Brisbane’s best: top attractions in the river city

Brisbane, affectionately known as ‘Brissie’, is Australia’s third-largest city and the sun-soaked capital of Queensland. Known for its vibrant urban precincts, lush green spaces, and the meandering Brisbane River that runs through its heart, the city is a blend of cultural sophistication and laid-back Queensland charm. For those lucky enough to visit, here’s a guide to some of the top attractions that Brisbane has to offer.

Cultural Hotspots: South Bank and the Cultural Precinct

South Bank is Brisbane’s premier lifestyle and cultural destination. Located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, its 17 hectares of lush parklands, world-class eateries, stunning river views, and hundreds of delightful events all year round make it an essential visit.

In the same area, you’ll find the Cultural Precinct, home to the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Queensland Museum and Science Centre, the State Library of Queensland, and the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). QAGOMA, in particular, holds a collection of over 17,000 works of historical, modern, and contemporary art, and is a must-see for art enthusiasts.

The Iconic Brisbane River: CityCat and Kangaroo Point Cliffs

No visit to Brisbane is complete without spending some time on, or along, the Brisbane River. The CityCat ferries provide a scenic and convenient way to see the city, with stops at key locations like the University of Queensland, New Farm Park, and the Brisbane Powerhouse.

For a more adventurous experience, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs offer rock climbing and abseiling. The cliffs are also a perfect spot for a picnic with a view or a leisurely cycle along the river on the Bicentennial Bikeway.

Botanic Bliss: Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha

For nature lovers, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha is a subtropical paradise showcasing a wide variety of native plants. The gardens also feature the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and offer a fantastic lookout that provides panoramic views of the city.

History and Heritage: Newstead House and the Story Bridge

Newstead House is Brisbane’s oldest surviving residence and offers insight into the early history of Brisbane and its colonial past. Guided tours are available, and the house is surrounded by beautiful gardens overlooking the river.

The Story Bridge is an iconic Brisbane landmark and offers the opportunity for an exhilarating adventure – the Story Bridge Adventure Climb. It’s one of only three bridge climbs in the world and gives climbers an unbeatable view of the city.

Wildlife Encounters: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Brisbane is home to the world’s largest and oldest koala sanctuary, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Here, visitors can cuddle a koala, feed kangaroos, and view a variety of Australian wildlife in natural settings.

Shopping and Dining: Queen Street Mall and Eat Street Northshore

Queen Street Mall is a bustling shopping precinct, home to a mix of local, national, and international labels. Alongside shopping, there are events and live music, making it a lively spot for leisure and entertainment.

For foodies, Eat Street Northshore is a feast for the senses. Housed in shipping containers, this food market offers an array of eats from all over the world, along with live entertainment, making it a fun and flavorful outing.

Green Spaces and Adventure: Mount Coot-tha Reserve and Howard Smith Wharves

Mount Coot-tha Reserve offers hiking, mountain biking trails, and an opportunity to reconnect with nature. The Brisbane Lookout at the summit provides a spectacular vista of the city and is especially beautiful at night.

Howard Smith Wharves, located beneath the Story Bridge, is one of Brisbane’s newest destinations. This entertainment and lifestyle precinct features dining spots, bars, and ample open space to relax by the riverside.

Nightlife: Fortitude Valley

For night owls, Fortitude Valley (or ‘the Valley’) is the heart of Brisbane’s nightlife. It’s home to a variety of bars, clubs, and live music venues, embodying the city’s youthful spirit. Whether you’re in the mood for a cocktail, a craft beer, or live music, the Valley has it all.


Brisbane’s unique blend of cultural attractions, green spaces, historic landmarks, and entertainment precincts make it a city that’s full of surprises. Whether you’re here for the arts, the adventures, or simply to bask in the laid-back atmosphere, Brisbane’s offerings are rich and varied. Each attraction on this list contributes to the tapestry of experiences that make Brisbane an unforgettable destination. With warm weather most of the year and a calendar full of events, any time is a good time to explore the River City and uncover its treasures for yourself.

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