Hidden gems and local knowledge – rediscover Brisbane City and South Bank
When it comes to Brisbane’s two most central suburbs – the CBD and South Bank – some are quick to dismiss them as overly touristy or corporate. Look, just because two of the state’s biggest drawcards happen to be bustling with business activity doesn’t mean you should write them off. Both of these central neighbours are packed with rad spots and hidden gems – both big and small – that are well worth your attention.
The new taste
The past year has seen some super exciting additions to Brisbane City’s food scene, with a swathe of dining offerings to suit all tastes and vibes. For high-end modern Chinese, a visit to Donna Chang is a must – oh, and be sure to check out its underground bar The Boom Boom Room (it’s housed in an old bank vault). The fine dining scene has seen some fancy new tastes take flight – Motorwagen brings a touch of auto-luxe to its modern Australian menu, while Walter’s Steakhouse invokes rich saloon atmosphere with old-school hospitality. Customs House’s restaurant has been reborn as Patina, a riverside gem that showcases local produce and seafood. For something a little more laid back, spots like the grungy Hellcat Maggie will sort you out with homestyle bites done to perfection, while Fat Angel is a sports bar dishing out New York-style eats.
There are plenty of great venues to feast at in Brisbane, as these beloved spots prove. OTTO Ristorante has the honour of being one of Queensland’s only two-hatted restaurants, so you know the delicious Italian fare on offer is legit. The City’s laneways are also teeming with tasty outlets to try – Gresham Lane will turn up delights like Melt Brothers grilled cheese, Red Hook’s juicy burgers and Coppa Spuntino’s rustic Italian, while Burnett Lane has you covered with day-to-night atmos from Brew, wholesome fare from Felix For Goodness and finger-licking Korean from Funny Funny. Kennigo Social House is great for catering to groups, while Tumbling Stone offers a more upscale take on grazing menus.
It’s not just for business, folks – Brisbane City is loaded with things that can keep you well and truly occupied. First of all, head to City Hall to check out the Museum of Brisbane – open all year round, this spot puts on rad (and often free) exhibitions that shine a light on local and Australian artists. If you’re around town on a Wednesday, the markets at Reddacliff Place are a must-do – think mountains of local produce and street eats with a buzzing atmosphere. Shopping in The City is a no-brainer, but you don’t have to restrict yourself to the big stores – boutique offerings like Apartment and Violent Green, Swop, Fast Times and Parliament stock more indie labels. For those looking to unwind, a stroll to the City Botanic Gardens will surely soothe the soul – these riverside greens have loads of cool horticulture stuff to check out, plus a massive all-abilities playground. If you’re in town around the festive season, it’s pure magic – the lighting of the Christmas tree and City Hall light spectacular are two events you shouldn’t miss.
South Bank’s spots
Just across the bridge from the CBD, South Bank is often written off as a bit of a tourist trap. Not the case, friends! This area and its surrounds are loaded with spots that are anything but run-of-the-mill. There’s plenty of foodie gems that have opened in the past couple of years – Fish Lane is a standout boasting outlets like Julius Pizzeria, Maker, Hello Please and the one-hatted Gauge. Java junkies best check out the game-changing Pourboy for specialty brews, while those chasing a rollicking good time can head to Munich Brauhaus for some Bavarian-style revelry. Barbossa is a cool corner joint giving serious Caribbean vibes, and Yellowfin Seafood & Grill can satisfy any oceanic cravings.
It’s not just about the new kids – South Bank and South Brisbane have some favourite spots that keep both locals and visitors coming back for more. The Melbourne Street strip is bursting with flavourful spots – cult fave Taro’s Ramen, Asian sensation Chu the Phat, Middle-Eastern marvel Naïm and the iconic Gelato Messina all call this stretch home. Back over in South Bank, Mucho Mexicano brings the heat with its sterling selection of share-style eats, Spaghetti House Trattoria dishes up some of the finest Italian in town, Brooklyn Depot brings a slice of the US with its hearty fare, Tippler’s Tap is a craft-beer and bar food haven, while Suki specialises in the poke bowl and sushi burrito craze.
South Bank isn’t known as Brisbane’s culture hub for nothing – there are some truly iconic spaces to explore here. First of all, the world-class Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art both host significant exhibitions from both Australian and international artists on the regular. QPAC is another gem in the culture crown – this performance space sees a massive volume of critically acclaimed theatre, music and comedy come through it each and every year. On a more local scale, the Queensland Theatre in South Brisbane is a hidden gem that visitors might not know, but the productions borne from here are truly next level. It’s always worth checking what’s happening at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre – this massive centre hosts public events across all realms (from pop-culture to pet adoptions). The State Library of Queensland is another rad spot that houses cool exhibitions, events and activations pretty much every week.
South Bank plays host to a huge range of annual events that you should definitely save the date for (or plan a holiday around). One of the biggest events is Brisbane Festival, a three-week extravaganza of arts and entertainment in September that culminates with the spectacular Riverfire fireworks show. Be sure to get in early for this one! Foodie buffs should definitely head into town in July for Good Food Month, which includes the massively popular Night Noodle Markets that pop up in the Cultural Forecourt. Regional Flavours is another epicurean event that you should mark in your calendar, while those into more cultural vibes can look forward to the Brisbane Writers Festival and World Science Festival. Like The City, South Bank really turns it on for Christmas – the Gift Market is a great opportunity to tick some names off your list.
Keen to get exploring? If this list has got you craving a vacay (or staycay, depending on where you’re at), Mantra Hotels has got you well and truly covered with a range of accommodation options to suit. Whether it’s a girls weekend, a romantic getaway or a trip with the whole fam in tow, there is a Mantra Hotel right for your vibe. Check out what’s on offer here!