101 GuidescityTravel

brisbane city guide {update}

by Grace Bonney

Today’s Brisbane City Guide comes to us from original guide writer Kylie Challenor,  an editor and freelance writer in Brisbane. After spending nine years working as an editor and copyright officer in arts publishing, she recently embarked on new career adventure in higher education publishing. You can catch a glimpse of her decorating efforts and writing at her blog, Flying Ducks. Today she shares with us some of the many changes that have occurred in the city since the the flooding that occurred earlier this year in the region.  Thank you Kylie for such a wonderful guide of this fantastic city! —Stephanie

Read the full city guide after the jump…

There is an old saying around here, made famous in the film of the same name 2007, that ‘all my friends are leaving Brisbane’. In the past, all of your friends really did leave Brisbane, usually for Melbourne or, occasionally, the UK. Now, it seems, the tables have turned — these days, Brisbane is full of exciting things that bring our friends from the southern capital cities to visit (or sometimes even to live).

Here, I intend to let the rest of the world in on just a small selection of what the River City has on offer. Although this is certainly not an exhaustive list, everything included here will no doubt lead you to find other exciting places in and around Brisbane.

Since the floods that occurred in January 2011, it has been even more important for locals and visitors to support our wonderful businesses. Unfortunately I couldn’t include everyone’s suggestions from the last time, but this updated edition incorporates some new special places that have opened since I wrote the first guide in 2009.

Check out this Google Map to pinpoint all of the listings discussed in this guide.

West End


Avid Reader
On Boundary Street is Avid Reader, specialising in the best new fiction and non-fiction. They stock an excellent range of literature, politics, arts, cooking, biography and travel books, plus heaps more. Their staff are extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and they even have a coffee shop at the back of the store where you can kick back and enjoy your new purchases.

Box Vintage
If you’re looking for a recycled outfit that no-one else is likely to be wearing, this is the place to visit. Box Vintage is chock full of retro and vintage delights for both boys and girls, as well as plenty of knick knacks to feast your eyes on.

Gear Brisbane
Here’s one for the boys (perhaps a place to visit while the girls are shopping at Nook a few doors up — see below). Eric van Genderen’s boutique bike shop is filled with plenty of accessories, parts, clothing, books, magazines, DVDs and, of course, bikes (mainly fixed-gear).

Nook, run by West End local Michelle Gillies, is filled with an abundance of gorgeous treasures. Think of all the stuff you ever wanted to buy on Etsy crammed into the one location, plus heaps more! There is so much cuteness here you simply won’t know what to pick up first.

Food and drinks

If you are in West End at breakfast time and super hungry, then you can’t go past Espressohead. They have a huge menu to choose from, and don’t skimp on the portion sizes. Both sweet and savoury breakfast options are well catered for, and you can be guaranteed to leave with a full belly.

Freestyle Tout
Apparently Freestyle Tout serves lunch and dinner. I wouldn’t know this, of course, as I’ve only ever visited for a main course of dessert. Sadly the original Rosalie store is no more, but you can still visit Freestyle at West End (as well as Emporium in the Valley) for all the ice cream, cheesecake and pudding you can handle. The chocolate deluxe sundae is a winner.

Mondo Organics
High-quality organic ingredients and a drive to create great food result in a fine dining experience at Mondo Organics. With a passion for sustainability, the dedicated team is committed to sourcing the best local organic produce and promoting healthy eating. The food is delicious too!

Sol Breads Cafe
Sol Breads began in West End in 1997 (in the basement of a restaurant), and the company remains Brisbane’s only totally organic bakery. Their breads are now distributed all over Australia, and can be found at countless health food stores and markets. The three Brisbane cafes (West End, Paddington and Newstead) all serve breakfast and lunch — I highly recommend the chocolate croissants

Five Sisters Cafe
Five Sisters Art House Cafe is tucked away in South Brisbane (just a short walk from West End), boasting fabulous home-style food with European flair. If you’re heading there via the Fish Lane entrance, be careful you don’t accidentally walk past! Oh, and they also give you a yummy little shortbread cookie with your coffee.

