• Cityscape Planned parliamentary capital
  • City Life Cultural and political melting pot

Once the maligned centre of national government, Canberra’s stock has risen as a new generation of creative talent has given the ordered, staid city a much-needed breath of fresh air.

It wasn’t until Federation, in 1901, that it was decided a place had to be found to house the country’s capital city. Where Canberra now stands is the halfway point between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, and the cityscape is the grand design of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin. With its eloquent architecture, central man-made lake and green feel, it's certainly a beauty. However, the capital's bloated population of civil servants and politicians soon earned it a rep for being boring – nice for gallery visits and walks through manicured gardens, but hardly cutting-edge. Recently though, an influx of artists, attracted by low rents and the sense of space, has injected new life into the city, while its student hordes put the emphasis squarely on parties of the non-political kind.

Do go/Don’t go

Canberra experiences extremes in temperature, ranging from 40°C in summer to zero in winter. Winter days generally start with frosty mornings followed by clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine. If you are a fan of flora, spring sees the city alive with blooms and so is a vibrant time to visit.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes You can fly direct to Canberra Airport (www.canberraairport.com.au) from any of Australia's state capitals | except Darwin | as well as from Newcastle | Townsville and the Gold Coast. Qantas (www.qantas.com.au) | Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) and Tiger Airways (www.tigerairways.com) all cover the route. A taxi to the city centre costs about AU$20. The Airliner bus (www.airliner.com.au) runs between the airport and the city bus interchange half-hourly during the week and hourly on the weekend.
  • Trains Arrive in Canberra at Kingston station, about six kilometres from the city centre. Direct services on CountryLink (132 232; www.countrylink.info) arrive from Sydney daily, although from Melbourne there’s a train/bus connection.
  • Automobiles Canberra is about 300 kilometres south west of Sydney, and an easy three-and-a-half-hour drive. Major car hire companies can be found in both cities.
  • Taxis Canberra Cabs (132 227; www.canberracabs.com.au) and Cabxpress (+61 (0) 2 6260 6011; www.cabxpress.com.au) are a good bet. Cars can be hailed in the street, booked or picked up at numerous ranks.