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Canberra's cool credentials

Cafe in Canberra
Cafe in Canberra

An emerging foodie hub that’s crammed with art and museums, surrounded by wineries and easier to reach than ever. Chloe Cann extols the virtues of Canberra, Australia’s misunderstood capital

Tell any Australian that you’re visiting Canberra and they’ll ask you one question: why? Standard school trip fodder, most Aussies from the eastern seaboard have only experienced the city through the eyes of an 11-year-old, recalling little more than a tedious bus trip and a walk around parliament. Surely enough to put anyone off.

 

That Canberra should hold less allure than other Australian cities isn’t too surprising; it is, after all, a purpose-built political capital.

 

The story goes that in the early 1900s, long-standing rivals Melbourne (Australia’s largest city at the time) and Sydney (the country’s oldest) wrangled over who should win the mantle. Unable to resolve the dispute, Canberra – with its cooler climate and location away from the coast – was the compromise.

 

At just 105 years old, it remains among the youngest capital cities in the world, and has long been dismissed as Sydney and Melbourne’s boring cousin with a stiff upper lip, chock-full of nothing other than museums and monuments.

 

But there’s another, much more frivolous, side evolving: from vegan-friendly doughnut stores that host late-night cocktail parties, to speakeasies hidden below bakeries, a booming micro-brewery scene, kooky fusion restaurants and a contingent of affordable, design-led hotels – it’s even the birthplace of the “freakshake”.

 

And with a new daily service launched by Qatar Airways on February 12, and Singapore Airlines on May 1, the capital has never been easier to reach.

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