PopulationMetro: 2,120,000
Rugged and cultured, Australia’s capital of Queensland does it in balance.

You go to Sydney for beaches and to Melbourne for culture—so what does Brisbane offer that you can’t find elsewhere in Australia? Quite a bit, actually.

Interestingly, the capital of Queensland comes in at #20 for Place—just behind Sydney but way ahead of Melbourne.

Brisbane, which scores high for its low crime (#7 safest city in the world), is sunny, sophisticated and offers plenty of outdoor adventures right within city limits.

Named after a river that runs through it, Brisbane is best explored from the water. At night. On a kayak. If you’re in town on Friday or Saturday, we recommend you take in the shimmering lights of the cityscape during a leisurely paddle down the river. Local outfitter, Riverlife, will set you up with an illuminated kayak and hook you up with a bucket of fresh king prawns and cold beer upon your return.

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If the beach is more your thing, hit the sand at Streets Beach, man-made with a sparkling lagoon surrounded by subtropical plants. Culture vultures can soak up the art at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, QAGOMA for short, a single institution located across two adjacent river-side buildings, and Australia’s largest gallery of modern and contemporary art.

Once the convict-era Government Gardens, the free Botanic Gardens now combine lily ponds, formal flower arrangements and rainforest plants with rather splendid river views. For something completely different, hit Collective Market, a flea market of sorts featuring stall vendors hawking vintage finds, art, handmade jewellery and antiques.