Fortitude Valley and New Farm


Black & Spiro
Interior designer Anna Spiro’s New Farm store is constantly changing, with new collections of treasures constantly appearing in the windows — often with a mix of vintage and contemporary items. Anna’s Absolutely Beautiful Things blog has garnered a mention on websites around the world, including none other than Design Sponge.

ECC Lighting and Furniture
If being mesmerised by gorgeous chandeliers is your thing, stop in at the ECC showroom on James Street. In addition to the tantalising light fittings, they have plenty of beautifully designed furniture, homewares and accessories to keep you browsing for quite a while.

Emporium is the place to experience fine shopping and dining, with lovers of fashion, homewares, books and jewellery all catered for. Highlights include the couture fabric collection at Alla Moda, Coaldrakes book store and cafe, and the range of home decor and accessories at Ollie & Lloyd.

Blonde Venus
Having started off as a small store in Elizabeth Arcade in the city in 1990, Thea Basilou’s Blonde Venus store now calls Fortitude Valley home. Thea stocks a range of designer mens and womens fashion labels, including Akira, Richard Nicoll, Six-Scents, Dr Denim and Linda Farrow.

Deanne Mayocchi creates instantly recognisable pieces with a focus on stunning Japanese fabrics. In addition to Deanne’s stunning designer clothing, the store also stocks a range of gorgeous accessories. Maiocchi also have fabulous sales several times a year where, if you’re lucky, you can often get hold of one-off samples at a bargain price. There are now also stores in Paddington and the city.

Mod Cons
Mod Cons stocks a huge range of fun accessories, from homewares and gadgets right through to jewellery and novelties. It’s also one of only a couple of places in Brisbane where you can buy Dinosaur Designs products.

The Outpost
This tiny little store in Winn Street carries a nice range of designer products from around the world, including clothing, books, magazines and jewellery. They also present the annual exhibition ‘I Used to Skate Once’, featuring skateboard decks turned into art — always a great show!

Space Furniture
Lovers of great furniture design should not overlook Space Furniture. You can spend literally hours in here admiring the many gorgeous pieces, including many fabulous Kartell chairs and cabinets. Phillippe Starck louis ghost chair, anyone?

Little Jane St
The lovely Alarna Zinn has spent the last few years selling her gorgeous paper wares through her online store as well as third-party stores around the country. Now, shoppers can get their hands on Alarna’s lovely products at her very own Brisbane store in Winn Lane.

Food and drink

Jocelyn’s Provisions
Jocelyn’s on James Street in New Farm is THE place to go for amazing pastries and other sweet treats. They do savoury too, of course, but who can go past a lemon tart? Not me. Jocelyn’s use only the best fresh ingredients, including local produce. Yum!

Flamingo Cafe
If you’re looking for classic (and delicious) comfort food, look no further than the quirky Flamingo Cafe! Menu items include corned beef sandwiches, malted milkshakes (with sprinkles!) and sausage rolls. For those wanting healthier options, they also have an impressive range of juices and granola with yoghurt.

Kerbside Bar
The furniture of homely little laneway bar in the Valley is almost entirely sourced from discarded furniture on the kerbside. By day, it’s a laidback cafe. By night, it is a bar serving up impressive cocktails. Don’t bother asking for a cocktail list, though — there isn’t one! Just tell the friendly bar staff what flavours you like and they’ll make you something special.

Children of the Revolution
Brisbane doesn’t have its own Camper store (yet), and Children of the Revolution is one of the only places in town to buy the wonderful Spanish footwear (as well as other brands such as Birkenstock, Kickers and Timberland). The place is actually run by a podiatrist, so if you have bad feet (like me) but still want nice shoes sans heels, look no further than this place!

