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Female student looking at Brisbane's Central Business District from Kangaroo Point.

Best spots in Brisbane and on campus at UQ

Uni life
Published 15 Jun, 2021  ·  6-minute read

Studying in Queensland’s capital city comes with endless opportunities to discover amazing places to eat, relax, be entertained and immerse yourself in nature. Join us as we explore some of the best places in Brisbane.

Brisbane is a young, thriving city that has fast become a hub of business, investment and education in the Asia-Pacific region. It’s a welcoming and safe place to live, with over 200 nationalities and 220 languages.

To give you a shortcut to the best spots in Brisbane, we’ve asked our international students to nominate some of their favourite places to eat, study, unwind and find fun – both on campus at The University of Queensland and throughout Brisbane. We’ve compiled their responses into this handy list, so you’ll always know where to go.

Best spots in Brisbane for food and drink

West End offers some of the coolest bars and restaurants in town, making this suburb one of the best lunch spots in Brisbane (it’s also great for breakfast, brunch, dinner or a quick coffee). Just moments from the city centre and a direct bus ride from UQ St Lucia, West End is the perfect place to catch up with friends from across the city.

In the city itself, both Eagle Street Pier and the Howard Smith Wharves offer high-end bars and restaurants for special occasions, all close to the Brisbane River.

People relaxing by the riverside at Howard Smith Wharves (image courtesy of Brisbane Economic Development Agency).

Relax by the riverside at the Howard Smith Wharves. Photo courtesy of Brisbane Economic Development Agency.

The suburb of Sunnybank is home to many restaurants featuring authentic cuisine from across Asia. If you ever feel homesick, hop on a bus and experience a taste of home at one of the best places to eat in Brisbane.

Nature, wildlife and outdoor activities in Brisbane

Take a short bus trip from the St Lucia campus to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a haven for several native Australian animals. This Brisbane wildlife park offers a student discount, so you can tick “holding a koala” off your Australian travel checklist without breaking your budget.

The nearby Mount Coot-tha provides plenty of walking tracks – or you can drive to the top for free to get a panoramic view of the city skyline and beyond.

Friends enjoy the view of Brisbane from Mount Coot-tha, Australia

The city meets nature at Mount Coot-tha. Photo courtesy of Brisbane Economic Development Agency.

Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park is easily one of the best picnic spots Brisbane has to offer, with glorious views of the Story Bridge, Botanic Gardens and city. It’s also a must-visit location for anyone who enjoys jogging, rock climbing or abseiling.

“The afternoon “golden hour” is my favourite time of the day, and at Kangaroo Point you’ll find the best spot in Brisbane to watch the sunset. Other than that, I often go jogging along the river there or hang out with my friends and have a barbecue at one of the barbecue tables.”

- Gabriela, international UQ student from Prague

Just over an hour’s drive from Brisbane is the iconic Australia Zoo, former home of “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin. Here you’ll discover an incredible array of animals from Australia and around the world.

The Gold Coast to the south and Sunshine Coast to the north both offer golden beaches – perfect for making the most of Queensland’s subtropical climate and 283 days of sunshine per year. Cindy from Canada visited the Gold Coast during one of her first weeks in Brisbane:

“One afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the Gold Coast, where I was truly rendered speechless by the brilliant blue waves, warm breeze and powdery golden sand. I’m no beach aficionado, but the beaches of the Gold Coast were truly different from others I’ve seen, and I could wander here for ages.”

Brisbane culture and entertainment

There are so many live event options, both free and paid, across the city. The Brisbane Powerhouse regularly hosts theatre and film events with student concession prices. There are also free monthly live comedy and music events – perfect for students on a budget.

In the South Bank Cultural Precinct, you’ll find the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), one of Australia’s leading centres for live performances (and one of the best spots in Brisbane to get your culture fix). This is your go-to space for:

  • classical music
  • comedy
  • dance
  • opera
  • musicals
  • theatre.

South Bank will likely be one of your most frequented areas while you’re living in Brisbane. There’s a museum, an art gallery, a man-made beach, and free live music every Friday and Saturday afternoon. You can spend an enjoyable yet affordable weekend here with friends whenever you like.

People enjoying live entertainment at QPAC’s Melbourne Street Green, Brisbane, Australia

Enjoy live entertainment at QPAC’s Melbourne Street Green. Photo courtesy of Brisbane Economic Development Agency.

Brisbane also hosts:

  • Oktoberfest, Australia’s biggest German festival
  • Paniyiri, a yearly Greek festival
  • BrisAsia Festival, an annual event that showcases and celebrates the cultures of Asia
  • a diverse range of international film festivals.

With over 200 nationalities living in Brisbane, there’s a huge choice of multicultural events to enjoy while you’re here.

Where to meet new people

Sometimes the best place to meet new people in Brisbane is right on campus. On-campus accommodation provides an excellent opportunity to make new friends.

You’ll have access to academic support and plenty of chances to socialise. You can get to know other residents at mealtimes, between classes and even just when passing each other in the halls. Plus, throughout the year, colleges host:

  • dinners
  • movie nights
  • networking opportunities
  • cultural events
  • sports outings.

“It also makes the process of making friends really easy. My neighbours have become my family and best friends. Living in a college has a lot of other perks as well. There’s always something going on. Parties, sports tournaments, random events… you’ll never get bored!”

- Paola, international UQ student from Mexico

There’s a range of social sports available, so you can stay active while meeting new people. UQ St Lucia has a massive 35 sporting clubs to choose from, while UQ Gatton has its own Equestrian Club and Netball Club. Take advantage of our beautiful weather to try a new sport and make new friends.

Photo courtesy of UQ Tennis Club.

You can also join one of the 200+ clubs and societies at UQ, covering a wide range of special interests from astronomy to chess, from video games to language exchange.

Best study spots

There are several libraries spread across the UQ campuses, including: 

  • Central Library
  • Biological Sciences Library
  • Architecture & Music Library
  • Dorothy Hill Engineering and Sciences Library
  • Walter Harrison Library (Law Library)
  • Health Sciences Library (Herston and Dutton Park)
  • JK Murray Library (Gatton).

There are also 24-hour study spaces, so you can work early in the morning or late at night depending on your schedule.

There’s a range of cafés across all UQ campuses, and you can use the free campus Wi-Fi to study while enjoying a drink. St Lucia also has plenty of grassy areas and a natural amphitheatre – perfect if you’d like to do some reading or research outdoors.

Where to relax

Need a rest between classes or after an exam period? Good news: some of the best places to relax in Brisbane are on campus at UQ.

UQ Lakes is a favourite spot for students and staff at St Lucia. Since Brisbane is so sunny, you can almost always enjoy a walk around campus or a lakeside picnic. The St Lucia campus is bordered on 3 sides by the Brisbane River, so there are heaps of scenic spots to relax in nature.

Other prime places to unwind on campus include:

  • the Schonell Cinema and Live Theatre, which screens specialist films and hosts an array of live shows every year
  • the iconic Great Court, where you can chill out on the lawn with friends, study outside or simply soak up the beautiful weather.
Students sitting on The University of Queensland's Great Court, St Lucia campus, Brisbane, Australia.

The Great Court is an oasis at the heart of UQ. Photo courtesy of Brisbane Economic Development Agency.

Whether you need some food to eat, a show to watch, a quiet spot to study or a space to relax, you’ll always find it among these best places in Brisbane. And you often won’t even need to leave campus. For more information about making the most of your time here, read our guide to living your best student life in Brisbane.

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