city centre of Canberra, Australia
Oceania > Australia > Canberra > Canberra/Civic

Canberra's downtown area, Civic (officially City) is what is now Walter Burley Griffin's design for a Civic Centre. Established in 1927, this is Canberra's central business district and one of its oldest centres, surrounded by the rest of North Canberra, Acton and Lake Burley Griffin.

The NewActon Precinct

Civic is not particularly large and has few tall sky-rise buildings, shockingly few for a city of 450,000. However, it's the only CBD of its size located in inland Australia – the next closest you could find is Toowoomba CBD.

Civic is known by a handful of other names: City, Canberra CBD, or Canberra City Centre; for simplicity, Wikivoyage has chosen to go with "Civic". To add to the merrymaking of inconsistent naming, the sign designers also couldn't agree on a name for consistency.

Understand edit

History edit

Why are there few high-rise buildings in Civic?

If you're unaware of the exact specifications that the National Capital Plan requires, then you might wonder why there are few high-rise buildings in the downtown area of a city of 453,000 (2021). Especially when other Australian cities of a similar size like Newcastle and Sunshine Coast have many, why can't Canberra have many, especially when it's Australia's capital?

The answer lies within the RL 617 requirements (a document which simply sums up building restrictions in Civic), which states that no building can exceed 617 metres in elevation. However, Civic itself is 567 m, capping the maximum at around 50 m (about 14 storeys). The primary reason was so Parliament House will still dominate the surrounding area.

Civic was established in 1927, 14 years after the city was founded. Before Civic was established, there wasn't a clear town or city centre – the closest that resembled anything like one was Queanbeyan town centre, but Queanbeyan is in NSW, not in the ACT.

The area encompasses Burley Griffin's original plan for a Civic Centre with nearby Russell planned to be Canberra's vibrant "Market Centre". However, Russell is now the headquarters of the ADF, resulting in an unexpected abundance of markets and malls in Civic, more than what was anticipated in Burley Griffin's original plan. Due to Civic's constraints with height restrictions and limited space, many larger stores and markets have opted to move to Belconnen, Canberra's second largest town centre (excluding Queanbeyan).

As Civic approaches its centenary, it remains a relatively new central business district. Whilst you'll find an abundance of historic buildings and sites in the CBDs of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or even tiny little Hobart, there are very few in Civic – many would fail the criteria for being "historic" in Tasmania, perhaps even Sydney, and certainly lacks the antiquity of the Old World (most of it, at least).

The scarcity of true historic buildings have elevated the prominence of the few that are considered historic in a Canberran context. Most of Canberra's important government buildings are in South Canberra, whilst museums are scattered throughout Canberra, leaving only one in Civic. Canberrans also don't tend to pride in these buildings – the Sydney building, for example, may look good on the outside but are in a state of despair on the inside. Despite this, there are only two important historic buildings in Civic, the Sydney and Melbourne buildings – they have their problems, but they do contribute to Civic's architectural character.

Contrary to all the negativity with Canberra's historic sites, there is one thing that Canberra has that most other Australian cities don't have – a town square. Out of the six state capitals (plus Darwin for inclusion's sake), only Adelaide has one: Victoria Square. However, Civic Square was not designed by Burley Griffin (it was completed in 1961, well after Burley Griffin's time) but instead by Yuncken Freeman (an Australian architecture firm) architects, though it was in Griffin's original plan, with the location purposefully chosen to be the centrepiece of Canberra, linking City Hill and Mount Ainslie, which has led to Canberra Theatre and several other government buildings (both federal and territorial government buildings) popping up.

Orientation edit

The official urban entity designated as the "City" is separated into five distinct districts. Nevertheless, in practical usage, with the exception of NewActon, these district appellations are seldom employed by anyone other than the ACT government. These names have only materialised on road signs and their consistency is notably lacking.

Similarly, while this portion of Canberra bears the name Civic, its presence on signage is shockingly infrequent – instead, you'll primarily see "City". If you're somewhere closer to Civic, signage may direct you to specific facets of Civic, such as City West or City Centre. Curiously, "City Centre" can either refer to the entirety of Civic, or conversely, exclusively the northeastern sector of the district. However, in customary ACT fashion, signage is a dog's breakfast when picking one name for consistency; it remains haphazard and inconsistent.

Color-coded map of Civic's districts
  City Hill
The most prominent point of Civic for passer-by visitors contains many trees on a hill and Civic Square, an important location within Civic containing the Sydney and Melbourne buildings, the Canberra Museum and Gallery, the Australian Capital Territory's Legislative Assembly Building, and a few other buildings.
  City Centre / Civic Centre
It's a bit unclear what this section of Civic is exactly called, but this part of Civic contains Canberra's main shopping precinct, Canberra Centre. Treat yourself to hundreds of stores and restaurants, whether it's for a quick lunch break, Saturday afternoon shopping, or whether you'd like to take something home with you from Canberra.
  City East
Not the most attractive part of Civic as it's rather just filled with corporate offices but it does get filled with gamblers since it contains Canberra's only purpose-built casino: Casino Canberra.
  City West
Straddles along the edge of the Australian National University containing many cafes and restaurants. In many retrospects, City West acts as an "in-between" location between the centre and the Australian National University.
  NewActon Cultural and Cinema Precinct (NewActon Precinct)
Dubbed by This is Canberra as "Canberra’s little piece of New York", this vibrant and lively has many cafes, bars, cinemas and anything you'd find that characterises cities known for culture like New York City or Melbourne crammed in a single block. Some would classify this new precinct as part of Acton, but it's covered in this guide for practical purposes.

