You might think it’s a curse that Canberra is cold in winter but not so. In fact, the National Capital’s four distinct seasons are what many of its residents love best about their city. More often than not, freezing nights give way to brilliantly sunny days. This, and the crisp clean air, makes it perfect for a huge range of outdoor pursuits.
Beautiful tree-lined streetscapes surrounded by mountains and nature make it a great place to walk or bike ride. Walks range from a not-so-strenuous saunter around Lake Burley Griffin, taking in views of our most important national institutions, to more challenging bush adventures.
If the weather does get too brisk, retreating into the warmth of some of those institutions can be educational, entertaining and enlightening. Top of the agenda this winter is the National Gallery of Australia’s blockbuster exhibition, Botticelli to Van Gogh: Masterpieces from the National Gallery of London, which runs until June 14.
Also creating a lot of interest is the National Portrait Gallery exhibition, Australian Love Stories, in which you’ll get to see Bob and Blanche, Kath and Kim, Jimmy and Jane Barnes, and dozens more in poses the likes of which you’ve never seen before. The exhibition runs until August 1.
You could spend hours in the Australian War Memorial, the National Museum, the National Film and Sound Archive, or even the great big House on the Hill. But a lovely quiet spot to retreat to is the National Library, which not only has an extraordinary Treasures Gallery but also a wonderful café with magnificent stained glass windows.
Canberra is blessed with cafés where coffee is taken seriously. The bean is worshipped at The Cupping Room, one of the venues owned by Sasa Sestic, who has won national and international barista awards, including World Barista Champion in 2015. Enjoy a cup at Ona Coffee House attached to his roastery in Fyshwick.
Another popular coffee purveyor is Lonsdale Street Roasters in Braddon, a hip precinct where you’ll find eclectic shops, bars and restaurants like the very cool Lazy Su. Taking inspiration from Korean, Japanese and American diner, Lazy Su delivers the wow factor with its Asian fusion dishes and cocktails.
Other popular precincts for eating, drinking and hanging out are New Acton, Manuka and Kingston, especially around the lake foreshore. For coffee in Kingston, head to Local Press or Penny University, or if it’s a warming cup of tea you’re after, Tea Jac is a lovely Chinese tea shop. And if you're looking for accommodation to match, Adina Hotels has an apartment-style hotel to suit and the Vibe Canberra adds a James Bond-esque feel to your Capital City escape.
One of the newest urban precincts is Constitution Place, home to the bold new A by Adina, with studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments in a striking tower on the city’s edge. From here, it’s a short walk to shops, bars, cafés and restaurants, including modern Japanese restaurant, Raku, and one of the most talked about new restaurants, Inka, with its fusion of Japanese and Peruvian food.
Canberra’s vibrant restaurant scene, coupled with a flourishing craft beer scene and numerous cellar doors, ensures there is plenty to do when the weather is chilly. There are even a handful of distilleries producing spirits to warm you on the inside. The Canberra Distillery will host a gin-infused dinner at the Hotel Kurrajong on July 3, pairing its spirits with each of four courses. Now, that’s guaranteed to create a warm glow.
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*Activities listed may be subject to Covid restrictions.