Story Bridge with Brisbane skyline
travel tips

Things to know before you visit Brisbane

Brisbane is a beautiful river city with wonderful subtropical weather, making it a fantastic city to visit if you like being outdoors. With clear blue skies, even in winter, Brisbane is a city where you can enjoy an alfresco lifestyle. This urban metropolis in Australia has a relaxed vibe, and in recent years, the city has bloomed as a lifestyle city with a young vibe.

Although Brisbane is a vibrant arts and culture hub, it's also a laid back and casual city. In recent years, luxury hotels have popped up, and the culinary scene has grown from strength to strength adding to the list of things to do in Brisbane. So, if you’re planning a trip, here are some 'insider' tips on how to visit Queensland's capital.

Brisbane is a river city

1. Brisbane is a river city so take the ferry

Brisbane is a river city, and the best way to explore is to hop aboard one of the public ferries, such as a CityCat, KittyCat or City Hopper, to soak up the sights. Gliding along the river is a relaxing way to get your bearings and take in the sights in several suburbs along the river. There are 23 ferry terminals, and the CityHopper is a free inner-city ferry that allows you to hop on and hop off every half hour, every day.

Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo Buchanan Park in Brisbane

2. Put aside an entire day to explore South Bank

Right on the Brisbane River is the cultural hub of South Bank, which is a lovely precinct to explore on foot. There are parks, alfresco eateries, bars, and galleries. A highlight is the large landscaped artificial beach complete with a surf lifesaver in attendance, where you can pretend that you're actually at a real beach.

The Riverwalk is a 2.4km promenade along the Brisbane River in the middle of the city, from the CBD to New Farm, passing through Southbank Parklands with walkways above the water that provides a view across the river to Kangaroo Point. Check out the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), which is free to enter. Another highlight is the Wheel of Brisbane, which offers a magnificent panoramic view on the top observation deck.

The Howard Smith Wharves and Story Bridge in Brisbane

3. Party outdoors in Brisbane

Where to party in Brisbane? The newest and trendiest entertainment precinct on the river is Howard Smith Wharves, which has a cool overwater bar, restaurants, and an excellent brewery. Crystalbrook Vincent hotel has a fabulous rooftop bar called Fiume, where you can party under the stars. Brisbane has a vibrant bar scene, and rooftop bars are fast becoming popular. Other rooftop bars to check out include Ooh la la in Woolloongabba or The Terrace at the Emporium Hotel in South Bank.

The New Farm river walk in Brisbane

4. Let the Brisbane Greeters show you around

Sign up for a free Brisbane Greeters tour. Locals with insider knowledge will take you around and show you all the secret spots in the various parts of the city. The 'Greeters' are a team of volunteers passionate about Brisbane, and you will love discovering the city through their eyes.

There's a tour to suit everyone, including daily walking tours around New Farm, Paddington, Fortitude Valley and West Village. Learn about Nundah's German history or go on a walking tour to learn about Brisbane's early settlement and penal colony.

Brisbane markets

5. Shop in the markets

Being a subtropical city has allowed Brisbane's markets to thrive and wandering around a market is a quintessential experience that locals love to do. The Brisbane City Markets attracts artisans and producers from southeast Queensland and is a central spot to gather on Wednesdays (8 am to 6 pm in Reddacliff Place) and Thursdays (8 am to 2 pm in Cathedral Square).

For second-hand stuff, try the Suitcase Rummage Market in Brisbane Square. Every Sunday, the Riverside Markets is one of the city's longest-running markets with everything from live music and food to fashion and crafts.

Southbank Parklands Beach Brisbane on a winters afternoon with Rescue board

6. Brisbane gets steamy in summer

If you're not used to humid weather, the heat in Brisbane can be uncomfortably muggy in summer. So, make sure you stay hydrated and carry a water bottle, sunscreen and wear a hat. It's best to avoid doing strenuous activities in the middle of the day. Winter is beautiful, with sunny days and a nip in the air, while spring and autumn are wonderful seasons to visit.

In summer, Brisbanites usually head to the beaches of the Sunshine Coast in the north or the Gold Coast in the south, so hire a car and enjoy a day trip or a weekend away at some of the best beach destinations in Australia.

Planning a trip to Brisbane? Stay at the Royal Albert Hotel in the heart of the city.

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Christina Pfeiffer

Author - Christina Pfeiffer

Christina is an award-winning travel writer who has contributed to major publications around the world. She runs popular travel website and loves visiting faraway places. To date, Christina has explored 65 countries and loves history, nature and good food.

Last Updated 23 March 2023

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Straddling the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean, Australia has diverse landscapes, a fascinating indigenous culture and uncommon wildlife.