For decades Canberra has been overlooked for Sydney or Melbourne but after being named the third best city for international tourists by Lonely Planet, this foodie haven lush with vibrant culture and superb modern architecture is back on the map.
Canberra was founded in 1913 as a compromise between Australia's two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne. Built from the ground up much like Washington D.C. or Brasilia, the city has an open, relaxed feel. Canberra is built around the artificial Lake Burley Griffin, named after the city's American architects, and its shores are a prime viewing location for some of Australia's most unique modern architecture, its crown jewel being New Parliament Building, a grass and granite pyramid with the Australian flag at its apex - one of the highest points in the city.
Canberra has been named one of the best cities in the world for international tourists
The city is also home to Australia's national art collection, housed in the National Gallery of Australia. From March the gallery will feature a collection of Cartier jewellery, including some pieces from the Queen's private collection, such as the famous Halo Tiara worn by the Duchess of Cambridge for her nuptials in 2011, and Princess Grace's 10.47 carat diamond engagement ring.
The capital is also becoming a destination for gastro tourists, seeking out impeccable cuisine and fresh produce; the surrounding region is littered with farms and vineyards growing some of the best produce and the finest wines in Australia. To the east of the city is the Pialligo Estate, an almost self-sufficient farm and winery on the banks of the Mongolo River. The food served here is simple and unfussy: succulent tomahawk steaks, fragrant grilled fish and tender lamb shanks served alongside the best Riesling I have ever tasted. This farm-to-table ethos emphasising freshness and quality explains Canberra's rising position as a foodie mecca.
New Parliament Building is one of the most iconic buildings in Canberra
The city also has an impressive café culture, with mouth-watering fresh food and some of the best coffee I have ever tasted. The Cupping Room is the flagship restaurant of ONA Coffee, one of the area's premier roasters producing unique blends quite unlike anything else I've ever tasted. Braddon is one of the city's most fashionable districts, known for its independent boutiques and eateries. Frugii produces some of the most distinctive ice cream in the city, in flavours as unexpected as rosemary and musk, though their most popular flavour is the relatively conventional, yet delicious salted caramel.
Canberra is thankfully more accessible than ever, with directs flights from Doha daily thanks to Qatar Airways. The airline's business class offerings have long been considered one of the best in the skies, and their newest product doesn't disappoint. The QSuite is one of few enclosed business class suites in the air, featuring 20-inch inflight entertainment panels, aisle access for every seat and lie flat beds. Two of the centre suites can be combined to form the only double bed in business class on any airline.
I found Canberra to be a unique and vibrant city, it has the feel of a great metropolis, but on a hugely manageable scale, and is worth a visit for the food and fine wines alone.