Brisbane Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Brisbane

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is a large metropolis straddling the Brisbane River meandering through the city centre en route to the azure Moreton Bay, largely complementing the city's modern high-rise architecture and lush greenery. Australia's third-most popular destination for international tourism, after Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane is a fascinating place to visit, replete with great sights of historical, cultural and architectural importance. Follow this orientation walk to check out some of the most prominent attractions of Brisbane!
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Brisbane Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Brisbane Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Australia » Brisbane (See other walking tours in Brisbane)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.0 Km or 3.7 Miles
Author: gene
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • King George Square
  • Brisbane City Hall
  • Brisbane Parliament House
  • Waterfront Place
  • The Cathedral of St. Stephen
  • The Post Office Square
  • Anzac Square War Memorial
  • The Old Windmill
  • St. John's Cathedral
  • Customs House
  • All Hallows School and Convent
  • Story Bridge
King George Square

1) King George Square (must see)

King George Square lies in front of the Brisbane City Hall and is one of the city’s main meeting places. Originally called Market and Albert Square it was renamed and revamped in King George’s honor following the monarch’s death. Large bronze lions guard the square when you enter from the Queen Street Mall side of the square. One of the main features of the square is the mounted King George statue. Originally it was facing towards the city hall, but it was turned around when Queen Elizabeth II visited and asked: “Why is grandpa retreating?” Several bronze statues from the World Exhibition of 1988, held in Brisbane, were relocated here. At Speakers Corner there are other statues that depict notable Queenslanders such as Steele Rudd, Emma Miller and Sir Charles Lilley.

The square has long been a civil space where people have expressed their political views and been the starting point for many protests and sit ins. The Civil Liberties Movement between 1965 and 1972 was particularly ardent. In 2009 the square was revamped and the old fountains and grassy spaces were removed and replaced by drought proof trees and plants. There is a great café on the square called Groove Train.
Brisbane City Hall

2) Brisbane City Hall (must see)

Brisbane City Hall is located in King George Square in city’s CBD and is the center of the Brisbane City Council. The building is widely considered to be one of Brisbane’s best and one of the most ornate and beautiful of Australia’s city halls. The foundation stone of the building was laid in 1920 and construction was completed by 1930. For many years the hall was Brisbane’s tallest building and to this day you can take the elevator to the top of the clock tower and get an impressive panoramic view over the city. The viewing platform is open 10am to 3pm every day for free. The clock tower is 91 meters above the ground and was inspired by St. Mark’s Campanile in Venice, Italy.

Built in the Italian Renaissance style, there is much of interest to see in the building. Above the Corinthian columns at the entrance to the building is the ornately carved tympanum, which was carved by Sculptor Daphne Mayo in the 1930s. It features scenes of the settlement of Queensland with cattle drovers extending out into the lands filled with kangaroos. Inside there are many beautiful rooms, but the highlight is the main auditorium inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
Brisbane Parliament House

3) Brisbane Parliament House

Brisbane Parliament House is the seat of the Queensland State Parliament, which is a unicameral institution and the only parliament of its kind in Australia. Following the separation of Queensland from New South Wales in 1859, a grand building was ordered to be built. Robert Tiffin’s design was selected in 1863 following an Australia wide competition. The French Renaissance style construction was inaugurated in 1868 although additions such as the colonnades were not completed until 1878.

When you enter the main entrance you are greeted by a Minton tile European imported foyer and grand staircase, which leads up to the Chambers and the Reading Room. In the Red Chamber, which was the Upper House until it was abolished in 1922, you find Waterford crystal chandeliers, which were presented to the parliament by Queen Victoria. Stained glass in both the Green and Red Chambers depict the monarch. On a Parliament House tour you can view the mace, which is a stunning gold and silver creation one meter long and weighing 7.7 kilograms. It features many Queensland opals and sapphires and is placed in the Green Chamber when the Parliament is in session. There are guided tours held every Saturday and Sunday between 10am and 2pm.
Waterfront Place

4) Waterfront Place

Waterfront Place is one of the tallest buildings in Brisbane and Queensland and holds a prime location overlooking the Brisbane River. The entire complex is a bustling space and in the foyer there are often art and photographic exhibitions. The grand piano in the foyer is often manned by a pianist greeting workers each morning with a little tinkling from the ivories. If you ride to the top of the building you are greeted by extensive views out to Moreton Bay downstream as well as the Story Bridge and the CBD.

