Historic Highlights of Canberra

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Australia’s rich history is well documented through archives, exhibitions and architecture in Canberra. The national capital is the perfect place to learn more about the Australian story and find out what shaped, and continues to shape, our nation. 

Start your day early at the Australian War Memorial. Meet in the reception area for a tour with one of the knowledgeable volunteer guides. Your guide will walk you through the galleries documenting Australia’s war history, and help you find your relatives’ names on the Roll of Honour. 

Insider Tip: Each day at 4:45pm, there is a very moving Last Post ceremony that shares the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour. 

At the National Film and Sound Archive you can discover Australia’s rich history of film, television and radio. Located in one of Canberra’s most beautiful art deco buildings, its exhibitions and collections are updated regularly so there is always something new to see. Catch a movie or documentary from the Australian collection, screened in the Archive’s stunning Arc cinema. 

For a snapshot of Australia’s culture and landscape, visit the National Museum of Australia.  It tells the stories of ordinary and extraordinary Australians and explores issues and events that have helped shaped the nation. Often overlooked by visitors but also worth including in your itinerary are the National Archives of Australia, containing the records, both public and personal, of Australia as a nation. 

Check out Old Parliament House, now housing the Museum of Australian Democracy where you can reflect and appreciate Australia’s story since Federation. During Canberra’s early years, Old Parliament House was the social, geographic and political heart of the city. Today, it is free to visit and it has a wonderful playroom if you are travelling with kids in tow. 

Further up Federation Mall, you can’t miss Parliament House. Head inside the Senate or House of Representatives for question time where you can watch democracy in action. Be sure to pre-book your tickets as these sessions can fill up quickly. Afterwards, check out the Magna Carta, an 800-year-old document which set out the freedoms and liberties of democracy. This copy is the only one in the southern hemisphere! 

It is often assumed that Canberra has no history beyond its role as the National Capital, but in fact there are significant remnants of its early pastoral history that are worth a visit, including St John’s Schoolhouse Museum; the beautiful St John’s Church, consecrated in 1845; and Blundell’s Cottage, built in 1860 to accommodate workers on the Duntroon Estate. 

Another museum worth seeing is Calthorpes’ House, a perfectly preserved Canberra home built in 1927, the year Parliament House opened in the National Capital. 

After exploring Canberra’s many historic highlights, head to Chifley’s Bar & Grill at the historic Hotel Kurrajong Canberra for lunch. Former Prime Minister Ben Chifley resided here during his days in Parliament. Chifley’s features a menu of premium beef and local, seasonal produce alongside a well-curated wine list. It also hosts delightful afternoon teas and has a gorgeous garden for guests to wander in. 

If modern is more your style, check into the A by Adina in Canberra’s Constitution Place, a hop, step and jump to many Canberra attractions. 

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