Inspiration Destinations Australia Is Brisbane Australia's Coolest Capital City? Here Are 6 Reasons Why

Is Brisbane Australia's Coolest Capital City? Here Are 6 Reasons Why

An aerial view over Brisbane and the Brisbane River, which weaves through the city. Brisbane's riverside precincts are just one reason the city is one of Australia's coolest capital cities.

Let us reintroduce you to Queensland’s sunny capital – one of the coolest spots in Australia for all things wined, dined and river-inclined. 

Move over Melbourne and step aside Sydney. There’s a new competitor for the title of ‘Australia’s Coolest City’ and this one is sunny year-round. And having just been named one of the top 52 places to travel in 2024 by the New York Times, there's no better time to uncover its charms.

From riverside artisan cafes and high-end shopping strips to heaving concerts and craft cocktail culture to boot, Brisbane delivers a diversity of thrills. Experience the allure of Queensland’s exciting capital and discover why its booming arts, entertainment and dining culture is rapidly solidifying itself one of Australia’s best. 

1. It’s driving Australia’s new culinary wave

Riverside dining, one of the cool things to do in Brisbane.
Riverside dining.

Good eats, flowing drinks and a lively atmosphere thrive throughout Brisbane. Pick your way through the city’s freshest restaurants and discover a new spin on modern Australian and international cuisine along the way. For absolute indulgence, head to Agnes (recently awarded Gourmet Traveller's Restaurant of the Year 2023) in happening Fortitude Valley for inventive open-fire cooking and a spectacular rooftop bar that serves a signature smoky cocktail against the sparkling city backdrop. Have your pick of world-class dining with a wander through Howard Smith Wharves’ collection of restaurants, cafes, and bars lining the Brisbane River. From craft beer at Felons Brewing Co. to Mr Percival’s overwater bar, you can get your sip on under the shade of the Story Bridge. 

2. It’s hiding the best views  

Story Bridge Climb, one of the cool things to do in Brisbane.
Story Bridge Adventure Climb.

The winding drive to Mount Coot-tha Summit and the casual hike up Kangaroo Point Cliffs offer their rewards, but no view quite rivals that from the top of the Story Bridge. Climb your way to the top of the city’s most iconic structure and take in spectacular views of the region, stretching as far as the Glass House Mountains and Moreton Bay. See skyscrapers sparkle on an exciting twilight climb or take in the city’s surrounds at their finest during golden hour on one of the world’s only three bridge climbs, with the Story Bridge Adventure Climb.

3. It proves laidback and glamorous go hand-in-hand  

James Street.

Get lost along James Street, Fortitude Valley’s most sophisticated precinct, promising everything from high-end fashion ateliers, handcrafted jewellers and coveted health and beauty boutiques, to award-winning dining and wining venues. Discover local favourites like MJS Jewellery, Calexico and Camargue, alongside Australian heavyweights such as Aesop, Dion Lee, and Bec + Bridge. After a full day of retail therapy, find a tranquil spot to unwind within Endota Spa or KAILO Wellness Medispa at The Calile Hotel.  

4. Its riverside scene is the place to be 

Emporium Hotel South Bank, one of the cool things to do in Brisbane.
Emporium Hotel South Bank.

With an average of 300 sunny days per year, Brisbane’s glittering riverside is something to soak up. Jump on a push bike or strap on a pair of rollerblades and zoom down the path below the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. Cool off at the Streets Beach outdoor swimming lagoon in South Bank. After the sun sets, capture magical moments under the fairy lit trees in front of Captain Cook Bridge or catch a live show at Riverstage, an outdoor entertainment venue in the City Botanic Gardens. 

5. It’s packed with cultural events  

QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art), one of the cool things to do in Brisbane.
QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art).

Be sure to spend time at Brisbane’s South Bank, the heart of Queensland’s art and culture offerings. Two of Australia’s best art galleries, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art sit (almost) side-by-side, overlooking Kurilpa Point Park. Learn about everything from Brisbane's first nations culture to prehistoric reptiles at the Queensland Museum – or catch one of the exclusive blockbuster exhibitions – then cross beneath the Victoria Bridge and sit down for a thrilling live performance at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.  

6. There’s nowhere better to celebrate summer  

Oasis cruise bar, one of the cool things to do in Brisbane.
Oasis cruise bar.

Brisbane is booming with the best spots in Australia to bask in the sun, cocktail in hand. Dance to the cool beats of local DJs on the new and chic Oasis cruise bar or grab a refreshing drink during a dip in Nautilus Pool & Bar at The Westin Brisbane – Brisbane’s only swim-up bar. Or for some summer spice, enjoy the sunshine well above the pavement with a pork belly taco and a mezcal margarita on MAYA’s rooftop. And if it's the beach you crave at summer, then Brisbane can deliver that too: take your pick of excursions from River to Bay tours for an adventure out to Moreton Bay (Mulgumpin) and the Tangalooma Wrecks.

Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island, one of the cool things to do in Brisbane.
Tangalooma Wrecks on Moreton Island.

Need more reason to love Brisbane? Sink your teeth into some of Southeast Queensland's Best Dining Hotspots.

This article is produced in partnership with Brisbane EDA.

Feature image: Brisbane and Brisbane River. Supplied.

About Ruby Staley
From exploring the world to kicking back with a good book, Ruby loves doing it solo. A passionate Euro enthusiast, catch her dreaming about Amsterdam or slurping down pasta a la vodka in moments between scribbling down her thoughts.

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