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Eight ways to discover Canberra’s nightlife and live music scene

Ready to experience Canberra after sunset? There are so many places to visit in Canberra, no matter what day of the week you’re looking to head out.

We’ve brought together a mix of nightlife and live music venues to make sure there’s something for everyone.

The Howling Moon (Braddon)

Enjoy a night out with a view! The Howling Moon (pictured above), located on the top floor of Canberra Rex Hotel, is perfect for a celebratory cocktail or two, offering unbeatable sunset views across Black Mountain and the city. Easily accessible by catching the Light Rail to Ipima Street, The Howling Moon offers a diverse array of acholic and non-alcoholic drink options.

The Polo (Turner)

Live at The Polo is located inside Turner’s very own Polish White Eagle Club. This indie venue is known as one of the Inner North’s liveliest music spaces and is the perfect spot for those looking to catch a good local music act in Canberra – especially if you’re a fan of rock or indie bands. The Polo’s atmosphere is like no other, attracting huge crowds of alternative music lovers on a night out.

Transit Bar (City)

Spend a night underground in the CBD at Transit Bar. Featuring a large performance space and nine-metre bar, Transit Bar’s basement location will transport you into the world of music for a night and immerse you in Canberra’s local arts scene. Serving cold beers and good food, Transit Bar is known for hosting a range of events from Taylor Swift release party nights to local bands’ debut performances.

The Old Canberra Inn (Lyneham)

The Old Canberra Inn (OCI) is one of the oldest pubs in Canberra with the original building built in 1857. Attracting a youthful crowd, the OCI serves more than 10 local craft beers and holds a range of evening activities such as trivia and live music as well as gigs and seasonal events like Oktoberfest. With indoor and outdoor seating, this classic Australian pub has plenty of space to get together with a big group of friends and have a social night out.

The RUC (Turner)

Located in the heart of Turner, The RUC is a community favourite for afternoon gatherings and weekend barefoot bowls. With a full range of weekly offerings such as Student Night Thursdays and Live Music Fridays, and a large entertainment sundeck, The RUC is a great spot to socialise and connect with Canberra locals, no matter the season.

Students playing lawn bowls at The Ruc
Barefoot bowls at sunset at The RUC

On Campus: Badger & Co (ANU) and UC Refectory (UC Campus)

UC Refectory is the University of Canberra’s own on-campus live music venue. Otherwise known as the ‘Refec’, this large venue prides itself on being Canberra’s key destination for live performances and welcomes up to 1,700 attendees.

Perfectly positioned in ANU’s cultural precinct, Kambri, Badger & Co is the place to go for food and drinks on campus, with local DJs every Thursday from 5 pm. Serving affordable Australian pub classics, enjoy an easy meal with the company of friends and views of Black Mountain during your next study break or evening off work.

Smith’s Alternative (City)

Café by day, cosy bar by night, Smith’s Alternative is a perfect place to get a taste of Canberra’s cultural scene. Offering a range of acts from live music to poetry readings, book launches and comedy, Smith’s Alternative is a unique space that thrives off creativity and collaboration. Open from midday to 8 pm, Smith’s Alternative is a laid-back nightlife venue perfect for those looking for a sociable night out with a chill atmosphere.

Band playing on stage at the Smith's Alternative
Smith’s Alternative offers a diverse array of gigs, from poetry to improv and plenty of live music.

The Basement Canberra (Belconnen)

The Basement is a live-music venue hosting local and international touring acts in the Belconnen region. A 10-minute drive from UC campus, this music hotspot has pool tables and a beer garden, making it the ideal setting for student gatherings. With a regularly updated gig guide be sure to check out their upcoming events.

88Mph (City)

Hidden in Hobart Place in the city and only a 10-minute walk from ANU campus, 88Mph is Canberra’s first 80s-inspired bar. With sing-along DJ sets, a light-up dance floor, pizza available to order and karaoke rooms, 88Mph is a welcoming and colourful venue perfect for a night out with friends, and where nothing is that serious.

Five Canberra music festivals to plan ahead for

Canberra is spoiled for choice when it comes to music festivals, with international acts from across the globe and stellar local bands visiting year-round for a diverse range of festivals. Here are five to get you started.

Published date: 12 Dec 2023
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