Gallery Store/Gallery Store Modern
Just a short walk from the city centre over Victoria Bridge (and the soon-to-be-opened Kurilpa Bridge) are the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (or GoMA to the locals). If you’re after stunning art books and limited edition pieces, be sure to visit their retail outlets. In addition to the extensive range of art books, magazines, postcards and exhibition catalogues, you will find an enticing array of jewellery by Australian and international designers, as well as contemporary design objects and art merchandise.

Queens Plaza
Right in the city centre is the Queens Plaza complex, which opened in 2006. It’s the place to visit for more of your ‘high-end’ stores, including Tiffany & Co., French Connection, Aesop and Louis Vuitton, as well as Australian players such as Alannah Hill, Herringbone and Peter Alexander (maker of the world’s best pyjamas!).

Young Designers Market
On the first Sunday of every month, the markets at Southbank reserve the stalls for young designers. It’s a great place to get your hands on fashion, accessories and homewares designed by Brisbane’s up-and-coming artists.

Shingle Inn
Although the old historic Shingle Inn has long been demolished, there are several places around town where you can still sample their tasty cakes. In the city centre, you can find the stores in Brisbane Square, the Myer Centre and Macarthur Central, as well as in various major shopping centres in the suburbs.

Elizabeth Arcade
If you’re after tasty Asian cuisine for a budget price, look no further than Elizabeth Arcade. This place is packed full of Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and everything in between.

LR Sushi
Don’t be put off by the ridiculously long lines here, as they move very fast. LR Sushi is by far the best takeaway sushi in the city, and available in two locations (Adelaide Street and the food court at 400 George St).

Java Coast Cafe
This George Street cafe may not look like much from the outside, but if you venture down the garden path you’ll find a lush, green oasis right in the heart of the city. Java Coast is perfect for weekday lunches or coffees, with an excellent vegetarian selection available.

Further afield


Add Vintage
If modernist furniture design is your thing, pop into Add Vintage on Nile Street. This is where you can find original retro, Danish and Eames-era items, right through from lounge suites and sideboards to vases and dinnerware. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a time machine and been transported back about 40 years!

Reverse Garbage
You may not think the idea of visiting a shop full of discarded ‘garbage’ sounds appealing, but I can guarantee you’ll walk out with something, even if you don’t quite know what to do with it yet. Old bits of stationery, rubber and fabric off cuts, canisters, mannequins, chocolate moulds, bubble wrap, tiles, buttons — all you need is an imagination to create something special!

Woolloongabba Antiques Centre
You can easily fill a whole day wandering around the stores that make up Woolloongabba Antiques Centre. If you’re after vintage clothes, furniture, homewares or accessories, this is the place to go.

Paddington and Brisbane City
Biome is chock full of eco-friendly products for everyone, including beauty, toys, cleaning, cookware, pets and even composting. Oh, of course, they also sell the range of Dagoba organic chocolate!

Bliss Ecowear
If you’re looking for socially responsible and environmentally friendly fashion, visit Bliss Ecowear on Latrobe Terrace. Their materials include organic cottons and linens, hemp, recycled fabrics, bamboo and soy across their extensive range of men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing — right through from underwear to formal attire.

Funky Fabrix
As described by Bec, author of blog A Cup of Kitsch, Funky Fabrix is ‘a material-lover’s mecca’. In addition to their standard fabrics, they also sell a range of vintage Scandinavian textile for home decor purposes.

Matt Blatt
If you can’t afford the original designs, visit Matt Blatt for a huge selection of replica furniture and accessories. The Virginia showroom on Brisbane’s north side showcases quality replicas of designs by Eames, Starck, Jacobsen, Saarinen, Wegner and heaps more.

Panda Pearls and Travels With My Aunt
Having recently moved into gorgeous new premises on Buckland Road, Panda Pearls is somewhere you can disappear for hours on end. This place is packed to the rafters with amazing little trinkets, homewares, accessories and, of course, pearls.

Sivad Designs
Sivad Designs also creates fabulous wall art from vintage fabrics, with designs such as Marimekko and Florence Broadhurst. Although the store in Nundah is no longer there, you can still pick up Sivad Designs pieces at Frank and Myrrh in Sandgate, as well as Portside Markets.

