Brisbane is one of the best cities in the world to visit and explore. There are a number of distinct areas that have their own personality, and all of them have great dining, culture, and nightlife scenes. A whole trip spent in the Brisbane city center (CBD) is simply not enough, you need to get out and explore!
Getting to and from these neighborhoods without a car is greatly helped by the use of a TransLink Go card and a little research. But jumping around and exploring different areas is vital to the Brisbane experience. Also, there are many different areas outside the city center that are worth staying in. Most importantly, these neighborhoods are perfectly set up so that you can “live like a local” while you’re in Brisbane. It’s easy to wake up at a boutique hotel or rented apartment and grab a relaxing cup of coffee and window-shop.
Brisbane is an unconventional city because many of the “neighborhoods” are actual suburbs. So keep in mind that just because the address doesn’t say “Brisbane” does not mean that this location is any less worthy than the downtown area. There are dozens of fun neighborhoods to stay in and explore. And it will be much easier to get around if you drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Brisbane. Here are your best bets for where to stay in Brisbane:
Brisbane Central Business District (Brisbane CBD)
CBD is the beating heart of the Brisbane metropolitan area and central business district. It’s the classic downtown district with all the tallest buildings, fanciest restaurants, swankiest clubs, and everything else. There is a wonderful mix of architecture in Brisbane CBD, with much of the colonial buildings mixing in with the modern skyscraper that make up the skyline of this major city center.
Brisbane CBD’s central location also makes it the perfect place to stay if you are planning on visiting many different neighborhoods. It’s a great jumping-off point for heading out to just about anywhere. One downside is that downtown tends to shut down around 9 pm (certain stores in the Queen Street Mall are open fairly late). Many restaurants, cafes, and bars might not even open on weekends. However, during the week this district is absolutely popping, with the hustle and bustle you’d expect of a proper business district.
One of the best places to visit in Brisbane CBD has to be Queen Street Mall, which is the heart of downtown. It’s popular with shoppers, tourists, and locals coming into the city center to experience the hustle and bustle. Eagle Street is a great stretch for fine dining and wonderful views of the Brisbane River. The River Center Tower and Pier are nearby and are perfect for afternoon strolls, or breathtaking nighttime views of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. Renting a bike is an easy way to trek around the riverfront to take in Brisbane in all its glory.
Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, located in the southern part of the neighborhood, is one of the city’s best attractions. It’s perfect for taking in the greenery and getting some fresh air off the river. What’s wonderful about Brisbane CBD is that it’s shaped like a triangle, with bends of the river on either side. The access to greenery and the riverfront makes Brisbane CBD stand out amongst other downtown and business districts. There are over 49 acres of sprawling green landscapes, including wooded areas. There are fountains, statues, and other landmarks that make this park a Queensland Heritage site. If you’re not from Australia, many of the plants in this park will seem exotic, as they are unique to the area. The panoramic views from the riverfront are incredible, with Kangaroo Point Cliffs and many of Brisbane’s best sights all visible from the southern waterfront. There is so much nature available to Brisbane City, with the beautiful city botanic gardens, lengthy riverside boardwalk, and Roma Street Parkland all within walking distance.
Brisbane CBD is also a shopper’s dream, as many of the most prominent international fashion brands and companies have their Queensland flagship stores located in the downtown neighborhood. Queen Street Mall. High-end shopping is certainly the biggest factor here, but there are many niche Australian labels that are available in the department stores and select boutiques. In terms of high-energy nightlife, Brisbane CBD has some of the best bars and nightclubs in the city.
Being the Brisbane central business district, this is the perfect place to stay in the city for work. Most corporate offices are just a stone's throw from all the hotels in the city centre. There are dozens upon dozens of hotels located throughout Brisbane CBD. All the major hotel chains have locations here. There are also high-rise apartments for rent for travelers looking for a “home away from home” setup. While some of these hotels can be rather expensive, there is enough variety that most budgets should be accommodated.
