It’s been a little more than two years since we made Brisbane our home and I must say we’ve very much fallen in love (all over again) with this city after both of us spending many years living away.
I love the smaller communities within the big city. I love our little community in the inner north. I love the revitalised CBD. And I love that pretty much all my shopping, eating and playing needs are catered for.
So, when I received an email recently from a reader (hi Lyndal) asking for tips on where to stay, shop, eat and drink in Brisbane ahead of her and her four friends’ annual girls’ weekend away, I thought others might be keen to know about my favourite spots.
Lyndal’s party of five is travelling north from a small farming community in Victoria. They’re keen for some sunshine and want to know what they shouldn’t miss during their trip.
I’m going to share my favourite spots below – and trust me, I’m still discovering them – but if you’re a Brisbane local or regular visitor, please join in with your must-do ideas in the comments below.
Where to stay
Choose your accommodation based on where you’ll most like to spend your time in Brisbane and whether you prefer a small, boutique option, chain hotel or an apartment.
Emporium Hotel: This is one of my fave hotels. Full stop. That it happens to be in Brisbane is a bonus for a staycation. I love its boutique, modern styling and its Fortitude Valley location is a great alternative to a CBD option.
Spicers Balfour Hotel: Also located just left of centre of the CBD, Spicers Balfour Hotel in New Farm is a boutique hotel housed in a 110-year-old Queenslander. Charm plus good looks is always a winner.
Hilton Brisbane: You can not get closer to the CBD shopping action than Hilton Brisbane. You are a lift away from shopping heaven. It’s a fave of ours and a hotel we return to frequently. This post has the low down – the pool terrace has since been added since that visit and, on a subsequent visit, proved a fabulous spot on which to spend a lazy post-shopping afternoon.
**For more Brisbane boutique and luxury accommodation options with a difference, check out and search for options on Alluxia.
Where to shop
Every pocket of Brisbane has fabulous shopping options – below are the most well-know and diverse options.
CBD: The Queen Street mall has been rejuvenated with the recent opening of stores such as Zara, H&M (and next week Uniqlo), with these spots previously boarded up construction zones. QueensPlaza anchors the non-river end of the mall and Edward Street has become home to almost every global high-end label.
James Street, Fortitude Valley: You’ll find strip shopping at its best here. Fashion, homewares and art stores – the big names sit alongside independent boutiques.
Paddington: This is my local ‘hood. I wrote this post last year but have now updated it as some of the stores have either relocated or shut down.
Where to eat
This is such a highly subjective list. I’ve not only eaten at all of them, in most cases I’ve also had many return visits. It’s a first-world challenge to try something new when you have a bunch of faves that never let you down.
Madam Wu: Like many of the options along the river in Eagle Street in the CBD, this is a bar AND a dining option. All with a view of Brisbane’s Story bridge. The menu is Asian fusion and the banquet options are very good value. Do not miss the braised beef cheeks. A separate gluten-free menu is available.
Survey & Co: Brisbane’s lane ways in the CBD and Fortitude Valley are being opened up to new and fresh dining options. This is one of my faves in the CBD’s Burnett Lane. Graze on small plates or sit down for three courses. The food is a winner.
Marchetti Cafe: Need to rest those feet in between shopping missions? This hidden gem in the Tattersalls Arcade which runs in an L-shape between Edward Street and the Queen Street Mall, offers a place to breathe and sample a little slice of Italy. Very good coffee, pastries and authentic dishes will have you coming back for more.
Stokehouse Q: Settle in for the afternoon by the river at South Bank in this contemporary building and enjoy fine, fresh food that you’ll remember for a very long time. The fresh product game is strong. Don’t feel like a sit-down lunch? Head next door to the Stokebar. I highly endorse the Mexicana espresso martinis.
Popolo Italian Kitchen and Bar: Just up from Stokehouse at South Bank, is one of our fave Italian foodie spots in Brisbane. We’ve had lunches and dinners here and never been disappointed. Dining is shared banquet style and the gluten-free options are plentiful.
ChowHouse: Located in Fortitude Valley’s James Street, this is another share-style dining option. This time it’s about sharing street-stall, Asian-inspired food that focusses on fresh, seasonal produce.
Libertine: This heritage-listed dining space is just on the CBD fringe in the Paddington Barracks building. It’s a favourite of mine for girls’ lunches – the set banquet menu is such good value. It’s shared plate style again (can you see a theme here?!) with a French-Vietnamese-inspired menu. So many gluten-free options too.
Grappino: We love our Italian food fixes and you cannot go pass this Paddington dining institution for authentic Italian regional cuisine and efficient family service.
Il Posto: Il Posto is walking distance from home so this has become a regular for family get togethers … or just because. We’ve never been disappointed with the food, the gluten-free pizza base doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing out and they do a mean Aperol Spritz.
Shouk: Weekend brunch is big business all over Brisbane and people come to Shouk from all over for seriously good food with flavours of the Middle East. The line up at the door is a valid indication of just how good the food (and service) is once you get inside.
Where to drink
Blackbird: Finished a long lunch at Madam Wu in the city? Why not opt for late-afternoon cocktails nearby at Blackbird with a similar view of the river and Story Bridge.
Alfred & Constance (precinct): Want to bar hop in Fortitude Valley? This post will point you in the right direction for food and drink options, as well as rooftop bars.
Eleven Rooftop bar: This rooftop bar is also within walking distance of those mentioned in the blog post linked to above. It just wasn’t open at the time of writing that post. I’ve since been and love its 270 degree views and vibe. Book a booth if you want to guarantee a spot for your group.
Leftys: Been out to dinner at Libertine? Kick on at Leftys, a bar not just for the sweet young things and a place that has to be seen to be believed. Live music, giant gilt mirrors, candlelit booths and drinks served up with a free bag of popcorn on the side. It’s impossible not to have a good time.
My friend Sammy from The Annoyed Thyroid has written this post about 10 place to eat and drink in Brisbane.
The conversation and recommendations from Instagram and Facebook on this topic are strong too.
So, it’s over to you. Share with us your favourite Brisbane stay, shop, eat and drink ideas.