Portside Wharf
As well as being the new home for Brisbane’s Dendy Cinema, Portside Wharf has plenty of fashion, homewares and great food. Ellia is well worth a visit, and Fresh N Wild Fish is renowned as one of Brisbane’s premier fish markets. Oh, and you can’t go past Movenpick for fabulous ice cream!

Threads and More
For crafty types, it’s worth a trip to Sherwood on the west side of town. Threads and More stock a huge range of high-quality yarns, threads, felt and craft books. They also run beginner classes on knitting, crochet and needlework, as well as ‘doctor’ classes for those stuck on a particular pattern or project.

BrisStyle Indie Markets
Hamilton and City
BrisStyle is a local collective of Etsy crafters and designers. They regularly hold weekend markets in Hamilton, as well as twilight markets in the city.

Food and drinks

C Word
Mmmmmmm, bagels. Since Bagelos shut up shop in West End several years ago, Brisbane has been in dire need of a new bagel shop. In 2008, our wish was granted with the opening of C Word in Nundah, who make fabulous bagels for breakfast and lunch. Look out for their mascot — a big, green cactus with eyes.

Green Papaya
East Brisbane
Since it was opened 12 years ago by Lein Yeoman, Green Papaya has earned a reputation as the place to visit for an outstanding Vietnamese dining experience. The restaurant is now owned by Vishal Sharma, and continues to serve Vietnamese as well as Indian cuisine. Word on the street is that the pork belly is to die for.

The Grove Establishment
The Grove Establishment is worth a visit just to sit in the dining room surrounded by Florence Broadhurst wallpaper. But, of course, they serve food too, which is absolutely fantastic (and the staff are also lovely). Downstairs, they have a huge bar and deck where you can enjoy a quiet drink (or three!). We loved this place so much that we had our wedding reception there!

Jam 4012
If you want to visit Jam 4012 for weekend breakfast, get in early — sometimes the queue snakes along Sandgate Road. But the wait is worth it, with fantastic service and even better food. If you visit at lunch time, the burgers are to die for, as are the lamb and caesar salads.

Northey Street City Farm
Northey Street is home to Brisbane’s only fully organic market (6.00–10.30am every Sunday), with plenty organic produce, dairy, meat and bread to get your hands on. Every other day, it’s full of dedicated people working on the sustainable farm only a few kilometres from the city centre.

Pearl Cafe
It used to be that places like this rarely existed outside West End and New Farm. Right near the start of Logan Road in Woolloongabba, nestled amongst the antique shops, is Pearl Cafe, owned by Daniel Lewis (former owner of the renowned Gunshop Cafe in West End). Pearl has earned a pretty impressive reputation since it opened, relying mostly on word of mouth. There can be a bit of a wait for weekend breakfast, but I’m assured it’s worth it.

Sushi Sushi
I didn’t think a business at a suburban shopping centre would make the list, but here it is. Sushi Sushi are responsible for arguably some of the best takeaway sushi in town. If you’re walking from the southern end of the centre, you don’t even need to walk through the busy food court to get your lunch!

Wray Organic
Indooroopilly and Newmarket
Wray is a one-stop organic supermarket, selling fresh certified organic produce, dairy, meat, grocery items, beauty products, pet food and even wine! Both Brisbane Wray Organic stores also have cafes, serving breakfast and lunch using seasonal ingredients seven days a week.

Queenie’s Tea House
For a brunch with the ladies, you can’t get much better than Queenie’s Tea House. Their high teas are simply fabulous, and you can also make a selection from their extensive tea range to take home with you.

Places to stay

Brisbane is full of lovely places to stay, so here are just a few options to suit a range of budgets.

Emporium Hotel
If you want upmarket, Emporium is for you! This luxury hotel in the Emporium shopping precinct is superbly decorated, and the service is amazing.

