The Ultimate Canberra 1-Day Itinerary

Canberra is known as Australia’s capital. As the only Australian capital city that’s not located on the coast, Canberra is an inland city surrounded by lush green nature reserves and beautiful farmland. Because of this, Canberra is also affectionately nicknamed ‘The Bush Capital‘.

However, don’t let the name fool you.

Although Canberra is surrounded by nature reserves and dotted with peaceful parklands, Canberra is a lively city brimming with top-notch museums, arty galleries, quirky cafes, and buzzing nightlife. It is undoubtedly one of the most underrated capital cities.

With only a 3-hour drive away from SydneyOpens in a new tab., Canberra makes a great weekend away if you are in Sydney. Alternatively, direct flights to Canberra are available from many major Australian cities, giving it another reason to visit Canberra.

Although it can take a few days to visit all the interesting attractions in Canberra, especially if you love to visit museums and galleries, you can certainly visit Canberra’s most important landmarks all within one day.

In this article, I have compiled a detailed & packed itinerary for visiting all the highlights of Canberra in only one day. I hope you find it helpful in your trip planning.

Lake Burley Griffin

Since most places in Canberra open at 9 am or 10 am, to make the most out of this one day in Canberra, we will join the locals and take a morning stroll along Lake Burley Griffin before all other attractions open their doors.

Lake Burley Griffin is a beautiful artificial lake in the heart of Canberra. Its 40-kilometre shoreline is tastefully lined with green grassy parks and well-maintained walkways, making Lake Burley Griffin a prime spot for locals and visitors alike to enjoy a peaceful stroll or exercise.

Water sports like kayaking are very popular in Lake Burley Griffin. If interested, you can also join a 1-hour Lake Burley Griffin Cruise to appreciate the beauty of Lake Burley Griffin from a different perspective & get acquainted with all the important landmarks around the lake.

If you are only considering taking a stroll along Lake Burley Griffin, start from Canberra Nara Peace Park & walk towards the Parliament Triangle. In this way, you can enjoy a tranquil park before walking along the tree-lined lakeside walkway & arriving at the International Flag Display.

International Flag Display

International Flag Display is a total of 110 flags lined up along the lakefront of Lake Burley Griffin, between Peace Park and the High Court of Australia. These 110 flags represent the 108 missions with a diplomatic presence in Canberra, plus a flag each for the United Nations and the European Union.

The beautiful colours of the International Flag Display are a colourful addition to the beautiful lakefront promenade and make great photo opportunities too. It is also a fun spot to test your knowledge of flags, with plaques under each flagpole specifying which country they belong to.

The Little Burley Market

If you visit Canberra on a Saturday, you can find the buzzing Little Burley Market near Commonwealth Place & right under the International Flag Display.

The Little Burley Market is an artisanal food market along the lakefront promenade near Commonwealth Place. It is held on Saturdays between 9 am and 1.30 pm.

Within The Little Burley Market, you can find various gourmet foods originating from different countries, such as Argentina, Turkey, Italy, Bhutan, Vietnam, and France. You can find anything from pastries, desserts, coffees, smoked meats, fresh produce, and liquor to pet supplies, garden needs, handmade jewellery, and clothing items.

It is an excellent place to grab brunch and enjoy it along the beautiful lake.

Parliament House

Being the political centre of Australia, Canberra is the home of a range of national institutes. Among them, the Parliament House is one not to be missed when visiting Canberra.

The Parliament House is located on top of Capital Hill. It opens from 9 am to 5 pm every day, except on Christmas Day. Entry to Parliament House is free, but all visitors must go through a security check upon entering the building (very reasonable, considering its political importance).

Free guided tours are available for getting your heads around the Parliament House. Other paid tours are also available, which you can find out here on the Parliament House websiteOpens in a new tab.. Although you don’t need to book your visit to the Parliament House in advance, bookings are highly recommended for these guided tours.

