CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to spend in the Australian capital of Canberra? Canberra is home to some of the country’s top museums and art galleries, giving visitors who enjoy cultural activities the chance of a busy weekend.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors plan a cultural weekend in the city that is a three hour drive from Sydney — and often the brunt of jokes from other Australians who call it the nation’s most boring city:
6 pm - Canberra’s city center has undergone a major facelift in recent years with the shopping center extended and modernized and a new batch of restaurants. This has made it a lively spot in the evenings, so start off with a drink at one of the popular bars, such as the Hippo Lounge Bar in Garema place.
9 pm - Dinner could be at the funky Japanese chain restaurant Wagamama or maybe the upmarket Chinese-style Chairman and Yip.
11 pm - Finish off the night with a decadent hot chocolate from KoKo Black in Bunda Street, which specializes in all things chocolate.
8 am - Start out with breakfast at Silo Bakery in Giles Street in the popular suburb of Kingston. Its fresh breads sell out quickly but it has other baked goods and is well known for its coffee and breakfasts such as asparagus bruschetta. Don’t miss its walk-in cheese room.
10 am - Head to the The National Gallery of Australia which has fixed galleries and an impressive Asian art collection but also has a lively rotation of new exhibitions.
Currently the gallery is hosting “Gods, Ghosts and Men,” featuring 77 traditional art works from Melanesia and Polynesia, some of which have been hidden in the gallery’s collection for years and are on display for the first time. Exhibition curator Crispin Howarth says the items showcase how tribes connected with ancestors, spirits and beings from other worlds.
From Dec 12 until March 22 the National Gallery of Australia is hosting “Degas: Master of French Art,” which spans the range of Edgar Degas’ work from his early portraiture to his late experimental paintings and photographs in the 1890s. His work has been gathered from galleries and museums around the world.
1 pm - Try lunch at one of the many cafes in Manuka, another lively and popular suburb. The shopping area is a square block so you can walk around to find the cafe that suits you best, with offerings ranging from Asian to Italian to modern Australian.
3 pm - Head over to Old Parliament House which houses an art gallery and is often used as a venue for dinners. All the politics moved up the hill about 20 years ago to the new Parliament House, which cost the country A$1.1 billion ($684 million) to build.
7 pm - Like other Australian cities, Canberra has a large number of restaurants, catering for most wallets.
If you feel like splashing out a little, try the recently renovated, revolving Alto Restaurant at the top of the Black Mountain’s Telstra Tower, with magnificent views of Canberra, a city of about 350,000 people, built to be the capital of Australia from 1913. Chef Kurt Neumann has designed a modern Australian menu with a French twist with dishes like twice-cooked zucchini and goat’s cheese souffle.
Don’t want to overstretch the budget? Try Chinatown in the suburb of Dickson where there are scores of restaurants on offer.
8 am - Grab breakfast on the run at the Old Bus Depot Markets on Wentworth Avenue, Kingston, which are held every Sunday with a range of stalls selling everything from vintage collections to fresh produce and gourmet food.
10 am - Next stop the National Museum of Australia, which opened in 2001 and explores Australia’s social history by looking at key issues, its people and events that shaped the nation. The museum, which is hard to miss with a large, orange arch extending into the sky, holds the world’s largest collection of Aboriginal bark paintings and stone tools, and the heart of champion racehorse Phar Lap.
1 pm - Have lunch on The Deck at Regatta Point in Commonwealth Park overlooking Lake Burley Griffin in the heart of Canberra. Next door is the National Capital Exhibition that tells the story of Canberra. After lunch, take a stroll around the lake. The distance from bridge to bridge is 5 km and an easy one hour walk, although you’ll be passed by lots of running and cycling Canberrans.
4 pm - As a final stop, try the heritage-listed Hyatt Hotel on Commonwealth Avenue where The Tea Lounge is a favored spot for afternoon tea. Indulge in a buffet of savories, fresh baked scones, jam and cream and a selection of cakes in the art deco surroundings.
Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by James Grubel and Miral Fahmy