CBD, Adelaide - Australia

The state capital of South Australia was designed around green spaces, and in the Central Business District quality of life is sacred, immersing locals and visitors in culture, nature and great food. By Qin Xie.

Travel Time 1hrs 10min

Why go?

Cocooned by 700 hectares of verdant Park Lands, Adelaide’s central business district (CBD) oozes the kind of country-town charm you might find in a Western movie. That’s not to say it’s stuck in time. The past few years have seen the arrival of towering skyscrapers and glitzy five-star hotels, while the dining scene has flourished with hip restaurants dishing up eclectic sharing plates, and intimate bars where cocktails are more alchemy than G&T.

The prettiest bits are on North Terrace, the city’s culture boulevard. A cluster of museums sit side by side here, including the Art Gallery of South Australia and South Australian Museum, but it’s the Mortlock Wing of the State Library, with book-filled galleries framed by elegant wrought iron railings, that offers the wow factor.

The Adelaide Botanic Garden anchors the north-eastern corner, where noisy rainbow lorikeets flit between drunken parrot trees in search of nectar. You’ll find a magnificent display of plants from all over Australia; join one of the free guided tours to learn more.

You’ll need a few hours if you want to cover the Park Lands on foot; or you could hire a bike
and aim for the wilder segments. Parks 7 and 8 are highlights: here, heritage olive groves serve as a reminder of the early days of the colony and the thriving olive oil industry. While in Park 15, netted bins are set up for games of disc golf (aka golf with frisbees).

Unlike many Australian cities, Adelaide was planned rather than being the legacy of a penal colony. Even so, its expansive Park Lands were unique for the time. Even so, its expansive Park Lands were unique for the time.

Against a backdrop of industrial revolution and rapid urbanisation, when green spaces were disappearing from cities, Colonel William Light, South Australia’s first surveyor-general, drew up plans for the state capital. He adopted a radical new theory: by giving everybody access to nature, you’ll create a healthier and happier workforce. So, in 1837, Adelaide became the first city in the world to have planned public parks, drawing wealthy immigrants from all over Europe.

Of course, the Kaurna people, the traditional owners of the land, were here long before that. But the European settlement quickly displaced them, and by 1929 the last native speaker of the Kaurna language, Ivaritji, had died. There has been a revival of the language and culture since the Nineties and today all parks and landmarks have a Kaurna name in tribute.

What to do

Where to stay

With a sleek champagne bar and rooms offering panoramic city views, French brand Sofitel Adelaide’s 2021 opening brought a touch of oh là là to the South Australian capital.

An oasis of calm above the city’s casino and entertainment hub, Eos by Skycity has unbeatable views of the Adelaide Oval. The attractions on North Terrace are within strolling distance and a tree- lined walk along the River Torrens is just outside its door.

A heritage building turned five-star hotel in the heart of the CBD, the Mayfair Hotel oozes charm with its vintage facade and decidedly modern rooms. The mini bar is complimentary, but the rooftop bar is mighty tempting.

Within striking distance of Adelaide Central Market, Hotel Indigo Adelaide Markets has compact, well designed rooms. Its own rooftop bar has become the cool hang-out on Saturday nights.

In the CBD’s vibrant east end, a highlight at the otherwise low-key Vibe Hotel Adelaide is its suspended pool, which straddles two buildings.

Where to eat and drink

Small plates to share are the thing or, if you’re dining solo, opt for a tasting menu – it often costs about the same as splitting the bill.

Historic Adelaide Central Market is a grazer’s paradise. For counter-side perches, top picks are Italian stalwart Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar or Sisea’s for seafood-centric tapas.

Book well ahead for a boundary-pushing experience at Restaurant Botanic, located inside Adelaide Botanic Garden. The fine- dining menu features indigenous ingredients such as kangaroo and quandong (native peach).

Specialising in Japanese yakitori, Shōbōsho is a buzzy hole-in-the-wall spot. Order a tsukune (chicken meatball skewer) and katsu sando (crispy pork sandwich).

With a Middle Eastern- and Asian-inspired menu – think lamb with labneh and shiso
– Aurora is part of a charity supporting artists through hospitality events.

Press* Food & Wine is the go-to spot for European small plates, cocktails and a great wine list.

Arrive early to watch the sunset from 2KW’s no-reservations rooftop terrace bar, facing the Park Lands and Adelaide Oval.

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Travel Information

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