This neighborhood is the perfect location for just about everyone to stay in Brisbane. There is something for basically everyone. It’s centrally located, so those with specific interests or plans can get to their destinations easily. There are museums, restaurants, and stunning views throughout the district, so it’s a convenient setting for a hotel stay. Brisbane CBD is very safe, so it’s perfect for families and older folks visiting the city. It’s also relatively approachable for a busy downtown. Australians are famously friendly and helpful, so no one should ever feel uncomfortable asking for directions or recommendations.
Solo travelers will find the ease and convenience a plus, especially considering the district is very safe, with very few empty streets even at night. Younger travelers with niche interests might be better served in some of the outer neighborhoods, but even they will find the central location beneficial for their plans. Overall, Brisbane CBD is a wonderful place to stay, even as a jumping-off point for exploring the rest of the city.
Located just northwest of Brisbane CBD, Fortitude Valley is centrally located and is accessible from both downtown, New Farm, and the northern suburbs. While “The Valley” use to have a sleazy reputation that it (in some ways) might have lived up to in certain cases, this neighborhood has turned into the trendiest part of Brisbane.
There is outstanding shopping here, and Fortitude Valley boasts a little bit of everything. The Chinatown Mall is here. The Valley Markets on Brunswick Street have a ton of local and international stores. The best stretch for shopping has to be James Street, which is lined with niche boutiques, vintage stores, cafes, and fun restaurants.
Visiting Chinatown (a neighborhood within a neighborhood) is one of the best afternoon itineraries if you’re staying in Fortitude Valley. This is a major hub for Chinese culture in Queensland, and some of the best restaurants, stores, and sightseeing can all be had in this incredible neighborhood. There are also Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai businesses that have become part of this amazing scene. There is a reason that foodies from around the globe do their research and find the best hole-in-the-wall noodle spots or Korean barbecue joints.
Fortitude Valley is perhaps best known for being the best neighborhood for a night out. Some of the best music venues are located here, including the iconic Tivoli, and up-and-coming Fortitude Music Hall. There are also dozens of rooftop bars and nightclubs for dancing, and trendy “dive” bars (that may or may not have been recently renovated to seem like dive bars) for trendy punks and hipsters. There are also craft breweries and natural wine bars that showcase some of the best locally-produced beverages in all of Australia.
Because trendy tourists have turned to Fortitude Valley in recent years as the go-to neighborhood, hotels and rentals have become increasingly pricy. There are many boutique hotels that are certainly worth the Instagrams alone, but these can be expensive and get booked up quickly on most weekends. There are plenty of hotels, mostly on Wickham, St. Pauls Terrace, and Ann Street. Fortitude Valley is very walkable, especially if you’re most looking for good restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.
The neighborhood itself seems to fit the businesses that inhabit the area. Young, hip, and on-the-go, Fortitude Valley residents are passionate about taking advantage of the incredible culture on offer in this little corner of Brisbane. This makes Fortitude Valley an ideal destination for travelers in their 20s or 30s. Families with young children might find the area a little loud on weekends, and the trendy offerings might be lost on older visitors. If you’ve ever been called a hipster, this is the neighborhood is for you! Fortunately, the neighborhood is very safe and inviting, so just about anyone will enjoy themselves in Fortitude Valley, especially if they enjoy great restaurants and excellent views of the Brisbane River.
Located just south of Fortitude Valley, New Farm is another excellent destination for younger travelers, especially those with families. This quaint residential neighborhood (technically a suburb) boasts leafy streets, ornate Queenslander-style homes, and old-world charm. Their apartment buildings all are charmingly-designed, and almost all of the buildings are older, since New Farm has been an established neighborhood for longer than most other areas.
For caffeine-obsessed travelers and brunch-enthusiasts, New Farm is one of the best places in Brisbane to stay. Many charming cafes, coffee roasters, and breakfast restaurants call New Farm home. Brunswick Street, Methyr, and Wickham Street are where most of the action is, and it’s not uncommon to find some of the more popular brunch spots to be buzzing with groups looking for their new favorite brioche french toast and mimosa.
New Farm Park is one of the best destinations for an enjoyable afternoon outside. Thirty-seven acres of leafy trees, expansive fields, and wonderful fountains and walkways attract over 18,000 visitors every week. There are also stunning views of the Riverfront walkway, and the New Farm Powerhouse has been repurposed into a performing arts center for local musicians and artists to showcase their work.
