Adelaide is an exciting cosmopolitan city.

South Australia’s capital enjoys a growing reputation as Australia’s most cosmopolitan city.  The Adelaide ultimate city guide will take you through some of the best things about this city.

A modern, vibrant and interesting city to visit with plenty to see in Adelaide city but it’s only a short drive to adventure further afield.

With over a million people, this small Aussie city has a great atmosphere.

Take the tram and discover some of South Australia’s most beautiful beaches at Glenelg or, head into the Hills to explore the quaint villages and historic townships amongst the beautiful wine regions.

The History

Adelaide is the capital of South Australia and is consistently ranked as one of the best cities in the world to live in.

Founded in 1836, the city is named in honour of Adelaide Saxe-Meiningen, who was Queen consort of King William IV. In the early days of settlement, the city was the capital of the British South Australia Colony and was designed by Colonel William Light.

The Ultimate City Guide to Cosmopolitan Adelaide

Things to do

Trendy lane-way cafes and restaurants and chic rooftop bars, Adelaide is one of Australia's most cosmopolitan cities. Click To Tweet

Fabulous Restaurants, Old Pubs and Trendy new Bars

Adelaide street art

Adelaide has always been known for its restaurant and trendy cafes but what we’re loving is the new energy that’s being breathed into these charming old pubs. Setting new trends when it comes to pub food, a recent visit took us to the Gilbert Street Hotel which served up one of the best ‘carbonara pasta’ dishes ever!

We love the fabulous street art nearby which gives these laneways an eclectic and funky atmosphere and gives a new lease of life to once forgotten parts of the city.

Adelaide festivals are world famous

Adelaide is known as the Festival City and renowned as one of the top festival cities in the world.   Visit Adelaide throughout February and March when the festivals a buzz.

  • The Adelaide Festival has been a popular event for over 50 years with internationally acclaimed theatre, music, dance and visual arts.
  • WOMADelaide takes over the Botanical Gardens for 4 days of fabulous music, art and dance celebrations.  WOMADelaide has an eco focus and hosts the popular Planet Talks with environmental discussions, Taste the World food and cooking demonstrations.
  • Adelaide Fringe Festival features everything from cabaret to comedy and circus. Over 900 festival events are staged in pop-up venues in laneways, warehouses and parks, as well as established theatres, hotels and galleries.

Museums, Galleries, Botanical Gardens and don’t forget the Zoo

Strelitzia - Bird of Paradise

One of the earliest settled cities in Australia, Adelaide and has a number of beautiful old buildings. Located on North Terrace, the Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum are two very stately old buildings housing significant collections of art and Australian cultural artifacts.

Visit Adelaide’s Royal Botanical Gardens. It’s a great place to wander during a hot day and during the summer, the Botanical Gardens are home to an outdoor cinema. Wander among stunning rose gardens and see the impressive glasshouses including the exquisite 1877-built Palm House.

The National Wine Centre of Australia is next to the gardens so if you are a wine enthusiast, check it out!

Don’t miss the Adelaide Zoo.  Home to many native Australian birds and wildlife including koalas, wombats, sea lions and kangaroos as well as traditional favourites such as lions, giraffes, monkeys and panda bears.

Adelaide’s Architecture and Heritage Tours

Adelaide treasures its city’s unique heritage and is has a number of guided tours and self-guided walking trails to showcase the city’s grand old buildings and history.   Alive with interesting stories, tales of earlier times and flavoured with a scandal or two so, make sure you don’t miss these tours.

The National Trust offers a number of Guided Tours which include:

  • Ayers House (after dark)
  • City of Churches
  • Politics, Power and and Law
  • Old Adelaide Treasury Tours.

or take one of the Self-Guided Heritage Walking Trails:

  • Crime and Mayhem
  • Adelaide Vintage Pubs
  • Faith in the City
  • Survivors from early Adelaide
  • Houses Great and Small
  • High on the Hill
  • Exploring Education

The Adelaide Arcade is one of the city’s architectural and shopping gems.  Built in 1885, it is one of the most well preserved examples of Victorian elegance and home to more than 100 speciality retail outlets.

If railways are your thing, visit the National Railway Museum in Port Adelaide. Or perhaps a visit to the the Adelaide Gaol and Old Government House buildings for something different?  Both are rich in history and shed light on the origins of South Australia and its early settlement days.

Don’t miss the shoppingKombi Coffee

Rundle Street mall is a great city mall to explore.  I love seeing the ‘pop-up’ flower markets, funky little coffee stands, clever sculptures and street-musicians.  They really do give this mall its friendly atmosphere.

Walking along the mall you will find Department stores, fashion designers and boutiques with arcades and laneways laden with gift shops and coffee shops and cafes.  Don’t forget about the food-halls sub-ground level which have an abundance of restaurants and cafes.

