Today’s Perth, Australia City Guides comes from Hila Shachar, a writer based in Perth and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia. She recently published a book with Palgrave Macmillan, and can also be found writing away on her blog, le projet d’amour. She also works as a writer for The Australian Ballet. Hila has lived in Perth for many years and has been involved in the local community, having worked with various Perth artists, independent retailers and writers. Here she shares some of her personal picks for what Perth has to offer. Thanks, Hila, for such a wonderful guide! — Stephanie
Read the full guide after the jump . . .
For many years, Perth has been regarded as “Dullsville” by fellow Australians. But this is a reputation that’s proving increasingly untrue. Over the past few years, I’ve been watching the development of the local artistic community and the way the city is blossoming with new projects, galleries, independent shops, pop-up collectives, local markets, and an ever-increasing array of cafes, restaurants, bars, and street art. If you haven’t given Perth a chance yet, this is the time.
Perth is the capital city of the state of Western Australia, which is Australia’s largest state. It’s known for its beautiful weather and absolutely breathtaking beaches and scenery. Australia is a huge country, and most tourists never make it to Perth, often opting for more famous cities such as Sydney or Melbourne. But Perth is a beautiful part of the world and one of the friendliest cities you’ll ever visit. We have a very laid-back attitude toward life here, and this may partly explain why Perth was recently voted one of the most livable cities in the world. Not only is Perth a doorway into some of the most stunning natural scenery you’ll ever see, but it’s also home to many cultural experiences, with the city undergoing major renovation.
Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world, and this unique geographical location means that we have developed a close-knit community. Most of our popular restaurants, bars, and shops are known by word of mouth. Some of my favourite things to do in Perth summarize what’s great about this city: going to the beach to watch the sun set, outdoor ballet, movies and picnics in summer, the Perth Festival, sitting in the garden with endless sunshine, blue skies and blooms, or going out for a coffee by the beautiful Swan River. Compared to other major Australian cities, ours is a smaller, more intimate city, but we know how to enjoy the good things in life.
So without further ado, check out my customized Google Map for this guide and my picks below.
The Emperor’s Crown: If you’re like me, you search for the cheapest accommodation first. For those on a budget, there are a few centrally located hostels and budget accommodation options in Perth; however, The Emperor’s Crown is generally popular with tourists.
The Richardson Hotel & Spa: A five-star boutique hotel that ranks as one of the best places to stay in Perth. It’s easily within reach of Perth’s CBD, Kings Park, and Subiaco.
La Casa Rosa Bed & Breakfast: I’ve heard good things about this B&B, and I tend to trust word of mouth in Perth.
Mont Clare Boutique Apartments: Beautiful apartments with all the extras that come with self-contained accommodations.
PERTH CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT
As many locals will testify, our Central Business District (CBD) is currently undergoing some major upgrading. What used to be a pretty quiet area outside of business hours is now coming back to life with new pop-up stores and street art.
See & Do
His Majesty’s Theatre: This Edwardian theatre is home to the Museum of Performing Arts, WA Opera, and the West Australian Ballet. Over the years, its stage has been graced by performers such as Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn, Robert Helpmann, Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Claudette Colbert, Rex Harrison and Geoffrey Rush. I have a particular fondness for the theatre’s amazing interiors.
Perth Zoo: Only about five minutes away from the CBD, Perth Zoo is a must for tourists. This is the place to see native Australian and West Australian animals such as emus, koalas, kangaroos, the famous black swan (Western Australia’s emblem), cockatoos, kookaburras, and many more.
Kings Park and Botanic Garden: One of the best places in Perth for a picnic, Kings Park is extremely popular with both locals and tourists. Featuring an array of over 300 native Western Australian flowers and plants, the park is situated next to Swan River. Taking a long and leisurely walk in Kings Park makes you feel like you’ve entered another world. If you come during summer, Kings Park also hosts Moonlight Cinema, an open-air cinema showcasing films outdoors.