Read edit

There are few publicly available books about Civic, and often those that can be found are only found within Canberra. But despite that, it doesn't mean there are few books about Civic – in fact, the National Library of Australia (NLA) in Parliamentary Triangle, South Canberra has a sizable amount about Civic. Many are online-only and can be found on the library's catalogue.

  • Civic: the living city by Tony Powell (ISBN 9780646449487). Not a very popular book but it does go into great depth about Civic's city planning and why Civic is planned the way it is. The book is a bit hard to find though; few bookstores in Civic have the book but it can be found at the airport, or you may want to borrow it online from the National Library of Australia (NLA).

Get in edit

As with any city's downtown area, Civic is well-connected by both road and public transit.

By bus edit

ACTION buses at the City Interchange

All buses to Civic stop at one interchange, 1 City Interchange; one of few in Canberra to have both bus and light rail services.

Being in the centre of Canberra, many lines connect to the rest of Canberra. The ideal way to get into Civic by bus is using these R-routes (i.e. the main important routes), which are as follows:

There are also other ordinary bus lines. Unlike the R-routes, services are not very frequent, and these routes come from rather obscure or specific places, such as the Australian Defence Force Academy or the National Museum of Australia.

Except for bus line  53  to/from the National Museum of Australia in Acton and the Dickson Shops in North Canberra, all ordinary bus lines terminate at Civic. Otherwise, the ordinary bus routes are as follows:

  •  31  from the Dickson Shops in North Canberra passing Braddon.
  •  32  from several interchanges in Belconnen, including Cohen Street Interchange, Westfield Belconnen and Belconnen Interchange, and a lot of other minor stops along the way. However, if you're coming to Civic from these interchanges, you're better off taking the R2, 3, or 4 lines that don't go the long and convoluted way.
  •  50  from Watson Terminus in North Canberra, passing the Dickson Shops.
  •  51  from Dickson Shops (Dickson Interchange) but passing Lyneham instead.
  •  54  from Majura Business Park near the airport.
  •  55  from the Australian Defence Force Academy passing the Royal Military College.
  •  56  from Fyshwick.
  •  59  from Woden Interchange passing the South Canberra section of Barton.
  •  182  from Lanyon Marketplace in Tuggeranong via Majura Parkway (M23).

By car edit

Finding parking

Though the standard expression anyone will say when heading to a mid-sized or large city's central business district is "Do not drive", driving in Canberra is quite tolerable – except finding parking can be hard at best, and a nightmare at worst. Luckily, parking isn't all that expensive, and at the very max, you'll have to pay $16 for a day.

The three main paid carparks within Civic are operated by Secure Parking. There's a fourth one, but it's a monthly-only carpark, centred for workers, not travellers.

  • The first and largest is the parking at Canberra Centre. It's a multi-storey carpark, and if you're going to be in the city all day or doing a few hours worth of shopping, you can pay $14 rooftop parking (which takes up the top three floors);
  • 2 City West Car Park in City West, with hourly parking from $6.50 and early-bird parking from $14.
  • 3 Marcus Clarke Car Park in City West, with hourly parking from $6.50, rooftop parking from $16, and early-bird parking from $14.

There are also three other carparks within London Cct in City Hill, but these centred for those working in Civic, not one-off travellers. Some of them may also be affected by light rail works.

Alternatively, there is street parking available, but very limited in Civic. Need not worry – Braddon just to the north has a reasonable amount of metered street parking along Lonsdale St, and it's cheaper than parking in the Civic too – a win-win if you don't mind the 100-metre walk.

Being at the centre of Canberra, Civic is well-connected in several ways. Many are good quality roads, some of which are freeways, though the prime route which many travellers use is Northbourne Avenue from the north.

Northbourne Avenue (A23) is the main artery connecting Civic to NSW. It runs right through the centre of Civic. If you're entering the ACT via the Federal Highway (M23), all you need to do is stay on the same road until you reach Civic. If you're coming from the northern districts – namely, anywhere from Gungahlin, Hall or from New South Wales via the Barton Highway (A25), stay on Barton Highway and once you're at the Federal Hwy/Barton Hwy/Northbourne Ave intersection, turn right onto Northbourne Avenue until you arrive at Civic.

Parkes Way (unnumbered) doesn't exactly pass through Civic but is Civic's southern border, bypassing the city, and the easiest and fastest way if you're coming from Tuggeranong, Weston Creek, Molonglo Valley, and Belconnen. There are three exits along the freeway and one massive roundabout at the end.

Commonwealth Avenue (A23) connects Capital and State Circles to Civic. From Woden, use Adelaide Avenue northeast into South Canberra, which should later spit you out onto Commonwealth Avenue.

From the airport, head west onto Pialligo Drive and then on Morshead Drive. Continue until Coranderrk Street from where you'll need to turn right at the massive roundabout, and then you've arrived at Civic.

And if you're coming back from the snow (i.e., the Snowy Mountains), keep following the Monaro Highway (A23) which later becomes the freeway-grade Majura Parkway (M23), and exit onto Morshead Drive. Once you've taken the exit, turn left until you've arrived at Civic.

