Australia’s rich culture is always being showcased through performance, art and music.
With over 65,000 years of history and a buzzing multicultural population, it’s no surprise that Australia is full of cultural and historical offerings. From independent bookstores to outback festivals and world-renowned galleries, there’s no end to the incredible cultural events on offer in Australia.
Check out this guide to top cultural experiences in Australia.
Australia is home to more than 1,100 galleries and museums spread across every state and territory. From modern installations to historic renditions, each represents a unique view on art and culture, curated to perfection.
One of the most renowned galleries in the world is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Located in Hobart, Tasmania, MONA was designed to be explored. The grounds feature art, exhibitions, live music, accommodation and even a recording studio. This site is filled with unique exhibits, mind-bending light shows, and immersive experiences.
In Canberra, it’s hard to go past the National Portrait Gallery. Established in 1998, the gallery exhibits faces of Australians from all circles of life, representing the country’s rich multiculturalism. Notable portraits include actress Deborah Mailman by Evert Ploeg and musician Geoffery Gurrumul Yunupingu by Guy Maestri.
Holding the impressive title of the largest museum in the southern hemisphere, the Melbourne Museum features a collection of intriguing exhibitions including a forest gallery and Te Pasifika Gallery, with treasures from the Pacific Islands. Celebrating natural and cultural wonders, the halls are always full of artefacts from around the world.
Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface of the incredible galleries and museums all around the country. There’s plenty more to see, whether you’re visiting Sydney, Adelaide or the Northern Territory.
You don’t have to spend the day in a museum to learn about the past, or dream of the future. Australia has thousands of wonderful bookstores that offer the best selection of fact, fiction and fantasy designed to get you thinking.
With a reputation for championing the arts, it’s no surprise that Melbourne is a top location when it comes to bookstores. Opened in 1922, Hill of Content is the city’s oldest bookstore, and also one of the most beautiful. This two-story wonder is cosy and intimate, with the first floor dedicated to new releases and fiction, while upstairs you’ll find classic literature and non-fiction. Their friendly staff is happy to help with anything, and the whole building exudes charm.
In Adelaide, Booknook and Bean is a standout for many. This bookstore doubles as a coffee shop, using only the best local milk, beans and treats. They specialise in second-hand finds, and all proceeds from book sales go to the not-for-profit organisation, Kiva.
For those based in Sydney, Kinokuniya stocks titles from around the world, including an extensive collection of Japanese, French and Chinese works. You can spend hours getting lost between the shelves here, or ask the knowledgeable staff for their recommendations. Plus, the shop also features an in-house art space which showcases the talent of local and international artists.
From page to stage, Australia’s top theatres are renowned for their thought-provoking plays and stellar performances.
Adelaide Festival Centre is known as the heart of arts in South Australia and one of Asia Pacific’s leading cultural centres. It welcomes more than one million people every year, presenting a range of dance, theatre and music. It’s also the home of the Festival Theatre, Dunstan Playhouse and Space Theatre, so there’s always something exciting happening on stage.
For a classical experience, it’s the Regent Theatre in Melbourne that tops the list. Originally built as a cinema in 1929, this historic building has survived fires, floods and even the threat of demolition. Visitors enjoy a luxe experience from the moment they step through the door with chandeliers, lavish seating and a stunning proscenium.
To watch a performance from Australia’s longest running theatre company, patrons should head to La Boite in Brisbane. Its iconic Roundhouse Theatre is, like the name suggests, a theatre-in-the-round, where audiences circle a centre stage. La Boite finds an artful balance between innovation and tradition, pushing the boundaries of theatre every time.
Of course, any list of theatres must include the iconic Sydney Opera House, which hosts over 40 shows a week and draws a crowd of more than 10 million visitors annually. With stunning views over Sydney Harbour and a variety of restaurants and bars nearby, this performing arts space has it all.
No matter what part of Australia you find yourself in, the locals sure know how to party! Major cities and regional hubs alike are known for incredible festivals that champion culture, cuisine and creativity.
Tamworth Country Music Festival is the largest and longest running country music festival in the southern hemisphere, making it a must-visit on the outback festival circuit. Held across 10 days, the 2024 lineup features country music royalty including Lee Kernaghan, Kasey Chambers, Troy Cassar-Daley and more.
If you’re looking for a coastal event, we recommend the Great Ocean Road Running Festival. Every year, thousands of participants from around the world descend on the Victorian Coast to run along the Great Ocean Road. There are nine different distance races to choose from, including a 60 km ultra-marathon and a 1.5km kids race, meaning everyone can join in.
There are plenty of festivals for foodies too, including the Gin-uary Hobart Gin Festival, created to celebrate Tasmania’s extensive gin history. Held annually throughout the month of January, this festival features intimate tastings and masterclasses from the region’s best distillers. Plus, there are plenty of food vendors and cocktails to try along the way.
Another highlight on Australia’s festival calendar has to be Mardi Gras, a celebration of diversity and queerness with over 100 events, parties and markets. Every year, people from around the world tune in to watch the pride parade down Oxford Street, featuring colour, music and over 12,000 marchers. Families will love the market, featuring handmade goods and energetic performances, while night owls can find plenty of clubs and parties to attend.
No list of cultural experiences in Australia would be complete without discussing Indigenous tours, events and exhibitions.
In Alice Springs, Parrtjima is an annual festival of light set against the MacDonnell Ranges, a rock formation more than 300 million years old. The 10-night program features light installations, artworks, performances and more, all exploring Indigenous culture and creativity.
Brisbane’s most prominent Indigenous-owned art gallery, Birrunga Gallery, offers exhibitions, tours and classes which explore the rich Indigenous culture of the city. Founded by a Wiradyuri man, Birrunga Wiradyuri, the gallery is dedicated to supporting traditional art and exploring ideas of culture and spirituality through creativity.
Drawing from over 65,000 years of culture, Bangarra Dance Theatre is a company of professional Indigenous performers based out of Sydney. Using modern dance, they tell the story of their ancestors, sharing their culture and history with audiences in Australia and internationally.
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