The building is home to some of the state’s most important and prestigious businesses as well as featuring some residential apartments. High profile tenants include the British Consulate, the office of the 21st Governor General of Australia Bill Hayden and the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia.

There is a large two story restaurant within the complex, run by high profile local chef Matt Moran, as well as retail space and an entertainment area known as the Eagle Street Pier. The site that the building stands on was part of the original Port of Brisbane and Customs House is nearby. Parking is available on site or it is close to the Eagle St. Pier terminal of the City Cat ferries.
The Cathedral of St. Stephen

5) The Cathedral of St. Stephen (must see)

When Queensland separated from New South Wales in 1859 it was deemed that Brisbane should have its very own grand cathedral. The Catholic diocese set to work and a Gothic Revival cruciform design was approved. Construction was begun on St. Stephen’s Day, 26 December, 1863 and completed in 1922 following some redesigning and downsizing required for economic reasons. The dominant features of the façade are the sandstone spires and inside the church there are many impressive stained windows that came from Munich, Germany, France, England and Ireland. The collection of stained glass is often considered to be the most extensive in Australia.

St. Stephen’s Chapel, which stands in the cathedral grounds, is Brisbane’s oldest religious site dating from 1850. It was designed by A. Welby Pugin and construction began in 1847. Throughout the cathedral and its grounds there are many notable statues and taking a guided tour you have the chance to learn more about these and other aspects of the cathedral. There are daily tours of the cathedral at 10:30am Monday to Friday and following Mass on Sunday. Renovations took place in the 1980s to ensure that the cathedrals facilities were brought up to date and in 2000 a new organ was added.
The Post Office Square

6) The Post Office Square

Post Office Square is nestled between Adelaide Street and Queen Street and provides a large green space in the middle of the CBD. Underneath the square there is a subterranean shopping center and there are several stair wells leading down from the square into the mall. The square is located directly opposite the General Post Office, which is a beautiful sandstone building that dates from 1872 and was home to the Queensland Museum for a time in the 19th century. Each day many workers from the surrounding office buildings descend on the square to enjoy some alfresco lunch and it was also the site of the Occupy protests in Brisbane in 2011. There are often street entertainers in the square and it makes for a relaxing rest spot peppered with some interesting people watching.

There are various statues and fountains within the square; one of the key ones being a statue of Major-General Thomas William Glasgow facing towards Anzac Square. He was leader of one of the light horse brigades that landed at Anzac Cove in Gallipoli and later a Senator for Queensland. Post Office Square is well known for its excellent food court where each day the hoards head for a bite to eat.
Anzac Square War Memorial

7) Anzac Square War Memorial

The Anzac Square Memorial is accessed either from its Ann Street location or by the stairs from Anzac Square off Adelaide Street. The memorial is dedicated to all Australian and New Zealand Army Corps who have fought for their country since the Boer War. The Shrine of Remembrance is a circular sandstone construction in the Greek Classic Revival Style and was dedicated on Remembrance Day 1930 with the lighting of the eternal flame. The 18 pillars and the 18 steps leading up to the shrine represent the year 1918 when World War I ended. Every year on Anzac and Remembrance Day there are ceremonies held there.

In Anzac Square below the shrine the bottle trees were planted to represent the Light Horse Regiment of the Boer War and WWI and the date palms represent the success of the diggers in the Middle East in World War II. Below the Shrine of Remembrance is the crypt where you can see the honor rolls from all the wars that Australia has been involved in, along with plaques, interactive displays and a mosaic of 140,000 Venetian crystal tiles and soils from overseas war cemeteries.
The Old Windmill

8) The Old Windmill (must see)

The Old Windmill is Queensland’s oldest surviving building and one of the very few convict built buildings to remain in the city. It was constructed in 1824 to grind maize and wheat to feed the convict population of the colony. Originally a treadmill the mill, but the cloth sails were added a couple of months after its inauguration; however the treadmill was still put to use as a form of punishment. In 1841 two aboriginal men were hung from the windmill after they were deemed to have been guilty of murdering two members of a surveying party at Mount Lindsay.