By cycle edit

Despite initiatives from the territorial government to promote travelling to Civic on a bike and ditch the car, it still remains a somewhat-uncommon method of entering Civic for visitors. Nevertheless, if you're keen to hit the pedal, four of Canberra's intracity bike freeways are in Civic:

  •  C1  – largely follows a similar but more westerly alignment to the R1 light rail from Gungahlin. However, unlike the LRT, this cycle path starts at the northern Gungahlin suburbs of Moncrieff and Taylor at the T-intersection with  C9 .
  •  C3  – the main cycle path from Belconnen.
  •  C8  – mostly a loop around Civic (officially named City Loop), but it starts in Acton and ends in Reid.
  •  LBG  – a loop around Lake Burley Griffin, connecting parts of Molonglo Valley, South Canberra, North Canberra and Acton with Civic, albeit in a somewhat indirect way.

There is a detailed guide to cycling in Civic from Transport Canberra.

By light rail edit

Civic has connections from Gungahlin and North Canberra via Northbourne Avenue (A23). From Gungahlin, the  R1  route starts at the town centre and heads east for a few metres until it changes direction and heads south, passing Dickson Interchange before terminating at the 4 Alinga Street station, just north of the Alinga Street/Northbourne Avenue intersection. The route is fairly short, and services are frequent, so you won't need any special planning ahead to use the light rail.

There are plans to extend the line down southwest towards Woden along either Capital or State Circle and Adelaide Avenue through the middle of the freeway. This project is separated in two stages, with stage 2A connecting Ailinga St station with Commonwealth Park, and stage 2B connecting Commonwealth Park and Woden. Construction started in 2023 with the cloverleaf ramp removal, with stage 2A projected to open in 2025.

See edit

The Canberra Museum and Gallery from Civic Square
Centenary Column from London Cct

When it comes to things to see, Civic has very little to offer. Unlike Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or Adelaide, most of Canberra's museums aren't located in Civic but in the areas surrounding Civic such as Acton or South Canberra. Nevertheless, the Civic has some buildings with some unique architecture, making Canberra quite a different CBD compared to other Australian CBDs.

Most of Civic's sights are located in 1 Civic Square, a small block in 180 London Cct, including the Legislative Assembly building, Canberra Museum and Gallery, Civic Library and Canberra Theatre. Its location was deliberately chosen to be directly in line with Mount Ainslie; if you want to see it for real, stand at the very centre of the lookout, and whilst Anzac Parade will certainly take the spotlight, look a bit to the right and you'll see the square perfectly in line with City Hill and Ainslie Avenue.

  • 2 Artworld ADG, cnr London Cct and Gordon St, +61 2 6230 2922, . F 11AM–6PM. An Aboriginal art gallery that is sister to the Aboriginal Dreamings Gallery in Nicholls. It's a smaller version of the art gallery in Nicholls, but there are still plenty of Aboriginal artworks and artifacts on display. However, do note this place is not wheelchair accessible.
  • 3 Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG), 176 London Cct, +61 2 6207 3968, . M–F 10AM–5PM; Sa Su noon–5PM. A museum and art gallery featuring works and exhibits of the local region. It includes an interesting permanent gallery on the history of Canberra and several galleries that host temporary exhibitions, generally by local artists and photographers. It also features the Sydney Nolan Collection - the works of Sir Sydney Nolan, a famous Australian artist. Free.    
  • 4 Glebe Park, cnr Bunda St, Akuna St and Cooyong St. Where's Canberra's Hyde Park, you ask? This small 40-ha park is a remnant of the land allocated in the 1840s to the Anglican church, but today is a pleasant spot to go for a stroll. If you're into photography and want to see some autumn colours, the leaves have strong autumn foliage, making it a fabulous spot for photography.    
  • 5 Sydney and Melbourne buildings, cnr London Cct and Northbourne Ave (the Sydney Building is on the east side of Northbourne Ave, and the Melbourne Building is on the west side). These two large buildings in the centre of Civic were the first commercially-funded buildings in Canberra, and have been important local landmarks since the 1920s. Both buildings are surrounded by loggias modelled on those of buildings in Florence, Italy. They are occupied by a mix of restaurants (most of which are quite good), nightclubs, pubs and small businesses, but much of the Sydney Building is in a fairly poor state of repair. Plans to revitalise the buildings are regularly proposed, but never go far.

There are a few memorials and monuments in Civic, though only a fraction when you compare it to just ANZAC Avenue alone in Campbell, North Canberra. They're not popular destinations, and if you're time-limited, you can see them while driving and still not miss anything important or notable about these memorials and monuments.

  • 6 ACT Memorial (Australian Capital Territory Memorial), London Cct / Vernon Circle (opposite Civic Square). A war memorial erected in August 2006 to honour those from the Australian Capital Territory who served in all wars.    
  • 7 Canberra Centenary Column. A 8.5-m sculpture built to commemorate Canberra's centenary, and unveiled on 11 March 2014. The top of the base is inlaid with glass tiles and has a steel covering etched with images depicting Canberra's 100-year history and was designed by local artist Geoff Farquhar-Still. The design was inspired by the "Commencement Column" that was proposed to have been built when Canberra was founded but was never completed.    
The Legislative Assembly Building in November 2021

Civic has its fair share of government offices, both a mix of federal (that's no surprise as it's the ACT) and territory government offices. Most of the territory buildings are of little interest, and if you're, to be honest, would you want to go and visit some random old building that you cannot enter? The same goes with federal, except there aren't any of interest as all of the important ones are in South Canberra.

  • 8 Legislative Assembly Building, Civic Square, London Cct, +61 2 6205 3016, . The Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly Building, also known as the South Building, which although may first seem like any other "government building", the building does indeed have some educational programs, and you can make a booking if you want to visit the assembly – see the website for more details.    
  • 9 Reserve Bank of Australia Building, 20-22 London Cct. A heritage-listed bank building designed by Howlett and Bailey in 1962 and built from 1963 to 1965 by Civil & Civic which was the old RBA building (the current RBA head office is now in Sydney). It was added to the Australian Commonwealth Heritage List on 22 June 2004.    

