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Last Updated: Friday, 26 September, 2003, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
City guide: Canberra
If coming from Sydney, Canberra seems silent and empty in comparison.

CANBERRA FACTFILE
Population: 300,000
Location: Inland south-east Australia
Climate: Hot in summer and cool in winter - dry most of the year
Geography: Bordering New South Wales, four hours south-west of Sydney
Interesting fact: Novelist DH Lawrence lived here in 1922 while writing Kangaroo

But Canberra is Australia's capital city and the centre of the country's political activity.

As a result, it was transformed at the turn of the 20th century into one of Australia's fastest-growing cities.

The place has been castigated by endless critics for being boring, devoid of character and the wrong place for Australia's capital city.

Yet the city has a lot to offer - in particular, some of the nation's finest architecture.

The awe-inspiring Parliament House, the National Gallery of Australia and the Australia National Botanic Gardens are the chief picks.

The National Gallery boasts art ranging from aboriginal work to 20th century paintings, while the botanic gardens have some of the most exotic plants globally.

Parliament House, however, is the city's major asset.

Opened in 1988, it took seven years to build at a cost of A$1.1bn and was designed by American Italian Ronaldo Giurgola.

Canberra as a whole seems the very opposite of Australia, described as "un-Australian" by many critics.

The city is the essence of planned and ordinary ever since being named as the capital in 1908.

Built up from nothing, it is set in beautiful surroundings with lush greenery around the centre of the town as well as the outskirts.

Canberra is more man-made than most cities. partly because its creation was designed to settle interstate rivalries between New South Wales and Victoria.

Instead of simply naming Melbourne or Sydney as the major political centre, an agreement of a newly-built city equidistant between the two was the compromise.

So, to make it habitable, 2,330 square kilometres of sheep grazing territory were cleared out before American Walter Burley Griffin stepped in to design the new geometrically exact city.

The area first became known to Europeans when Joseph Wild, James Vaughan and Charles Throsby Smith discovered the Limestone Plains upon which modern-day Canberra is sited.

Today sport is a major part of Canberra life, with the city home to the famous Australian Institute of Sport.





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DAVO'S CHOICE
Best boozerBest boozer
P J O'Reilly's, Civic Square

Best meat restaurantBest meat restaurant
Red Sea Restaurant, Bunda St
Gambler's denGambler's den
Casino Canberra, Glebe Park, 21 Binara Street

IF YOU MUST
ShoppingShopping
Bunda Street

Best veggie tuckerBest veggie tucker
Lemon Grass Thai, London Cirt
CultureCulture
Old Parliament House



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