Flying interstate this summer? Or just need some inspiration for things to get up to in your hometown? Broadsheet’s city cheat sheets are here to help. From the hottest new openers that live up to the hype, to old favourites that continue to deliver, this is how to make the most of your time in Brisbane.

EAT HERE

Breakfast:
Brisbane gets up early, so was perhaps always destined to boast some fine breakfast cafes.

One of the very best is The Green, an impeccably designed, light-filled retreat hidden in plain sight behind the James Street precinct. It serves Lebanese-inspired breakfasts such as a sausage and egg muffin with shatta, and shakshuka with smoked labneh. If you’re after something more grab-and-go, stop by woodfired Agnes Bakery – a Covid pivot made permanent – for sourdough, kouign-amann and Basque burnt cheesecakes baked in the little Queenslander shop’s four-tonne oven.

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If you’re staying in the city head straight for Intersection, a three-in-one destination that’s the brainchild of Adam Wang, a local specialty coffee pioneer. Coffee Anthology is his classic outfit, and serves some of the best morning brew in town, but it’s been joined in a new location by Fika, a cracking Asian-inspired breakfast and lunch cafe, and a CBD instalment for The Whisk, a hugely popular suburban pastry joint.

South of the river lives West End classic Morning After, where Vietnamese omelettes and breakfast carbonaras are served in an Alexander Lotersztain-designed dining room, and the South Brisbane outpost of Melbourne croissant superstars Lune. On a Saturday morning you’ll find the West End Markets.

And urban sprawl has long been in Brisbane’s DNA, meaning you find some true gems in its leafy burbs, so don’t be afraid to travel for an exceptional breakfast. There’s beautiful Florence in Camp Hill, gluten-free eats at the exquisitely designed Nodo Hawthorne, and Darvella’s Swiss-inspired pastries in Bulimba.

Lunch:
Lunch in Brisbane is best conducted by the river and Howard Smith Wharves has no fewer than four restaurants parked right on the water.

Best for daytime dining is the fresh and fragrant Greek of Jonathan Barthelmess’s Greca and the precise Cantonese being turned out by star chef Louis Tikaram at Stanley, a fabulous two-storey restaurant housed in the heritage-listed former water police headquarters.

Or, if you’re doing James Street earlier in the day, match a spot of shopping with Simon Gloftis’s produce-driven Greek at Hellenika (tip: always order from the Fresh Fish Market menu) or his point-and-plate vegetarian at Sunshine, or hit up Bianca for buzzy Italian share plates.

Evening:
The sun goes down early in Brisbane – even in the middle of summer – giving dinner in this city a moody, vital and slightly club-like vibe.

On James Street, there’s Johnny and Elie Moubarak’s brilliant, plant-driven Middle Eastern food at Gerard’s Bistro which recently re-opened with a new look and a new head chef, Phil Marchant’s precise plates at dark and charismatic Essa or Marchant’s neighbouring bar The Nixon Room which opened with a stellar line-up of cocktails and bar snacks in the first half of 2023, and the freewheeling, expansive Thai of Same Same. If you really want to push the boat out, head for the swanky SK Steak & Oyster, where the steaks range up to a $200 9+ Stockyard Kiwami Wagyu sirloin, or check out Sushi Room’s elevated sushi and sashimi, in a one-of-a-kind dining room. Further north in Newstead is E’cco, Philip Johnson’s Brisbane game-changer that’s just as good today as it was when it debuted back in 1996.

On the other hand, for something forever approachable, cross Ann Street to brothers Cameron and Jordan Votan’s miniature food precinct. There’s Happy Boy, where the food is inspired by the breadth of China; Snack Man, which does the same in a small-plate package; and Mini the team’s approachable French pop-up. Together, these three boast one of the best wine cellars in the city.

Brisbane’s CBD is undergoing an exciting revival, where the grand, heritage-listed Donna Chang has been joined by the elegant, mirror-walled and leather-boothed Rothwell’s, and Tim Scott’s precise, artful Exhibition.

And across the river, Fish Lane is populated by heavy hitters such as Southside, Maeve, Julius and Hello Please – all are worth your time.

Elsewhere, two of Brisbane’s most singular night-time dining experiences couldn’t be any more different. There’s the peerless waterside views and luscious Italian of Otto’s new-ish digs at South Bank, and the pure woodfire and smoke-driven plates of Agnes – book well ahead for both.

