I love being somewhere for the first time. Especially when I am not travelling through a place, but I plan to stay longer. Getting to know each other is a bit like going on many long dates. Learning about what the other one is like? Intellectual or bohemian, sporty or cultural, casual or elegant — both or neither? Although it takes time to figure out whether we are on the same wavelength, the first impressions are determining. And somehow they always leave an imprint on me. When I roam around the web of streets for the first time, have a small break sitting in a park, or walk into shops or coffee houses, which later on will become my favourite spots; I always remember crystal clear these moments. Maybe because all these tiny details also have an influence on whether or not I will call that place, which once was just a bunch of buildings for me, home. We moved to Brisbane two months ago, so I am still deep in the learning phase, but I do have my first impressions to share…
Brisbane is the 3rd biggest and fastest growing city of Australia; its metropolitan area has a population of 2.2 million. Its growing popularity is partly due to its pleasant subtropical climate, with mild winters (the temperature hardly drops below 15 degrees) and loads of sunshine throughout the year. No wonder that Queensland is called the Sunshine State of Australia. The city was named after its river – which was named after Sir Thomas Brisbane, who was the Governor of New South Wales, before Queensland was proclaimed a separate colony in 1859.
The river runs all across the city, so the best way to discover is hopping on a CityCat, which moves about swiftly between the north and south banks of Brisbane. Those, who are water fanatics including myself, will take pleasure even just the travelling itself, some others will enjoy that they are able to escape the traffic and pay dearly for a parking, instead they can easily reach the CBD or even the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary from the green belt suburbs.
The Story Bridge might be the most iconic sight of Brisbane, which we can cross on foot, by bike or car. In the evenings it dresses up in colourful lights and it also plays a major role during the fireworks of the annual Brisbane Festival. During the day it is nice to go under it by the CityCat, at night I love crossing it by car and enjoying the amazing lights of the city. However the most breathtaking experience would be climbing the bridge, which I hope to do one day!
If someone only has couple of hours in Brisbane I would suggest spending it on South Bank. It is like in a miniature model of what Brisbane is all about: proximity of nature, encounter of cultures, an abundance of cafés, bistros and restaurants, loads of cultural programs, plus the well balanced mixture of the laid back beach style as well as the elegance of the city.
Theatre and dance performances, concerts and exciting exhibitions are also constantly on the agenda. You can easily spend days in the Cultural Precinct area, where you find several museums, theatres and the state library. The creative hubs of the north side are the Powerhouse and the Judith Wright Centre.
It is almost unbelievable how much greenery is in this city, which undoubtedly contributes to its great liveability rates. Botanical gardens with great patches of rainforest, city parkland with a sweet lake, uncountable suburban parks with cool playgrounds. What amazes me constantly is the exotic and extensive fauna, flora and animals, which practically cross your way on a daily basis. I can hardly keep up taking photos of them.
The highest point of Brisbane is Mount Coot-tha, where we can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the city; walk and bike in the surrounding park or visit the planetarium. I must say a romantic dinner at the summit with the magnificent night view is rather temping as well.
The city centre can be easily discovered on foot. On the main streets modern skyscrapers and traditional Queenslanders appear alternately – at first the two very different styles can seem a bit unusual, but I rather like it. I also enjoy that each suburb has its own unique character. One of my favourites so far is the very multicultural and hippie style West End, which reminds me of the atmospheres of London’s Camden Town, as well as Sydney’s Newtown.