The state capital of Queensland and a true world city on Australia's East Coast, Brisbane is a place that's guaranteed to be a highlight of any trip Down Under. With the ocean in front of it and Mt Coot-tha rising behind it, Brisbane has everything you need for an outdoor adventure, and its extensive public transport network makes it easy to get around the city to explore. Plus, it has one of Australia's most vibrant and diverse dining scenes, making it a paradise for foodies.
In addition to all that, Brisbane is the best place to explore Queensland's cultural heritage. Australia's aboriginal history goes back millennia, and although European settlement in the country is relatively recent, it's still a fascinating story of how modern Australia changed from being a British penal colony to the vibrant and wealthy country it is today.
Art and history lovers in Brisbane are spoiled for choice. The city is home to Queensland's top cultural institutions, so whether you want to explore ancient history and science or enjoy the cutting edge at a contemporary art gallery, you'll find plenty to keep you entertained here. But before you go exploring the museums of Brisbane, don't forget to drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage. Bounce can hold onto your things while you admire the cultural treasures of eastern Australia.
The granddaddy of Brisbane museums, the Queensland Museum should be the first port of call in the city for anyone with an interest in history. Located in South Brisbane, this extensive collection dates back to 1862, and it has been an icon of the city since then. Queensland Museum hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions that explore natural history, geology, and the state's convict history, along with the history of cultures from around the world. The towering dinosaur skeletons are guaranteed to please the kids, and the interactive science-based activities in the SparkLab will encourage any budding scientists in your family, making the Queensland Museum one of the best things to do in Brisbane with kids. Other exhibits tell the tale of Australia's history from the ancient legends of the aboriginal people to the founding and development of the modern country of Australia. It's impossible to deny that this is one of the best museums in Brisbane. But if you're traveling on a budget, you'll be even happier to learn that this museum is also completely free to visit.
Queensland Art Gallery
Located right next to the Queensland Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery is similarly impressive. Founded in 1895, this huge gallery didn't have a permanent home until as recently as 1982, when it became one of the highlights of the Queensland Cultural Center it now occupies. Like the Queensland Museum, the Art Gallery combines both temporary and permanent exhibits to tell the story of art in Queensland and around the world. Pride of place in the collection may go to a work by Picasso, but the gallery is also known for its focus on Queensland and Australian artists, including an impressive and absorbing collection of aboriginal art. Art lovers can't afford to miss this journey through the history of art where they may learn about some new favorites.
Gallery of Modern Art
Operated by the Queensland Art Gallery which is only about 150 meters away, the Gallery of Modern Art is sometimes known as GOMA. As the name suggests, this impressive gallery is devoted solely to modern art, making it the perfect location in Brisbane for those who love contemporary art. The gallery contains work by recent artists such as Anish Kapoor, Georg Baselitz, and Ai Weiwei, and video and multimedia exhibits help to place these artworks in the context of other art both past and present. Even people who don't consider themselves fans of modern art often come away from this art gallery with a deeper appreciation of the creativity and skill of still-living artists. And guess what? While there is a charge for some temporary exhibits, normal admission to the gallery is completely free, and it's one of the best free things to do in Brisbane.
Brisbane City Hall
Built between 1920 and 1930, Brisbane City Hall is an unmissable landmark in the Brisbane CBD and an interesting place to learn more about the history of the city itself. Based on the Pantheon in Rome combined with Venice's famous bell tower, this building is truly unique and is recognized as the largest city hall in Australia.
The unique architecture makes the City Hall worth visiting all by itself, but on the third floor, you'll find the Museum of Brisbane which will tell you the story of the city's founding and development through the centuries. Combine a tour of City Hall with a visit to the Museum of Brisbane, and you'll get a much better understanding of what makes the city tick. Plus, since you will be in the heart of downtown, you'll be ideally placed to try some of the best street food in Brisbane.
QUT Art Museum
Located at Queensland University right next to Brisbane City Botanic Garden and the Queensland Parliament, the QUT Art Museum is the best location in the city to explore adventurous art. The ever-changing exhibitions display the work of multimedia artists and avant-garde provocateurs currently shaking up the art world, and the combination of local artists along with creators from around the world will give you an eclectic experience of cutting-edge art. Just a short walk from the city center, it's well worth combining a visit to this fascinating gallery of modern art with a tour around the nearby Botanic Garden, so you can experience both the natural and the man-made beauty of Brisbane.
