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Canberra: museum time

Thursday, September 23, 2010
Canberra isn't a place where things change very much, possibly with the exception of who is in power. But there's certainly no shortage of places to visit and things to see.

Popular attractions include Parliament House and Old Parliament House, National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, National Film and Sound Archives, National Zoo and Aquarium, Australian Institute of Sport, Australian War Memorial, Australian War Memorial, National Botanic Gardens, Questacon and the annual Floriade.

Old Parliament House

Dermott Brereton started his look around the National Capital with a visit to Old Parliament House. It was the home of federal Parliament between 1927 and 1988. It began with just 300 staff and ended up with around 4000. Its tiny offices overflowed and people had to work in hallways.

It's still active and is the Museum of Australian Democracy. For decades politicians treaded the corridors, and visitors can experience the history, 1920s architecture and fine design. On a 30-minute guided tour, visitors discover how the building, its spaces and objects influenced Australian democracy.

The "Hands on Democracy" exhibition encourages children and their families to connect the concept of democracy to real experiences that relate to their world. The exhibition asks questions, inspires creativity, invites you to join in, take turns, share your ideas and listen to others.

Stop for a bite at Café in the House and find a souvenir at the gift shop.

Diamant Hotel Canberra

When public servants arrived to take up a post, and before they found permanent accommodation, they were put up in boarding houses.

Acton House, across Lake Burley Griffin from Old Parliament House, was one of those boarding houses, and it's been given a new lease on life. The eight-wing heritage-listed building was built in 1927, the same year as Old Parliament House. It's now a funky boutique hotel known as The Diamant. Part of the New Acton Precinct, its 80 rooms are appointed with designer fittings and original artworks.

Small rooms have been combined to make large rooms with king beds, marble bathrooms, flat-screen televisions and designer fittings. They range from standard to three-bedroom apartments.

The New Acton Precinct has restaurants, a wine bar and cafe, day spa, Pilates studio and organic food store right.

Parlour Wine Bar is a tapas and dessert bar. Reminiscent of a 1930s Victorian/Indian cigar lounge with more than 120 wines from Australia and the world's best wine regions and classic cocktails are the go there.

Flint Dining Room and Bar serves seasonal Australian food. Its contemporary dining and cooking space features an open kitchen, vaulted ceilings, a Carrara marble communal table running through the centre of the room and two outdoor terraces.

Guests can indulge in some pampering at Soma Day Spa or have their hair done at La Bimbi Salon.

Around the corner from the Diamant is the Urban Food Store, an organic shop and cafe that serves up great coffee and breakfast. Pilates Canberra and Body to Burn, a personal fitness gym, are on the same street.

It all comes to life after dark. Visitors and locals in the know go there for great food and action.

Related video: Inside the National Museum


In the centre of Canberra.


Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House entry is $2 for adults, $1 for children and $5 for a family. It's open between 9am and 5pm.

Diamant Hotel rooms start at $185 a night. Guests booking seasonal deals receive late check-out, free internet and a welcome gift, which varies with the seasons.

Prices correct at September 23, 2010.

For further information

Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House
18 King George Terrace
Parkes 2600
Ph: (02) 6270 8222

Diamant Hotel Canberra
15 Edinburgh Avenue
Canberra 2601
Ph: (02) 6175 2222
Fax: (02) 6175 2233

Visit Canberra

User comments
The images of the rooms of this hotel that were shown are a big let down after the dark furnishings that were a big let down for our stay in canberra for new years

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