Do edit

Outside Casino Canberra

Civic isn't a place to "do" things. Perhaps humorously, the most strenuous thing is maneuvering around the city, scrambling for parking, or if it's not a very good day, then maybe both. While there have been several entertainment venues that have opened and closed in Civic, many have closed; some like the former Center Cinema have been taken over by dining establishments.

  • 1 Casino Canberra, 21 Binara St, +61 2 6243 3700. Daily noon–4AM. Perhaps Canberra's equivalent of Melbourne's Crown Casino, with multiple gambling areas, a sports bar, and an eatery but the casino is quite compact.    
  • 2 Canberra Theatre Centre (Canberra Theatre), Civic Square, London Cct, +61 2 6275 2700. Canberra’s central performing arts venue, Australia’s first performing arts centre, and the first Australian Government-initiated performing arts centre to be completed having opened on June 24, 1965, with a gala performance by the Australian Ballet.    
  • 3 Palace Electric Cinemas, Ground Floor, 2 Phillip Law St, +61 2 6222 4900. There's not a whole lot that's very unique to this cinema, except, this is primarily how NewActon's full name came to be. It has a bit of a modern and traditional look, but the choice is limited.

Buy edit

City Walk

There are three major shopping precincts in Civic:

  • 1 Canberra Centre, Bunda St, +61 2 6247-5611. Canberra's second largest shopping mall covering a large section of Canberra's shopping district. It includes the usual range of stores you'd find in major Australian malls. These include department stores (large branches of both David Jones and Myer), a food hall and eateries, and specialty shops for adults and kids fashion both upmarket and basic. There are also electronics, books, souvenirs and Australian-made products.    
  • City Walk (coloured teal on the map) is an outdoor pedestrian mall in Civic that is home to a large range of shopping outlets, alfresco dining and a few bars. The mall is also home to the Canberra Merry-Go-Round and the Canberra Times fountain.
    • Garema Place is not part of City Walk, but it's just a spur from City Walk that also has lots of restaurants and stores. There's also a small hidden path to access it from Bunda Street just next to Gus' Place, but it's very easy to miss.
  • Petrie Plaza is a shorter pedestrian mall that was created in 1965 by pedestrianising Petrie Street. It doesn't have as many stores or dining precincts as City Walk does, but it's got a lot in the centre (whether it be the gardens, sculptures, a carousel etc.).

All three are within the northeast of Civic (within what you see in red under Civic Centre as seen on the map). They're all essentially interconnected and some would argue that City Walk and Petrie Plaza are simply a part of the greater Canberra Centre. If you're just doing some shopping in Canberra, chances are, you might not even realise that you've left Canberra Centre and its "sub-malls" as they're very interconnected.

Do be aware that finding a place to park your car can get very tricky, even on weekends, and it gets chaotic on weekends. There are a few carparks, but these aren't large when you compare them to the average Westfield in the Big 5. In typical ACT fashion, signage is poor and sloppy and you might need to scramble, make a few wrong left turns, have accidentally ended up on the highly pedestrianised Bunda Street (which can take you a few minutes to get from one end to the other) before finally reaching the centre's carparks.

Book and gift stores edit

If you're a person into books, and souvenirs or want to take some gifts for those back home, Civic has several book and gift stores. Like all other stores in Civic, most are in either Canberra Centre or the pedestrian malls.

  • Australian Choice, Shop 12, Ground Floor, Canberra Centre (see Canberra Centre), +61 2 6257 5315, . A family-owned gift store that has an extensive range of souvenirs for you to take home. However, a lot of the souvenirs here are more "Australia specific" rather than Canberra specific, but there's a common Indigenous theme that distinguishes this shop from your average souvenir store.
  • 2 Dymocks Canberra, Shop CL17 Canberra Centre, Bunda St (behind the escalators in the Canberra Centre's food court), +61 2 6257 5057. While part of a fairly unexciting national chain, this branch of Dymocks is much better than average as it has well-chosen stock.

Clothing stores edit

If you're heading out to the Snowies and forgot to bring your puffy jacket or skipants, then need not worry, there are plenty of clothing stores in Civic that'll have them. Clothing as a whole can be a bit more expensive and cheaper than the price you'll find in Sydney at the same time, but range and variety aren't compromised (so no American chains that left Australia for ripping Australians with cheap, old-fashioned clothes or even Australian stores that might have a tendency for slack in regional areas).

Eat edit

Civic is one of the only places in Canberra where you can find a whole amplitude of ethnic cuisines to eat, with the other being the Dickson Shops just a few kilometres to the north; unlike Dickson, Civic is not limited to Chinese or East/Southeast Asian cuisine, and you can find plenty of flavours from Italy, India, Turkey – you name it.

There are two main precincts in Civic whose specialty is food, plus the Canberra Centre/City Walk.

  • Canberra Centre and City Walk may be known for shopping, but there are a sizable number of restaurants of all kinds.
  • Sydney Building and a few surrounding buildings house several high-end splurge restaurants (and most of Civic's), as well as many Asian and Indian restaurants.
  • City West may look like a continuation of the Civic Centre's, but it's very different – lots of Italian, Japanese (yes, it's Asian, but the Japanese restaurants are somewhat evenly split up), and the further west you go from the Melbourne Building, the more cafes you'll see, reflecting Australia's coffee culture.

