ne of the best ways to explore a new city, see its top tourist attractions and enjoy its atmosphere is to take a self-guided walking tour. With its downtown parks, riverside cycle paths, historic buildings and gentle landscape, Brisbane city is perfect for a walking tour; plus, there’s great public transport to take you to the starting point, around the city and back. Read this article to find out the best Brisbane tourist attractions that can be seen on a self-guided walking tour. Plus, there’s detailed information about each attraction along the way.
Starting Point: Central Station
Ending Point: City Hall
Distance: 5 km
Time: Two hours to one day
1. Anzac Square
Address & Opening Times: Ann & Adelaide Streets; 24 hours
Directions: Starting at Central Station, head due south, cross the road and descend the steps into Anzac Square.
Details: All Australian cities commemorate those who have given their life for their country. Brisbane’s war memorial is centred on Anzac Square, an attractive park planted with, among other flora, rare boab (baobab) trees. The Eternal Flame burns in a Greek Revivalist cenotaph at the Ann Street entrance (northwestern end) to the park. Beneath the cenotaph is the Shrine of Remembrance, containing various tributes and wall plaques in remembrance of Australian soldiers who died in WWI.
Anzac Square is also a place where locals, city workers and ibises mill about the grassy patches, shady trees and pretty fountains.
2. Post Office Square
Address & Opening Times: Post Office Square; 24 hours
Directions: Take the pedestrian bridge over the road at the southeastern corner of the square, which leads into Post Office Square.
Details: This is a pleasant place to relax, while looking out over the landscaped greenery and fountains of Anzac Square.
3. General Post Office
Address & Opening Times: 261 Queens Street; 7am to 6pm Mon – Fri
Directions: Heading in the same direction, cross Queen Street to the GPO.
Details: Brisbane’s historic GPO is still in use. Built between 1871 and 1879, this attractive Neo-Classical building was erected to house the city’s first official postal service. It replaced the barracks for female convicts which had previously occupied the site. The building continues to operate as central Brisbane’s main post office.
4. St Stephen’s Cathedral & Chapel
Address & Opening Times: 249 Elizabeth Street; 8am to 6pm Mon-Fri, 7am to 6pm Sat-Sun
Directions: Walk down the small alley that skirts the eastern side of the post office through to Elizabeth Street. Cross the road to reach St Stephen’s Cathedral & Chapel.
Details: Explore the beautiful St Stephen’s Cathedral and the adjoining St Stephen’s Chapel. One of the landmarks of Brisbane’s city centre is this Gothic-style cathedral. Early settlers provided the funds for this lovely English Gothic-style Catholic Cathedral, designed by noted colonial architect Benjamin Backhouse and completed in 1874. The main façade features restored white twin spires on each side of the elaborate stained-glass windows. Next door is St Stephen’s Chapel, the original cathedral. Built in 1850, the chapel is Brisbane’s oldest church and was designed by English architect Augustus Pugin, who designed London’s House of Parliament.
5. Customs House
Address & Opening Times: 399 Queen Street; 9am to 4pm daily
Directions: Back on Elizabeth Street, head northeast on to Eagle Street. Pass the Riverside Centre and enter the gracious Customs House.
Details: Restored by the University of Queensland in 1994, Customs House, with its landmark copper dome and stately Corinthian columns, is now open to the public. Commissioned in 1886, this is one of Brisbane’s oldest buildings, predating both City Hall and the Treasury. Early renovations removed the hall and staircase, but these have now been carefully reconstructed from the original plans. Today, the building is used for numerous civic functions and there is also a restaurant; call ahead for opening times.
6. City Botanic Gardens
Address & Opening Times: Alice Street; 24 hours
Directions: From the back of Customs House you can access a riverfront boardwalk. Head south again and take in the city views to your right and the river views to your left. When you get to Edward Street Pier take the Mangrove Boardwalk, which cuts southwest into the City Botanic Gardens. Follow the Mangrove Boardwalk along the riverbank and then take the sign-posted walking track through the gardens.
Details: Brisbane’s first botanic gardens on the Brisbane River are the second oldest gardens in Australia. Their peaceful location is a welcome haven from the city’s high-rise buildings.
If you want to explore the City Botanic Gardens, see our Brisbane City Botanic Gardens page for more information.
7. Old Government House
Address & Opening Times: Queensland University of Technology Campus, Gardens Point, George Street; 10am to 4pm Mon-Fri
Directions: A sign-posted walking track takes you from the City Botanic Gardens to the campus of Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Here, you can explore the columned foyer of Old Government House.
Details: Home to the National Trust of Queensland since 1973, the state’s first Government House was designed by colonial architect Charles Tiffin and completed in 1862. The graceful sandstone building served not only as the state governor’s residence, but also as the administrative base and social centre of the state of Queensland until 1910. It was then occupied by the fledgling University of Queensland. Old Government House reopened in 2009 after renovation. It now has an art gallery dedicated to the works of William Robinson, one of Australia’s greatest living landscape artists.
8. Parliament House
Address & Opening Times: Crn George & Alice Streets; 9am to 5pm Mon-Fri, 10am to 2pm Sun
Directions: By now you will be heading northwest. Continue past the QUT Art Museum and pause to take in the splendour of Queensland’s regal, copper-topped Parliament House.
Details: Queensland’s Parliament House was begun in 1865 and completed in 1868. It was designed in French Renaissance style by architect Charles Tiffin, who won an architectural competition. Tiffin added features more suited to Queensland’s tropical climate, such as shady colonnades, shutters and an arched roof which is made from Mount Isa copper. Other notable features are the cedar staircases and the intricate gold leaf detailing on the Council Chamber ceilings.