Macarthur Museum Brisbane
Military history buffs can't visit Brisbane without taking a trip to the Macarthur Museum. Named for General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in the South West Pacific campaign of World War II, this fascinating museum will teach you all about the Pacific theater of a war that shaped the world. You can sit at the desk from where the General commanded his forces during this world-shaping conflict, and get a glimpse into daily life for civilians in Brisbane while the war raged on. Over one million US troops stopped in Brisbane on their way to fight in the Pacific, and this influx changed relations between the two countries forever, so this small but fascinating peek into history tells an important story.
Old Government House
One of Brisbane's oldest buildings, Old Government House is an icon of the city. Its 1860s architecture provides perfect photo opportunities, and the building also contains a museum that tells the story of colonial life in Queensland. You'll see the drawing room and the servant's hall in this impressive building and get a glimpse into Australian society prior to independence when the country was still part of the British Empire. You'll also get access to the William Robinson Gallery, which celebrates the work of one of Australia's top landscape artists. This underrated museum is something of a hidden gem in Brisbane, so it's a great place to go where you won't have to deal with tourist crowds.
Queensland Maritime Museum
It's safe to say that modern Australia owes its existence to seafaring. After all, it was British naval prowess that made the country a colony of the United Kingdom before it gained its independence in 1901. And throughout Australia's history, the sea has played an important role in the cuisine, defense, and even culture of the country. All of Australia's top cities are located on the coastline, and beach life has become an inextricable part of modern Australian life.
You can explore these links to the ocean at the Queensland Maritime Museum. Holding one of Australia's largest maritime heritage collections, this museum gives you the opportunity to climb on board historic vessels and learn more about the role they played in the country's history. Don't miss the chance to explore a World War II-era battleship and learn about the many shipwrecks that have occurred on the Great Barrier Reef. Located on Brisbane's South Bank, Queensland Maritime Museum focuses on bringing Australia's maritime history to life, and it does it in a very visceral and hands-on way.
Woolloongabba Art Gallery
This small commercial gallery occupies a prime position among Brisbane's cultural institutions. The three exhibition spaces are dedicated to work by Australian and Queensland artists, with a heavy focus on aboriginal artists. The exhibitions here are constantly changing, so you may see paintings, sculptures, ceramics, or video installations when you visit, but you'll be guaranteed an interesting voyage through the artistic heritage of Queensland in one of the city's hidden gems. The gallery often hosts talks by the artists themselves, so you can get a much deeper appreciation of the artwork than you would in a regular museum. Plus, if you feel like adding to your collection, this commercial gallery sells art, so you could head home with a truly unique souvenir of your time in Brisbane.
Queensland Police Museum
This Brisbane museum is a quirky and truly unique gem that focuses on true crime in the city and the territory. The Queensland Police were founded in 1864, and tasked with policing the vast and often hostile state. This museum, based in the modern Queensland Police headquarters, tells the fascinating story of this frontier police force and the criminals it was their job to capture. Fans of true crime will have a blast here, and the museum provides an interesting take on history that older kids will probably love.
What are the best free museums in Brisbane?
One of the best things about Brisbane's museums is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to visit them. In fact, some of the best museums in all of Australia are based in the city and are totally free to visit. The Queensland Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Gallery of Modern Art are all totally free. Likewise, there is no charge to visit the Queensland Police Museum or Old Government House.
Which are the best museums in downtown Brisbane?
Brisbane City Hall and the Museum of Brisbane it contains occupy a prime spot in the heart of the city, and you can't miss the dramatic neo-classical facade of this iconic building. You'll also find QUT Art Museum just a short walk away. And from there, it isn't difficult to cross the bridge and explore the South Bank and Queensland Cultural Center.
Are there any cheap museums in Brisbane?
So many of Brisbane's top museums are completely free to visit that you can get a great sense of the city's cultural heritage without spending anything at all. But if you feel like branching out, the Queensland Maritime Museum costs a reasonable AU$25 for adults, and visiting the MacArthur Museum is even cheaper at only AU$10.