Budget edit

  • 1 Civic Asian Noodle House, Sydney Building, 34 Northbourne Ave, +61 2 6247 5145 (landline), +61 405 558 353 (mobile). Good laksa and pad thai at reasonable prices (ranging around $15) in a relaxed atmosphere.
  • 2 CBD Dumpling House, Shop FG13C Canberra Centre (148 Bunda St) (enter from Scotts Crossing), +61 2 6262 8855. 11:30AM–3PM, 5–10PM. Large and very popular Asian restaurant. Specialises in dumplings, but has a good mix of other Asian dishes.
  • 3 Fekerte’s Ethiopian, Phillip Law St (near Ovolo Nishi). A budget Ethiopian restaurant with some very flavourful spicy dishes and a whole slew of vegan and vegetarian options. It's one of only three Ethiopian restaurants in Canberra (with one being Ethiopia Down Under in Woden and the other in Civic). Both dine-in and takeaway are available.
  • 4 Flavours Of Ethiopia, 33 Allara St, City Walk, +61 413 655 472. M–Sa 11:15AM–8:30PM (closed Su). Civic's second Ethiopian restaurant (and one of three in Canberra) best known for its curry sauces and samosas, owned by an Ethiopian couple (so it's indeed really authentic). There are plenty of traditionals to choose from with prices no higher than $20 per person.
  • 5 Happy’s Chinese Restaurant, 1/17 Garema Pl, +61 2 6249 7015. Lunch: W–M 11:30AM–2PM (closed Tuesdays); dinner: Su–Th 5–9PM, F Sa 5–10PM. A simple Cantonese restaurant that's been in this area for quite a long time. The menu is not very extensive, but nearly all of them are value-for-price. The size of the restaurant is a bit small though.
  • 6 Indo Cafe, Ground Floor, Nesuto Apartments, London Cct, +61 411 038 803, . M–F 11AM–3PM (closed Sa Su). Though it's called a cafe, it's not really a cafe but just a good place to have some cheap traditional Indonesian eats with takeaway lunch specials priced at $8.
  • 7 Kebaba, Shop 4, 86-96 Bunda St, +61 2 6113 0346. Su–W 9AM–midnight; Th 9AM–2AM; F Sa 10AM–5AM. Has some traditional Turkish adana kebabs, pide and falafel. However, the portions are known to be rather small compared to a typical HSP (halal snack pack).
  • 8 LanZhou Beef Noodle (Lanzhou Beef Noodle), 28 University Ave, +61 493 395 023. Su–F 11AM–8:15PM (closed Saturdays). A small noodle shop that brings the flavours from Lanzhou (a city in northwest China) and is best known for its Lanzhou beef noodles. There are some rather exotic meals on the menu, but otherwise, nearly everything found is either chicken or beef.
  • 9 Ming’s Pantry (Ming’s Pantry Malaysian Street Food), Mayfair Building, G22/45 West Row, +61 451 304 030. M–F 11AM–9PM; Sa 11AM–2:30PM, 5–9PM (closed Su).. There isn't a whole lot to say about this place – except that you can get some really good yet cheap Malaysian food. The signature chicken and many of their other dishes tend to be a bit large, but who doesn't want to share a meal? (unless you're travelling alone).
  • 10 Ms Ba Cô (Ms. Ba Cô), 4-6/108 Bunda St, +61 2 6230 5396, . Daly 8AM–8PM. Though it's only a budget restaurant, it's a Vietnamese favourite in Canberra. It's a family-owned restaurant, so there are some family recipes too; its name, Ba Cô, translates to "three girls" in English, symbolising the family's three daughters.
  • 11 Wild Panda, 40 Marcus Clarke St (next to Subway), +61 408 579 666, . Daily 11AM–9PM. A Western Chinese restaurant that veers towards the higher end of a budget restaurant, with portions surprisingly, not as large as many other Chinese restaurants. Quality ain't their strong point, their hot noodles and dumplings are.

