3 Days in Brisbane

25 February 2014

Summer may be about to slink away, but don’t let those fleeting rays go without a fight! When the autumn winds start to pick up, southern-dwelling Aussies tend to migrate north to the warmer climes of Queensland – but there’s another reason to visit the Sunshine State besides its apt moniker.

Brisbane may have kept its cool under wraps for the last little while, but six million BrisVegas visitors last year will contest to the fact that the River City is no longer the “poor cousin” to Sydney and Melbourne. So, before you throw in the beach towel on your warm-weather weekends, spend three days in Brisbane and see if the city’s social calendar, avant-garde cafes and top-shelf shopping are really as good as the locals claim (hint: they are).

 Brisbane: beautiful one day, perfect the next!

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Day 1

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Morning

Brisbane has become a heartland of discerning diners, each neighbourhood boasting their distinct brand of foodie finesse, from roasting single origin coffee on-site to adopting a healthy slant with aubergine-tinted acai bowls. If there’s one thing Brisbane does better than most, it’s a morning meal. Kick-start your weekend in Brisbane by making your way to New Farm (about two kilometres from the heart of the CBD) and pulling up a chair next to the locals who know how to start their morning off right.

After you’re sufficiently stuffed with a “vego chow down” from Au Cirque, a pain au chocolat from Chouquette patisserie or breakfast trifle from petite eatery Pablo, walk it off with a wander down to the Brisbane Powerhouse. The 1920s power station-cum-performing arts hub is the definitive example of Brisbane’s urban gentrification. The graffiti-clad space hosts a slew of artistic events, from live music to comedy festivals, photojournalism exhibitions and kid’s workshops. In case you need more convincing, the Powerhouse also boasts two awarded river-front restaurants and the Jan Powers Farmers Market every alternate Saturday.

Afternoon / Evening

As you explore New Farm or neighbouring Teneriffe, you will spot CityCats weaving around the curves of the Brisbane River. Northbound CityCats will bring you around the bend to Hamilton, home to Brisbane’s newest dining destination – the Eat Street markets. This innovative night market features around 60 shipping containers reborn as pop-up restaurants, feeding the masses every Friday and Saturday eve. If you chose to ferry southward instead, hop off at Eagle Street Pier and enjoy happy-hour or dinner with a view at one of the precinct’s restaurants – Matt Moran’s ARIA is the pick for fine dining, while Mr & Mrs G Riverbar has a cocktail menu as impressive as the Story Bridge outlook.

 Beacon of Brisbane: the Story Bridge lights up the night

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Day 2

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Morning

No Brisbane holiday is complete without a pilgrimage to the Queen Street Mall. The epicentre of the CBD, the mall is a sea of famished office-workers during business hours and unhurried shoppers of a weekend. Mega labels (Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Coach), big-name department stores (Myer, David Jones) and stylish retailers (Country Road, Ben Sherman, Topshop) can be found interspersed with trendy chain stores and lunch spots. More than 700 retailers have set up shop in and around the mall, so be prepared to give your plastic a workout!

Afternoon

From the southern end of the Queen Street Mall, take a stroll over Victoria Bridge to South Bank’s Cultural Centre, so named for the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and other creative institutions on its periphery. The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is a must do, whether it’s your first or fiftieth time visiting Brisbane. With a vibrant and always changing exhibition program, GoMA has a mix of free and ticketed offerings for all ages, which have included the extraordinary works of Matisse, Picasso and Andy Warhol. Serious culture vultures who want to make it a double feature should swing by the adjoining Queensland Art Gallery.

Evening

Even debonair men’s mag GQ is singing the praises of Brisbane these days, listing booming live music and restaurant scenes among the catalysts for Brisbane’s rejuvenated cool factor. One of the best spots to scope out the “new and improved” Brisbane is at the far end of South Bank on a grassy knoll known as River Quay. Hosting some of the city’s best restaurants such as Stokehouse, The Jetty and Popolo, River Quay also claims a brilliant view of the city which can be further enjoyed with an after-dinner walk along the South Bank Parklands promenade.

 City of contrasts: the Treasury Casino meets modern art

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Day 3

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Morning / Afternoon

Brisbane has a deep undercurrent of subculture so, for your final day in Brisbane, get to know one of the unique inner-city hubs that make up its patchwork panache. In the inner-west suburb of Paddington, you can enjoy a glass of white with a feature film at The Barracks, stuff yourself on gourmet waffles at Kettle & Tin or fill your suitcase with style from the accessory authorities at Thousand Island Dressing and their many neighbouring boutiques along Latrobe Terrace.

Notorious for its nightlife, Fortitude Valley still dazzles during the day with gastropub Alfred & Constance luring hungry hipsters, Winn Lane thrusting Brisbane’s growing laneway culture and nearby James Street a favourite among the well-heeled with resident retailers like Sass & Bide. South of the river, bohemian West End is your best bet for great Greek food followed by a tipple at whisky nook Cobbler or cocktail mecca Lychee Lounge, while Woolloongabba is your go-to destination for antiquing or spectating at The Gabba.

Evening

Earlier this year, Lonely Planet called Brisbane “arguably Australia’s hippest city... an energetic river town on the way up, with an edgy arts scene, pumping nightlife and great coffee and restaurants.” Brisbane loves to put on a show, with a medley of home-grown talent and international performers lighting up the stage year round. To cap off your 72 hours in Brisbane, visit the sparkling new Gasworks Plaza in Newstead and watch the Gasometer light up the night (7pm and 9pm Friday and Saturday) or swing by for some Sunday Sessions featuring fresh local talent – not to mention pop-up bars, deckchairs and the Max Brenner dessert restaurant within deliciously convenient reach.

Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg