The best cafés in Civic

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Bacon and eggs

Breakfast at Gather By the Park. Photo: Daniella Jukic.

You’re in the city and craving quality café food. Perhaps you’re on a break from work, doing a bit of shopping or catching up with friends. With so many cafés around, the question is where to go and what type of café to head to.

In this article, we’ll outline the qualities to consider when choosing a café, and share where to find the best in Canberra City.

What makes a great café?

Choosing the right café can make your day without breaking the bank. It can be a fun and relaxed experience and a place to enjoy amazing dishes, coffees and teas.

It can be helpful to keep the following in mind when choosing a café.

  • Style of food. Some cafés specialise in one type of cuisine and others offer a broader menu. Check online for a café that will make your tastebuds dance. If you have food allergies or intolerances, check that the café has something for you.
  • Price. Heading out for a bite at a great café doesn’t need to cost the earth. Some cafés are cheap and cheerful, while others cost more.
  • Service. Whether you’re keen to kick back and relax or need to get in and out quickly, choose a café that believes service is as important as the quality of food and coffee.
  • Opening hours. Cafés have different opening hours. Some serve from crack-of-dawn through dinner. Others are only open for breakfast and lunch. Some cafés are open seven days and others only through the week.
  • Parking. You might need to consider parking if venturing to a city café, especially if you’re heading out when cafés are typically super busy. Check out where to park in advance, and how much it costs.

The best cafés in Canberra City

RiotACT’s editorial team has combed through 20 years of on-site comments to compile a list of the most recommended businesses according to you.

To be listed in our Best of Canberra series, each business needs to have consistently received positive feedback on RiotACT and Facebook as well as maintaining a minimum average of 4/5 stars on Google.

Smith’s Alternative

Smith’s Alternative is a relaxed hangout with a boho vibe offering coffee, light bites, wines and spirits. Smith’s is famous for its rotating lineup of alternative music acts. The café’s limited but soul-satisfying menu includes savouries like toasted sandwiches, cheese and vegan platters. Housemade sweets include brownies, slices and banana bread. Art of Espresso coffee and T2 teas are served until midnight.

Ric Noble wrote on Google, “A range of cakes, sandwiches, and other snack food. Good range of coffee, hot chocolate and alcoholic beverages.”

Barrio Collective Coffee

Barrio Coffee Collective in bustling Braddon is a tiny place that dishes up tasty food based on local produce. It offers some of the best coffee around. The shop, dedicated to simplicity and quality, has a welcoming neighbourhood atmosphere. Barrio Coffee Collective roasts its own coffee, maintaining control over quality. The shop is in the heart of Lonsdale Street. People watching is free.

On Google, Youssef Dablan wrote, “Service is splendid, food is superb and coffee won me over.”

Gus’ Place

Located in Garema Place, this stalwart institution, established in 1967, offers a simple café menu, a warm fit-out and plenty of outdoor seating. The menu is designed around classic seasonal options with a Gus’ Place twist. The café caters for various allergies and dietary preferences. Gus’ Place is fully licensed.

Serene Lyrian Ogston wrote on Google, “Insanely delicious food, attentive and fast service, we're super happy with our breakfast and drinks this morning!! I highly recommend.”


Eighty/Twenty is a modern café in Braddon, dishing up wholefood-focused dishes, signature smoothies and to-die-for-treats. The café serves real, healthy and honest meals that change with the seasons. Bites and all-day dishes, as well as great coffee, are available. A second location, in Kingsborough Village, Kingston, is now open.

On Google Jenita Maharjan wrote, “Great food and service … the French toast was really delicious. Coffee was nice too.”


Gather offers fresh and delicious all-day eats, with the menu adjusted for the seasons. Order wraps, toasties, croissants and focaccias. On the drinks side, enjoy cold pressed juice, homemade kombucha and specialty coffees. For something small, Gather offers yummy slices, tarts, biscuits and muffins. Indoor and outdoor dining available and service is always with a smile.

Clare Rutherford wrote on Google, “Diverse and interesting menu, lovely staff, cute styling and comfortable atmosphere.”

If you’re looking for more information on food and bar establishments in the city, you might like our articles on the best coffee shops, best restaurants, best cocktail bars, best pubs and best wine bars Canberra has to offer.

Your experience with cafés in Canberra

Thanks to our commenters who have provided insightful feedback. If you believe we have got it wrong, please let us know.

Have you had experience with any of the cafés listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all Canberra city cafés open seven days?

No, not all Canberra city cafés are open seven days. Some, including those housed in office buildings, are only open through the week. Some choose not to open Sundays and/or Mondays. It’s best to check online (or call) for opening hours.

How do I choose the best café in the city?

It’s best to consider several factors when choosing a city café. Type of food might be on the top of your list or perhaps it’s price. The vibe of the café can be important. These days, most cafés have their own websites or social media pages, so do a bit of searching online.

Do all Canberra city cafés have outdoor dining areas?

Not all Canberra city cafés have outdoor dining areas, although more and more do. For some people, sitting in the sun is important. Others want shade.

Do all Canberra city cafés cater for special food requirements?

An increasing number of cafés cater for special food requirements. This includes for food allergies and intolerances. It also includes catering for vegetarians, vegans and those with other dietary preferences or needs.

Are all cafés in Canberra city cheap and cheerful?

Some cafés are cheap and cheerful and others more expensive. Cafés are typically cheaper than restaurants but not as inexpensive as takeaway food outlets.

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