The building is still used for its original purpose and the public is permitted into the chambers when parliament is not in progress. Unlike other state parliaments, consisting of an Upper and Lower House, Queensland has only one parliamentary body. Parliament House is also notable as being the first legislative building in the British Empire to be lit by electricity.
9. South Bank Parklands
Address & Opening Times: Brisbane River foreshore, South Bank; 9am to 5pm, daily
Directions: Turn left at Parliament House and head down to the QUT Gardens Point ferry terminal. Catch a southbound ferry to South Bank 3 terminal. Meander north through the pleasant and pretty South Bank Parklands, past Stanley Street Plaza and Streets Beach.
Details: The South Bank of the Brisbane River was the site of Expo ’88 and is now a 17 ha (42 acres) centre of culture, entertainment and recreation. The area includes the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, the State Library, the Queensland Museum, and Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, the Conservatorium, Opera Queensland, two colleges and an exhibition centre. The South Bank area abounds with restaurants, cafes, weekend market stalls and street entertainers. South Bank also features the Wheel of Brisbane, offering breathtaking views of the city, and Goodwill Bridge, a 450-m (1,500-ft) pedestrian and cycle bridge, linking the area with the Botanic Gardens.
If you want to explore South Bank Parklands, see our South Bank Brisbane page for more information.
10. Queensland Cultural Centre
Address & Opening Times: Crn Melbourne & Grey Streets, South Bank; 10am to 5pm Mon-Fri, 9am to 5pm Sat-Sun
Directions: Continue past the Queensland Cultural Centre and be sure to pop into the Queensland Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery.
Details: The Queensland Cultural Centre is the hub of Brisbane’s art scene, with a spectacular setting on the South Bank. It incorporates the Queensland Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), the Queensland Museum, the State Library of Queensland and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. First established in 1895 and expanded in 2006, the Queensland Art Gallery has a fine collection of Australian art, including works by Sidney Nolan and Margaret Preston, together with Aboriginal art. The international collection includes 15th-century European art and Asian art from the 12th century. Queensland Art Gallery and GoMA are regarded as one institution and together make up Australia’s second largest public art museum.
11. Treasury Building
Address & Opening Times: 100 George Street; 24 hours
Directions: Once you’ve thoroughly explored these sights, head back towards the CBD on the Victoria Bridge, which will take you to the unmistakable Italian Renaissance Treasury Building.
Details: Built in 1930, the former Queensland Government Treasury Building is currently occupied by the Treasury Casino. In the 1890s and early 1900s the imposing Treasury Building served as a symbol of self-government and as a focus for celebratory and patriotic displays. The building was designed by Australian architect John James Clark. The Queen Street entrance features a grand staircase.
12. Land Administration Building
Address & Opening Times: 100 George Street, 24 hours
Directions: Turn right onto William Street and you’ll pass another spectacular Italian Rennaisance building, the Land Administration Building.
Details: Part of the Treasury Casino, the Land Administration Building is currently the Treasury Hotel. Completed in 1905, the Land Administration Building was designed by chief government architect, Thomas Pyne. The building was originally occupied by the offices of the Lands and Survey Departments, the Premier of Queensland, and the Executive Council, as well as the Queensland National Art Gallery. This two-storeyed building features a colonnade of giant ionic order columns, stained glass in the entrance vestibules and a marble tablet set into the wall of the George Street entrance inscribed with a message sent by King George V to the people of Australia on 25 April 1916, establishing the Anzac Day tradition.
13. Commissariat Stores Building
Address & Opening Times: 115 William Street; 10am to 4pm Tue-Fri
Directions: Cross William Street and delve into Brisbane’s history at Commissariat Stores Building.
Details: The Commissariat Stores Building, constructed by convict labour in 1829, is the only surviving building from Brisbane’s penal colony days open to the public. Having been restored in 2000, it is now open to visitors and houses the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.
14. King George Square
Address & Opening Times: King George Square; 24 hours
Directions: Just south of the Commissariat Stores is a small alley (Stephens Lane) that cuts through to George Street. Turn left on George Street and then immediately right onto Charlotte Street. Then turn left onto Albert Street to explore Brisbane’s modern CBD. At the top of Albert Street, cross Adelaide Street into King George Square.
Details: The attractive King George Square, facing City Hall, continues to resist the encroachment of high-rise office blocks and has several interesting statues, including Form del Mito by Arnaldo Pomodoro. The work’s geometric forms and polished surfaces, for which this Italian sculptor is noted, reflect the changing face of the city from morning through to night. The bronze Petrie Tableau, by Tasmanian sculptor Stephen Walker, was designed for Australia’s bicentenary. It commemorates the pioneer families of Brisbane and depicts one of Queensland’s earliest explorers, Andrew Petrie, being bid farewell by his family as he departs on an inland expedition.
15. City Hall
Address & Opening Times: King George Square; open daily, Clocktower open from 10am to 3pm daily
Directions: On the left of King George Square is City Hall. Wrap up your tour here by taking the lift to the top of the bell tower and soaking up the views over the CBD.
Details: Completed in 1930, the Neo-Classical City Hall is home to Brisbane City Council, the largest council in Australia. Brisbane’s earliest settlement is depicted by a beautiful sculpted tympanum above the main entrance. In the King George Square foyer, are some fine examples of traditional craftsmanship are evident in the floor mosaics, ornate ceilings and woodwork carved from Queensland timbers. City Hall’s 92-m (300-ft) Italian Rennaisance-style tower gives a panoramic view of the city from a platform at its top.
Tell us what you think. Will you be taking a self-guided walking tour of Brisbane city? If you’ve been to Brisbane’s city centre before, what were your most favourite attractions / buildings?
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