8 Free Things To Do in Canberra

8 Free Things To Do in Canberra

Canberra is the capital city of Australia, located between the big city hubs of Sydney to the east and Melbourne to the south. Canberra was chosen to be Australia's capital in 1908 after a nationwide competition allowed towns and cities from all across the country to apply to be the capital. The layout for Canberra is in a unique triangular shape, designed by competition winner Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Mahony Griffin. They focused on the geometry of the city to highlight important landmarks.

Arriving in Canberra is easy - cross-country coaches such as Greyhound and Murray's arrive and depart from Jolimont Centre and the Canberra Airport is just a 15 minute bus ride from the centre of town.

While not as touristy and alive as neighbouring Sydney, it is worth stopping in Canberra for a day to check out the famous national institutions of Australia - most of which are free! The only attraction on this list that has a charge is the Old Parliament House which is just $2 per adult.

National Capital Exhibition

Start your day at the National Capital Exhibition to learn the detailed history of how Canberra became Australia's capital. Detailed archives take you through all the various stages, from designating the location, to deciding the name, to designing the city.

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Lake Burley Griffin

Right in the centre of the city is the massive and impressive man-made Lake Burley Griffin, named after the city's architect. Originally a river running through the land, Burley Griffin envisioned a beautiful lake in the heart of Canberra's parliamentary triangle.

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National Library of Australia

Over the bridge across Lake Burley Griffin and the first main national institution you come across in the Parliament Zone, the National Library is massive. It houses thousands of items in the largest collection in Australia. There is also an exhibition section where the library houses special artifacts that have historical significance - while I was there a stunning exhibition about Captain James Cook's voyages to the South Pacific was on display.

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International Flag Display

Along the waterfront from the National Library, the International Flag Display is a prominent feature of the Parliament Zone. It represents the 108 flags of countries that have diplomatic representation in Canberra as well as a flag for the United Nations and for the European Union.

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National Gallery of Australia

The next stop beyond the flag display is the National Gallery, home to incredible works of art from Australian artists as well as those from around the South Pacific and Asia. My most favourite however had to be Claude Monet's Waterlillies which gave me goosebumps, especially since I had the chance to visit his home in Giverny in 2017.

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Old Parliament House

Head up through the rose gardens to the Old Parliament House where you can explore what parliament used to look like including the old House of Commons, a fantastic exhibit about all the Prime Ministers of Australia and a peek into how press releases used to be conducted before the internet existed. This is the only place I visited that had an entrance charge - just $2 per adult.

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National Museum of Australia

From Old Parliament House, hop on Bus #6 to City Bus Station then transfer to a #7 to head down to the National Museum. While the changing, featured exhibitions charge quite steeply, the permanent exhibition about the interesting history of Australia is free. Check out the various installations from 25,000 years ago up until present day including a world-record breaking amount of sheep's wool.

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Mount Ainslie Lookout

Just behind the War Memorial, the hike up to Mount Ainslie gives you a brilliant overview of the layout of Canberra. The hike is paved gravel and is very easy to follow. Bus #10 will drop you off at the memorial from where you can head to Remembrance Nature Park and the start of the Kokoda Trail. The hike is approximately 1 hour roundtrip - bring plenty of water and enjoy the stunning panoramic views from the top before returning the way you came.

jana meerman mount ainslie canberra
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