hall.
Equally impressive is the 2,500-seater auditorium inside, modelled after the Pantheon in Rome. It was a pleasure to just sit on the stands, admire the fabulous copper dome and imagine the 4,300-pipe organ playing tunes of yore. Now that’s music to my ears.
Admire the impressive architecture of the Brisbane City Hall auditorium.
Before you leave Brisbane City Hall, do visit the Museum of Brisbane on Level 3. It’s a great place to learn about all things Brisbane and get yourself some Brisbane-themed gifts.
Something for everyone at the South Bank Parklands
The pride of Brisbane (in my opinion) is the South Bank Parklands, a 17-hectare stretch of event areas, hip restaurants, eateries and cafés. It is a destination by itself and you can easily spend a whole day there.
There is the 60 m-high Wheel of Brisbane for 360-degree views of the city and the man-made Streets Beach for a dip in the lagoon. Sounds too strenuous? Then how about a relaxing stroll under 443 curling steel columns clad with blooming bougainvillea flowers? You can do just that at the 1 km-long Arbour.
The Stanley Street Plaza also hosts the Collective Markets on weekends, a craft market featuring artisan products and handmade items.
The Gallery of Modern Art, the largest modern art gallery in Australia.
The South Bank is home to the Queensland Cultural Centre, a cultural hub which comprises the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art and the State Library of Queensland.
Crossing the futuristic-looking Kurilpa Bridge to the South Bank.
The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) is the newest kid on the block. You can tell that from the design of the building; its glass and monochrome colours are a stark contrast to its off-white and concrete neighbours.
Getting to the GOMA was half the fun walking across the futuristic-looking Kurilpa Bridge at its north end. It was a fitting prelude to what was to come. The GOMA showcases a genre of mixed media with some bordering on eccentric. The premises are also very spacious with lots of room for everyone to appreciate the exhibits.
Spacious corridors and eccentric exhibits at the Gallery of Modern Art.
My favourite spot, though, was the “viewing gallery”. I’m quite sure it’s not actually a viewing gallery, but it offered a panoramic view of the Brisbane River with its floor-to-ceiling glass windows complete with comfy armchairs and reading materials. A description I read online called it a “giant glass public living room”. Very apt indeed.
Rest your feet at the “viewing gallery”.
If museums are not your thing, you could still drop by the quirky museum shop for some retail therapy. You could also enjoy the art precinct simply by sitting at the many cafés dotted around the area, sipping a caffè latte and soaking in the scholarly vibe of the area.
Serviced apartments: a home away from home
Hotels are usually the default choice on a vacation. And that’s fine for maybe up to five days. But if you’re staying a week or more, the costs could add up. That’s why I chose a serviced apartment in Brisbane instead.
The cost of serviced apartments is comparable to hotels, or even cheaper, and usually comes with more space and kitchen facilities. Mine came with a sizeable living area, two-seater sofa and a kitchenette. In particular, the huge (empty) fridge and microwave oven gave me plenty of ideas.
Since I was travelling alone, I didn’t really want to pay expensive prices to dine alone at restaurants. I might have missed some good eats, but I also found a whole new culinary world at the supermarkets.
Many days I bought groceries from the nearby Woolworths and cooked simple meals for myself. Then, I snuggled into the sofa with a book and sipped on my self-concocted iced mocha latte. Just like what I would do at home.
But this is not the end! To find out what else I saw in Brisbane, stay tuned for the next article!