Fortitude Valley is the centre of Brisbane’s nightlife, but it wasn’t always that way. For most of its history since its settlement in the mid-19th century, it was the city’s department store hub: somewhere to shop – and do little else. That changed when the tram network closed in the ’60s, which choked off the area’s retail appeal.
After that, brothels, sex shops and illegal gambling dens moved in, earning the Valley a reputation as Brisbane’s hotbed for sleaze. But it also became a haven for the city’s alternative scene. Clubs such as The Terminus and The Beat Megaclub fostered Brisbane’s queer community, while the rest of the bars and clubs in the area nurtured nascent music genres: first punk, then electronic.
Although that dissident energy has persisted, these days the Valley is squarely back in the mainstream. Thanks to those initial pioneers this is still the best place in town to drink, catch a gig or have a dance, but it’s also fast becoming the best place in Brisbane for a meal, too.
Thanks to developments such as the Calile Hotel, the Ada Lane food precinct and Howard Smith Wharves (at the Valley’s doorstep), chefs from around town are jostling to set up shop here.