Having recently been voted by Lonely Planet as Australia’s coolest city, the Brisbane scene is well and truly ‘on the up’. As Australia’s third-largest city, Queensland’s capital is enjoying something akin to a renaissance over the past few years, with its focus on developing a ‘new world city’ and an aim to becoming the gateway to Asia.
I recently visited Brisbane for the first time and, although I only spent a weekend there, I did not want to leave – there is just so much to like about Brisbane.
With a climate that rarely dips below 20 degrees, it’s a perfect place for outdoor types and holidaymakers. The warmer weather not only makes for a great getaway at any time of the year, it also means the locals are seemingly always in a good mood. No wonder, with such a beautiful city in which to play around.
Brisbane’s ‘laidbackedness’ is quite possibly its most endearing trait. The city itself is very pretty indeed, notably low-lying and, being built along the banks of the Brisbane River – quite lush and full of life. The locals are friendly, to the point where, for a while, I was wondering what their ‘angle’ was. Being used to the Melburnian ‘clique’ mentality, it took me a while to get my head around the fact that people can actually be down right friendly for no reason other than to be friendly. Brisbanites, whether in bars or boutiques, are certainly a welcoming bunch, and that hospitality permeates throughout the city and makes it a very nice place to be.
The river is the central thread that runs through the city, but on either side are situated suburbs each with distinct cultures and personalities. Now, I didn’t get to visit each part of the city, but here are some of my favourite areas:
The City and South Bank area is Brisbane’s moneymaking municipality and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the tallest part of town. But this neck of the woods is not all suits and ties – it is also home to some trendy riverside dining and the Eagle Street Pier complex. The CBD is where you’ll find the beautiful Botanic Gardens as well as a host of art galleries throughout its Cultural Centre complex. Queensland Art Gallery and The Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is the artistic jewel of Queensland. And the State Library, Town Hall and Queensland Museum provide art and architecture pundits with no shortage of inspiration on their journey through the city. But if you really want to get to know the history and culture, you can always book a free tour with a Brisbane Greeter.
Fortitude Valley is the place to party, and if pubs, cafés, clubs, wine bars and live music is your bag, then this is where you need to be. Known as Brisbane’s entertainment precinct, the valley is also home to the trendy boutiques of Brunswick Street, designer shopping along Ann Street and all the laneways in between. And when you’re done spending your hard earned you can sup on some dumplings or yum cha in Chinatown.
As I said earlier, Brisbane is a beautiful city. And although it’s nice to be able to see the sky from most of the streets, the most amazing views of Brisbane’s boroughs are from up on high – and there’s no better place to take in the vista than from Eleven Rooftop Bar in Fortitude Valley. Eleven gets its name from being a bar that’s 11 stories high, and it’s a newish hotspot that serves light breakfasts and European-style share plates for lunch and dinner, as well as an impressive collection of killer cocktails. But the star of the show is the view. What more can I say but “wow…”
The Valley’s neighbour, New Farm, is the home to slightly more upmarket restaurants and cafés of all persuasions. It is also home to the Powerhouse – a converted power station that is now a cultural hotspot which features an outdoor cinema, as well as live music, comedy and theatre, and a farmers market.
And on the other side of the valley you’ll find Newstead, home to one of Brisbane’s first craft breweries, Newstead Brewing Co, which produces quite possibly the nicest Amber Ale (and many other fine brews) that I’ve ever put to my lips (and beyond). The brewery also doubles as a restaurant, and one of my big regrets was that I didn’t return to sample its culinary delights. If the beer was any indication of what the food would be like, then I certainly missed out. (Oh, and if you ask the bar staff nicely, they might whip you up a beer affogato – trust me, it’s truly lip-smacking!)
The reason I did miss out was because I headed around the corner to Tippler’s Tap – an American-styled craft beer bar that stocks some damn fine beers on tap, as well as an awesome array of bottled frothy delights. If you do visit the Tap, make sure you try the hot wings with blue cheese sauce – they are simply amazing and the perfect compliment to the Modus Operandi Red IPA, which, if you’re lucky, will be on tap at the time.
The best part of Brissy is, you can stay in the middle of the city and see so much within 5–6km walking distance either way. You don’t even need a car; in fact, driving around town can be a bit of a challenge due to Brisbane’s suburbs being split by waterways. The best way to get around Brisbane is to hop on the free (yes, free) CityHopper ferry service along the river, then hop off near to your destination and leg it. It may not be the fastest way to travel, but it’s great for seeing the city and besides, after all the beers and hot wings, the exercise will surely do you no harm. (In fact, when you look around town, you’ll see that the residents are very attractive and, well, quite ‘fit’ – it’s no wonder with all that walking!).
Brisbane has well outgrown its ‘BrisVegas’ moniker and has evolved into an urban hotspot of culture, cafés, craft beer and, for want of a better word: cool. Its vibrant city scene and positive energy, coupled with its welcoming climate and townsfolk, make Brisbane a ‘different’ kind of cool to the hipster haven that is Melbourne, and the self-involved ‘sophistication’ iconic of Sydney, which, in my opinion, is a good thing. In fact, the best way to describe this ‘new world city’ is that it is a good thing – in every sense of the word.
So, snag yourself some cheap flights, pack your bags and make a beeline for Brisbane. You will not be disappointed.