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What are the Best Free Things to do in Canberra?

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by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun! Find me on instagram: @australianrecipesbythebay
Published December 16th 2016
The best thing about living or visiting Canberra, is that most of the attractions around the city are completely free. Of course there is a huge range of museums, galleries and national attractions to visit, however there are also some tucked away gems that many tourists often don't get to. Take a scroll down this list and see which ones you can tick off - or perhaps you will find some that you haven't discovered yet. Either way, the fun of this city is in the journey - who knows what cosy coffee shops, natural wonders or locals secret you you will find along the way?

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Gibraltar Falls, Parliament House, Australian National Botanical Gardens and Commonwealth Park

National Buildings, Museums and Galleries

Parliament House is an interesting building to walk around, even if you don't have a particular interest in politics. Explore exhibits, take a tour, admire the artworks, learn about the building and sit in the public gallery. See website here.

Old Parliament House, or Museum of Australian Democracy, is located just a few minutes from Parliament House in Parkes. Although technically not free, as it costs $2 to get in, this museum shows the rise and fall of Australian politics, with an interesting look into our political past. It has more than expected, with plenty of family activities and humour. See website here.

The National Museum of Australia
is located in Acton, just a short drive from the city centre. Explore the exhibits and see the Australian story in one museum with indigenous art, Captain Cooks magnifier and Phar Laps heart - all in the one place. See website here.

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The colourful National Museum of Australia

The Australian War Memorial is located a short drive away in Campbell and contains the story of all the wars that Australia has been involved in, up to present day. Explore each exhibit, take a free tour and pay tribute to the fallen. See website here.

The National Gallery of Australia
is located by Lake Burley Griffin in the Parliamentary Triangle. Admire a Monet, view an international blockbuster exhibition or explore the outdoor sculptures in front and behind the gallery. See website here.

Other free ideas include the National Portrait Gallery, National Library of Australia, The High Court, Canberra Glassworks, National Film and Sound Archives, National Archives, National Capital Exhibition, Canberra Deep Space Complex and the Royal Australian Mint - where you can see where all of Australia's coins are made.

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Explore the beauty and sculpture outside the National Gallery of Australia, as well as in

Parks, Natural Wonders and Lookouts

Commonwealth Park is located next to Lake Burley Griffin and is the venue of Floriade and other major events. The rest of the year it is an enjoyable parkland to walk around with views over the lake, sculptures, scenic café, wetlands birds and playgrounds. See details here.

The National Bonsai and Penjing Exhibition is a free exhibition located at the National Arboretum. This scenic hilltop location, overlooking the city and the forests of endangered trees, is the ideal location for this moving display of beauty and patience. See website here.

Cotter Avenue Reserve
is located 25 minutes from the CBD and is a popular area for Canberrans to enjoy river swimming in the Murrumbidgee River, BBQ's and games of cricket. Popular swimming holes are Cotter Bend and Casurina Sands. See website here.

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Summertime swimming and BBQ's at The Cotter

Mount Ainslie Lookout is the highest Lookout in Canberra, located behind the Australian War Memorial, with views all the way up to Parliament House. Read the information panels and learn about Walter Burley Griffin and his wife Marion Griffin's design for Canberra. See more details here.

Red Hill Lookout is located further south of the city, providing a different perspective of this planned city. Although not as high as Mount Ainslie, this Lookout has the added benefit of having Little Brother Café at the top for a coffee with a view. See more details here.

Other free ideas include Mount Pleasant Lookout, Dairy Farmers Lookout, Government House Lookout, the Australian National Botanical Gardens, Canberra Beijing Garden, Weston Park, Gibraltar Falls and Namadgi National Park, south of the city.

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View from Mount Ainslie Lookout, Canberra's most popular Lookout

What The Locals Are Doing

Old Bus Depot Markets are held every Saturday in Kingston, south of the city. These are the largest markets in Canberra and the most popular, with free entry, local produce, handcrafted wares, clothing and local musicians entertaining the crowd. See website here. Also see this list for other markets in Canberra.

The Lake Burley Griffin Central Loop is a popular walk in Canberra each morning, taking in the views of the city major landmarks. It is a 5km loop between the two bridges that go over Lake Burley Griffin. See website here.

Events and Festivals are held almost every weekend in Canberra. Check out Floriade, the National Multicultural Festival, Canberra Balloon Spectacular and World Curry Festival, to name a few. Check back with Weekendnotes to find out what is happening this weekend.

This list is a good starting point to discover free things to do in Canberra, however there are more you will find along the way. Whatever you decide to do this weekend, enjoy your time in this intriguing, fascinating and often surprisingly Capital City - where you can expect, the unexpected!

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The colour and surprises of Floriade, Commonwealth Park

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