Mid-range edit

  • 12 Bicicletta Restaurant, 1/15 Edinburgh Ave (near Peppers Gallery Hotel), +61 2 6175 2222, . Tu–Sa 5–10PM (closed Su M). Find some excellent homemade pizza, pasta and other Italian favourites in this authentic Italian restaurant, but with local ingredients. The wine list is a pretty selective one, and so are the daily specials.
  • 13 Blu Ginger, 2/5-21 Genge St, +61 2 6247 2228. Su–W 11AM–3PM, 5–10PM; Th–Sa 11AM–3PM, 5–10:30PM. Lots of authentic classic curries in a very traditional, cozy setting that resembles a traditional Indian structure. It's best known for its butter chicken and korma, but its other options are also well worth a try. The tables can fill up quickly, so try and make a booking if you can.
  • 14 Briscola Italian, 60 Alinga St (in ground floor of Melbourne Building), +61 2 6248 5444. Lunch: T–Su noon–2PM (closed Mondays); dinner: Su–Th 5:30–8:30PM, F Sa 5:30–9PM. Discover some "old fashioned" as dubbed by the restaurant themselves with some good classic Southern Italian cuisine. It won Canberra’s Best Italian Restaurant award in 2015, and it's always been family owned by traditional Italians.
  • 15 Chez Kimchi, 68/70 Bunda St, +61 2 6247 5525. M Tu closed; W Th Su 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–9:30PM; F Sa 11:30AM–2:30PM, 5–10:30PM. A modern Korean restaurant with a good variety of chicken available. You can't go past the Gangjung, a very flavourful and tasty chicken and Chez Kimchi's local specialty.
  • 16 The City Labor Club (Canberra Labor Club), 16 Petrie Plaza, +61 2 6230 0404, . M–W 9AM–midnight; Th F 9AM–1AM, Sa 10AM–1AM, Su 10AM–midnight. It's Civic's branch of the Canberra chain Canberra Labor Club with a nice relaxed atmosphere with rather spacious lounges with modern Australian cuisine. The modern Australian restaurant has great cocktails, lunch, gaming machines and Wi-Fi.
  • 17 Dosa Hut, 148 City Walk (Garema Ct), +61 2 6119 8088. M–Th noon–3PM, 5–9PM; F Sa noon–3PM, 5–9:30PM; Su noon–3PM, 5–8:45PM. A fusion dosa and biriyani restaurant with plenty of other Indian and Sichuan food – but also with the traditional classics, too.
  • 18 Edo Tori, 43 Northbourne Ave (in Melbourne Building), +61 2 5119 2494, . Daily 11:30AM–late. A modern Australianised Japanese restaurant with the strange slogan "Save Water, Drink Beer" with a strong emphasis on drinks. It's borderline between mid-range and splurge, but the quality is worth the bucks. Oh, and not to forget, if you're a sushi craver, they have sushi; it's somewhat discreet. Feed me menu: $59; lunch express: $39; Zeitaku feed me $89pp.
  • 19 Kebaba Turkish Grill Bar, 11 East Row, +61 2 5105 4757. A Turkish grill bar that offers both dine-in and takeaway. Depending on what you order, there is a chance that you can see your meal being made.
  • 20 Kinn Thai, Shop FG03, Canberra Centre, +61 2 6247 1277, . A Thai restaurant with street food (or specifically street lunch) with great Thai chicken, seafood and has a great variety of vegetarian options. Chilli basil chicken, anyone?
  • 21 Koko Black, Bunda St, Canberra Centre North Quarter. Warm and tasty chocolate shop with a second-to-none chocolate selection as well as an innovative and interesting hot chocolate and drink menu. Nice, welcoming decor.
  • 22 Madam Lu Malaysian Restaurant, 20/42 West Row, +61 2 6247 5201. 11AM–2:30PM, 5–9PM (closed Sundays). A Malaysian restaurant with many Chinese-inspired dishes. However, do be aware that the food here comes in large portions, so be careful in what you order – it could be larger than what you might be expecting.
  • 23 Močan & Green Grout (Močan and Green Grout), 1/19 Marcus Clarke St, +61 2 6162 2909. Daily 7AM–4PM (kitchen closes 2PM. A classic ordinary typical modern-Australian restaurant, but it has an open-air kitchen. Unfortunately, the menu is very limited and there's a 10 per cent surcharge on weekends and public holidays.
  • 24 The Golden Drum, 1/14 Childers St, +61 2 6162 1882. M–F 11AM–2:30PM, 5–9PM; Sa Su 5–9PM. Classic traditional Chinese restaurant with lots of beef and pork options. Do be aware that some items on this menu may seem "exotic", but there are plenty of meals that aren't.
  • 25 The Tasty Hill, Shop 1/3 16 Moore St, +61 2 6152 0363, . Tu–Su 5–10PM (closed M). No, you're not going to be licking hills (or hill?) at this restaurant, instead, this is a Korean charcoal barbecue restaurant where you'll be licking some tasty barbecue chicken or wagyu beef (yep, a misleading name). But if you're after traditional Korean food, noodles, or soup, they do have some available – it's just not their main specialty.
  • 26 Zoo Bar, Level 3, 17 London Cct, 1300 966 227 (domestic), . Tu W 11AM–10PM; Th 11AM–1AM; F 11AM–3AM; Sa 3PM–3AM (closed Su M). Best known for its wide range of cocktails and beers available. There's some great modern Australian cuisine available in a relaxed and vibrant atmosphere. If you're here on a Saturday night, Zoo Bar is known to go full on and claims itself as the "new home of music in the capital".

Splurge edit

  • 27 Akiba, 40 Bunda St, +61 2 6162 0602. M–W 5–11PM; Th–Su 11:30AM–midnight. A modern Asian BBQ store with some great flavours and cocktails, particularly specialising in Japanese cuisine and barbecue. Do be aware though, that the portions are very large, so don't go ordering too much.
  • 28 Courgette Restaurant, 54 Marcus Clarke St, +61 2 6247 4042. M–Sa noon–3PM, 6–9PM (closed Su). Sister restaurant to Aubergine Restaurant, fine dining. And as the name of the restaurant suggests, the restaurant specialises in zucchini-based meals.
  • 29 Iori Japanese Restaurant, 41 East Row (in Sydney Building), +61 2 6257 2334. M–Th 6–9PM; F Sa 6–9:30PM; closed Sundays. A Japanese restaurant with some cosy settings with a mix of Japanese and Western food. The lighting tends to be quite nice, also being a mix of Western and Japanese styles. A particularly popular special of theirs is the Seared Salmon Roll. Minimum $40 per person.
  • 30 SoLita Pizzeria, Restaurant & Bar, 143 London Cct, +61 2 6247 1010. Tu–Th noon–2PM, 5–9PM; F noon–2PM, 5–9:30PM; 5–9:30PM (closed Su M). A mix of Naples (an Italian city in Campania, Southern Italy) cuisine and Australian cuisine. The name of the restaurant comes from "South of Little Italy", and the range of pasta coming from Canberra may surprise you – because there's quite a lot.
  • 31 The Meat & Wine Co., Ground Floor, 220 London Cct (cnr Constitution Ave and London Cct), +61 2 5134 5988, . Tu–Sa noon–10PM. It's one of Canberra's finest steak restaurants and has an excellent selection of wine (they've very nitpicky with the selection; only the finest make it). It's got a bit of a traditional yet modern feel and look. There are two things that this restaurant is known for: its diverse a la carte menu and "aged" steak.
  • 32 Wilma, 1 Genge St (cnr Bunda and Genge Sts), +61 2 6171 2092. F–W 5:30–9:30PM; Th 5:30–10PM. Sister to several Canberran restaurants, this splurge restaurant perhaps has some of the finest seafood and barbecue meat one could find in Canberra. Base banquets are from $75 per person while baller banquets are $95 per person.

