For students of all ages, be it high school, college, undergraduates or post-grad, studying is the most crucial part of successfully getting through final assessment – and the location where you try to get your work done can have an enormous impact on how much studying you’re able to get done. Home might not always be the best place to study, so you might find yourself looking around town.
Being out in public can be incredibly helpful to focusing the mind when you need to knuckle down and get some studying done. Cafés help you stay fueled with food and caffeine, and libraries are equipped with great resources you may not have access to elsewhere. But picking the perfect place to study can be a difficult choice, as you discover that maybe you do prefer silence to noise, or that your favourite café doesn’t have free Wi-Fi or accessible power points.
In this article, we’ll breakdown some important factors to consider when looking for a place to study, and a list of some of Canberra’s favourite spots.
What makes a great study spot?
With a whole city of potential study spots to choose from, you might have trouble trying to decide what factors are most important to you. Here are some key things to keep in mind as you look around town:
- Access to free Wi-Fi. These days, venues providing free Wi-Fi might seem like a given, but if you’re trying to settle in to get some studying done then this can be a huge deal breaker. Make sure you check ahead of arriving that where you’re headed has free Wi-Fi, and if they don’t, that you’re able to work around that issue, either by providing your own hotspot or downloading whatever content you need for that study session.
- Comfortable furniture. If you’re planning on sitting down for an extended period of time, the last thing you want is a sore back or neck at the end of it. Keep an eye out for venues that are furnished with armchairs or high-backed chairs to help maintain your posture and keep you comfortable.
- Noise and crowds. This really depends on how noisy you prefer your environment when you’re studying – some people prefer white noise, some prefer silence, but no one likes overly crowded spaces that attract noisy groups, especially when being able to focus is so important to getting anything done.
- Brain fuel. Either pack your own lunch and water bottle, or find a place with food and drinks that you enjoy – being able to keep yourself energised and focused will be a big help during longer study sessions.
The best places to study in Canberra
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.
An iconic fixture of the Canberra skyline, the National Library of Australia is a wonderful place to hunker down and get some work done. The Main Reading Room is a large, high-ceilinged, and very quiet space, with large desks, power points and free Wi-Fi, allowing you to properly set yourself up for a few hours of valuable study time. Armed with an incredibly comprehensive library and database, multiple photocopiers and printers, and a reliably short wait time on requested texts, the NLA is more than equipped for students and scholars.
The Main Reading Room isn’t the only available space for studying, either – The Bookplate Café, located just inside the library’s main entrance, is great spot if you need food and coffee to keep you going. If you’re after fresh air and a view, try the outdoor seating area – shaded with parasols on the terrace overlooking Lake Burley Griffin, it’s quite a picturesque environment to study in.
The downstairs study area is a great spot to study if you don’t need all the library's textual resources (which are restricted to the Main Reading Room). Equipped with comfy seats, a bench along the wall with power points, and large shared desks next to a bright window at the back, and its own mini-café, it’s a wonderful alternative to the Main Reading Room - especially if you like a bit of white noise in the background while you study.
As Google reviewer Allys Hansell writes about their experience studying at the NLA, "Beautiful building with lovely lighting. Exhibitions are always very interesting. The main reading room is my favourite place to study, very good place to concentrate. Library selection is fantastic as well."
Located in Narrabundah, Kita is Canberra’s only late night café, from 9:00 pm to 7:00 am.
The café – which does have free Wi-Fi – is furnished with big comfy chairs and plenty of indoor decorative plants, creating a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.
The menu serves Malaysian street food, as well as delicious milkshakes, coffees and teas.
As Kate Paule writes in their Facebook review for Kita, "Fabulous friendly service. Staff are attentive without being in your face, know what they are doing and genuinely seem to love being there. Great atmosphere and even better food."
Lonsdale Street Roasters #7 offers coffee, food and noise to create the perfect study environment. Their coffee is famously delicious, the food is fantastic, and the music playing through the speakers is not too distracting.
Some tables have power points, and the whole café is connected to the free Canberra Wi-Fi.
Local Guide Lachlan Tinnock left this Google review for LSR, "Great quirky shop with a cosy downstairs setting as well as a calm open upstairs area. It's quite versatile for larger groups. Relaxed couches and magazines are great."
Muse, located in Kingston’s East Hotel, is a hybrid wineshop-restaurant-bookshop. The wall of handmade books inside makes it an ideal space for reading enthusiasts, especially if you’re after a visual cue to get you to hit the books.
Muse offers free Wi-Fi alongside a great menu.
Facebook reviewer Natasha Lukin had this to say about their experience at Muse, "All in one: beautiful place, great location, fantastic combination of great coffee, food and books!"
Nestled in the centre of the Australian National University campus, the Hancock Library is a great environment to work in. If the beauty of the campus itself isn’t enough to get you to visit, the capacity of Hancock – one of the ANU’s fleet of on-campus libraries – definitely will.
The library's levels are divided into clearly signposted “zones” dictating the level of noise permitted in each space.
As Google reviewer Julian Moss writes about Hancock, "Good, quiet. Staff are really friendly and helpful!"
If you are the kind of student who prefers a bit of noise when studying, check out our article, the best coffee shops in Canberra, for a helpful guide to some of our city’s best cafés.
Your experience with places to study 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 places to study listed above? If so, share your feedback in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it better to study in noisy or quiet places?
Atmosphere and ambience can make or break your ability to focus properly when studying in public spaces. But whether or not it's universally better to study in noisy or quiet places is completely subjective. Some find that music helps with memorisation, and others find that high-pressure tasks are harder to complete with the added stimulus of noise. However, according to some recent scientific studies, low chatter and noise can actually help your brain filter material and spot the most important information more easily. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but it might prove useful to experiment with different noise levels to see what works best for you!
What are good foods to eat when studying?
If you're planning on studying for an extended period of time, you want to keep yourself from getting too tired too quickly, and eating the right food can be a great way to help yourself out. Generally speaking, small snacks like fresh fruit, or hot drinks like green tea will be best for filling you up without exhausting your body, as opposed to full meals which might make you feel lethargic. Stick to light snacks and teas, and above all - stay hydrated!
When are the best times to study?
When it comes to optimising your efficiency and focus, you want to make sure you're hitting to books at the times of day when your brain is fully awake. Unfortunately, there is no correct answer to this question, but try and keep track of when you feel most alert and productive during the day - is it early in the morning right after you've woken up, or later in the evening? As long as you're not pushing yourself when you're too tired, there's no right or wrong time to get to work.
Is it polite to study in a cafe for a few hours?
If you're feeling uncomfortable with spending too long in a cafe because you're worried about taking up space, there are a couple of easy ways to deal with this - firstly, have a quick chat to the employees at the cafe and let them know you'd like to stick around for a while to study, and see if they're okay with that. And secondly, the best way to make sure you're not overstaying your welcome is to keep buying food and drink, even if it's just a drink per hour and a snack or two.