What to see and do in Brisbane this weekend
A look at the best things to see and do in Brisbane, right now.
Brisbane has found its groove. With new investors and creatives moving in and others coming back after doing time abroad or interstate, the city with an endless summer vibe and the can-do, no-worries, let’s-give-it-a-go attitude has given up comparing itself to Sydney and Melbourne and is happily dancing to the beat of a different drum. Humming with energy, firing with creative happenings and reaching for a level of casual sophistication fashioned from its own values, Brissie’s never looked better. Here’s our updated guide to the city of Brisbane, right now.
With a rash of new hotel openings, there’s plenty of room at the inn(s) these days and beige and boring are just not part of the vernacular. Witness the tropical urban glamour of The Calile Hotel; or whimsical Ovolo The Valley, where absolutely everything, from the plant and art-filled lobby (where you’re greeted by a cool ’80s playlist) to the millennial pink meets mid-century rooms, is an irresistibly alluring insta backdrop.
The primo-positioned Crystalbrook Vincent (formerly The Fantauzzo), tucked into the underbelly of the Story Bridge with spotlit cliffs as a dramatic backdrop, has 300-odd works by artist-namesake Vincent Fantauzzo, and fairy-lit, skyscraper and river views; while W is an ode to the city’s aquatic heart with a lobby full of riparian references and a gift shop that gives a cheeky nod to some of the chi-chi icons of The Sunshine State.
Brisbane’s architecture, old and new, provides plenty of blank canvases – a boon for the creativity of artists such as Fintan Magee, Beastman, Lee Harnden, Drapl, Sofles, and others. Prime areas for street-art spotting include South Brisbane, the CBD and Fortitude Valley, with pieces found everywhere from laneways to public squares and bridge pillars to suburban traffic signal boxes. Come May every year, this art-for-all is celebrated with creative gusto thanks to the ever-expanding Brisbane Street Art Festival, which showcases local, national and international street artists to an enthusiastic audience via workshops, talks, collaborations and commissions. And with as many as 50 projects getting the green light during the festival, the city’s street art portfolio is expanding at a cracking pace.
Dine and Drink
Brisbane’s especially fond of the convenience of a dining precinct and at the newest, Howard Smith Wharves, fashioned from old warehouses and wharves by the river, you can share a beer crafted on the premises with a couple of hundred new friends at the always humming Felons Brewing Co; then settle in for a refined dinner at Arc Dining & Wine Bar. Round off the night by joining the fashion forward for a cocktail and DJ set at Mr Percival’s – a unique octagonal bar with an eclectic fit-out and Euro beach club party vibe. The onslaught of Brisbane openings shows no sign of slowing down either, with the Queen’s Wharf precinct, set to open in the second half of 2023, adding 50 new restaurants, cafés and bars to the ever-expanding number.
Not one for hyperbole, Brisbane quietly goes about the business of producing a vibrant, world-class art scene that may surprise first-timers. The Brisbane Festival has been instrumental in introducing many international artists to the city, with an annual program of music, dance, theatre and circus each September. GOMA (Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art) is another cultural jewel-in-the-crown, internationally regarded for its important collection of contemporary art from the Pacific and Asia as well as its temporary exhibitions. GOMA is also warmly inclusive, with free tours and imaginative, hands-on exhibitions for kids that often prove just as irresistible to parents. Be sure to hang around until sunset, when James Turrell’s light installation Night Life (commissioned for GOMA’s 10th birthday) illuminates the building until midnight, and keep abreast of the latest exhibitions on offer.
As the city has expanded, Brisbane has reclaimed and fallen in love with its own forgotten spaces. At Fish Lane, where old warehouse walls are decorated with murals such as Lix North’s East of the Mountains and West of the Sea, or Travis Vinson’s massive Muhammad Ali, you could drink and dine somewhere different for a couple of weeks. Choose from a pithily named Vietnamese venue, vegan burger joint, rib shack, pizzeria, micro-brewery, hole-in-the-wall bar and more. Other laneways worth exploring include Burnett Lane in the City (tapas, moody drinking dens, coffee roasteries), plus Bakery Lane (cocktails, cakes, Korean fusion, coffee), Winn Lane (fashion, music, burgers, coffee) and California Lane (poke bowls, diners, dumplings, desserts) in thriving Fortitude Valley.
By Natascha Mirosch – Updated 2 November 2022