Canberra is the picturesque capital of Australia, surrounded by many green spaces and nature reserves.
You visit Canberra to take advantage of the laidback, small-town feel, and be surrounded by greenery. Canberra is a planned community that was designed to be a “garden city,” so you’ll find a lot of green space and cultural centers, as well as quirky architecture and road systems.
The town centers around the large, artificial Lake Burley Griffin, and there are plenty of options to walk and bike around Canberra.
You are also well based to explore sights outside the city, like Namadgi National Park.
Canberra’s city proper is spread out, and includes the surrounding suburbs, so you definitely want to base yourself in an area best suited for your travel interests and budget.
We’ll help you decide where to stay in Canberra in this guide that covers the 5 best areas.
Table of Contents
- Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Canberra
- Where to Stay in Canberra
- Quick Guide to Canberra
- 5 Best Areas to Stay in Canberra
- 1. City Centre – Where to Stay in Canberra for First Timers
- 2. Acton – Where to Stay in Canberra on a Budget
- 3. Woden Valley – Where to Stay in Canberra for Ultimate Relaxation
- 4. Braddon – Coolest Area to Stay in Canberra
- 5. Kingston – Where to Stay in Canberra with Families
Quick Tips – Where to Stay in Canberra
- Where to stay in Canberra for the first time – City Centre
- Where to stay in Canberra on a budget – Acton
- Best area to stay in Canberra for nightlife – Woden Valley
- Coolest place to stay in Canberra – Braddon
- Best neighbourhood in Canberra for families – Kingston
In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first timers:
- Head to City Walk for a spot of retail therapy and some lunch al fresco
- And for even more shopping, head to the shopping haven of Canberra Centre
- Take yourself to Commonwealth Park for a lovely waterside walk
Where to Stay in Canberra
Not fussed what area you stay in Canberra? Well, then here are our picks for the best accommodation in Canberra…
Best Hostel in Canberra: Canberra City YHA
As one of the only hostels of its type in Canberra, this place is a hub of traveling fun. Spotlessly clean and stylishly decorated, this hostel is amazing, considering it includes an indoor pool and jacuzzi, and a rooftop hangout with amazing views.
Choose from dorms and private rooms and enjoy breakfasts at the cafe, or make food yourself in the communal kitchen.
Best Hotel in Canberra: Canberra Rex Hotel
Surrounded by green trees, stay in this relaxing hotel and enjoy its chilled-out indoor swimming pool and spa baths. Rooms here are spacious with big soft beds and modern bathrooms that really offer great value for money.
There’s a new rooftop bar and brasserie, which is perfect for a couple of cocktails at sunset; then it’s just a short walk into town for dinner.
Best Airbnb in Canberra: Central Loft Apartment
Stay in the heart of the city among shops and restaurants in this homely loft apartment. The large apartment has plenty of room for all of your belongings, including a large double bed, a well-stocked kitchen and cosy lounge area.
Guests also have access to the on-site gym, a rooftop terrace, and free parking. Around the local area, the streets are busy with restaurants and shops, and you’re close to public transport to get around the city easily.
Check out our Airbnb post for a 35% discount!
Quick Guide to Canberra
Quick Summary: The Best Places to Stay in Canberra
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Canberra is the picturesque capital of Australia. Often downplayed by visitors in favour of Sydney or Melbourne, there’s a lot more to the city than administrative buildings.
The site was chosen in 1908 to be the site for the Australian capital and – after an international design competition – construction started in 1913 on what would become Canberra. An entirely planned city, Canberra’s road system is unusually formed of many circles and hexagons and, influenced by the garden city movement, features many green spaces and vegetation.
Because of its planned nature, the various areas of the Australian capital are quite quirky in layout and reveal many suburbs. But we’ve selected the best areas to stay in Canberra to give you an idea of what to expect.
Firstly there’s the City Centre – also referred to simply as Civic, or CBD (Central Business District). This area of Canberra is centred around the circular park of City Hill and expands out past the hexagonal London Circuit.
It’s home to shopping malls, governmental buildings, parks and pedestrian streets.
To the west of City Centre is the district of Acton. Situated on the northern bank of the winding Lake Burley Griffin, this area is home to the Australian National University and borders Black Mountain Nature Reserve to the northwest.
Much further south of the lake is Woden Valley, a collection of leafy suburbs with a laid-back atmosphere.
North of Canberra City Centre is an area called Braddon. This is officially the oldest suburb of Canberra, which means it boasts several examples of heritage buildings that feature classic 1920s architecture.
The last stop on our tour of Canberra is Kingston. Located on the south bank of Lake Burley Griffin, it borders Jerrabomberra Wetlands Reserve to the northeast and is also home to Canberra’s main railway station. Kingston is a chilled, lakeside area with cool cafes and heritage buildings.
