A Gents Guide to a Weekend in Canberra

You’ll only need a weekend to explore the best of Canberra, and that’s by no means a bad thing. The city is spacious, yet everything notable feels so close to each other and it offers a neat balance between greenery, beautiful isolated landmarks and city life.

We spent 48 hours in our nation’s capital and realised it’s not just a city for a romantic getaway, but also a place for some good old-fashioned fun with mates. Here’s your guide of places to hit up the next time you head down.

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stay little national hotel

STAY – Little National Hotel

Canberra’s newest boutique luxury hotel is situated within what the Canberrans call the “Realm Precinct”, neighbouring Parliament House and a short 5-minute drive from the city centre. It’s a fairly unique offering, with each of the 120 rooms virtually identical in size and offering. But before your mind strays to thoughts of a Japanese capsule hotel, think again. Each room is sophisticated, ultra-modern and makes clever use of space to luxurious effect so you don’t feel cramped at all. That’s also in part due to its plush “super-king” sized beds, wall to wall windows and a huge bathroom/shower space. The hotel also offers free Wi-Fi (which is actually a big deal these days) and a lounge and library that are really there to marvel for all their interior design glory. Everything oozes modern luxury here, and you’ll leave feeling duly taken care of.*

Check it out

hair cut in qt barber shop

TRY – A cut and shave at QT Barber Shop

The grooming services offered within the QT group of hotels across the country have always been considered top-notch, and Canberra’s iteration of the Barber Shop is no exception. Wedged between Lucky’s cocktail bar and Capitol Bar & Grill inside the first floor of the hotel, the Barber Shop is much smaller than its Sydney counterpart but the experience remains a carbon copy, with various grooming packages for the discerning gentleman. The resident barbers here are Craig & Dustin, dressed in the official QT barber uniform of an M.J. Bale suit. The cherry on the top of your sharp cut and shave is a complimentary single serve of Chivas Regal, served your way.

lonsdale street and canberra centre

SHOP – Lonsdale Street & Canberra Centre

Ask a few of the locals and you’ll quickly realise Canberra isn’t really on the map for their fashion offering. However, the city does nail the basics, and these can be found in Canberra Centre in the heart of the city. All your standard clothing stores are here, with General Pants, SABA, ZARA, Roger David all in residence. If you’re looking to avoid the mainstream and have a more considered eye for the sartorial, you’ll want to check out Lonsdale Street. It’s home to stores like Groomed (pictured), where you can do your shopping of brands like Saturdays Surf NYC and Norse, as well as treat yourself to a cut and shave with one half of the store a working barbershop. Don’t forget to check out Eye Candy Optical on Lonsdale, home to eyewear brands like Persol, Barton Perreira and Thom Browne, as well as Braddon Tailors, specialising in bespoke suits starting from $900 all the way up to $20,000 depending on the choice of fabrics and level of alteration.

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patissez ona on the lawns brodburger

EAT BRUNCH (OR LUNCH) – Pattisez, Ona on the Lawns, Brodburger

No one told Canberra the freakshake trend has reached its use-by date, and to be frank, the owners of Pattisez in the CBD don’t really care (as evidenced by their Pulp Fiction mural). Apparently, the Canberrans don’t care either, with this freakshake destination amassing an insane following in the space of less than a year. Aside from the milkshake monstrosities that they lovingly craft, this café also offers more sensible brunch offerings like smashed avocado and bircher muesli. Yep, boring. Get the Pretzella freakshake: almost 50,000 Instagram followers can’t be wrong. If that’s not your scene, hit Lonsdale Street again for more modest dining, or make your way out to Ona on the Lawns in Griffith and get your caffeine fix at one of the best coffee places in Canberra. For dirty burgers, Brodburger in Kingston is the only place you’ll need.

provini akiba dinner

EAT DINNER – Provini, Akiba

Provini is located in Canberra’s dining precinct on Bunda Street, serving up no-nonsense Italian. The menu focuses on shared dishes, separated by small plates and large plates with a generous pizza menu but you’ll have to get in early if you want to enjoy any of the hearty dishes here. Serve your waiting time at the bar, where they offer an array of fine cocktails, wines and beers. If you’re in the mood for something more oriental, neighbouring Akiba is one of Canberra’s hottest Asian dining spots, packed to the rafters each night. Best described as Canberra’s answer to Melbourne’s famous Chin Chin, Akiba offers a mix of Asian cuisines, serving up everything from Thai street food to barbecued meats and sashimi.

molly hotel

DRINK – Molly, Tongue & Groove, Lucky’s

When in Canberra, ignore Jay-Z and definitely pop some Molly. Molly being the hidden speakeasy in the city, with no address listed, no signage, and only co-ordinates as a guide to get you to an inconspicuous wooden door entrance (yes, it’s one of those cooler than cool places). The cocktails here are next level, as is the selection of whiskeys from around the globe. The pick, of course, is the barrel-aged Old Fashioned, instantly taking you back to a more refined and gentlemanly era for the night. For early afternoon drinks, head over to Tongue and Groove near Canberra Centre, with their Passionfruit Negroni an interesting take on a classic, or Lucky’s cocktail bar within QT Canberra.

academy club uni pub

CLUB – Academy Club, Uni Pub, Mr Wolf

The lack of lockout laws in Canberra is probably the best aspect of its nightlife. You don’t have to line up for hours to get into any of the clubs in the city, you’ll get your drink in a couple of minutes, and venue staff are actually friendly. We know, it’s a Sydneysiders dream. If you find yourself out and about in the city, we recommend hitting up Academy Club (right next-door to Provini), a two-level bar/club open till late. Hold your conversations with that hot girl across the bar upstairs, then head downstairs for dancing in the spacious DJ arena. Other clubbing options include the 5-level Uni Pub on London Circuit where you’ll find a fairly younger crowd or try Mr Wolf in Civic, a nightclub inspired by Pulp Fiction and open from Thursday to Friday with guests DJs on Friday nights.

*Reader disclaimer: The author stayed in Canberra as a guest of the Little National Hotel.

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