Within the Parliament House, you can check out various places with names you would have heard countless times before, such as the House of Representatives Chamber, the Senate Chamber, the Members’ Hall, the Marble Foyer, and the Great Hall.

Even if you are not taking any guided tours of the Parliament House, there are still many information boards around the building to help you understand this building, its history, and how the Parliament of Australia works.

Towards the end of your visit, make sure you also check out the Queen’s Terrace Cafe for a coffee break with a stunning terrace view of Canberra.

If you are visiting by car, underground car parks are available at the Parliament House, with the first hour of parking for free. There were a lot of empty spots when I was there, but if you can’t find any car parks at the Parliament House, there are plenty more parking spaces in the nearby John Gordon Building Parking Lot, which is ticket parking between 8.30 am and 5 pm on weekdays.

Old Parliament House

After checking out the Parliament House, make sure you also check out the Old Parliament House, just down the road, to compare the difference & explore more behind the scene details.

The Old Parliament House was the seat of the Parliament of Australia for 61 years before it moved to its current site on Capital Hill in 1988. The Old Parliament House is a beautiful colonial building compared to the modern design of the current Parliament House.

Since the relocation of the Parliament, the Old Parliament House has since been transformed into and renamed the Museum of Australian Democracy, dedicated to interpreting, conserving and presenting the spirit and stories of Australian democracy.

The Old Parliament House is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm (closed on Christmas Day). Like many national museums and galleries in Canberra, entry to the Old Parliament House is free. You can also use the free guided tours to explore this building complex, but booking is suggested.

Within the Old Parliament House, you can not only check out the old House of Representatives Chamber and Senate Chamber but also check out places such as the Prime Minister’s Suite, Cabinet Room, Speaker of House of Representatives Suite, President of the Senate’s Suite, and the Broadcasting Room. These are all the places you would not have had the chance to explore in the current Parliament House.

Even for someone like me, who is not at all interested in politics, it was a really fun experience checking out all these offices where the then politicians used.

In addition, there are also various exhibitions, such as the Howard Library Exhibition, Democracy Exhibition, and The Year in Politics Cartoons within the Old Parliament.

There is a cute cafe in the courtyard of the Old Parliament House, which you can check out too.

There are also beautiful gardens around the Old Parliament House, which were once upon a time only opened for the Members and Senators of the Parliament. Nowadays, everyone can check them out free of charge.

Aboriginal Tent Embassy

On the front lawn of the Old Parliament House, you will find a group of tents, the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

I did not know much about it before visiting Canberra. When I first saw it, I thought they were just regular tents for some commercial event. I only realised its historical significance when I looked into its history.

The Aboriginal Tent Embassy is a permanent protest on Indigenous rights and recognition. It started in 1972. and was made a permanent establishment in 1992. As a unique cultural, political, and historical establishment, it is one of the spots you should not miss when in Canberra.

National Gallery of Australia

Canberra is filled with fascinating museums and galleries. There are so many of them that it will take you days to go through them all. Of all these museums and galleries, you should at least check out the National Gallery of Australia during this one-day itinerary.

The National Gallery of Australia houses an extensive collection of artworks from more than 15,000 artists worldwide. These artworks include paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, ceramics, and costumes, with masterpieces from renowned artists such as Monet and Sydney Nolan.

The National Gallery of Australia is also home to the world’s most extensive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art collection. This has undoubtedly made the National Gallery of Australia an irreplaceable national treasure.

Like many other national museums and galleries in Canberra, visiting the National Gallery of Australia is free. However, a ticket may be required for certain special exhibits, which you will need to check out and book online ahead of time.

That said, a walk through the impressive free collections in the National Gallery of Australia will take at least a couple of hours. That is on the basis that you will not look into each artwork in detail. So, for the sake of this packed itinerary, you will unlikely have sufficient time for a paid exhibit.

National Portrait Gallery

Only a short walk from the National Gallery of Australia, you will find the National Portrait Gallery.

