Posted: 2/13/2024 | February 13th, 2024
Brisbane is third-largest city in Australia. Most travelers visit the city on their way to the Gold Coast or as they head up toward Cairns. They tend not to stay too long as the city doesn’t really have the allure that other parts of Australia does.
But Brisbane actually has plenty to see and do – and I think people short change it.
Home to just over two million people, it’s a very outdoorsy place, with lots of parks and even an urban beach. There’s a high quality of life and a hip restaurant scene, and the largest koala sanctuary in the world is just outside of town.
And, since it’s not too spread out, you never really too far from anything.
To help you plan your trip and figure out where to stay during your visit, here’s my list of the best neighborhoods in Brisbane:
Where to Stay for Sightseeing: Inner City/CBD
If you want to be in the center of it all, stay in the Inner City, known colloquially as the CBD (Central Business District). You’ll find many great attractions here (the Museum of Brisbane, City Botanic Gardens, and Queensland Holocaust Museum), as well as lots of restaurants and cocktail bars. Don’t miss the Brooklyn Standard, a NYC-themed bar with a speakeasy vibe and fantastic live music. If you want to shop, the expansive Queen Street Mall is here as well.
The CBD is a convenient location if you’re traveling elsewhere in Australia, as it’s home to the main transit center, where all long-distance buses and trains leave from. Plus, it’s located in between South Bank and Fortitude Valley, two other popular neighborhoods, so it’s easy to get to both from here.
Best places to stay in Inner City/CBD:
- BUDGET: Selina Brisbane – This upscale hostel across from the main train station features private rooms and dorms painted in warm, welcoming tones and decorated with local artwork. Bunks are pod-style, with individual reading lights, curtains, outlets, and lockers. There’s also a co-working area, an outdoor cinema terrace, a library, and a fully equipped kitchen. It’s a good option for travelers on a budget looking for a quiet stay.
- MIDRANGE: Royal on the Park – Located directly across from the City Botanic Gardens, this hotel has a stately feel to it with its large rooms, carpet, and dark wood decor. There’s an outdoor swimming pool, a hot tub, a lounge, and a restaurant that serves an expansive breakfast buffet. The generously sized rooms are simply designed, with floor-to-ceiling windows that let in a ton of natural light. Rooms also have ergonomic work desks, USB ports, and espresso machines.
- LUXURY: W Brisbane – There’s no shortage of luxury hotels in this neighborhood, but this five-star hotel takes the cake. Like all W properties, it’s stylishly designed, and this location offers three restaurants and bars, a spa and fitness center, and a pool overlooking the river. The spacious rooms are funky and bright, with fun pops of color, deep bathtubs, rainfall showerheads, Nespresso machines, desks, and 55-inch flat-screen TVs.
Where to Stay for Food and Culture: South Bank
This beautiful area is just south of the CBD, directly across the Brisbane River. Here you’ll find a stunning inner-city beach, miles of tree-lined walks and parks, fabulous shopping, and plenty of restaurants. There are many great museums too, including the Queensland Cultural Centre (which includes the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art). The famous Wheel of Brisbane (a 60-meter-tall observation wheel) is right along the riverfront too.
I really enjoy just walking the river promenade or getting something to eat as I people-watch. You often see musicians and outdoor dance classes here and, in the summer, there are usually a lot of events and festivals too.
Best places to stay in South Bank:
Where to Stay for Nightlife: The Valley
Fortitude Valley, known locally as just “The Valley”, is the place to go to hit the town hard. It attracts a young crowd that comes for the plethora of clubs and bars in the area. If you’re looking for some nightlife that isn’t so wild, head to the formerly industrial Howard Smith Wharves along the river, which have been transformed into a pedestrian boardwalk brimming with some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. Craft beer fans shouldn’t miss Felon’s Brewing Co. If you’re into cocktails, head to Mr. Percival’s overwater bar for excellent drinks with even better views.
Best places to stay in The Valley:
Where to Stay to Feel like a Local: West End
The hip West End, just south of South Bank, is packed with independent shops, bookstores, craft cocktail bars and breweries, third-wave coffee spots, and great eateries. It’s an especially popular area for brunch; you’ll find lots of Greek restaurants here too, thanks to the thriving Greek community in the area. The alleyways are adorned with beautiful murals, and on the weekends several markets pop up, taking over the streets. This is the best place to stay to soak up local life, but it’s also not far from the attractions of South Bank and Inner City, meaning you can truly have the best of both worlds here.
Best places to stay in West End:
Brisbane is a fun city whose cultural diversity is reflected in its eclectic neighborhoods, each contributing to the city’s identity. When choosing where to stay in Brisbane, don’t fret too much, as it’s pretty small and easy to get around. You’re never too far from anything. As long as you choose from the above neighborhoods (and hotels), you can’t go wrong.
Book Your Trip to Australia: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Australia?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide to Australia for even more planning tips!