Toowong Villas
For apartment/self-catered accommodation for a family or group, Toowong Villas is a short walk from the Brisbane River, and super close to transport (including the famous CityCat).

Franklin Villa
For the ultimate historic experience, Franklin Villa in Highgate Hill provides lovely bed and breakfast accommodation in a traditional Queenslander house, just a short walk from West End and the city centre.

Notable locals

Notable locals? Really? From Brisbane? Well, there aren’t really that many, but here are a few…

The Saints (band)
Powderfinger (band)
Sophie Monk (ahem, ‘actress’)
Custard (band)
Regurgitator (band)
The Grates (band)
The Go Betweens (band)
Bee Gees (yes, really)
Miranda Otto (actress)
Peter C Doherty (Nobel Prize winner)
Nick Earls (author)
David Malouf (author)
Kim Wilkins (author)
Steve Irwin
…plus a whole bunch of random sportspeople.

Suggested For You


  • OH! So exciting to see my hometown on D*S. I’ve lived in many places and currently call Chicago home, but my heart will always sing for Brissy!

  • LOVED this guide. I have been in Brisbane for 8 years now and love it here. That bougainvillea archway is one of my favourite things. Just yesterday I was in West End soaking in all the atmosphere. A great place to live.

  • Yay my hometown! And I have some new places to visit this weekend:)

    Another (fairly new?) bright, funky and fresh crafty store to check out is Peppermint Stitches in Toowong, always fun.

  • YAY! MY HOME TOWN! So many fantastic places to go/new things to try. Thanks a million DS!

  • How fantastic to come across this wonderful Brissie guide this morning! I agree with Kylie, Brisbane is definitely coming to life more and more and I’ve loved living here for the last 10 years!

    I’d also highly recommend visiting the Boutique Markets at Portside Wharf, Hamilton~ new designers markets bursting with gorgeous stalls from local designers, artists and crafters ~ they’re held every 2nd Sunday of the month. http://www.boutiquemarkets.com.au

  • And if you’re in West End or visiting GoMA, have a sandwich at Stove on Jane St (everything there is yummy and inventive, and the girls are so friendly) and a beer or 2 at Joynt a great Aussie pub and live music venue, right next to the Palmalat milk factory.

  • Anna, I REALLY wanted to include Joynt too – I just ran out of writing time! It’s great to get other people’s input, though. :)

  • Great to see the Brissy Guide. I am only a newcomer to the sunny city – but without a doubt a convert! To share a secret coffee spot – SISCO in Spring Hill – only open office hours – AMAZING cakes – beaut little spot in the sun too! Next door is close to best Japanese in town too! Thanks d*s.

  • WOW, wonderful to have a Bris Town guide! Thank you Kylie – you’ve done an incredible job. Here are a few of my additions:

    * to-die-for gelato (all handmade by artisans, no bases, no artificial anything) at Gelateria Cremona in Rosalie

    * Japanese tea house and homewares store, Kazuyo’s Collection in Paddington

    * The Palace Cinemas and complex at the Barracks, Petrie Tce (like Portside but for the inner city crew)

    * Great atmosphere and coffee at Paladar Fumior coffee shop and cuban cigar store in South Brisbane

    * And while you’re in South Brisbane, pastries and baked goodies at French Twist Bakery.

    * Great yum cha in Sunnybank (Brisbane’s fantastic suburban Chinatown).

    * Great cocktails at The Lark in Paddington and The Bowery in Fortitude Valley.

    * Fancy pants bars and coffee in an arty environment on the water at the Powerhouse in New Farm.

    * And a fantastic atmosphere, live music and homey scene at Lock n’ Load restaurant and bar in West End.

  • Oooo Brisbane how I heart thee. So exciting to see this on here, makes my little australian heart swell with pride. Also, have heard of a number of the restaurant/cafes but haven’t ever been! Will have to make sure I do, I mean, design*sponge recommended it!

  • Horah! I just blogged about how much I love living in Brisbane the other day :D

    This is a great list, I’m going to book mark it and hit every place on it (some places I’m a regular patron of too!)

  • Brisbane! It’s sooo good… I certainly miss all the colour and heat (and all my design buddies) now that I call London home. Sniff.

  • Great write-up Kylie! 5 months of Melbourne weather has definitely left me pining for the Brisbane sun. I will be there in December so hope to check out some of these new gems!

  • Thank you Kylie so very much for including PandaPearls Australia on your blog. I was proud to be included in such company!
    Thank you also for visiting the thriving Nundah Village Festival, it’s finally all coming together. Remember we also have the Vintage treasures of ‘Travels with my Aunt’ to also tempt you here!

    Hope to see you again.

  • 3 words for food – crosstown eating house – it’s in woollogabba and it’s fab! I also can’t believe that ‘sushi sushi’ is sooo good, the sashimi soo fresh – yummo!

  • Thanks for the great post! I will be moving to Brisbane in the new year and now I will be set with a whole list of places to visit!
    thanks Kylie! :)

  • brisbane is awesome! great eats also to be found at the little larder in new farm, best eggs benedict.

  • yay!! So exciting to see my hometown on designsponge!

    I’d love to also recommend:
    No No’s at Red Hill for delicious kebabs (and other lebanese delights..)
    Fundies Cafe – Paddington.
    Fantastic organic cafe.

  • Great summary Kylie. A few favourites of mine that you didn’t mention.

    Folio – great bookshop in Albert St in the city, especially for design, art and architecture.

    Absolutely Fabulous – jewellery, homewares, bags and best of all, scandanavian style furniture, and vases, china etc from the 60s/70s. In Brunswick St, next to Black & Spiro and in Logan Rd across from the Gabba.

    Oasis Juice Bar, in the mall. If you’re feeling a bit dusty, just what you need to pick you up.

    Dolci Sapori, Junction Rd/Sandgate Rd, arancini,lemon granita, italian hot chocolate, brioche, and a cabinet full of the most moreish italian biscuits.

    Simply Duo, Sandgate Rd, Nundah. An alternative to Jam for breakfast or lunch, but best of all, from Wednesday to Saturday, they are open for dinner. French style Vietnamese, just wonderful.

    And a recommendation from my children (well they would recommend it if they knew I was writing this) – Rics, in the Brunswick St Mall, best place to hear what’s happening in the Brisbane music scene (actually, they’d disown me if they knew I’d used the words Brisbane, music and scene consecutively).

  • Thanks Denise. I do agree that Simply Duo is fabulous — I just didn’t want to seem like I was Nundah biased (which I am, of course!). I must try there for dinner too!

  • WOW! thank you! thank you! thank you!
    I’m moving to Brisbane from New York City in a couple weeks with my Australian husband and this is going to be an amazing resource upon arrival!

  • Thanks so much for this guide! I was born in Brissie and love the vibe, but don’t really know about these special spots. I can’t wait to check out Box Vintage and Reverse Garbage!

  • Thank you Kylie!! Awesome guide! Lotsa of my fave spots on that guide. To add to the list:

    + The Cupcake Parlor at West End, Vulture St – http://www.thecupcakeparlour.com.au/ lurvvve this place and the yummy handmade cupcakes!!

    + Lure on Latrobe Tce, Paddington – BEST breakfast ever!

    + Food and Soul at Auchenflower – http://www.foodnsoul.com – delicious food and great service – GF options avail

    + My ultimate favourite Thai restaurant in Brisbane – Bangkok Milton on 530 Milton road, Auchenflower/Rosalie – best fresh prawn dish.

  • any more recommendations on places to stay? My husband and I are going in september!

  • Hi there – I have new suggestion – The Happy Cabin on Vulture St, just up from The Cupcake Parlour. Quirky goodness from all over the world, men and womens clothing, heaps of hipster finds and cheeky gifts like giant moustache pillows. Have a coffee in their garage turned espresso bar Two Trees too! In love!