Cafes edit

Gus's cafe – what was the first outdoor pavement cafe in Canberra is now an all common sight in Civic
  • 33 Brew and Brew Cafe, 2 Constitution Ave, +61 2 6248 6927, . Cafe: M–F 6AM–3PM; espresso bar: M–F 6AM–4PM. A cafe and a bar with lots of savory treats and a wide range of meat and bread. A la carte breakfast and lunch are available and have an excellent, fine-picked wine selection, with a strong local emphasis. Wine is picked and only wines from the Canberra region (i.e. the ACT and the wineries in NSW near the ACT) are served.
  • 34 Blue Olive Cafe, 56 Alinga St, +61 2 6230 4600. M–F 7AM–3PM. Famous for their delicious New York-style sandwiches. Great coffee and breakfast menu, wonderful service.
  • 35 Cafe Alibi, 5 Farrell Pl, +61 2 6152 0606, . M–F 7:15AM–4PM. Just another ordinary, Australian cafe but with a wide selection of toasties.
  • 36 The Cupping Room, 1/1-13 University Ave. M–F 7:30AM–3PM; Sa Su 8AM–3PM. A traditional cafe with a very long takeaway menu.
  • 37 East Row Specialty Coffee, Cnr London Cct and East Row, Sydney Building, +61 493 050 331, . M–Sa 7AM–3PM; Su 8AM–2PM. It's best known for its specialty coffee (well, it's in its name) with an all-day breakfast and has a decent variety for lunch – halloumi burgers, gnocchi, or barramundi, you call it! If you're just popping in for a quick drink on a hot summer day, there are some good smoothies and shakes, but the smoothies and shakes might not be as good as their coffee. Breakfast: $16-22; lunch: $19-25; sides: $3-8.50.
  • 38 Gus', 8/68 Bunda St, +61 2 6248 5729. M–F 7:30AM–2:30PM; Sa Su 8AM–2:30PM. This cafe opened in 1969 and later became the first outdoor pavement cafe in Canberra. It is one of the oldest and best-known cafes in Canberra and one of the first European-style cafes in Australia. It has both outdoor and indoor dining areas.    
  • 39 La Sable Patisserie, Shop EGK25 Canberra Centre, 89 Bunda St, +61 435 888 961, . M–Th 9AM–5:30PM; Sa 9AM–5PM; Su 10AM–4PM (closed F). Not so much a cafe, but is a mix of a patisserie and a bakery found in a shopping centre (Canberra Ctr) with an extensive variety of French or French-inspired desserts. It's a bit more expensive than a usual bakery, though.
  • 40 The Moment Canberra, Shop EG01B, 148 Bunda St, +61 410 925 122. Su–Th 11AM–8PM; F 10:30AM–8PM; Sa 10:30AM–8:30PM. A bubble tea store (boba tea for speakers of American English) all ranging between $6 and $7 (which is quite cheap by Australian standards).
  • 41 The Whale Tea, 191/260 City Walk, +61 449 650 027. Su–Th 11:30AM–8:30PM; F Sa 11:30AM–10:30PM. Another bubble tea store with lots of great fruit and milk tea. They've also got some cakes available. Medium: $6.80; large: $7.50.

Drink edit

The fairly unattractive Sydney Building houses several bars and clubs

Not much differs in Civic when it comes to pubs with the rest of Canberra or even rural New South Wales. However, you may encounter that nearly every bar, club, and pub is closed on Sundays, but there is always some available at Bunda Street if you're desperate for a drink or two on a Sunday.

  • 1 Bleachers Sports Bar, 33 Northbourne Ave, +61 2 6113 9058. Daily 9AM–11PM. A mid-range bar with a large great emphasis on sport (well, that's why it's in its name), and Asaki beer, a type of Japanese beer. The range of food is reasonable, but not very large by Canberra standards.
  • 2 Cube, 33 Petrie Plaza (downstairs from Antigo's cafe), +61 2 6257 1110. Opens Th 8PM, F Su 9PM, Sa 10PM; closes 5AM. Canberra's only gay nightclub with a variety of theme nights. Fridays and Saturdays are the busiest.
  • 3 Hippo Co (Hippo Lounge), Upstairs, 1/17 Garema Pl. Cocktail bar with an intimate setting amidst Baroque-meets-student-digs decor. There's also live Jazz on Wednesday nights.
  • 4 King O'Malleys, 131 City Walk, +61 2 625 70111. Daily 11AM–9PM. Large Irish pub with a relaxed atmosphere, does pub-style meals lunch and dinner and a home for all types.
  • 5 Mooseheads (East Row - London Cct - City), 105 London Cct. A bar with local history. It burnt down and was restored, Mooseheads is famous as an Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA) hangout.
  • 6 Parlour Wine Room, 16 Kendall Ln (Behind Rydges Lakeside), +61 2 6257 7325. Very intimate comfortable lounge bar, great selection of wines.
  • 7 PJs in the City, West Row (inside the Melbourne Building), +61 2 6230 1261. Another Irish-themed bar like King O'Malley's with a very casual feel. It's also got a branch in Tuggeranong in the south.
  • 8 sideway, Level 1/21 E Row, +61 410 476 791. W–Sa, sometimes on Su 7PM–late. Located inside the Sydney building, this bar does have a bit of a rough-and-tumble reputation. Nevertheless, there are plenty of good alcos available.
  • 9 The Highball Express, 1/82 Alinga St, +61 2 6179 8973, . A high-end pub that specialises in American and Central American drinks – not the ordinary kind of pub in Canberra.
  • 10 White Rabbit Cocktail Room, 65 Northbourne Ave, +61 2 6257 7779. Cocktail and tapas venue with polished floors and patterned wallpaper, hosting DJ nights.