Don’t miss the Adelaide Arcade.  Home to a museum and one of South Australia’s famous chocolatiers, Haigh’s Chocolate.  Don’t forget to take some home!

Adelaide’s Rundle Mall sculptures are some of the best I’ve seen.  The piglet family are my favourites!  These four pigs won the Rundle Mall National Sculpture competition in 1997.

The popular pigs have been named Oliver (standing) Horatio (sitting) Truffles (sniffing the ground) and Augusta (sniffing the rubbish bin). I daresay, they’re some of the most photographed piglets in town!

A trip to Adelaide Central Markets is a ‘must do’

This fabulous undercover market has been Adelaide’s food epicentre since 1869.  Farm-fresh fruit, vegetables, cured and smoked meats, seafood and an exceptional range of cheeses.  Not to mention the delicious selections of freshly baked pastries, freshly harvested honey, flavoured oils and other delicious pantry items.

Sign up for one of the  Central Markets Walking Tours to experience the markets at their best, enjoy the tastings and meet the marketers.

Relax at the beach

The beaches are an easy distance from the Adelaide city.  Just a 25 minute tram ride from the centre of Adelaide, gets you right onto the beachfront at Glenelg.

A bustling seaside town with heritage hotels, alfresco cafés and a beautiful white sandy beach – Glenelg is one of my favourite beaches to visit.

If you want to be swept back 40 years or so, visit Semaphore.  Just south of Glenelg, Semaphore is the most unique retro beach experience, where you can wander along the esplanade, enjoy fresh fish and chips on the beachfront and swim in sheltered waters.

Remember those old carousels with handcrafted wooden horses?  Well, Semaphore has one!

Mt Lofty

Mt Lofty is the highest point of the Mt Lofty ranges and is located about 15 km outside the city.  It’s a great vantage point with fabulous views of the city and the South Australian coastline and an opportunity to see some Australian wildlife – in the wild.

Cleland Conservation Park is located close by and is definitely worth a visit.  You will be able to get up close to kangaroos in their own habitat.

Take a drive up to the Adelaide Hills and visit Mt Lofty while you’re there.  It’s a great day trip and without a doubt one of the best day trips from Adelaide you can do.

Experience the Barossa Valley

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Whenever visiting South Australia, I always spend a day or two in the Barossa Valley.  One of Australia’s best wine regions it was established by the early German settlers to the Barossa.

Quaint townships like Tanunda and Hahndorf are famous for their European-style atmosphere, beautiful stone buildings and handcrafted gifts, preserves and award-winning wines.

Visit famous wineries such as Kellermeister, Rockford Wines, Murray Street Vineyards and Penfold Estates.  Stop at Maggie Beer’s farm to pick up a picnic hamper of delicacies and enjoy lunch as you take in the scenic views or treat yourself to something more exotic at one of the boutique wineries.

The Barossa Valley offers a selection of wine and food cycling trails.  A relaxed way to tour the countryside and sample the wares.  I think that will be my next adventure!

Read Next:  Are you looking for a great Aussie wine that won’t break the bank?  Check out our Australian Wine Guide – for under $30 a bottle

The Best time to Visit Adelaide

Adelaide is proud of its mild Mediterranean climate.

The best time to visit is between April – October, during the cooler winter months and the shoulder seasons of the Australian summer. Summers in Adelaide can be very hot, while winters are mild and temperate.

Getting there

Adelaide is easily accessible by air, with regular flights directly to Adelaide airport and is well-connected to other mainstream Australian cities like Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin and Perth.

A 20 minute bus trip will have you at your accommodation in the city.

If you’re doing an Australian road-trip, it’s a long way to everywhere.   The closest city is Melbourne which is just over 700 kilometres away.  Adelaide is the perfect place to start your Road trip from Adelaide to Darwin.  There’s always the option to drive north and stop off at Uluru and Alice Springs instead of travelling right through to Darwin. Or you could do the trip in reverse. Travel to all other centres such as Melbourne and Perth is easy from Adelaide city.

There are bus and train options as well.  The Ghan leaves from Adelaide to Darwin and the Indian Pacific Line travels to Perth across the Nullabor Plain. They’re both on my wish list!

Getting around

Surprisingly easy to get around, Adelaide has an efficient public transport system.  Check out the city options for Trams, Trains and Bus .

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City guide to cosmopolitan Adelaide

Adelaide is that perfect escape!  It has something for everyone and the climate is always so – Mediterranean!   
Have you been to Adelaide?  What did you think of the Rundle Mall piglets?  What did you enjoy most on your visit?  We’d love to hear about your adventure so why not drop us a note in the comments below.