Venn Gallery: Part of a combined space that also includes a shop, bar, cafe, and artists’ studio area, Venn Gallery displays a variety of exhibitions showcasing contemporary artists’ works.
Street art: One of the best things to do in Perth’s CBD is to come armed with a camera and simply walk around the hidden lanes and streets, because they are absolutely packed with street art. Some art has been specially commissioned or includes murals by local artists such as Stormie Mills. I can testify from my own snapshots here that most of the street art I’ve seen in Perth is incredible.
Eat & Drink
Helvetica: Before it became a trendy hangout, this little bar used to be the best-kept secret in Perth. An intimate and cozy bar hidden amongst the office towers of Perth’s CBD, Helvetica is hands down my favourite bar in Perth.
Andaluz Bar & Tapas: The food is great here, but the atmosphere is even better. Gorge yourself on modern Spanish food while sipping on wine, beer, or cocktails.
Devilles Pad: Devilles Pad is, excuse the pun, one hell of an experience. This is an eccentric cocktail lounge filled with entertainment, good food, and plenty of drinks. It is, however, strictly for adults, only admitting people over 25. Be sure to dress sharp, too!
The Old Brewery: The biggest drawcard of this restaurant is its location, as it sits right on the Swan River. It’s easily accessed via the many buses from Perth’s CBD, or you can take a leisurely walk from the city centre instead.
140: I really like the concept behind the 140 Pop-Up project, which brings together a selection of Perth’s creative and independent retailers under one roof as a series pop-up stores. Situated on the corner of William and Murray Street Mall, this is a good place to buy and support local creative talent.
Pigeonhole: Pigeonhole has a huge selection of independent fashion, design, homewares, art, photography, stationery, vintage wares, and other lovely bits and pieces.
Northbridge is an inner city suburb close to the CBD that is known as Perth’s cultural centre, with lots to see and do. Please note that there are many galleries, shops, and restaurants in Northbridge, so my picks are only a select few.
See & Do
Turner Galleries: Turner Galleries offers some fantastic exhibitions with unique works that aim to question, challenge, and critique. The gallery features artists working in media such as painting, printmaking, sculpture, installation, jewellery, and new technologies.
Outré Gallery: For those who like their art more lowbrow, kitsch, and humorous. Outré Gallery specializes in pop, street, modern folk, retro, and underground art.
Perth Cultural Centre: The cultural heart of Perth, which is also considered to be part of Perth’s CBD because it is located between the CBD and Northbridge. A few of the institutions represented by the Perth Cultural Centre are:
The Art Gallery of Western Australia: Be sure to visit the Art Gallery of Western Australia (AGWA) as soon as possible, because the gallery has launched a three-year partnership with the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) to exclusively showcase collections from MoMA in a series of six exhibitions. AGWA has also opened its own bar and is hosting an array of art, literary, and music events to coincide with the MoMA collections in Perth.
Western Australian Museum: This is a pretty great place to take the children – whenever I visit I see excited kids around the museum (think dinosaurs and planets).
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts: The place to go for contemporary art in Perth, as well as being a space committed to showcasing cross-disciplinary and emerging art from both Australia and abroad.
Eat & Drink
Viet Hoa: This restaurant has some of the best Vietnamese food in Perth. This place is always popular with the locals, so be prepared to wait for a table.
Rochelle Adonis: Rochelle Adonis Cakes + Confections is for those with a selective sweet tooth, offering delicious treats such as cakes, confections, high teas, nougat, and ice cream.
The Tuck Shop Cafe: Another local favourite, this pie house and delicatessen is the perfect place for breakfast or brunch in a simple and unassuming setting.
399 Bar: Great drinks are found here, with a staff that knows how to mix them.
William Topp: Any shop that quotes Pippi Longstocking for its motto is bound to be one I love. William Topp is one of the best examples of Perth’s many independent shops, and I recommend you take your time browsing here. It’s filled with a quirky and eclectic range of homewares, toys, jewellery, stationery, and art.
