Despite being the commercial and retail heart of Brisbane, the city centre still retains the buoyant holiday spirit that associated with the entire Sunshine State. If you lose your way in the CBD grid, remember that the streets named after royal women all run north-east and parallel, while the king-inspired streets run north-west.
Queen Street Mall
With QueensPlaza, Myer Centre, Broadway on the Mall, the heritage-listed Brisbane Arcade and MacArthur Central (adjoining the GPO), Queen Street Mall offers something for everyone and is the hub of the CBD. Catering only to pedestrians (but with the central bus station conveniently located beneath), it is packed with people seven days a week. Along with a public stage, there are outdoor cafes and restaurants dotted down its centre. At the top (the George Street end) is the Conrad Treasury Casino ( see next entry ),the Brisbane Square Library and surrounding eateries, and the bridge over to the South Bank parklands. At the other end, the mall leads onto ANZAC Square ( see below ) and Post Office Square. Cutting through the middle is Albert Street, leading to more shopping on Elizabeth Street, including the Elizabeth Arcade – a focus for edgy fashion – and Adelaide Street with the old Brisbane City Hall ( see below ) and the recently redeveloped King George Square. Get a literary insight into Brisbane by following the Albert Street Literary Walk – look for the 32 brass plaques in the pavement.
One of Brisbane’s spectacular buildings, the Treasury Building, built between 1885 and 1928, is now the Conrad Treasury Casino. With restaurants, bars and live bands nightly, the casino is a top nightspot even if you don’t want to play the tables. George St; open 24 hours daily; admission free.
Popular with lunchtime office workers and foraging pigeons and herons alike, ANZAC Square, between Ann and Adelaide streets, is a peaceful retreat. The square’s Shrine of Remembrance, built in 1930, honours the Australian soldiers who died in World War I with its eternal flame. In the pedestrian tunnel behind the square is the World War II Shrine of Memories (open Monday to Friday only) where you can see unit plaques, honour rolls and a mosaic made from hand-cut glass enamels and soils from official World War II cemeteries. From ANZAC Square take the steps to the walkways over Adelaide Street to reach Post Office Square, another of Brisbane’s grassy public squares. Opposite the square is the General Post Office, built in the 1870s; even with the busy post office crowds, you can still get an impression of its history.
Brisbane City Hall
The newly revamped King George Square is a popular place for public gatherings, and it’s here you will find the historic Brisbane City Hall. Built throughout the 1920s and opened in 1930, this impressive sandstone building is topped by a soaring 92-metre clock tower. Unfortunately there are no tours inside – City Hall is closed for repairs until late 2013. Between Ann and Adelaide sts; (07) 3403 8888
Museum of Brisbane
With City Hall closed for restoration, the Museum of Brisbane has moved to a temporary location just around the corner from King George Square. Also known as MoB, the museum has several exhibition spaces and celebrates the history, culture and people of Brisbane. Displays incorporate design, craft and visual arts. The MoB Store is a good spot to pick up something created by one of Brisbane’s talented writers, artists or musicians. 157 Ann St; (07) 3403 4355; open daily; admission free
St John’s Cathedral
This striking example of Gothic-Revival architecture was designed in 1889 and construction began 17 years later. St John’s has the distinction of being the last medieval construction project of its kind in the world. The original project ran out of funds and remained unfinished until, thanks to a recent injection of capital, was finally completed 120 years after it was originally conceived. It has the only fully stone-vaulted ceiling in Australia, as well as extensive woodcarvings by Queensland artists, 350-million-year-old fossiliferous marble and beautiful stained-glass windows. Next to the cathedral is the Deanery, built in 1850 and formerly the residence of Queensland’s first governor, Sir George Bowen. Free tours are conducted daily. 373 Ann St; (07) 3835 2231.
Cathedral of St Stephen
This magnificent cathedral is a quiet place of worship amid the hustle and bustle of the city. The grounds include St Stephen’s Chapel , the oldest surviving church in Queensland. Guided tours are available. 249 Elizabeth St; (07) 3336 9111.
Built by convicts in 1829 from Brisbane tuff – a local stone quarried at nearby Kangaroo Point – this is one of the oldest buildings in Brisbane (with newer additions). Today it is home to the offices, library and museum of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland. There is a convict display, and tours are available. 115 William St; (07) 3221 4198; open Tues–Fri.