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  • Cityscape Skyscrapers, spires and sandstone
  • City life Arts, parks and festival larks

Once touted as the ‘City of Churches’, Adelaide is making a concerted effort to lose the pious tag and re-express itself as a creative, progressive destination with a kickin’ arts scene, fab restaurants and more bars than you could blitz in a year.

Sure Melbourne has the caffeinated laneways and Sydney brilliant beaches, but clean, cultured and classy Adelaide is a great, underrated alternative. Spread across the plains between hills and sea, South Australia’s capital is deceptively big – more than a million Aussies live here, sustaining a hyperactive artistic calendar, a slew of sassy bars and some world-class eateries. The city’s open-minded multiculturalism dates back to the 1840s, when European minorities fled old-world prejudices and colonised SA in the company of affluent free settlers. Highlights of your visit should include a daytrip plundering the foodie haunts of the Adelaide Hills, a tram ride down to beachy Glenelg, a morning detour through Central Market, and a few well-chosen bottles of vino from the surrounding Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale wine regions. If your timing’s good, watch the Aussies thrash a cricketing lesser-light at the photogenic Adelaide Oval, or sip from the bottomless goblet of local festivals in a lush park.

Do go/Don’t go

Adelaide summers (December to February) are always sunny, but when the desert heat swoops down from the north the temp can top 40°C for days. Time your visit with spring or autumn when it’s clear skies, pleasantly warm days and plain sailing. The marvellous arts-centric Adelaide Festival (www.adelaidefestival.com.au), Adelaide Fringe (www.adelaidefringe.com.au) and WOMADelaide (www.womadelaide.com.au) festivals all happen in February to March. Unfortunately, so does the Clipsal 500 (www.clipsal500.com.au) car race – a four-day fuel-fest whipping local rev-heads into a salivatory frenzy.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes Adelaide is Australia’s fifth-biggest city with a slick international airport (www.aal.com.au). Qantas, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific (among others) service Adelaide from overseas, with domestic flights (Qantas, Virgin Blue, Tiger and Jetstar) winging-in from around Australia. The airport is six kilometres west of the city centre.
  • Trains Interstate trains (the Ghan from Darwin, the Overland from Melbourne and the Indian Pacific from Sydney and Perth) chug into the Adelaide Parklands Terminal (13 21 47; www.gsr.com.au), just south west of the centre. Adelaide’s local train network (+61 (0)8 8218 2362; www.transadelaide.com.au) comprises five suburban lines – useful if you’re staying a while. There’s also a tram running from the city to beachside Glenelg.
  • Automobiles Adelaide’s park-fringed downtown area is compact and walkable, but to access the more spread out beaches ‘burbs and hills a rent-a-car is the way to go. Hire wheels at Adelaide Airport (try Avis; www.avis.com.au) or in Adelaide itself. Parking is cheap and easy by Australian standards (which are cheap and easy by world standards).
  • Taxis There are licensed taxi ranks across the city or you can easily flag one down in the street. Reliable operators include Adelaide Independent Taxis (13 22 11), Suburban Taxis (13 10 08) and Yellow Cabs (13 22 27).