Sleep edit

The outside of Novotel in January 2014

Civic's accommodation is, for the most part, very similar to any other city centre. Generally clean, containing decent facilities (by NSW or Queensland standards), but a bit devoid of budget accommodation and bed and breakfasts. The former is because, well, all the cheap accommodation can be found in Gungahlin, and the latter is because all the B&Bs are located right to the north of Civic in Braddon along Northbourne Avenue.

Budget edit

Mid-range edit

  • 2 BreakFree Capital Tower, 2 Marcus Clarke St, 1300 987 603 (domestic), toll-free: 1800 676 241, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Self-contained accommodation with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. Most of the apartments come with a balcony, laundry and kitchen while outdoor facilities include tennis courts, a spa, a pool and a gym.
  • 3 Nesuto Canberra Apartment Hotel, 2 Akuna St, +61 2 622 91234, toll-free: 1800 188 388, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. Self-contained apartments with all the essentials you can expect to find in a normal apartment. Facilities include an indoor heated pool, a tennis court, a gym, a spa and a sauna. There is parking available at the hotel, but a surcharge applies.
  • 4 Nishi Boutique Hotel (Ovolo Nishi), 25 Edinburgh Ave, +61 2 6287 6287. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A very unusual-shaped boutique hotel with traditional spacious rooms. The precinct includes a bar, a restaurant and an indoor gym, and is known to be LGBT-friendly. However, the events hall downstairs can get very noisy during the night, disturbing your sleep.
  • 5 Novotel Canberra Hotel, 65 Northbourne Ave, +61 2 6245-5000, fax: +61 2 6245 5100, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Novotel Canberra accommodates business and convention visitors, and families travelling with children. Directly above the Canberra Coach Terminal. Rate range $150-250.
  • 6 Peppers Gallery Hotel Canberra, 15 Edinburgh Ave, +61 2 6175 2222. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. A lively art-themed hotel that includes free parking, Wi-Fi and breakfast. The rooms are fairly spacious, and the staff is known to be very friendly, but housekeeping services are not great.
  • 7 QT Canberra (Rydges Lakeside Canberra), 1 London Cct, +61 2 6247 6244, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11AM. Rydges Lakeside Canberra is on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin, within walking distance to Civic. Has large rooms, a restaurant, a bar and a grill, and some excellent views over Lake Burley Griffin.    
  • 8 The Sebel Canberra Civic, 197 London Cct, +61 2 6267 5675, . Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 10AM. A small hotel with reasonably sized rooms and staff are known to be friendly. Amenities include free Wi-Fi, breakfast, and laundry service.

Splurge edit

  • 9 Crowne Plaza Canberra, 1 Binara St, +61 2 6274 5500, . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. A very accessible hotel and the closest to the city's only casino. It's no different from the global chain's other hotels and includes free parking, a pool, a gym/fitness centre, a restaurant, and free Wi-Fi. The beds are generally lush, but it comes at a high cost. From $300.

Connect edit

There are plenty of places you can go to in Civic that have CBRfree public Wi-Fi, mostly inside restaurants and at the museum. As it's the central business district of a capital city, there is good 5G coverage by all three major providers.

Go next edit

You probably won't be spending much time in Civic, unless you're here for a business trip or decided to book accommodation here, but as Civic is the centrepiece of Canberra, there are many other places in Canberra easily accessible from Civic, both by car and by public transport.

This list only includes destinations easily accessible on foot.

  • Commonwealth Park is just southeast of Civic and can be reached on foot simply by crossing the bridge over Parkes Way. Next to Commonwealth Park is Blundell's Cottage in Kings Park, an important historic site of Canberra.
  • If you haven't already, go explore Parliamentary Triangle, where most of Canberra's important landmarks are.
  • For university tourers, Australia's top university, the Australian National University (ANU) borders Civic right to the west.
  • This one requires you to go on a little bit of a longer walk, but it's still close by; ANZAC Parade contains most of Canberra's war memorials, including the Australian War Memorial.
Routes via Civic
TuggeranongSouth Canberra SE A23 NE  North Canberra → merges with M23Goulburn
Molonglo ValleyActon W PARKES WAY E  RussellCanberra Airport
GungahlinNorth Canberra N  R1  S  END
FraserBelconnen NW  R2  SE  → Barton → Fyshwick
SpenceBelconnen NW  R3  E  RussellCanberra Airport
END N  R4  SW  WodenTuggeranong
END N  R5  S  WodenLanyon
END N  R6  SW  BartonWoden
END N  R7  SW  Weston Creek
END N  R10  WSW  Molonglo
GungahlinNorth Canberra N  C1  S  END
BelconnenNorth Canberra NW  C3  SE  END
MolongloActon W  LBG  E  North CanberraSouth Canberra

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