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Published April 27th 2016
Canberra is fortunate to a wide variety of Museums and Galleries in the CBD, most with popular cafes with panoramic views or sunny courtyards to choose from. If you are a visitor exploring the Museums and after a convenient place to stop for lunch, or perhaps a local looking for a quaint café to take your visitors to when they come to town – there is something here for everyone.
This is my list of my personal five favourites; however every Café has something to offer. Why not try them out this weekend and find out which will become your favourite, to return to time and time again.
1/ Queens Terrace Café at Parliament House
This is my top pick to have lunch, coffee or cake whilst on the government buildings route. With surprisingly reasonable prices, this café has plenty of seating inside with views out of the windows up to the Australian War Memorial. Whilst comfortable and pleasant inside, the outside terrace area is the real highlight, sitting out in the winter's sun or under the umbrellas in the shade, whilst looking out to Canberra's iconic buildings.
This café is particularly family friendly with colouring and crayons to entertain your young ones. See the Queens Terrace Café website for all the details.
Outside seating with a view up Anzac Parade, Queens Terrace Cafe.
2/ Museum Café at the National Museum of Australia If you are after a lunch or coffee with water views over Lake Burley Griffin, then the next two cafes fit the bill. This architecturally different Museum Café sits on the lake, with outside seating to take in the views from a different perspective than the other cafes on this list. Although only minutes from the CBD, it is a very peaceful location to sit and spend some time over a leisurely lunch before continuing on to explore the Museum inside. See the Museum Café website for all the details.
3/ The Bookplate Café at The National Library This Café/Restaurant has outside seating on the terrace looking over the lake, as well as cosy inside seating where you admire floor to ceiling stain glass window panels by artist Leonard French. If you are exploring Canberra on your own, this is the perfect place to sit with a coffee and cake and read your book, for a quiet break between galleries. See the Bookplate Café website for al the details.
A sunny spot in winter with a view. The Bookplate cafe at The National Library of Australia.
4/ NGA Café at The National Gallery of Australia There are two Cafes to experience at the National Gallery. On the street level is the Street Café which you see as you walk into the Gallery, with outside seating under umbrellas to sit and watch the crowds roll in. Downstairs is the NGA Café, a warm and inviting café with high ceilings, an open kitchen so you can watch the chefs busily preparing dishes and views out to the Sculpture Garden. This café has a gourmet range of foods to choose from and plenty of inside seating. See the NGA website for all the details. For a full article on the NGA Gallery Café, see here.
5/ The Bench Room Café at The National Museum of Film and Sound. The interior of The Bench Room Café has a funky, retro feel to it, fitting in with the history of the Museum. The highlight of this café is the huge outdoor courtyard in the centre of the Museum - the perfect location to relax and unwind after a busy morning of sightseeing. This Café and Museum is open Monday to Friday only, so make sure you visit during a weekday to make the most of this surprising Café. See the Bench Room Café Facebook for all the details. For a full article on The Bench Room Café, see here.
Courtyard at the Bench Room Cafe. Source: Facebook
Although these are my top five picks, nearly all of Canberra's Museums, Galleries and Government buildings have a café or somewhere to eat (with the exception of The National Archives). Which ones have you tried out?
Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House) There are two places to eat at Old Parliament House - at the front of the building is the Terrace Café, with delicious sweet treats, coffee and menu items to enjoy for a casual bite to eat. Inside the building is the Hoi Polloi restaurant, which looks out onto one of the scenic courtyards. See the Museum of Australian Democracy website for all the details. For a full article on the Terrace Café, see here.
The Royal Australian Mint. This café is a popular spot with local office workers as well as tourists and visitors to the Mint. With floor to ceiling glass windows, it is a pleasant spot to catch some winter sun and enjoy a coffee whilst sitting near thousands of dollars of newly minted coins. See the Royal Australian Mint website for all the details.
The Portrait Gallery The Portrait Café at the Portrait Gallery is an inviting and busy café on the side of the Gallery, with inside seating as well as chairs and tables outside along the balcony. With views over Reconciliation Place and its central location, it is a popular café with workers and visitors to the Parliamentary Triangle. See the Portrait Café website for all the details. For a full article on the Portrait Café, see here.
Questacon has a small café called Mega Bites Cafe, located just inside the foyer with seating inside and out in the courtyard. It is a good stop to refuel the kids after exploring Questacon, a favourite with children of all ages. See the Questacon website for all the details.
Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG)
This museum near the Civic has is a funky little café inside the foyer of the Museum. It is a cosy place to stop for a rest in the CBD, whilst exploring all there is to do in this exciting city. See the Canberra Museum and Gallery website for all the details.
The High Court The Chambers Café at the High Court perhaps may not have the modern atmosphere of other places, however it has good views over Lake Burley Griffin, whilst you enjoy your coffee and regain some energy. See the High Court website for all the details.
The Australian War Memorial.
Located inside Anzac Hall, The Landing Place is the only eatery inside the museum, with dark lighting so visitors can look out of the floor to ceiling glass windows out to the Museum below. There is also an attractive outside terrace with large white umbrellas to enjoy your lunch out in the sun. The Australian War Memorial also has Poppy's Café, which is a spacious café outside of the museum, popular with tourists and locals alike. See the Australian War Memorial website for all the details. For a full article on Poppy's Café, see here.
Poppy's Cafe, to the right of the Australian War Memorial
This is just a selection of the cafes at the Museums and Galleries in the CBD, however Canberra also has a number of other galleries and museums in other parts of the city. With so much to see in Canberra and beyond, it is a relief that there are so many quality cafe's to stop at to rest your weary feet...
...and try and resist the yummy cakes! (Queens Terrace Café)
This must be an extremely old article which needs updating. The National Archives has a wonderful cafe (Cafe Constitution) in this lovely Art Deco building. It is also open on weekends. Some of the cafes mentioned have different names and opening hours.