Ruck Rover General Store: Ruck Rover has moved from the suburb of Mount Lawley to Northbridge, but it’s still the same great shop. A giftware and clothing store, it specializes in independent labels for men, women, and children, as well as stocking a range of stationery, homewares, photography, and other accessories.
Oh Henry Vintage: A nautical-themed vintage clothing shop, offering clothes and vintage gems from the 1940s to the 1990s. It’s a charmer.
My friends call the suburb of Mount Lawley “Hipster Central,” although I say that kindly, Perth hipsters. It’s a friendly and trendy suburb that’s not too far from the city centre by bus or car and is home to a bevy of independent shops.
See & Do
Astor Theatre: This is an iconic Perth building situated in Beaufort Street. A stunning Art Deco movie theatre, it’s now used as a space for live music, comedy shows, and films.
Eat & Drink
Queens: I’ve had many birthdays, dinners, and casual get-togethers with friends at Queens Tavern. It’s a great place for a snack, drink, or hearty meal.
The Flying Scotsman: A popular pub and eatery affectionately nicknamed ‘The Scotto” and famous for its Sunday night pizza and beer deal.
Cantina 663: A European-style canteen offering organic, sustainable, and seasonal produce (and great coffee, too).
Planet Video and Books: What can I say about Planet, other than that it’s totally awesome? Many times, it’s been the only shop in Perth to stock a much-needed film I’ve been searching for. In addition to selling (and renting) books, movies, and collectibles, Planet also supports local talent by selling zines created by artists and writers.
Mariposa: My mother and I love visiting this shop together because it’s like a small indulgence. Mariposa offers Australian label perfumery, skincare, and cosmetics in a tastefully simple and welcoming shop.
Corner Store: This store makes me feel like I’m entering a candy shop, only the “candy” comes in the form of giftware, homewares, and furniture.
Leederville is another trendy suburb close to Perth’s city centre. It’s home to my favourite breakfast eatery and movie theatre in Perth, as well as some great shops.
See & Do
The Leederville Hotel: A Perth party central with a total of six bars for all you partygoers.
Luna Leederville: A vintage-style cinema venue for those who prefer to watch their movies in more intimate settings. This venue is part of a series of Luna Palace cinemas in Perth, the most famous being Cinema Paradiso in Northbridge. However, I personally prefer the theatre in Leederville for its more eccentric interiors.
Eat & Drink
Sayers: Sayers is my favourite place to grab breakfast, brunch, or coffee. The fact that it’s often very busy and that I have to wait in line for a table every time I visit means that others agree with me. With its diverse and indulgent menu, Sayers has rightfully earned a good reputation in Perth. I recommend grabbing a table on their outdoor “patio” area, if you can.
Little Caesar’s Pizzeria: The place to go when you’re in the mood for good pizza.
West End Deli: This is a homey bistro offering baked goods, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s a friendly and lovely cafe.
Oxford St Books: I confess that I’m a total book nerd, and this store is one of my many book heavens in Perth. This independent local bookstore is stocked with every genre; however, locals (including myself) will tell you that the design and photography section is particularly worthy of a good long browse.
Varga Girl: A high-end boutique featuring Australian and New Zealand brands and designers.
Atlas Divine: The shop with the coolest website . . . but back to the shop itself, which is just as impressive in terms of its decor and is filled with Australian designer clothing labels for women and men, including my favourite: Lover.
Fremantle is generally called “Freo” by the locals. This coastal port city is about 20km from Perth’s centre and is one of our biggest tourist destinations. It has an arty and hippy atmosphere, reflected in its strong arts and crafts community. Fremantle also has a significant Indigenous Australian, migrant, and maritime history that is fascinating to explore.
