The capital of South Australia, Adelaide is the fifth most populous city in the country, and residents enjoy some of the best quality of life in the world. Lying on the shores of the Gulf St Vincent on the south coast, the city is often overlooked in favor of Sydney and Melbourne but is well worth checking out if you have the time. Unlike many other Australian cities, Adelaide was founded by free citizens who built lots of public spaces and wide boulevards and erected a plethora of majestic churches.
Due to the waves of immigrants that subsequently arrived from all around the globe, the city has a thriving restaurant scene that caters to every palate. Its fantastic arts and cultural institutions are also fittingly multicultural in outlook.
This is mirrored in the wealth of cultural events and festivals that take place in Adelaide over the course of the year. With a lot of things to do in Adelaide and a very cosmopolitan and sophisticated air about it, the ‘City of Churches’ is a charming place to spend some time.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. St Peter’s Cathedral
Founded all the way back in 1869, St Peter’s Cathedral is one of the most important and recognizable landmarks in the city. Reminiscent of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, its striking facade is flanked by two monumental spires. Between them lies a wonderful rose window that looks very much like the one in Paris.
Besides its beautiful stained glass windows and huge high altar, the cathedral also boasts a large and powerful organ; this is used in daily services. St Peter’s has long been renowned in the city for its fantastic choir and the regular concert performances it puts on.
11. State Library of South Australia
Located in a fabulous old building that dates right back to colonial times, the State Library of South Australia will delight book lovers and history aficionados with its stunning, book-filled interior. As it is the largest public research library in the whole of South Australia, it hosts a massive collection of books, photographs, sound and video recordings on every topic imaginable.
While the French Renaissance style Mortlock Wing of the library looks gorgeous from the outside, its interior is the real show stopper; wrought-iron balconies lie before rows upon rows of softly illuminated books. Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, the State Library is well worth checking out if you’re in the area.
10. Migration Museum
As both Adelaide and indeed Australia’s history has been so defined by the various waves of immigrants that arrived in the country, the Migration Museum is the perfect place to head to if you want to understand more about their past.
Opened in 1986, its extensive collection takes you on a fascinating journey through the ages, with artifacts, photos, and stories explaining how the state was settled.
Proudly showcasing Adelaide’s multiculturalism and promoting respect and tolerance for different cultures, peoples, and languages, the museum runs lots of educational programs and is just as popular with locals as it is with tourists.
9. Waterfall Gully
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, then Waterfall Gully is the place to go. It lies just five kilometers from the center of Adelaide. Located within Cleveland Conservation Park, its glistening waterfall – which is known as ‘First Falls’ – is tucked away among the foothills of the Mount Lofty Ranges and is the main attraction in the area.
Just the first of a series of seven falls, it towers to a height of some 30 meters, and its sparkling waters that plunge down into the creek below are spectacular to gaze upon. From here, there is a lovely hike you can do right to the top of Mount Lofty. On the way, you’ll pass through lots of picturesque natural areas.
8. Rundle Mall
With over 800 shops for you to explore, it’s fair to say that Rundle Mall caters to your every want and need, with cafes, restaurants, and snack stands all on offer. Lying right in the center of the city, the pedestrianized shopping strip is the main place to head to if you want to buy anything.
Independent boutiques and stylish arcades lie side-by-side with chain stores and Australian brands. As well as its delightful statues, sculptures, and fountains, Rundle Mall also regularly has pop-up stalls and stands for you to check out. Thrumming with life, Rundle Street and the roads around it are the beating heart of Adelaide.
7. South Australian Museum
Founded in 1856, the South Australian Museum offers up a fascinating look at the nation’s natural history, with interactive and interesting exhibitions on everything from fossils and meteorites to megafauna and mammals. As it houses over four million items and specimens, there is an endless array of galleries for you to peruse.
It is home to the most extensive collection of Aboriginal art and cultural artifacts in the world. While there are also brilliant exhibitions and displays on Ancient Egypt and Pacific Cultures, its Aboriginal galleries are the main draw, and lots of people come from far and wide to learn more about their history and culture.
6. Adelaide Zoo
The second oldest zoo in the country, Adelaide Zoo was opened in 1883 and is home to over 3,000 animals. Located just to the north of the city center, the zoo is divided into different regions, such as Africa, Australia, and South America. Animals from those parts of the world all reside happily in their natural habitats.
Besides the informative and interesting displays, there are also a number of talks, presentations, and feeding sessions that you can join throughout the day. In addition to its majestic Sumatran tigers and intriguing orangutans, its main attractions are the two giant pandas, Wang Wang and Funi, who are currently on loan from China.
