Australia & New Zealand | Destination Guides

How Adelaide got cool: Discover the city being called the new Melbourne

Recently updated on July 6th, 2023 at 10:57 am

Once a sleepy country town on the southern edge of Australia, Adelaide has quietly transformed into one of Australia’s coolest capitals. From the colourful street art and twinkling laneways to the charming speakeasies and wineries, you would not be remiss for feeling like you’d stepped into a mini Melbourne. But Adelaide is so much more than the hipster little sister of Melbourne. From the vibrant festivals to the historic food markets, we find out how Adelaide got cool and reveal all the best things to do on your Adelaide tour.

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The world’s most liveable city

Being named the third most liveable city in the world in 2021 came as no surprise to Adelaideans… But it made the rest of the world sit up and take notice. While we were busy visiting the iconic Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne, Adelaide got cool. So how did it do it?

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The Festival State

The city is a cultural wonderland, hosting the oldest and largest Fringe Festivals in the world, the first Festival of Arts in Australia, and the first Writers Festival in the world. It hosts the Adelaide Cabaret Festival and WOMADelaide and is a designated UNESCO City of Music. 

Adelaide is pumping up the artistic atmosphere, with dozens of art installations and public art popping up around the city. With bright, bold street art found on walls, doors, buildings and laneways at every turn, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into one big mural. You’ll spot everything from vivid abstract pieces to remarkable portraits of Indigenous leaders, with more artworks filling bare spaces all the time. It definitely squares up to Melbourne’s iconic graffitied laneways – but comes without the crowds of tourists… yet. 

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Foodie delights

Beyond the cultural gems, you’ll also find a buzzing restaurant and bar scene. Duck down the laneways of Peel Street, Leigh Street and Gilbert Place to discover trendy cocktail bars and delicious eats, or visit the East End area for more culinary adventures. You could even head 20 minutes into the Adelaide Hills for world-class vineyards and food experiences. When you travel to Adelaide with Trafalgar, we’ll enjoy dinner at Koomo, Adelaide’s highest restaurant, where you can marvel at the city views while indulging in Japanese-and-Asian-influenced dishes.

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Beautiful nature

Adelaide is the perfect blend of cosmopolitan and natural treasures… where you can go from shopping at the Rundle Mall to kicking back at the sandy beaches or watching the sunset over the River Torrens. It’s also the world’s only city in a park. The stunning Adelaide Park Lands encircle and sprawl across the city, covering 760 hectares, making it Australia’s biggest backyard. The best way to see it all? Get on three wheels with an EcoCaddy bike tour where you’ll pedal past stunning art, green spaces, and Victorian architecture.

With an incredible culture and lifestyle, Adelaide is clearly one of the coolest cities to visit. Ready to start planning your trip? Here are all the top things to do on your Adelaide tour. 

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What to see and do in Adelaide

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Find out why Adelaide is called the ‘City of Churches’

While the locals affectionally call it ‘Radelaide’, it’s also nicknamed the ‘City of Churches’. You’ll find dozens of stunning historic churches and cathedrals in Adelaide, plus plenty of architectural gems across the city. Be sure to seek out St. Peter’s Cathedral with its iconic spires, and Trinity Church Adelaide, one of the oldest buildings in the city. Head to the heart of the city to see the gorgeous St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. 

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Explore the Adelaide Central Markets

You can’t visit this city without hitting up the Adelaide Central Markets. Opened in 1869, it’s one of the largest traditional markets left standing in the Southern Hemisphere. There are traders here who have been selling produce for decades and families who have had stalls for generations. Today it’s a thriving hub of authentic food and culture, but it’s not just a great place to get some fresh produce or indulge in delicious pastries or cheeses… it’s one of the best places to meet the locals and really get to the heart of this great city.