National Portrait Gallery houses a vast collection of portraiture in varying mediums. Here, you can find a fascinating mix of portraits in painting, drawing, photographs, sculptures, puppets, ceramics, and videos. They are portraits of people from all walks of life and around the world.

It was an interesting visit and worth spending at least an hour for.

Entry to National Portrait Gallery is free. There is also a small gift shop and a cafe on-site if you need to purchase a souvenir or something to eat.

Australian War Memorial

A visit to Canberra is incomplete without visiting the Australian War Memorial.

Standing tall at the northern end of the ANZAC Parade, directly facing the Parliament House from across the lake, the Australian War Memorial is one of Canberra’s most prominent and famous landmarks.

The Australian War Memorial was opened in 1941 to commemorate the men and women who served in any war and conflicts that Australia has participated in. It is also a sobering reminder of the people who made the ultimate sacrifice through the archives and artefacts from these wars and conflicts.

Even if you are not a big fan of war history, the impressive Pool of Reflection, Hall of Memory, and Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldiers are all worth visiting on their own merits.

Entry to the Australian War Memorial is free, but you will need to book your visit onlineOpens in a new tab. in advance. I did see people arriving at the memorial without booking. Although they were allowed in, they had to wait at the gate for the next session. Also, there is no guarantee you can get a spot during busy seasons.

Most visiting sessions are over two hours, except for the late afternoon sessions. From 4 pm onwards, the memorial will gradually close its galleries in preparation for its daily Last Post Ceremony at 4.45 pm.

If you plan to check out all the galleries in-depth, you will undoubtedly need a good two hours to check out the Australian War Memorial. If you are not into war history and only want to check out the Pool of Reflection, Hall of Memory, and Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldiers, one hour can be all you need for this visit.

Another option for visiting the Australian War Memorial is to attend the Last Post Ceremony. The Last Post Ceremony is an emotional commemorative ceremony held in front of the Pool of Reflection and Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldiers. It starts every day at 4.45 pm & booking is also highly recommended to secure a spot.

Free 4-hour underground parking is available at the Australian War Memorial if you visit the memorial by car. When approaching the memorial via ANZAC Parade, you will need to turn right onto Fairborn Avenue & then take the first exit on your left.

Mount Ainslie Lookout

After you visit the Australian War Memorial, make sure you also check out Mount Ainslie Lookout in the nature reserve just behind the memorial.

Mount Ainslie Lookout is located on Mount Ainslie Summit. With an elevation of 846 metres and located just behind the Australian War Memorial, Mount Ainslie Lookout provides a spectacular panoramic view of Canberra and its surrounding mountain ranges.

On a clear day, you will have the Australian War Memorial, ANZAC Parade, Old Parliament House, and the new Parliament House lined up right in front of your eyes from Mount Ainslie Lookout. It is undoubtedly the best lookout in Canberra & makes the perfect spot to watch sunset over the beautiful Canberra city.

You can easily drive up to Mount Ainslie Lookout from the Australian War Memorial in under 10 minutes. There are also plenty of parking spots around the lookout for your convenience.

Alternatively, you can follow the walking tracks from the back of the Australian War Memorial and walk up to the remarkable Mount Ainslie Lookout. Since I have not done this hike myself, I can not comment on how long this hike will take & how difficult it is. However, from what I observed, most people were there by driving instead of hiking.

Also, there are no toilets at Mount Ainslie Lookout. So make sure you have used the toilets at the memorial before heading up here.

More Than One Day in Canberra

There is so much to see and do in Canberra. If you have more time to spare, I truly wish you could spend at least a few days here in Canberra.

Here is my list of places to check out if you have more than one day in Canberra.

National Museum of Australia

The National Museum of Australia is a huge museum located on the Acton Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

The National Museum of Australia has a vast collection focusing on Indigenous arts and culture, Australian rocks and minerals, Australia’s ecosystem and climate, Australia’s native animals and marine life, and famous Australian landmarks. This has made the National Museum of Australia one of the best places to learn about Australia.

Entry to the National Museum of Australia is free. The museum opens from 9 am to 5 pm daily & is closed on Christmas Day. A cafe and a gift shop are available within the museum. There is also a great outdoor area revolving around a small pool within the museum for visitors to chill and relax.

A decent-sized car park is available on-site at the National Museum of Australia. From what I remember, it is ticket-parking on weekdays between 8.30 am and 5 pm.

Royal Australian Mint

Royal Australian Mint is where all the circulating Australian coins are manufactured. To educate the public, it also offers a free museum for visitors to learn the process of coin making and how coins were first introduced in Australia.

Free guided tours are available at Royal Australian Mint & can be booked here onlineOpens in a new tab. (highly recommended for securing a spot).

In addition to joining the free guided tour and checking out all the rare coin collections, visitors can also mint their own coins at the minting machines. Unique souvenirs can be purchased from the gift shop on-site as well.

Pay attention to the staircase leading to the upper floor when you are here. All the stairs are filled with shiny silver coins!

Free 2-hour parking is available at the Royal Australian Mint, which is generally sufficient for joining the free guided tour and checking out its exciting collections.


If you are visiting Canberra with kids, check out the National Science and Technology Centre, a.k.a. Questacon.

Questacon is an interactive science and technology museum designed for kids. It is an excellent place for kids to learn while having tons of fun.

Unlike all the other museums and galleries mentioned here, entering Questacon requires a ticket, which can be purchased online before your visit, to secure a preferred entry time.

Ticket to Questacon is AUD 24.50 per adult & AUD 18.90 per child aged 4-16. Family tickets are available too.

National Arboretum Canberra

The National Arboretum Canberra is a massive arboretum spanning over 250 hectares. It is filled with a mosaic of living forests and offers a breathtaking view of Canberra, especially at sunset.

Various walking tracks allow visitors to explore its nearly 100 species of trees within the National Arboretum Canberra. Depending on the season, you will be presented with a different colour combo, thanks to the thoughtful tree selection process.

A cafe and well-equipped playgrounds are available in its Village Centre. You can also find a Bonsai and Penjing Collection here, which can be very interesting to check out.

Check out the Himalayan Cedar Lookout for a wonderful view of the arboretum and Canberra. It makes an excellent spot to watch the sunset.

The National Arboretum Canberra is free to visit. But you will need to pay for parking at the Village Centre, where the gift shop, cafe, playground, and Bonsai Collection are. Parking at the Himalayan Cedar Lookout is free but very limited.

Where to Stay In Canberra

Although Canberra offers a large number of holiday accommodations, It can be hard to find those dirt-cheap accommodations, especially if you are looking for a cheap hostel stay. Most accommodations are standard double rooms or serviced apartments, priced between AUD 100 to AUD 250.

In terms of the location, since most of the trendy restaurants and bars are clustered around Braddon and Dickson, it can be an excellent idea to stay near or between these two areas for convenience.

You can check out a list of available accommodations in Canberra here on Booking.comOpens in a new tab..

Where to Eat in Canberra

Canberra is brimming with trendy cafes and bars. You will never have trouble finding good food and drinks in Canberra. Even the little cafes you see in some of the museums and galleries in Canberra can offer some lovely meals.

For breakfast, depending on where you stayed overnight, you can check out one of the trendy cafes along Kingston foreshore, in Braddon, or Dickson.

If you follow this packed itinerary to visit Canberra in only one day, you can save time by enjoying a light lunch at one of the museums or galleries you visit.

For dinner and your late-night drinks, you can find some great restaurants and bars around Braddon and Canberra Central.

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Bec's Travel Itinerary

I'm passionate about travel. I would like to use this platform to share my travel experiences. Please support me by subscribing to this blog. You can also find more travel related contents on my YouTube channel and Instagram. Thank you :)

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