Things to do in Brisbane City for first-timers

Whether it’s your first or 40th visit to the Queensland capital, there’s no shortage of things to do with plenty of ways to shop, eat, play and stay in and around Brisbane City.

Known locally simply as The City, Brisbane’s compact and walkable city centre has everything from designer shopping to alfresco dining and bar-hopping, family-friendly and outdoor activities, artistic appeal and cultural diversions plus expansive green spaces and riverside walks to soak up the sundrenched vibes by day and night. 

 

Queen Street Mall 

Queen street Mall

Shoppers walking in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall during the day. Photo by: Mitch Lowe

Brisbane’s open-air pedestrian mall is your one-stop shop with more than 700 stores, anchored by The Myer Centre with a flagship Myer store at one end and a five-storey David Jones department store at the other. QueensPlaza shopping centre is an international luxury label destination alongside homegrown designers and artisans in heritage thoroughfares Brisbane Arcade and Tattersall’s Arcade. Wintergarden, 170 Queen Street and MacArthur Central shopping centres also offer a variety of high-street boutiques and popular shops to browse. With Brisbane Hilton and Hyatt Regency Brisbane hotels located right on the Mall plus fine dining restaurants, casual eateries and cafes, it’s a convenient and popular meeting spot to orient yourself in the heart of The City. 

Queen Street, Brisbane; free entry 

 

Brisbane City Markets 

Brisbane City Markets

Shoppers peruse a range of fresh produce at a farmers market stall.

A mid-week institution, Brisbane City Markets brings the country to the CBD every Wednesday with a plethora of providores and producers offering a variety of premium produce, gourmet finds, handcrafted wares and delicious on-the-go lunch options. Open from 8am to 6pm at Reddacliff Place at the top of the Queen Street Mall, the downtown farmers market features around 65 stallholders with everything from a farm-fresh selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables to baked treats, honey and smallgoods. Popular with office workers and visitors alike, Brisbane City Markets is a unique taste of farm life in the CBD. 

Reddacliff Place, 266 George Street, Brisbane; free entry 

 

Riverside at the Gardens Market 

Riverside at the Gardens Market

Pedestrians and cyclist at City Botanic Gardens entrance to busy markets. 

Open 8am to 3pm within City Botanic Gardens near the Alice Street entrance, these food and craft markets are the ideal way to spend a lazy Sunday morning in the CBD. With a setting that includes a sensory kids’ playground, flowerbeds, multiple ponds and the Brisbane River plus musical entertainment, these Sunday markets draw a melting pot of travellers and locals to enjoy a tempting mix of internationally flavoured food trucks. From South African bunny chow to Dutch poffertjes, Korean bibimbap to South American herbal teas and Polish sweets to Indian samosas, plus a smattering of stalls with handmade wares and even tarot card readers, these markets are a weekend must-do. 

Alice & Albert streets, Brisbane; free entry 

 

Museum of Brisbane 

Museum of Brisbane

A woman looks at colourful sculptures in an art exhibition. Photo by: Katie Bennett

A hidden cultural space within the historic Brisbane City Hall, Museum of Brisbane (MoB) highlights the people and stories that have shaped Queensland’s capital. Open daily, MoB hosts rotating exhibitions and artists in residence for displays and events that are always innovative and interesting alongside a well-curated museum shop of locally crafted gifts for a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Recent exhibitions include a dazzling jewellery retrospective and a fashion archive of local designer duo Easton Pearson. Open daily, take a free 15-minute Clock Tower Tour for a panoramic view and a peek behind the massive clock face from the heritage building – book the final 4:45pm slot to see the city at dusk. 

Level 3, Brisbane City Hall, 64 Adelaide Street, Brisbane; free entry 

 

Holey Moley Golf Club

Holey Moley
 

Close-up image of people teeing up at an indoor putt-putt mini-golf course.

Tucked inside the Wintergarden shopping centre on Queen Street Mall is Brisbane City’s only mini-golf course, great for little and big kids. Head up the escalator to have a swinging good time at the pop culture-themed nine-hole course, complete with tasty burgers and sandwiches, sides to snack on and drinks or cocktails and mocktails for the after-hours putt-putt crowd. You can also add on extra activities from Strike Wintergarden next door, such as bowling, escape rooms, laser tag and karaoke from $10 per person, open daily and until late on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Level 1, Wintergarden, Queen Street Mall, Brisbane; from $10–$18pp  

 

City Winery Edward Street Cellar Door 

City Winery

A woman straightens a wine bottle display with wine bottles lined up in the foreground on a bench.

Swirl and sip at City Winery’s pop-up cellar door near the Edward Street luxe retail junction. Brisbane’s urban micro-winery experience centre is open from Tuesday to Saturday and offers everything from a casual wine bar venue to wine flights, group tastings and blending workshops. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, City Winery welcomes all walk-ins or reserve a table to savour a glass or two in great company with meals catered by Jumbo Thai nearby. Or simply pop in for a bottle of Gerler handcrafted, small-batch artisan wine created from grapes from Australia’s top viticulture regions to take home. 

162 Edward Street, Brisbane; from $25pp 

 

CityHopper ferry

 
Cityhopper

The Story Bridge is lit up with purple lights at sunset with the cityscape as a backdrop as a red ferry travels on the Brisbane River. 