Let’s dive into more detail and explore what the best five areas of Canberra have to offer, shall we?
5 Best Areas to Stay in Canberra
Despite being the capital of Australia, Canberra is a relatively relaxed town. Its laid-back university vibe makes this an easy place to explore. To keep this sort of atmosphere, there are height restrictions on new buildings, meaning Canberra will never be a towering city.
From its grand boulevards and big administrative buildings to its pleasant parks and lakeside views, Canberra has been designed with amenities and closeness-to-nature in mind.
But which of the picturesque areas do you think will best suit you? Let’s take a look…
Canberra City Centre – aka Civic, Civic Centre, CBD, or simply ‘City’ – is the heart of the Australian Capital. Properly established in 1927, the centre of town is a series of geometric road shapes lined by grand, early 20th-century edifices and plumes of green trees.
Filled with polished urban areas, trendy cafes, eateries and ample shopping opportunities, the City Centre is the place to be if you like your city breaks convenient. This is where to stay in Canberra if you want to be walking distance from the top attractions.
Things to See and Do in City Centre
– Head to City Walk for a spot of retail therapy and some lunch al fresco.
– Stroll around the relaxed Glebe Park.
– And for even more shopping, head to the shopping haven of Canberra Centre.
– Grab a coffee and people-watch at The Cupping Room.
– Admire the architecture at Civic Square.
– Eat at the highly rated Iori Japanese Restaurant.
– Wander around the Canberra Museum & Gallery.
– Go for a swim at the Canberra Olympic Pool.
– Take yourself to Commonwealth Park for a lovely waterside walk.
Best Hotels in City Centre:
With the only hostel in the city being the Canberra City YHA, this apartment hotel is the only other place in the area to suit a tight budget.
Rooms are big and can accommodate a group of people and come with their own kitchen, so you can stay well within your travel budget by making your own meals.
There’s also a spa and a gym for guests to use, and restaurants and a shopping mall around the corner.
Chic and stylish, this hotel offers large, luxurious rooms close to top city sights.
Bordering the west of Canberra’s City Centre is the district of Acton.
Also situated on the meandering banks of Lake Burley Griffin, Acton is largely taken up by buildings and departments of The National Australian University, which means you can expect a young, student vibe here.
There’s also an abundance of nature to explore in and around the Acton area, making it a definite pick for outdoors enthusiasts and young people alike.
Things to See and Do in Acton
– Stroll through the International Sculpture Park.
– Learn about the country’s history at the waterfront National Museum of Australia…
– … And have a bite to eat at The Museum Cafe, complete with beautiful lake views.
– Walk through the sprawling and tranquil Australian National Botanic Gardens.
– Take a trip around the fascinating National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
– Explore the walking tracks that crisscross Black Mountain Nature Reserve, Australia’s most diverse nature park.
– Grab a takeout coffee and watch the world go by at Sullivans Creek.
Best Hotels in Acton:
Located inside the university campus, this accommodation is a lot of fun to stay in. Rooms are huge, complete with seating area, lounge, desk space and a balcony, and the underfloor heating means in the winter months your stay will be warm and toasty.
Enjoy breakfast at the cafeteria and then catch a bus from the stop just outside to the nearby National Gallery.
Cool urban design mixed of contemporary textures creates a chilled and laid-back environment for your stay in the city.
Hotel Hotel is close to some of the city’s top sites and eateries. This hotel is perfect for those looking to take a city break and with an onsite bar, great views of the city and friendly staff.
Comprising a collection of Canberra suburbs that date to the 1960s, Woden Valley is a sprawling area that stretches south from the Parliament House. The first satellite city to be built, it’s now part of Canberra proper, but doesn’t feel very much like a city at all.
Woden Valley is home to hundreds of parks and green spaces, and several nature reserves. This really is perfect place to stay in Canberra if you want to hike, stroll, and relax in nature.
Things to See and Do in Woden Valley
– Take a tour around the interesting Royal Australian Mint.
– Spot kangaroos at Oaky Hill Nature Reserve in Lyons.
– Go for a quiet stroll around Woden Cemetery…
– … And the surrounding Edison Park.
– Take a walk around Phillip and choose from one of its many cafes for a breather.
– Shop ‘till you drop at the massive Westfield Woden.
– Appreciate the view from the top of Red Hill Nature Reserve.
– Eat at the modern tapas restaurant Onred, complete with city views.
– Explore the Mount Mugga Mugga Nature Reserve.
– Brunch at the rustic cafe, Fox & Bow, in Farrer.
– Check out the Serbian Orthodox Church of St Sava also in Farrer.
– Enjoy a bit of hill-walking at Farrer Ridge Nature Reserve.
