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Canberra Balloon Spectacular
Photograph: Matt Evans


Canberra has ranked third in Lonely Planet’s top cities to visit in 2018 – discover why with our complete guide to what's cool in the capital

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As one of the youngest capital cities in the world, some might think Canberra had a bit of catching up to do. But this year Canberra was listed among the globe’s hottest destinations when it ranked third on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018.

This is the highest ranking an Australian city has ever achieved on the Lonely Planet list since its inception, and reveals just how unfairly overlooked the city has been. Long the repository for national treasures, always a place where nature intrudes elegantly into urban spaces, Canberra now boasts exciting boutique precincts with gastronomic highlights and cultural must-dos. Just a three-hour drive from Sydney or less than an hour by plane, Canberra is the perfect short break destination, and you don’t have to look very hard to find exciting things to do here.

Explore Braddon’s shopping and foodie precinct for an ever-changing assortment of boutiques, cafés, bakeries, restaurants and bars. Head to NewActon, an innovative culture precinct that has put Canberra on the map for design, creativity and originality. Embrace Australia’s story as you wander through the galleries and museums within the Parliamentary Triangle, then sit down for a bite to eat or breathe the fresh air on a stroll around Lake Burley Griffin.

The historic 1920s centres of Manuka and Kingston in Canberra’s inner south are hotspots for entertainment, dining, shopping and people watching. And if you’re travelling with family then Gold Creek Village in the city’s north is a must-visit, with super-fun, Insta-worthy attractions such as Cockington Green Gardens and the National Dinosaur Museum.  

Love wine? Canberra is a candy store for oenophiles, with nearly 140 vineyards and 30 cellar doors within 30 minutes of the city centre – riesling, viognier and tempranillo are the local specialty drops. Or perhaps the city’s famous festivals are a drawcard: time your visit to coincide with Floriade, Enlighten Festival, Canberra Balloon Festival or one of dozens of cultural events throughout the year and you’ll see the city at its very best.

In Canberra, you’re handily placed for outdoor adventures to the likes of Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve and Namadgi National Park, where you can see kangaroos, emus and koalas in their natural habitats. Pack up the car and explore Canberra’s picturesque Tablelands, the South Coast, or head straight for up to the Snowy Mountains – Australia’s ultimate year-round nature and adventure playground.

Hip hotels abound in Canberra. From chic new architectural masterpieces to heritage-listed splendour, you’ll find the standard you expect from any major city – as well as some of the best restaurants in town – all within Canberra hotels. You can even bed down in the company of wild animals at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge.

Lonely Planet helped put Canberra on the map in 2018, and now is the ideal time to discover why. 

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