A fun day out for all the family, Adelaide Zoo has over 300 exotic animals from around the globe for you to catch a glimpse of.
5. Art Gallery of South Australia
Containing around 45,000 works of art, the Art Gallery of South Australia’s astounding collection is a delight to explore. Masterpieces by international artists lie side-by-side with those of their Australian counterparts.
Located in a beautiful building, it is the second-most extensive state art collection in the country and is particularly renowned for its galleries of Australian, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander artworks.
Spanning 2000 years of history, its paintings, sculptures, photos, and videos are simply magnificent to peruse. Highlights include drawings by Hans Heysen and the 20 bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin. If all that isn’t enough, the gallery also hosts the annual Tarnathi art festival, which showcases pieces by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
4. Adelaide Botanic Garden
Lying just to the northeast of the city center, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens are a peaceful and pleasant place to spend some time, and ideal if you’re looking to immerse yourself in nature. Covering a vast area, the gardens have several different sections, with thick rainforest and tropical plants found alongside a pretty rose garden and some wild wetlands.
Opened in 1857, it is also home to some fabulous colonial architecture, with the beautiful Palm House and Museum of Economic Botany being the best examples. The Bicentennial Conservatory is particularly worthwhile checking out for the beautiful tropical flora within. There is also a lovely little restaurant on site.
3. Adelaide Oval
Widely reputed to be the prettiest cricket ground in the world, the Adelaide Oval hosts all kinds of different sporting events throughout the year. Opened in 1871, it still exhibits some incredible Edwardian architecture in places, and its old scoreboard helps retain its charm among the more modern developments.
Watching a game of cricket or Australian rules football here is a great way to experience the passion with which Aussies support their local teams. Besides reveling in the intoxicating and infectious atmosphere of a game, visitors can also take a tour of the quaint grounds or venture up onto its giant roof. From atop of its curved dome, you can enjoy views of the turf below and the surrounding area.
2. Adelaide Fringe
The second-largest arts festival in the world after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Adelaide Fringe sees the city come alive with all kinds of different music, art, and dance performances.
Taking place over the course of a month from mid-February to mid-March, the festival is spread around hundreds of venues in Adelaide and attracts over 7,000 artists from Australia and around the globe.
The variety of different arts on show is simply staggering. One of the main venues is fittingly named ‘the Garden of Unearthly Delights.’ With stand-up comedy shows popping up alongside innovative art installations, impromptu theater productions, and circus spectacles, there really is something new and special to see every day of the month.
1. Central Market
Lying right in the center of the city, Adelaide’s Central Market teems with life. Its 250 or so stalls sell everything from fruit and vegetables to fresh seafood and local cheeses and wines. Interspersed among its many shops and stands are lots of fantastic cafes and restaurants; these beautifully showcase the city’s multicultural nature.
Due to the diverse cuisine on offer and the staggering array of goods and fresh produce on show, Central Market has long been a popular tourist attraction, although just as many locals come here to do their shopping or grab a bite to eat.
One of the largest undercover markets in the Southern Hemisphere, it has been in operation for 150 years, and the lively atmosphere shows that it is not slowing down any time soon. Great fun to wander around, Central Market is one of the best places in Adelaide to try some of the fantastic cuisines for which the city is so renowned.
Best Time to Visit Adelaide
As it has a warm, Mediterranean climate, Adelaide is lovely to visit almost any time of year with December to February being by far the most popular period. During summer, averages of 26 to 29°C (79 to 84°F) attract massive crowds, come to lie on the beach or enjoy exciting performances at the Adelaide Fringe.
With the Southern Hemisphere’s largest arts festival taking place, prices are at their highest and everywhere is packed. Besides strolling about the center and swimming in the sea, this is a great time to explore Kangaroo Island and Waterfall Gully.
As the Fringe is still going on and the Adelaide Festival and WOMADelaide are also held, the crowds and high prices continue into March and April. Many come for Easter or to sip some wonderful wines as the harvest season is on.
After this, May to September is the off-season as there is much more rain and temperatures drop to 15 to 19°C (59 to 66°F). During winter, you can visit museums and galleries or attend the Southern Australian Living Artists Festival. Whales can also sometimes be seen offshore.
People return in spring when its pretty parks and the Adelaide Botanic Garden are blooming. October and November also have the OzAsia and Adelaide Film Festival to enjoy.