Known by the locals simply as ‘the Valley’, this cosmopolitan area of inner-city Brisbane is a fascinating mix of seedy history, stylish restaurants and alternative life-stylers. These days it’s more hip than hippie, and still dances to a rock ’n’ roll beat as the seeding ground for young bands making their way onto the world stage. In 2007, Brisbane was named among the five hottest music spots in the world by US magazine Billboard. First settled in 1849 by 256 free settlers who arrived in Moreton Bay aboard the SS Fortitude, the Valley still retains much of its 19th-century heritage. Its old buildings are home to many private art galleries and artists’ studios. The creative hub is the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.
Brunswick St Mall
Dominated for almost a century by the McWhirters building, formerly a department store and now stylish apartments with shops at street level, Brunswick St is packed with shoppers at weekends cruising through the Valley Markets where the vibe is busy but always relaxed see (see Markets, p. 386). Free bands play in the mall on Saturdays and Sundays, and at night crowds flock to the restaurants and nightclubs. Enjoy the alfresco dining at any time of day. Further up Brunswick St, you will find another foodies’ delight at Central Brunswick. For cutting-edge fashion go to Ann Street, which runs across Brunswick Street, or to the TCB – formerly the TC Beirne Building – which links Chinatown with Brunswick Street Mall. Further down Ann Street there are more pubs and bars, including the GPO, in the old Fortitude Valley Post Office.
Brisbane’s Chinatown is a sensory delight. Restaurants offer excellent value and even better yum cha, supermarkets have traditional Chinese treasures and the busy Valley Markets extend into Chinatown at weekends. Elements of feng shui were used in the design of this mall on Duncan Street and you can expect to see peaceful practitioners of tai chi there on weekends. If you are in Brisbane in late January/early February, head to Chinatown for Chinese New Year celebrations.
James Street Precinct
Lined with shade trees, James Street is Brisbane’s hottest lifestyle precinct. Fashion and furniture stores cater to the cashed-up new inner-city residents, while outdoor cafes, restaurants and bars satisfy appetites for good coffee, fine dining and cocktails. The James Street Market is an excellent spot for picking up fresh food and produce along with flowers, nuts and juices. The Centro development includes a cinema complex. A short walk across Ann Street, Emporium has a big ‘village square’ of outdoor cafes, restaurants, high-end fashion shops, gifts and bookshops.