DRINK HERE

Afternoon:
Daytime drinking is best performed at one of Brisbane’s many brewpubs, which have become treasured community spaces in a city that’s historically lacked more traditional pubs. You can go way out into the burbs to hang with families and food trucks at dapper Ballistic Beer Co in Salisbury, the American-inspired Slipstream in Yeerongpilly or Scottish behemoth Brewdog Dogtap in Murrarie. Keep with the cool crowd closer to the city at Range Brewing which recently opened a Paddington outpost which boasts tap beers and pizzas or of course the almighty Felons at Howard Smith Wharves.

If you’re after something more sophisticated, try other Wharves boozers such as the octagonal Mr Percival’s, which sits above the river, while Fiume on the roof at Crystalbrook Vincent, slotted beneath the Story Bridge, offers one of the most distinctive outlooks in town or visit Los, Same Same’s fabulous upstairs Thai-inspired cocktail bar on James Street.

Evening:
The city’s nighttime drinking scene tends to be split into tightly clustered precincts which means either you can pick a spot and bar hop around – or you could work your way through our list of the year’s best new bar openings

You could try Canvas Club in Woolloongabba (match a visit with dinner at nearby 1889 Enoteca, Detour or Little G).

Nearby, there’s the new South City Square precinct, which has a great mix of drinks-led venues, such as gin bar Purple Palm, classy wine room South City Wine, and the chifa-inspired (Chinese-Peruvian) Casa Chow. Take any on their own or match with some shit-hot Italian at sister venue Sasso Italiano.

In the CBD, there’s the triple threat of the pintxos-inspired Alba Bar & Deli, cocktail superstar Death & Taxes, and the cleverly designed, DJ-driven Flying Colours the new spot from the Super Whatnot crew. Over on Edward Street and beyond, there’s Dr Gimlette with its enormous leather booths and Martini carts and the nearby laneway bar Antico from the same team, and Frog’s Hollow Saloon, where a bunch of award-winning bartenders are slinging stacks of whisky in a honky-tonk-styled saloon with a heritage frontage. For a rock’n’roll fuelled night, late-night whiskey bar Alice is open till 3am, seven nights a week.

Kicking on? Then The Valley is where to head. Looking for late-night mixed drinks? Savile Row and Finney Isles are among our favourites and both boast enormous spirits and cocktail lists.

DO THIS

When it comes to shopping in Brisbane, James Street is the spot. It has one of the best collections of hip boutiques in the country. Gail Sorronda, Bassike, St Agni, Mud Australia Sir the Label, Venroy, Assembly Label and Sass & Bide all have a presence here, and that’s barely scratching the surface.

Elsewhere, Paddington’s long, descending high street makes it a pleasant place to hop from shop to shop (just steer clear in the middle of the day, when the summer sun is at its zenith), and the CBD is still the place to go for the big internationals, although it also boasts cracking independent boutiques such as Contra.

For cultural attractions, you’re not doing Brisbane properly if you don’t spend at least half a day sifting around QAGOMA. The city’s state-run gallery precinct sprawls along the river just across from the CBD. This summer it’s mounting its blockbuster exhibition Fairy Tales which features works from Gustave Doré, original papercuts by Hans Christian Andersen, photography by Lewis Carroll and ballet costumes designed by Henri Matisse.

Also on this side of the river is the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). This summer you can check out the Queensland Ballet’s Nutcracker. Elsewhere in the city, it’s well worth checking out the Brisbane Powerhouse – tie in a show here with a meal at Vertigo the new restaurant that is (quite literally) taking dining to new heights with a dining platform suspended 17 metres above the ground with views over the Brisbane River.

To get in touch with nature, pack a picnic for New Farm Park, right next to the Powerhouse, or seek out one of the city’s many other brilliant green spaces – the best is arguably Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, which rambles across the foothills of Brisbane’s western bookend, its many microclimates lending every bend in the path a sense of discovery.

Finally, one of the Queensland capital’s quirks is how quickly you can get into the country if you head directly west. Follow Musgrave and then Waterworks Road for 20 minutes from the city and you’ll be climbing straight towards Mount Nebo and then onto Mount Glorious. Make a day of it if you have a car and some runners or hiking boots.