A local secret, hop aboard the free CityHopper inner-city ferry service for a complimentary trip along the Brisbane River. In The City, board the red CityHopper at QUT and you can hop on and off at seven stops between the CBD and Sydney Street, New Farm. Run daily every 30 minutes from 5:30am to midnight on KittyCats – catamarans that can accommodate up to 60 people – the CityHopper service criss-crosses the inner-city river reaches to South Bank and the Maritime Museum and on to the Riverside and Howard Smith Wharves stops for a free, scenic way to get around town. 

North Quay, Brisbane; free 

 

Howard Smith Wharves 

Howards Smith Wharves

An aerial shot of people enjoying the sunshine in an outdoor space under the Story Bridge with skyscrapers and the Brisbane River as a backdrop. 

Brisbane’s fave lifestyle precinct du jour is conveniently located under the iconic Story Bridge on the CBD fringe. An 18-minute walk from the Queen Street Mall will find you at the curve of the riverside bend that’s home to a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars with a waterfront view as well as the 5-star Crystalbrook Vincent hotel. Felons Brewing Co. is a buzzing family- and dog-friendly microbrewery with craft brews and cider on tap plus tasty bar meals. Grab takeaway from the fish n’ chipper window and find a spot on the Felons Lawn where parents can watch the kids play, or take a seat on the outdoor deck for prime people spotting. 

5 Boundary St, Brisbane; free entry 

 

Roma Street Parkland 

Roma Street Parkland

A horticultural landscape and manicured gardens during the daytime in Brisbane City. Photo by: Fulframe Photographics

Another one of Brisbane’s sprawling garden oases in the CBD, Roma Street Parkland is open all day every day, bar the Spectacle Garden, with a swag of amenities on offer, including public barbecues, picnic spots, playgrounds and a cafe. Situated between King George Square and Roma Street train station, the lush 16ha parklands showcase a variety of tropical plants, horticultural gardens, water features and verdant lawns to roam around. Roma Street Parkland also stages a year-round calendar of things to do including outdoor cinema, music concerts, seasonal and multicultural markets and festivals. 

1 Parkland Boulevard, Brisbane; free entry 

 

Queensland Cultural Centre 

Queensland Cultural Centre

Brisbane’s major cultural institutions are just a short 10-minute stroll from the Queen Street Mall across Victoria Bridge. The Queensland Cultural Centre in South Brisbane packs a significant artistic punch with Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and the State Library of Queensland all within the same site. The Museum and State Library have dedicated areas and activities to occupy the littlies, while QAGOMA hosts an inspired range of free permanent displays and major annual exhibitions that include international and Australian artists. 

Stanley Place, South Brisbane; free entry, exhibitions vary 

 

Aboriginal Art Co. 

Aboriginal Art Co

Two women in an art gallery look at a display of paintings on a wall. Photo by: Tourism Australia

Also located across Victoria Bridge close to the Cultural Centre is Aboriginal Art Co., a must-see gallery-boutique-workshop space around 60,000 years in the making. The not-for-profit organisation highlights one of the world’s oldest cultures, championing authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artistic expression. Visit from Tuesday to Saturday to view gallery showcases and workshops featuring First Nations artists and shop a conscious boutique edit of paintings, sculptures wearable art, gifts and homewares crafted by creators from around Australia. 

89 Grey Street, South Brisbane; free entry 

 

South Bank Parklands 

South Bank Parklands

A family of four walks past a man-made lagoon at South Bank Parklands in Brisbane. Photo by: Kara Hamilton

The former Expo 88 site is an enviable waterfront lifestyle precinct just across from the CBD that spans 17 hectares and encompasses dining options including restaurants, bars and pubs; entertainment and cultural venues; riverside walkways; picnic areas; a playground; the Epicurious Garden of edible plantlife and Australia’s only inner-city man-made beach, Streets Beach. Located a 10-minute walk from Queen Street Mall, there is always something going on at South Bank from seasonal events and crafty markets to locals and visitors simply enjoying the many outdoor areas, amenities and attractions, such as the Wheel of Brisbane and Insta-worthy Brisbane sign, against the riverside backdrop. 

Little Stanley Street, South Brisbane; free entry 

 

Kayak Experience on Brisbane River 

Riverlife Twilight

A man and a woman in kayaks paddle on the Brisbane River at dusk with skyscrapers in the background. 

See the spectacular Brisbane River and twinkling cityscape from a different vantage point on a Twilight Kayak, Wine & Grazing Board Experience aboard an illuminated kayak. Available from 5pm Friday to Sunday, it’s a scenic 30-minute walk across the Goodwill Bridge or free CityHopper ferry ride to your departure point at Riverlife Adventure Centre. The guided leisurely 1.5-hour kayak adventure goes with the tide flow towards the Story Bridge or South Bank and includes wine, beer or soft drink plus a curated cheese board. If you have kids in tow, book in for the Day Kayak Adventure, priced from $55, which is suitable for children aged eight and over. 

Naval Stores, Kangaroo Point Cliffs Drive, Kangaroo Point; from $125pp 

Words by Cassie Tannenberg - Published 27 January 2023
Quick Facts 
Population Approx 1.9 million
Area 1326.8 km2
Time Zone GMT +10
Languages English (official)
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Electricity 220 – 240v 50Hz
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