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Civic & Acton

Civic is Canberra’s thriving downtown district, with shops, restaurants, bars and public facilities. Across Northbourne Avenue, you’ll find the Australian National University and the NewActon cultural precinct. CIT’s Reid campus is also located just a few hundred metres south of Civic.


The Canberra Metro light rail system (which commenced operations in April 2019) has made the city centre more accessible than ever before. As Canberra continues to grow and evolve, the Canberra Centre mall remains the heart of the city, with supermarkets, fashion shops, a cinema, food court and other essentials.

Big W is a budget department store that will have everything you need to get settled in your new home. There’s also a couple of Korean grocery stores nearby: Seoul & Ko and Groceries. In Garema Place, smaller bars, boutiques and restaurants offer a more local shopping experience.

Civic also has dozens of affordable places to eat. Soi Noodle Bar blends Thai and Japanese influences to create the best noodles in town, while CBD Dumpling House has fantastic food and a casual vibe. Garnish of India is the place to go for Northern Indian-style curries. If you’re craving something sweet, try the Insta-worthy Doughnut Department.

PappaRich Malaysian restaurant in the Canberra Centre provides authentic, halal dishes, as does Mister Zee’s Middle Eastern Charcoal Chicken & Grill. For vegan options, check out Coffee Lab or Baby Su’s incredible Bao Burger.

Located in the NewActon precinct, Palace Electric is a cinema specialising in independent, international and arthouse films. When it comes to nightlife, Civic is Canberra’s most popular destination. Kokomo’s, a tropical-themed, two-storey restaurant and bar next to the Canberra Centre, is a guaranteed party. Across the road, Akiba serves up contemporary Asian share plates and drinks until late. Small electronica bar Sideway has become one of the city’s hippest venues, alongside beloved whiskey bar Hippo Co and the wine-focused Bar Rochford. Capital Kebab is a must for a late-night snack.

Student favourite Mooseheads is open late with cheap drinks and a reliably pumping dance floor, while Transit is the place to be for karaoke and live music. Reload Bar & Games, just around the corner from Mooseheads, has everything a gamer could wish for, including pinball machines, Nintendo, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation and Wii U, plus indie PC, card and board games. Guild is a more low-key option, with board games, wood-fired pizza, wine and beer on the menu.

Community facilities

Civic Library has free public library services available Monday to Saturday. This community centre also hosts free English conversation groups on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3pm and Saturdays from 10 to 11.30am, no bookings required.

The City Community Health Centre is open Monday to Friday, with general medical, mental health and women’s health services available. Your educational institution may also have free health services, and some doctors at Hobart Place GP offer appointments to ANU students that are fully covered by insurance.

The Canberra Olympic Pool complex contains a 50-metre heated pool, which you can use for a small fee, as well as a gym with fitness classes. You can also enjoy the sunshine at The Yard skate park, located behind the Canberra Centre, or Glebe Park.

The Canberra City Uniting Church and the Canberra Korean Uniting Church are located in Civic, as well as Hope Christian Church and Crossroads Christian Church at ANU.

Unique experiences

Civic is a hub of events and activities all year round. The National Multicultural Festival, which will take place on the weekend of 21 to 23 February in 2020, is one not to miss, transforming Garema Place with food, music and culture from all over the world. The Multicultural Festival is also a good place to get to know the community groups that represent different nationalities in Canberra.

Over in NewActon, the Art, Not Apart Festival in March brings together the best of Canberra’s underground creativity, from visual art to music to performance poetry. With art installations spread from the Nishi Building to the National Film and Sound Archive over one afternoon, Art, Not Apart also throws Canberra’s quirkiest afterparties. 

If you need an escape from the city, the Australian National Botanic Gardens can be found on the edge of the city centre at the base of Black Mountain. The gardens are the largest living collection of native Australian plants and are divided up into sections representing the different landscapes of Australia, including the desert and rainforest. The Botanic Gardens are open daily, and entry is free.