Around 1849 the windmill was decommissioned and was put to use as Queensland’s first museum and during the 1930s and 1940s it was used as a broadcasting tower. In fact, it is thought that this was the site of the very first TV broadcast in Australia in 1934. In 1866 a cannon was installed at the windmill and was fired each day at precisely 1pm for the residents of the colony to set their watches by.
St. John's Cathedral

9) St. John's Cathedral (must see)

St. John’s Cathedral is one of the most impressive churches in Brisbane and is used for important Anglican occasions such as the ordination of priests or deacons. In addition, it is an important part of the Brisbane arts scene with its own orchestra that holds many events and concerts throughout the year. It is also home to the largest cathedral pipe organ in Australia and has an acclaimed choir. In the tradition of grand medieval cathedrals in Europe, St. John’s is the only Australian cathedral that has been completed over more than a century with stonemasons, architects and the diocese working together.

The work has resulted in a stunning Gothic revival cathedral designed by one of England’s most prestigious 19th century architects, John Loughborough Pearson. This was to be his final masterpiece and he died just prior to the final plans being approved. The project was taken over by his son Frank. The most recent additions to the cathedral have been the western spires clad in copper, which were hoisted into place in 2008. One of the highlights of the interior of the cathedral are the mosaics brought back from the “Holy Land” by WWI Australian light horsemen: you can see them in front of the cathedral altar.
Customs House

10) Customs House

Customs House is one of Brisbane’s most beautiful colonial buildings and its location on the shores of the Brisbane River make it even more impressive. The building once played a key role in the city’s economics – it was built in 1886 to replace a humble custom’s house at Petrie Bight. It was designed by Charles McLay of the Colonial Architect’s Office and is a magnificent example of the Victorian Free Classical style. The exterior of the building is dominated by the impressive copper dome roof and its beautiful portico.

The building is now owned by the University of Queensland and is used for public and private functions – you can often find art exhibitions or music concerts being held inside. Some of the rooms are open to visitors to enjoy and take in the significant history of the building and remind us that Brisbane was once a great port city. Within Customs House, the Long Room is the grandest and there are historical displays inside showing the building as it was in its heyday. There is also a charming restaurant that can be visited by the public and provides the perfect chance to imagine Brisbane as it was in Victorian times.
All Hallows School and Convent

11) All Hallows School and Convent

All Hallows School and Convent is a P-12 school that lies on three acres of landscaped gardens close to the Brisbane River at its Story Bridge crossing. Opened in 1861, the Catholic school is one of Queensland’s oldest formal education institutions and the oldest running secondary school in the state. It was opened the year after a law was passed in the state allowing religious and other non-state bodies to open secondary schools. Run by the Sisters of Mercy, the school was established to provide education to less fortunate, and often immigrant, young women living in the Fortitude Valley area. From humble beginnings the school is today considered one of the most prestigious schools in Queensland.

The school moved to its current site at the edge of Fortitude Valley on Duncan’s Hill in 1863. The church purchased a pre-existing building and grounds there known as Adderton House for the sum of 6000 pounds. The original building can still be seen to this day, forming part of the convent, and is one of Brisbane’s oldest surviving edifices. The building was extended in 1916 to meet the growing needs of the school. The All Hallows has several high profile Australian women alumni including: Miranda Kerr, model, Tracey Wickham, Olympic swimmer and Thea Astley, author.
Story Bridge

12) Story Bridge (must see)

As Brisbane grew and continued to flourish in the early 20th century, it became apparent that there was a need for a bridge crossing the Brisbane River downstream of the CBD. Roger Hawken of the University of Queensland devised a plan for a series of bridges to relieve traffic congestion. In 1926 the site at Kangaroo Point was selected to connect with Fortitude Valley and it was fast tracked as an important public work in order to provide much needed employment during the Great Depression. Construction began in 1935 on the cantilever design and the bridge was officially opened in 1940. During construction it was known as the Jubilee Bridge in honor of King George V, however by 1940 it was decided that it should be named after John Douglas Story who had been a high level public servant that had campaigned strongly for the bridge’s construction.

To this day the Story Bridge remains the largest steel bridge to be designed and built in Australia, by Australians. Today, the Story Bridge is very much a landmark of Brisbane and provides beautiful views of the city’s CBD as you cross. These days in addition to hosting crossing traffic, it offers a bridge climb that is one of only three of its kind in the world. Views from the top of the bridge look out over the city and out towards Moreton Bay. You can also do an abseil climb down one of the pylons to Captain Burke Park on the Kangaroo Point side of the bridge – this is the only abseil climb of its kind in the world.

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