Attractions in Canberra, Australia
1 Australian War Memorial
Inaugurated in the middle of WWII, the massive Byzantine-style monument commemorating Australia's war fatalities is Canberra's most poignant attraction. More than just a War Memorial, the site combines an excellent museum, archives, art gallery, and library. The Commemorative Courtyard at the entrance to the memorial is a haunting introduction. Inscribed in bronze on the walls of the colonnades are the names of every Australian who has died in war since 1885, and the length of the list is spine chilling.
Beyond the entrance, different galleries retrace the stories of Australia's armed conflicts from colonial days to the present. The exhibits are constantly evolving, but highlights include the collection of old aircraft and the child-friendly Discovery Zone packed with interactive displays. Visitors should set aside several hours to appreciate this thought-provoking memorial, and those visiting near the end of the day should stay for the Last Post, a moving tribute to the fallen played at 4:55PM daily. The free 90-minute tours are also highly recommended.
Hours: 10am-5pm daily, closed Christmas Day
2 New Parliament House
The final fulfillment of architect Walter Burley Griffin's vision for Canberra in 1912, New Parliament House is a marvel of modern architecture. The boomerang-shaped structure nestles comfortably into Capital Hill and was designed to replace the Provisional Parliament House at the base of the hill, now known as Old Parliament House. A New York-based architect won an international competition for the design of the new building, and on May 9, 1988 the Queen officially opened Parliament House. The date in May was chosen to commemorate the first meeting of Federal Parliament in Melbourne in 1901 and the first meeting of Parliament in the Old Parliament House in 1927.
From the expansive grassed walkway, which forms the roof, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of Canberra and see how Parliament forms the central focus of the city's street layout. Architectural highlights of the building include the two huge circular walls composed of granite, which mirror the curves of the hill; the towering 81-m flagpole; and the Ceremonial Pool. In the foyer, 48 columns of illuminated greenish-gray marble create the impression of a eucalyptus forest. Throughout the public spaces, exhibits display important documents (the Magna Carta is a highlight) and retrace important events in Australian history. From the gallery running round the first floor, visitors can gain admission to the public galleries of the green-hued House of Representatives and the Senate, traditionally dressed in red. A visit during sitting times is a great way to view first-hand how parliament functions, and the free guided tours offer fascinating details about the building. After visiting, visitors can take the 3.5 km Parliament House Walk to the city center and learn about the Parliamentary Triangle along the way through interpretative signs.
Hours: Sitting days - open from 9am Monday and Tuesday, and from 8:30am on Wednesday and Thursday; non-sitting days open 9am-5pm, closed Christmas Day, free guided tours are offered daily at 10am, 1pm, and 3pm
Address: Parliament House, Canberra
3 Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
A short walk from New Parliament House at the base of Capital Hill, Old Parliament House is now home to the Museum of Australian Democracy. Opened by the Duke of York (later King George VI) in 1927, the building is designed in the "stripped classical" style and was occupied by the Australian Parliament until 1988 when New Parliament House was officially opened. It was formerly called Provisional Parliament House, and was only standing in until a permanent structure could be designed and built - a feat finally realized 61 years later.
In the museum, visitors can learn about past Australian Prime Ministers; sit in the old Prime Minister's Office, a relatively humble affair; visit the Press Room; and read important historic documents. The chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate are modeled on the British House of Commons and House of Lords with paneling and furnishings made of Australian woods and wall hangings displaying Australian flora. Parents will appreciate the child-friendly exhibits. After a visit to the building, visitors can enjoy a snack at the café or stroll among the National Rose Gardens. Free, guided tours help visitors get the most out of their time here.
Hours: Daily 9am-5pm, closed Christmas Day
Admission: Adults , children and concessions , family
Address: 18 King George Terrace, Parkes
4 Lake Burley Griffin
Beautiful Lake Burley Griffin is the centerpiece of Canberra. Named for the city's architect, this artificial lake was included in his original plan of 1912, but didn't come to fruition until 1958. Tourists and locals alike come here to bike and stroll along the waterfront paths, picnic along its park-fringed shores, and fish, sail, or paddle the glistening waters. Six islands lie at its center, the largest of which is Aspen Island, home to the National Carillon, a gift from the British government with 55 bronze bells.
Sprinkled around the lake, visitors will find some of Canberra's top things to see and do, including the National Gallery, National Library, Questacon, and National Museum. Standing on the shores of the central basin, visitors can see the Captain Cook Memorial Jet, a 147 m high fountain inaugurated in 1970 on the 200th anniversary of Cook's discovery of Australia. A globe sculpture depicting the path of Cook's voyages lies on the shores of the lake at Regatta Point. On the north side of the lake, Commonwealth Park contains play areas, paddling pools, waterfalls, an amphitheatre, and a path round the park. In spring, the park is the venue for famous Floriade, a celebration of spring when more than a million flowers are in bloom.
National Gallery of Australia
On the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, the National Gallery of Australia contains Australia's largest collection of art. The cubic concrete structure was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in October 1982 and consists of 11 main galleries on three levels as well as a large sculpture garden laid out according to the four seasons. The purchase of the extensive collection began in 1968 and includes works from Australia, Asia, Europe, America, and the Pacific, as well as the largest collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art in the world. Mediums range from oil paintings and watercolors, to sculpture, decorative art, drawings, book illustrations, sketchbooks, photographs, films, ceramics, costumes, and textiles. Locals and tourists alike will also enjoy the many special exhibitions. After exploring the gallery, visitors can relax at the café or explore the adjoining High Court of Australia with its fountains, Carrara marble-paved floors, and murals.
Hours: Open daily 10am-5pm, closed Christmas Day