See & Do
Fremantle Prison: This is quite possibly one of the creepiest buildings I’ve ever been in — it’ll make you believe in ghosts. Fremantle prison has an almost mythic status in Perth, with many urban legends. Originally built in the 19th century by convicts, the prison opened to the public and tourists in 1992. The best way to experience this place is to take a guided tour filled with tales and history (and a few spine-chilling moments).
West Australian Maritime Museum: I’m fascinated by the sea and all the stories and histories that surround coastal ports, so I highly recommend a visit to the West Australian Maritime Museum if you’re likewise inclined.
Fremantle Arts Centre: A place to eat, shop, visit the local art gallery and view exhibitions, listen to live music, and even take some workshops or classes.
Kulcha: Located in the heart of Fremantle, Kulcha is both a performance venue and an arts program committed to promoting and sharing multicultural arts and artists in Western Australia.
Aboriginart Gallery: An indigenous fine art gallery specializing in ethically sourced contemporary paintings from the Central and Western Desert regions of Australia.
Eat & Drink
Little Creatures Brewery: Little Creatures is popular with the locals and rightly so. I often prefer a good beer over a glass of wine, and beer doesn’t get any better than Little Creatures’ locally sourced and produced Pale Ale.
Cicerello’s: Situated in Fremantle’s Fishing Boat Harbour, Cicerello’s gives you a taste of local seafood on its menu.
Missy Moos Gourmet Burger Bar: I’m not usually a fan of burgers, but even I like the burgers here. There are also good vegetarian burger options on their menu.
Abhi’s Bread: A European-style bakery well loved by the locals and specializing in organic and sourdough bread.
Fremantle Markets: This is the place to shop in Fremantle. Always a hot spot with the tourists and a lively place to visit, Fremantle Markets has a long history and is pretty much an institution in Perth. These undercover markets feature over 150 stalls stocking wares and fresh food by local independent artists, producers, and retailers. It would be easier to tell you what isn’t sold here, rather than what is — there’s jewellery, art, homewares, antiques, photography, clothes, and much more. There is also a range of regular events and attractions within the markets, such as the Australian Wildlife Zoo (I got to gaze at an adorable but sleepy koala), pottery classes, and puppet shows, to name a few.
Wall Candy Wallpaper: As a lover of wallpaper, this shop makes it into my list for its wide selection of wallpaper designs housed in a beautiful store in North Fremantle.
Oxfam Shop: Guilt-free shopping for all manner of things can be found here, as the Oxfam Shop supports fair trade and local artisans, including Indigenous Australians.
In case you haven’t noticed yet, Australians like to shorten words, and Subiaco is another name that has been shortened by the locals to “Subi.” This swanky suburb sits west of Perth’s city centre, and is well worth a visit.
See & Do
Subiaco Arts Centre: The centre showcases local art and theatre and also has a licensed bar.
The Regal Theatre: A well-known local icon in Subiaco, this Art Deco theatre has been around since the 1930s and today is home to comedy, theatre, dance, and live music shows.
Seva Frangos Art: This is a lovely boutique gallery promoting and showcasing Australia’s indigenous artists.
Lister Gallery: An Australian art specialist gallery that deals and showcases contemporary and modern Australian art from the 1950s to the present.
Irish Theatre Players: This amateur theatre group has lots of great productions focusing on Irish plays. I really recommend them, especially if you’re in the mood for a laugh.
Eat & Drink
The Witch’s Cauldron: Possibly one of the most well-known restaurants in Subiaco, the Witch’s Cauldron has an extensive breakfast, lunch, dinner, and wine menu, but you must try their signature dish: garlic prawns with chili.
Boucla: This little Mediterranean-style cafe is a great place to stop for a quick bite.
Chez Jean-Claude Patisserie: I love this bakery and patisserie, which sells delicious croissants, bread, baguettes, tarts, cakes, éclairs, macaroons, and so much more! Everything here is baked fresh daily, and this is a bustling and popular shop with the locals.
