The Insider's Guide to Brisbane's CBD

While Australia may be the deadly island where every evil creature that ever roamed the earth resides, we have some damn nice cities. Take Brisbane: river cruises, unique festivals, and enough trees to coat the moon. While it may not be as ubiquitously known as New York City or Tokyo, it’s still on the map – and visits don’t have to be expensive! Here’s the insider’s guide to the sights of Brisbane’s CBD.

The main attractions


Arguably Brisbane’s best attraction, Southbank lines the river and spans many cafes, parks, markets, ferry terminals, pools, and overpriced ice cream stands. It’s family-friendly with the recent addition of an airborne climbing gym for the little ones, and the riverside walk makes for a lovely morning stroll. From Friday night to Saturday afternoon, the Stanley St Plaza is filled with little markets selling quirky artwork, jewellery, delicious fudge, and other things you won’t find anywhere else. Additionally, Southbank Cineplex is at the heart of it all; go and see a movie, and then take your ticket and get 20% off at the Burrito Bar next door. This green esplanade in the heart of the CBD is unmissable, as is our little slice of the ocean and the jewel of Southbank: the sandy pools and waterpark for the kids. Go and experience some of the happenings – relaxed Sunday afternoons at the amphitheatre, orchestra recitals at the Conservatorium, Park Run every Saturday morning. If you’re mildly interested in anything, there’s something here for you.

The city

In addition to the rest of this list, the actual city holds countless hidden treasures ready to be stumbled upon. Pay your respects at ANZAC Square, do a spot of shopping in Queen Street, see our bin chickens out and about. Spend the morning soaking up the sun roaming our streets – there’s something here for everyone!

Cultural attractions

Despite common impressions, we aren’t all bogans (the easiest definition of a ‘bogan’ is an Aussie redneck – a six-pack, thongs, and the classic twang of our accent). We have a skerrick of refinement.


Fancy a theatre piece? Go see something at QPAC! Sit among the other glowing eyes and appreciate the glitz and glamour of the talented beings on stage. Aladdin is currently playing; I saw it, and it deserves every bit of praise thrown its way and more. The magic of the performers and audience combined make for a sparkling night if that’s your cup of tea (and in your price range).

The museums

Lose yourself in the museums. Both GOMA and the museums nearby hold hours of wonder and awe – modern art, dinosaurs, science, the Discovery Centre, and many more exhibitions are constantly on rotation. The State Library also has free exhibitions, normally available on Level 2. These museums are either free or offer affordable rates and have something for everyone. Like nearly everything else on this list, it’s in Southbank, so you don’t have to drag your grumpy kids very far to cheer them up! What more do you want from a city?


We have a bit of quirk around our festivals. Buddha’s Birthday, Spanish Film Festivals, Welcome to the Whales, and even Australia Day’s Cockroach Racing all draw happy-go-lucky crowds and good spirits – both emotional and alcoholic. We’re a cheerful people; these festivals are easy to find online, accessible by public transport, and make for a vibrant way to spend the afternoon. Go to the Paniyiri Festival and try the Greek food, or the Summertime Riverfest and watch thousands of rubber ducks race along the Brisbane River.

Other things to do

The Brisbane River

Why not make a morning of our river? Eagle Street Pier is lined with numerous cafes, or it’s a short walk into the city for breakfast. Catch the free City Hopper, sit up the top, and enjoy the tour of Brisbane and wind threading itself through your hair at the same time. City Hoppers come every 30 minutes and run on a first-in, best-dressed basis; you can tell one is due soon by the lines winding out from the ferry terminals. Alternatively, you can pay the CityCat fare to travel a bit faster (and your ticket is valid for free transport for up to two hours on all Translink services!).

The Botanical Gardens

Explore the botanical gardens. Both Roma Street and Brisbane City hold beautiful rolling carpets of green, interspersed with trees, flowers, bamboo forests, and water fountains. See how many eels you can count in the ponds or lizards lazing by the path; wander through and find the playground for the kids. Come Sunday mornings, there are more markets set up in the City gardens; find our local poem guy and get him to write a poem about any topic you want for $5 or try the falafels and listen to the live music. From here, why not wander through to Eagle Street, have some breakfast, and catch the City Hopper back to Southbank? These beautiful gardens will provide hours of enjoyment for anyone wanting a breather out of the city.

Kangaroo Point Cliffs at sunset

A new perspective

See Brisbane from a different angle. For those with a thirst for a bird’s eye view, the Story Bridge can be climbed, allowing spectacular views of our little yet beautiful city. Similarly, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs are there to be climbed – why not give it a go? Riverlife offers climbing and abseiling tours for these cliffs, and the top promises a wonderful view. If blood pounding in your ears from adrenaline is not your picture of the perfect holiday, why not have a picnic up the top? Both a café and barbeques for a more personal meal line the top of the cliffs, promising a beautiful sunset. If you get bored of our CBD, there are countless trains, buses, and ferries just waiting to take you places. Beaches are less than an hour away by train, bushwalks can be found at Mt Cootha, and mountain biking at Brookfield. If you can think of it, chances are we have some way to make it happen; our happy little city is the gift that keeps on giving. So, that begs the question: what are you still doing at home? Brisbane’s waiting for you! Feature image courtesy of Carib Phillips.  

Alexandra Tolley

I have many dreams, one of which is to gallivant about the world – and if I can get my act together and decide on a career, perhaps to space. I write about travelling, adventures, and good company. Come with?