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Go beach-hopping

Adelaide is famed as the ‘20-minute city’ since almost everything is just 20 minutes away from the city centre – including the beaches. Hop on a tram and in just minutes you’ll arrive at the city’s favourite beachside suburb, Glenelg. You can walk along the foreshore, grab something to eat on Jetty Road, ride the Ferris wheel, spot dolphins, or indulge in a cocktail at the bars on the sandy beach. If you’re looking for a high-end food experience, head 15 minutes up the road to Henley Beach, where you take a dip in the ocean, and then tuck into fresh seafood. 

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Wander around the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Discover a blooming paradise at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Inspired by the Royal Gardens at Kew and Versailles, these gardens are 51 hectares of fragrant roses, ancient trees, lush lawns, tropical wonders, and an iconic wisteria arbour. Opened in 1857, you’ll even find original structures like the Palm House, a Victorian glasshouse dating back to the 19th century. And don’t miss the bicentennial conservatory, the largest single-span conservatory in the Southern Hemisphere, home to endangered plants from across the Pacific. 

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Stroll down Rundle Mall

Rundle Mall is more than just shopping. This iconic strip was Australia’s first pedestrian-only mall, and some of the buildings on the street date back to the 19th century. Be sure to admire the gorgeous architecture of the Adelaide Arcade and the Fountain at the entrance, both built in the late 1800s. Then walk along the street to spot the famous sculptures including the charming life-sized bronze pigs (Augusta, Horatio, Oliver and Truffles) and the Spheres, a giant cockroach statue. The street even hosts original masterpieces like Salvador Dalí’s ‘Triumphant Elephant’.

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Enjoy a tipple at the world-class wineries

Adelaide is the wine capital of Australia, with more than 200 wineries just outside the city centre. You can spend many gorgeous days exploring the rolling green hills and sampling fine wines and culinary delights among the beautiful vineyards.

When you travel to Adelaide with Trafalgar, we’ll take you on a wine-tasting adventure through the Adelaide Hills and the Barossa Valley, Australia’s premier Shiraz-producing region. Stop at Mt Lofty for spectacular views of Adelaide, then wander around the charming village of Hahndorf, loved for its gorgeous German-style stone cottages. You’ll tuck into a lunch of Barossa cheese, smoked meats, chutney, Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz at the South Australian Company Store, then enjoy a winery tour and tasting in the Barossa Valley. 

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Visit the National Wine Centre

Keep the wine theme going with a visit to the National Wine Centre. It’s located just outside the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and is home to Australia’s largest wine tasting room, with 120 different wines ready for you to sample. When you travel with Trafalgar, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the centre for tastings. You’ll also take a masterclass to discover the fascinating history of winemaking in Australia and how to expertly pair food and wine.

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Paddle down River Torrens

River Torrens is the iconic heart of Adelaide and there are many ways to appreciate it. You can canoe, kayak, or paddle boat down the river, or take a romantic Venetian-style gondola boat ride. As you cruise down the river, look out for sights like Elder Park Rotunda, the gorgeous 19th-century footbridge which illuminates at night. 

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Adelaide Oval

Sports fans can’t miss the Adelaide Oval. Catch a thrilling game of Australian football there, then head back in the evening for an exciting Roof Climb over the stadium. You’ll have the best seats in the house as you watch the sunset over the city and the historic grandstand. Or go behind the scenes for a captivating tour revealing the history and secrets of the stadium. From the century-old scoreboard to the fascinating museum, this is a very special sports experience. 

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Hop around the museums and art galleries

If you’re a fan of museums and galleries, you’ll fall in love with North Terrace, Adelaide’s cultural boulevard. It’s home to a myriad of incredible galleries and museums, including the Art Gallery of South Australia, the South Australian Museum, and the Samstag Museum of Art. There’s also the University of South Australia’s MOD, a futuristic science and technology museum with fascinating exhibitions. Walk just 15 minutes down the road to visit the Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, the oldest Aboriginal-owned and managed multi-arts centre in Australia, with excellent art and cultural exhibitions. 

What are your favourite things to do in Adelaide? Let us know in the comments below!

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