Lapa Brazilian Barbecue: Lapa is a meat lover’s paradise and definitely not for vegetarians. However, if you like a traditional Brazilian barbecue, this is the place to go.
Subiaco Station Street Markets: Located next to the Subiaco Railway Station, the Station Street Markets are a good place to drop by and check out local handcrafted wares, vintage goods, and flowers.
Mr Sparrow: This is an adorable shop featuring contemporary and vintage wares for the home and garden. In its tiny space, you’ll find many treasures, including stationery by one of my favourite brands, O-Check, and handmade ceramics by a local artist, to name a few.
kikki.K: kikki.K is famous in Australia for cute stationery and desktop accessories inspired by clean and minimalistic Swedish design.
There are so many other places you must visit while in Perth that are not mentioned in the above neighbourhoods:
Araluen Botanic Park: This park is paradise on earth. Araluen is about 35km southeast of the city centre and is best visited in spring when all the different flowers are in full bloom. There’s also a sweet little gift store and tea shop, where you can sip on a coffee or tea while gazing at the beauty.
Coventry Square: This is a huge indoor market that opened late last year in the Perth suburb of Morley, situated 7km northeast of Perth’s CBD. There are over 150 market shops indoors, ranging from fresh food, seafood, butchers, florists, bakeries, confectionaries, cafes, restaurants, and gourmet specialty shops, as well as homewares, art, photography, cosmetics, jewellery, fashion, and more. These shops are run by local independent retailers and artists, and many of them produce their own wares. Coventry Square also hosts regular events for the kids, as well as live music.
The beaches: The most obvious attractions in Perth are the beaches, and you can take your pick, as we have many of them. Popular beaches are Cottesloe, Trigg, and if you’re willing to make the long drive, the beaches in Esperance are spectacular, with the whitest sand you’ll ever see.
The University of Western Australia: My own university, where I’ve spent many years. UWA, as it’s known to the locals, has beautiful grounds, and you’ll often find tourists wandering them. The university also hosts Perth Upmarket, which is always popular.
Sorrento Quay at Hillarys Boat Harbour: When I was younger, my parents would take my brother and I to Sorrento Quay for an evening walk with ice cream on weekends. It’s one of my favourite places in Perth, with a good selection of shops, restaurants and cafes located on the boardwalk overlooking the ocean. You’ll also find a large array of Australian pearl jewellery shops here.
Swan Valley and Margaret River Wine Regions: These are the famous wine regions of Western Australia and the places to go for wine tours and scenic drives away from the city centre. West Australian wine is developing a reputation around the world as a good drop, and you’ll find yourself coming home with a bottle (or two, or three).
Mandurah, Busselton, and Dunsborough: These are some of our most popular places for long or short holidays, with plenty of spots to stay and hidden retreats, as well as tea rooms, cafes, and small arts and crafts galleries and shops along the way. I also recommend a visit to Jarrahdale.
Above, top to bottom: Sorrento Quay at Hillarys Boat Harbour; Araluen Botanic Park; Necessiteas Tea Shop in Jarrahdale
- Gail Jones: Author
- Heath Ledger: Actor
- Tim Winton: Author
- Sam Worthington: Actor
- Gemma Ward: Model
- Rolf Harris: Artist
- Megan Gale: Model
- Tim Minchin: Comedian
- Edith Cowan: Politician
- Melissa George: Actress
- Aurelio Costarella: Fashion Designer
- Judy Davis: Actress
- Stormie Mills: Artist
- Isla Fisher: Actress
- Katy Steele: Musician (whom I went to school with, and she rocked even then)
- End of Fashion: Band
- Shaun Tan: Illustrator and Author
- Birds of Tokyo: Band
- Elissa Down: Filmmaker
- The Waifs: Band
- Taj Burrow: Surfer
Our other claims to fame include artist Frieda Hughes, the daughter of poets Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes and who lived in Perth for a few years, as well as Hugh Jackman, who graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts.