The modest size of Canberra’s city centre, Civic is a reminder that Canberra’s population is only just over 340 000 people. There are many attractions in the centre along with excellent shopping, the peaceful Glebe Park, great cafes and Casino Canberra.
The top end of Civic, this open public space is encircled by cafes and restaurants, and features a large movie screen (which shows movies at night during summer). Garema Place is a popular meeting place and is next to the Civic bus interchange. On Friday and Saturday evenings the Irish pub King O’Malley’s is usually bursting at the seams, and the outdoor cafes are full of relaxed diners. If you head south from Garema Place down the tree-lined City Walk towards the large Canberra Centre mall, you will find Civic’s landmark carousel. Built in 1914 in Melbourne, its hand-carved horses and two elephants were imported from Germany.
Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG)
CMAG’s permanent collection reflects the history, environment, culture and community of the Canberra region. Dynamic exhibitions and diverse community events celebrate Canberra’s social history and visual arts. It is also playing host to the Nolan Collection, works by the renowned Australian painter Sidney Nolan, while the Nolan Gallery at Lanyon is refurbished. Cnr London Circuit and Civic Sq, Civic; (02) 6207 3968; open 10am–5pm Tues–Fri, 12–4pm Sat–Sun; admission free.
National Film and Sound Archive
Housed in the former Institute of Anatomy next to the landscaped grounds of the Australian National University, Australia’s national screen and sound archive collects, preserves and shares Australia’s film and sound heritage. The displays include film memorabilia, special exhibitions and interactive activities. McCoy Circuit, Acton; (02) 6248 2000; open 9am–5pm Mon–Fri, 10am–5pm Sat–Sun; admission free.
National Museum of Australia
Opened in 2001, this thoroughly modern museum uses state of- the-art technology and hands-on interactive displays to show stories about Australia’s past, present, people, issues and future. Begin your experience in Circa, a rotating cinema, to get an overview of the three main themes of the museum: land, nation, people. The permanent displays include ‘First Australians’, an amazing display of Indigenous culture, experience, dance and music; and ‘Nation’, where you can celebrate Australian icons such as the Hills hoist, Play School and Vegemite. ‘Old New Land’ takes you through 20 000 years of environmental change, and in ‘Eternity’ you can share the joy and sorrow of ordinary and extraordinary Australians. Children will love ‘KSpace’, a virtual reality experience, and ‘Our Place’, with four different cubbyhouses to explore. Fascinating temporary exhibitions change throughout the year. Guided tours available. Lawson Cres, Acton Peninsula; (02) 6208 5000; open 9am–5pm daily; general admission free.
The centre showcases Australia’s scientific research and innovation with exhibitions and interactive displays. Take part in the hands-on experiments, experience the virtual-reality theatre and find out about the latest research breakthroughs. Off Clunies Ross St, Acton; (02) 6246 4601; open 9am–5pm Mon–Fri, 11am–3pm Sun.
St John the Baptist Church and St John’s Schoolhouse Museum
Visit Canberra’s oldest church and first schoolhouse, built in the 1840s. The buildings have been restored and now form an interesting museum. The adjoining cemetery has some of Canberra’s oldest headstones. Constitution Ave, Reid; (02) 6249 6839; open 10am–12pm Wed, 2–4pm Sat–Sun and public holidays; general admission free, museum entry by donation.