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An Insider's Guide to Brisbane

We’ve just arrived in Brisbane city centre. I check my watch – we don’t need to be at Brisbane International until 9pm – it’s 3pm now. How to fill the time? Lucky for us, we are in the company of Anne – a Tourism North Queensland representative and Brisbane resident. She has just clocked off work for the day but still leaps at the chance to take this small group of wide-eyed Brits on a whirlwind tour of the city she calls home. We are against the clock so can’t stray too far. This makes me feel a little apprehensive. Some city centres can be pretty samey. What could we possibly experience here that we wouldn’t see in any other city? But I was in for a real treat…

Brisbane City Markets

‘You guys are in luck, it’s Wednesday, the market is on’ Anne tells us as we start out on our adventure. At the end of Queen Street Mall, Brisbane City Markets only runs once a week at this location but is THE place to go for local, organic produce and mouth-watering street food. We are wandering for less than a minute before I’ve clocked an artisan baker’s and an incredible-looking cheese stand. I’m not even hungry but I can’t help but appreciate how close together these two stands are. I fight temptation and walk on, past a burrito truck, Vietnamese food, falafel vendors, a paella stall, a bratwurst grill and various stands selling freshly prepared fruits. The rest of the group have dispersed to spend the last of their Aussie dollars on gelato, honeycomb and some deeply indulgent cupcakes. Many of the vendors here offer free tastes of their wares but be warned, once you’ve tried, you are just going to want more.

Secret Coffee Shop

After a flip-flop fail, some of the group need to make an emergency footwear purchase. I ask Anne if there is somewhere I can grab a coffee while the shoe selection takes place. She tells me she knows just the place. She gives me some very straightforward directions and in less than 3 minutes I’m walking down a laneway off George Street with graffiti covered walls. At the end of the street, tucked just round a corner, out of view from the main road, I’m staring at a British-style red phone box and a modest table with a couple of stools - the modest façade of Bean – one of Brisbane’s coolest coffee shops. I enter via the phone box and then down a few stairs to an industrial-looking bohemian basement where I’m greeted with a beaming smile from the barista and a fantastic aroma of fresh coffee.

Australia’s Best Brownies 

Now fuelled by caffeine, I reconvened with the rest of the group. ‘How would you guys like to try the best brownies ever?’ asks Anne, fully confident of a unanimous reply. So she leads us straight along Queen Street to Tattersall’s Arcade. Once inside the Art Deco arcade, we make a bee-line for a tiny little boutique cake store named Dello Mano. There is just enough space for us all to pile in and stare expectantly at the glass counter, which houses mountains of luxury handmade brownies. Anne treats us all to one of their lauded classic brownies but these come with a lesson in patience. To enjoy these brownies at their best, you should warm them in your hand for a few minutes to take the chill off. What? So we can’t eat them straight away? Needless to say, it was worth the wait. I savoured every bite of, what I am happy to report was, the best chocolate brownie I have ever tasted.

Brisbane Riverwalk

As the sun started to set over the city, Anne tells us there is only one place would could possibly want to be right now – the riverwalk. We stroll down Edward Street, arriving at the Brisbane River. It’s not quite dark but the city lights are already twinkling in the water and the giant steel structure of Story Bridge sets an atmospheric backdrop. We walk north along the river, dodging commuters as we stop for photos while they head for home. Some of Brisbane’s finest restaurants are found along this beautiful part of the city and we cast longing glances at them as we pass by. As the light finally fades, Anne suggests we stop in at Riverbar & Kitchen for a quick drink. With outdoor benches, and a great view of the bridge, it’s no surprise this is a popular choice for the local after-work crowd and suits us perfectly too.

Brewery With a View

Time has been running away with us. It’s now 7pm, so we only have time for one last stop. And what better way to say ‘goodbye’ to Brisbane and cap off an amazing Queensland holiday than with a cold beer at an Aussie brewery with a killer view? So we wandered a little further along the Riverwalk until we reached Story Bridge, under which lies Felons Brewing Co. The open-plan layout makes a feature of several huge fermentation tanks, adding a nice touch of authenticity to the whole experience. It’s only Wednesday, yet this place is buzzing, so we order our beers (I can recommend the Australia Pale Ale) and head outside. The pulsing blue and purple lights of Story Bridge reflect on the rippling waters of the river and the buildings that line it look fantastic from this angle. We raise our glasses - what an awesome way to spend an afternoon! Thanks so much, Anne!

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Written by Chris Steel

If you can climb it, ride it, dive it or jump off it then I’m into it. I choose my destinations based on what I can do when I get there and I’m happy to share what I’ve discovered along the way. Street food that is unexpectedly spicy, jellyfish-infested waters, unforgettable landscapes, meeting local people who love where they live… the world is an amazing place, so you’re bound to pick up a few stories while you look around.