Literary City Guide | CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA

And I wanted to write about Canberra, this city that lures ambitious people from all across Australia, a city that remakes families, a city of clamorous debates and deserted streets, a city of words, permeated with an immense silence.
— James Button

Tour Guide: Shu-Ling Chua

Once a bookworm, always… Shu-Ling spends her free time reading and enjoying music, travel, food and photography. She blogs about life and her favourite things at hello pollyanna.



Relationship to Canberra: I’ve been living in Canberra for the past two years but am originally from Melbourne. (Canberra is a place where people come and go… and sometimes stay.)

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Tove Jansson 

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Rachel Khoo

Writing soundtrack: A favourite album or Spotify playlist (I get up to dance every now and then)

Pen or Pencil: Pen

Coffee or Tea: Tea (preferably English Breakfast or French Earl Grey)

Paperback or Hardback: Paperback

Good Reads


Paperchain. Established in 1982, Paperchain is most probably Canberra’s best-loved independent bookstore. It offers a wide range of books and best of all, armchairs to curl up in.

Museum Bookstores. The bookshops at the National Library of Australia, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery of Australia have an eclectic selection of books and gifts – and all within walking distance.

Used Bookstores. For pre-loved books, I like Canty’s Bookshop, Book Lore, Beyond Q and Smith’s Alternative. The latter two have their own cafés and live music performances (night and weekends).


National Library of Australia. This library is neither grandiose nor particularly old but I love its bookshop and curling up in an armchair with the weekend newspaper. It hosts interesting exhibitions and a rotating collection of artefacts (handwritten manuscripts, photographs, maps etc.).


Jane Austen Festival. Celebrates everything Regency – including dancing, music, food, games, archery, fencing, theatre, promenades, grand balls, costumes and books.

Other festivals worth noting are, in fact, Noted (a writers' festival) and You Are Here (experimental arts festival).


The National Library of Australia and Libraries ACT host events like book launches, film screenings and story time for children. Paperchain bookstore hosts the occasional author event.

ACT Writers CentreScissors Paper Penand Feminartsy also organize a range of events and workshops. And for those interested in poetry, Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit and Canberra Poetry Slam might be for you.

Good Eats


Loading Zone. Canberra’s only ‘laneway café’, hidden in the Melbourne Building (naturally). Lovely, friendly service. Simple, delicious food prepared with care and love. Unpretentious fun. Al fresco.

The Cupping Room. Takes its coffee seriously, yes. And its food. I’ve had some pretty amazing brunches here. Be prepared to wait for a table on the weekend.

Lonsdale Street Roasters. They have two stores – No. 7 (with an upstairs area) and No. 23 (larger outdoor area and slightly more extensive menu). I personally love the mushroom panini. Great for people-watching on the weekends.

Penny University. Penny's offers a similar hipster-y vibe in the inner south. ONA in Fyshwick is another favourite (Canty’s Bookshop is just across the road – perfect for browsing after brunch).


eightysix. Edgy comfort food (yes, it’s possible). Do not miss the signature caramel popcorn sundae. My friend described it as ‘happiness in a cup’. Lonsdale St has really transformed in the past few years. Other highlights include elk and pea, Chez Frederic and Lonsdale Street Roasters

Kusina. Hidden in a suburban shopping strip (like many of Canberra’s gems), Kusina is a family run Filipino restaurant. Cosy, comfort food and reasonably priced.  

Da Rosario. A recent discovery. One of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had but sadly only open for breakfast and lunch, weekdays. Street-side dining beneath the arches of the Melbourne Building.

Monster. Beautifully presented, delectable dishes (and drinks). Located in the foyer of the gorgeous Ovolo Nishi. Also worth trying in NewActon are A. Baker and Mocan and Green Grout.

Soju Girl. ‘Modern Asian fusion’ drawing on Korean, Japanese and Thai influences. Great for sharing and one of my favourites when I first moved to Canberra. Quirky Asian-inspired cocktails.


An ‘underground’ (literally!) speakeasy, Molly is one of my favourite bars. I can’t help feeling transported back in time. Soju Girl and Mint Garden Bar (al fresco, yummy thin-crust pizzas) are also great places for a drink. Oh, and the cocktails at Monster

Frugii. For deliciously inventive ice cream (rosemary or lemon myrtle, anyone?), I recommend Frugii. It serves classic favourites as well of course and opened in early 2015.

Literary City Guide | Canberra

Shu-Ling's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: National Arboretum (trees, hills and wide open sky – a place to ‘just be’)

2. Favorite place to write: At home (stretched out in bed, on the floor or the sofa)

3. Favorite museum: Parliament House (I suppose it counts as a ‘living’ museum)

4. Favorite coffee shop: Loading Zone (laneway café, what’s not to love…)

5. Favorite thing about Canberra: : The Arboretum, Lake Burley Griffin and gorgeously niche (but growing!) festivals such as Enlighten Canberra, Art Not Apart and Hustle&Scout market.