South Bank: A Weekend in Brisbane’s Hippest Neighbourhood

by Marie Vanderwoodsen

I’ve been to Sydney. I’ve been to Melbourne. And I don’t really get the hype.

There’s a city here in Australia that I like better. That has much more flair and personality to it. As the title of this article might imply: yes, it’s Brisbane.

And this cute, slightly smaller city with its two million inhabitants is particularly amazing because of one of its neighborhoods. Forget Sydney’s CBD or Melbourne’s Fitzroy – Brisbane’s South Bank is well worth exploring. It’s located on the southern banks of the Brisbane river. And it’s Brisbane’s Hippest Beighborhood.

I’ve spent a weekend here and fell in love with South Bank. It’s the neighborhood of light chains, free events and great organic food – it will make your hipster heart beat a little faster. Opulent Nutella donuts, a city lagoon, free concerts and sports sessions are just some of the things you’ll get if you spend your weekend here.

Let’s have a look at what your weekend in South Bank can look like. Here we go.

brisbane's skyline on a cloudy day

Start off Saturday with an organic breakfast and free aqua zumba

You can’t start your vacation in South Bank without a great breakfast. Looking for some organic, but inexpensive food? Enjoy some spinach and cheese calzone and a good coffee at Flowers of the World – most breakfasts are under 10 dollars.

Don’t feel awake enough yet? Try some aqua Zumba in the city lagoon. From February to May, the city council offers free fitness classes every day in the South Bank Parklands. You can choose among ballet fit and yoga sessions.

davies market in brisbane

Fresh produce, donuts, free concert and midnight swim

Head to West End before 2 pm to stroll along Davies market and buy some fresh produce. You can cook your own lunch with the vegetables and herbs you bought or grab a delicious vegan bite such as dumplings or tofu wraps to eat. Don’t miss out on some freshly squeezed lemonade or iced tea to have with your meal and listen to some local bands play while you relax in the park nearby.

Time to head back to the Parklands, which, by the way, is a huge park spanning about 17.5 hectares at Brisbane’s riverfront. It consists of lush lawns, a rainforest, a Nepalese pagoda and the city lagoon, where you will spend the rest of your day (sun)bathing.

brisbane's city pool in south bank

The lagoon consists of Streets Beach and the Boat Pool, both are located in the Parklands. Streets Beach is man-made and Australia’s only inner-city beach.  Boat Pool, located right next to Streets Beach, is a swimming pool filled with clear-blue water and surrounded by palm trees. And the best thing about the lagoon? It’s free to use!

Once you’ve dried a little, choose one of the waterfront restaurants for dinner. I can recommend Popolo, which offers great Italian food and some magnificent views on Brisbane’s skyline.

Still not tired yet? Have a late night swim in the lagoon. It’s open until midnight (!!!).

Sunday is all about Brunch

Australians are all about brunch. For a reason. They offer some of the best brunch menus I have ever had. The café Denim Co. will satisfy all your breakfast + lunch cravings. I would advise to either go for the Golden Waffles – waffles served with warm Nutella, popcorn and vanilla ice cream – or if you are looking for something savory, for the Green Eggs – pesto scrambled eggs with basil and tomatoes.

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the collective markets in brisbane's south bank

Time for some culture: Free Museums in South Bank

Have you seen the iconic Brisbane sign on your friends’ Instagram photos? It’s time for you to be a good tourist, climb into one of the eight letters and take your own.

Too cliché for you? Are you more into educating cultural visits? Let’s head to the Queensland Museum right next to the sign then! And again, it’s another free activity, yay!  This museum is part of the Cultural Precinct of Brisbane and has some great exhibitions about the current and extinct wildlife in Queensland and a particularly interesting one about our solar system: “Other Worlds”. It portrays our planets and their respective moons in spectacular photographs that are based on scientific data. Prepare to be mentally transported to space.

If you are more into art than science, check out the Queensland Art Gallery (GOMA – Gallery of Modern Art). Their current exhibition “Sugar Spin” celebrates the museum’s 10-year anniversary and showcases 250 contemporary artworks. There are a couple funky highlights that are especially unique: you can stroke a colorful furry wall made of synthetic hair, ride down a slide from the top to the bottom of the museum or watch a herd of horse sculptures dance.  Admission is free again and they even offer free cinema screenings.

nutella doughnut in south bank

Nutella doughnuts and a free concert in the park

Time to overdose on a sweet, sweet treat after all that cultural overload.

If you love Nutella, you have to try Doughnut Time’s “Love at first bite”. This doughnut is filled with Nutella and dusted with cinnamon. It really tasted like they squeezed half a glass of Nutella in there. No need for dinner today! Another great vegan option is the celebrity-named doughnut “Liam Hemsworth” – a red velvet doughnut with a cookies and cream frosting, crushed choc ripple biscuits and a chocolate glaze drizzle. The doughnut store specializes in hand-dipped doughnuts and changes its menu frequently.

Feel like a quick shopping trip? Stroll along the Collective Markets. You can find a nice little souvenir among all the trendy accessories and hipster clothing stalls.

brisbane's skyline at night

Now, the free entertainment isn’t over just yet. Head back to the Parklands and enjoy a free concert. The Sunday Sessions on the Green showcase local Australian bands and different styles of music.

Hasn’t it been a great weekend in South Bank? You might consider extending your stay there are always a couple free fitness sessions and more free concerts to attend here…