Home to the University of Canberra and CIT, as well as Lake Ginninderra and Westfield Belconnen shopping centre, Belconnen is located west of the city centre.
A 20-minute drive or a half-hour bus ride from Civic, this area is an easy choice for UC students and is often more budget-friendly than the city and Inner North when it comes to rent and eating out. The suburbs of Kaleen, Giralang and Florey have lots of cheap housing, as well as the student residences in Belconnen. The name Belconnen can refer to both the wider area and the central suburb.
Many of Belconnen’s outer suburbs also have their own smaller set of shops with the basics. If you’re looking for cheap clothes, footwear and homewares, op shopping could be the solution. Op shops (short for opportunity shops) are second-hand stores that operate across Australia.
People donate their unwanted goods to op shops where they are then resold, with prices ranging from around $2 to $20 depending on the item. Volunteers run the stores and all the profits go to charity. Vinnies and Salvos are the two biggest op shop organisations, and both can be found in Belconnen.
For first-rate coffee, head to Chatterbox Espresso Bar or Cafe 2617 near Westfield. Ricardo’s Cafe, at Jamison Plaza, is the place to go for a classic Aussie breakfast, and the cakes are gorgeous too.
Chong Co Thai and Pho Hub offer tasty, fresh Southeast Asian cuisine. Malaysian Chapter has an extensive halal menu as well as quite a few vegan dishes, and the Hungry Buddha Nepalese restaurant is also vegetarian-friendly.
Belconnen’s after-dark scene is booming, with the Lighthouse for pub meals and sport, the Pot Belly and the Basement for live music, and Bolt Bar for great food and craft beer. On Fridays, the Boardwalk hosts a queer club night.
If you’re craving a taste of home, you’ll probably find the ingredients you need in Belconnen. Apna Indian Bazaar is known for its wide range of spices, and Capital Groceries and Angkor What stock Southeast Asian items. Nikki Cosmo sells Japanese and Korean cosmetics, while Asian Supa Grocery has Chinese, Korean and Japanese essentials.
Belconnen Library is open daily, with an extensive collection of reading materials, including books in languages other than English. The Belconnen English conversation group takes place on Thursday from 10am to 12pm.
Belconnen Community Health Centre offers walk-in consultations on weekdays.
At the Canberra International Sports and Aquatic Centre (CISAC), you’ll find a gym, aquatic area, and medical and health facilities. There’s also an Olympic-size swimming pool and swimming lessons for all ages. The Belconnen Arts Centre hosts exhibitions, classes and workshops, including yoga, visual arts, Bollywood dancing and flamenco. If you prefer watching sport, Bruce is home to the Canberra Raiders (rugby league) and the Brumbies (rugby union), who play at GIO Stadium.
Lutheran, Presbyterian, Anglican, Uniting, Baptist, Christian and Coptic churches are in Belconnen, as well as the Islamic Society of Belconnen, Belconnen Crescent Prayer Hall, the Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre, and the Khemararangsi Wat Buddhist Temple.
Just north of Belconnen, Gold Creek Village offers weird and wonderful activities. Cockington Green Gardens, for example, has a collection of miniature houses and monuments from around the world, including Machu Picchu and traditional English cottages, plus a miniature steam train ride. Cockington Green is open daily and costs $21 to enter.
Around the corner, the National Dinosaur Museum has a collection of skeletons, murals, models and fossils, as well as famous robotic dinosaurs. The museum is open daily and entry costs $12 for students.
If you want to come face-to-face with the real thing, you can meet snakes, lizards and crocodiles at the Canberra Reptile Zoo. The Zoo is open daily and entry costs $11 for students. Also at Gold Creek, the Canberra Walk-In Aviary allows visitors to get up close and personal with birds of over 60 different species. Open daily, entry costs $13 for students.