Swings and roundabouts in Canberra

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 Canberra has added the cool to the cultural

Canberra- buzzing or boring? Situated inland, far from ocean or beach, in cool climate highlands, the Australian capital is the country’s most unusual city. The seat of a notoriously raucous parliament, spilling prime ministers like Friday night beers, this planned city of government is often shunned by travellers and viewed in terms of staid, bureaucratic stereotype.

However Lonely Planet has named Canberra as one of this year’s top destinations. True, it has great national cultural institutions: the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, Parliament House, the War Memorial to name but a few. But is Canberra a fun place?

On arrival it appears to be city of roundabouts, much like Milton Keynes, but look deeper to discover some gems. For a politically themed break, you can stay at the QT Hotel, where, in the lobby, you’ll come face to face with a full size replica Obama- (interesting that the hotel hasn’t kept abreast of current US politics). With prime ministers of Australia themed wallpaper in the lobby and bedrooms equipped with a cocktail making set, emergency bow tie and even a spy kit, staying in Canberra doesn’t have to be dull.

Whilst the galleries and monuments will occupy your day, head out to Braddon, Canberra’s hipster suburb, for an evening of practical democracy- everyone gets their say- with the attaches, researchers, interns and, rumour has it, spies. You might even need your disguise.

There’s nothing quite like an artisanal gin to get the evening going with a swing and to loosen tongues. At Tipsy Bull you can choose from more than a hundred Australian and international gins, all served on a tasting tray with matched fruits, herbs and tonic. Sip it neat and compare flavours before customising your own G&T.

Hopscotch, Braddon, Canberra

Hopscotch next door is a popular local drinking den with a large courtyard garden and live music. From an array of culturally diverse cuisines on Lonsdale Street we chose the Latin-tinged American eatery Elk and Pea for a casual but elegant dinner. But if you can’t cope with cutlery, elegance or waiting staff, hang out with the cool kids at Grease Monkey for a burger.

Smiths Alternative Bookshop CanberraAfterwards seek out a nightcap at Smith’s Alternative Bookshop on Alinga Street- not a bookshop at all, but a live music and comedy venue. Catch a show or just sit under the arcade arches on a leather couch and wait for a clandestine rendezvous or simply watch the Canberra nightlife go by.  Back at the QT there’s a speakeasy hidden behind a barber’s shop for that last libation but make sure you don’t miss one of the best hotel breakfasts ever.

Now that Canberra has added the cool to the cultural it’s an ideal mini break destination, offering an intriguing cocktail of high art and high jinx.

See also

Look both ways XII- monumental

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