While this isn’t the buzzing Fortitude Valley, there is lively energy to New Farm that would appeal to younger travelers. But what this neighborhood really specializes in is accommodating young families. There are so many leafy streets for easygoing walks, and most of the restaurants are child-friendly. There is a quiet-but-not-too-quiet feel to New Farm. It’s the perfect place for a family to walk through the park before grabbing lunch and a beer at a cute restaurant. The hotels and rentals are slightly upscale, but reasonably priced, so a variety of budgets can be accommodated in New Farm.
Located in the hills southeast of Brisbane City, this is one of the most attractive suburbs in the area. Brightly painted Queenslander cottages line the streets and contribute to the idyllic scenery. Latrobe Terrace is the destination here, with many of the iconic cottages having been repurposed to house shops, cafes, and restaurants. Some of the best antique stores are in Paddington, mostly on Latrobe or Given Terrace. There are also upscale designer boutiques for shoppers looking for something specific.
There aren’t as many hostels or major chains in Paddington or nearby Red Hill, but there are some boutique hotels and some rentals that are situated on quiet streets. These are rather expensive, so older travelers will appreciate the chic amenities and quiet atmosphere. This is one of the most affluent neighborhoods that travelers frequent, and it’s perfect for older couples looking to live like a local.
This suburb, located just south of Brisbane CBD, is essentially Fortitude Valley’s quirkier cousin. This is where many of the best ethnic restaurants, cafes, and fashion boutiques are located. And there is a trendy air about the neighborhood. It’s a diverse place, with a delightfully eclectic mix of hipster bars, vegan cafes, and Thai or Indian restaurants. Vulture and Boundary Streets are where most of the action is, but the rest of the neighborhood’s streets are dotted with quirky shops and cafes.
The shopping is also incredible. Some of the best local designers have set up shop in West End, most likely out of necessity because the rent is more affordable in this neighborhood. But niche boutiques, potentially the best vintage stores in Brisbane, and a number of international stores make the shopping in West End some of the best in Queensland. The music scene in West End is also one of the best in Brisbane, this is probably because all of the city’s musicians probably live here!
There aren’t as many hotels in West End as there are in other neighborhoods, but the rental scene is off the charts. This is where students, traveling artists, and musicians all choose to stay because of the quirky clientele and excellent value. While the neighborhood is gentrifying, this is still one of the most affordable places in Brisbane to rent a one-bedroom flat for a few days.
South Bank (South Brisbane)
This is another of Brisbane’s most popular places to stay (and explore). This neighborhood is located directly across the river from Brisbane CBD, and it houses some of the city’s best cultural institutions, convention centers, restaurants, and nightlife.
Previously being an entirely industrial area, the neighborhood has been revitalized and repurposed for the hustle and bustle of the city. The riverfront and warehouse districts are all restaurants, boutiques, and music venues. Fish Lane is one of the hotspots for fine dining, cocktail bars, and upscale shopping. Grey Street and Little Stanley Street are other destinations for Instagram-friendly dinners. Date night doesn’t get any better than a romantic evening out in the South Bank for dinner and a show at The Lyric Theater.
If you’re traveling for work, The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre is one of the best venues for Australia’s business conferences and trade shows. Dinner with clients on Grey Street is a great way to close that deal! The South Bank Parklands provides the neighborhood with some much-needed green space, and it’s an incredible park with unbeatable views of the Brisbane River.
Because of the incredible diversity of businesses, the practical location of the Convention Center, and its proximity to downtown, just about anyone can stay in the South Bank. The hotels in the neighborhood fit just about every budget, and the ease of getting around should appeal to travelers of any age. Families and those looking for a quiet weekend might want to look elsewhere, but if you’re young, or traveling for work, South Bank is a great place to stay and explore.
Brisbane has one of the most diverse sets of neighborhoods of any city in Australia. From quiet to bustling, from leafy to industrial, from skyscrapers to cottages, Brisbane has something for everyone. Wherever you choose to stay, let Bounce take care of the luggage, so you can explore your new home away from home!