Best Hotels in Woden Valley:
Amongst the action and close to shops and trendy bistros, this hotel offers budget accommodation and excellent value.
The relaxed vibe of the suburbs means travellers can explore the local community and the surrounding nature with ease. The basic but clean rooms come with a refrigerator and the price includes breakfast.
Extremely clean and modern, this hotel’s spacious and peaceful rooms are perfect for your stay in the area.
The hotel features big bathrooms and comfortable king size beds, and there is a wide selection of bars and restaurants nearby. You can opt for the hotel’s restaurant, which serves up a range of delicious meals too.
The tiny area of Braddon lies north of Canberra City Centre. This is one of the city’s oldest suburbs, which was settled in 1922, and as such features quite a few examples of early 20th-century architecture.
It was also home to Canberra’s first industry and is now the most densely populated of its suburbs.
There is a concentration of cool cafes and restaurants in this hip area, which combined with pockets of interesting architecture, make Braddon the perfect place for just wandering around and checking out the sights!
Things to See and Do in Braddon
– Visit the heritage building of the Salvation Army Hall.
– Snap some photos of the historic Ainslie Arts Centre.
– Stroll through Haig Park.
– Check out the retro housing at Alt Crescent.
– Go for a drink at the Civic Pub.
– Promenade the trendy neighborhood of Lonsdale Street with its boutiques and designer stores, cafes, and bars.
Best Hotels in Braddon:
Set in manicured gardens with a courtyard, this budget hotel fills the gap for hostels in this trendy area. Close to the war memorial, many of the city sights are in walking distance from here, and there is a bus stop on the same street. Enjoy unwinding in the hotel’s chilled-out bar area or spend time enjoy the comfort of your room with its en-suite bathroom.
With its extremely convenient location close to the centre of the action, Mantra Hotel’s rooms are well maintained and its staff are very hospitable and happy to help with guests’ requests.
Walk to the local cafes and bars or use the kitchen facilities to make yourself snacks. There is a pool a gym so you can get your holiday workouts in, too!
Located on the southeast shore of Lake Burley Griffin, Kingston is a cool waterfront area. Formerly home to an industrial portion of Canberra, today the suburb – which dates back to the 1920s – is a densely packed and historic area of the city that is all about regeneration and repurposing old buildings for new uses.
Kingston is also home to the vibrant Kingston Foreshore, an area where entertainment, dining, and lake views merge into one charming area of this vibrant Canberra suburb.
Things to See and Do in Kingston
– Check out the selection of cool cafes between Eyre and Giles Street, particularly Silo Bakery and Cafe and Penny University.
– Take a walk around the picturesque Norgrove Park.
– Explore the rich waterways of the Jerrabomberra Wetlands Nature Reserve.
– Visit the former power plant of Kingston Powerhouse.
– Check out Canberra Glassworks that are now housed in this historic building.
– Browse the various sights, sounds, and tastes of the Old Bus Depot Markets, a Sunday institution!
– See what’s on at the historic Causeway Hall, now an event space.
– Snap a photo of Canberra Baptist Church, dedicated in 1928; it’s a fine example of the inter-war gothic style.
– Stroll along Kingston Foreshore, admiring the lake views and window shopping…
– …Before stopping for a healthy, Instagram-worthy meal at Local Press Cafe.
Best Hotels in Kingston
Well priced with brilliant facilities, this hotel is one of the cheapest accommodation options in the Kingston area. The hotel staff are extremely helpful with any questions and the location is ideal, so close to amazing bars and restaurants!
Rooms come with a modern, clean kitchen so you can save yourself some money by making your own food. Plus there are laundry facilities for guests.
For a stress-free stay in the city, this hotel wins. Staff take care of your every need and rooms are styled on self-catering apartments. The perfect choice for families, the hotel is really clean and newly decorated with big baths for children to splash around in.
There is parking available, as well as a bar, restaurant and a cafe, but the location is so close to so many great eateries that you’ll be spoilt for choice!
Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Canberra
This unique and quirky capital, Canberra, is often overshadowed by Australia’s more touristic cities, but there’s actually quite a bit to do in Canberra if you’re after a laidback vacation.
Of course, you can check out the architecture and parliament buildings, but this is also a great city to visit if you want to wine and dine, explore local markets and art galleries, and stroll through the surrounding parks.
We covered the best areas in Canberra, but if you’re still not sure which to stay in Canberra, you can’t go wrong with the Canberra Rex Hotel. Come to this hotel to relax among trees and geenery, and the indoor swimming pool and spa baths.
For backpackers, Canberra City YHA is one of the city’s only hostels, but it’s a great base to meet other travelers and hang out. They have an on-site cafe and a communal kitchen. It even includes an in an indoor pool, jacuzzi, and rooftop hangout. Score.
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.
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