Essential Adelaide guide: top sites and festival attractions

On the eve of the Adelaide festival, the 'Edinburgh of Australia', we recommend the essential sites and events to catch, in the second of three guides to the city

Read part one: Insiders' guide to Adelaide

See a world premiere at the Adelaide Festival

In March Adelaide comes alive as its international arts festival, running for over 50 years, takes over the city. 2013 marks the first time it is an annual rather than biannual event, and it is new creative director David Sefton's debut programme. His stellar lineup of premieres and collaborations includes performances from Sylvie Guillem, Laurie Anderson, Nick Cave, Kronos Quartet and The National. The festival has obvious similarities to Edinburgh - but given that it's in the southern hemisphere tends to have slightly better weather.
1-17 March, various venues,

Visit the Central Market for fresh produce and a slice of life

The vast covered market opened in 1870 and is still a big draw for residents and tourists alike. Selling everything you could possibly want to consume – honey, coffee, sushi, cheese, bread, fruit, vegetables, cured meats, etc – and with a focus on locally sourced produce, it is impossible to resist sampling something. There is a food court, which backs on to the city's Chinatown, and more established restaurants, such as Lucia's (, for neighbourhood-style Italian food, or Big Table (, the place to go for breakfast. If you are keen to find out more about the market's history, there are tours at 8.30am and 9.30am every day, except Sunday and Monday when the whole market is shut.,

Get back to nature at the Adelaide Botanic Gardens

Victorian Palm House, Botanic Gardens Adelaide
The Victorian palm house at Adelaide's Botanic Gardens. Photograph: GoGarden/Alamy Photograph: GoGarden/Alamy

Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens may overlook the historic harbour, but Adelaide's own botanic park is pretty special in its own right. Spread over 125 acres hovering above the eastern end of North Terrace, the park is a peaceful haven from the buzz of the city, with an impressive selection of native and foreign flora and fauna. The Victorian Palm House and Amazon Waterlily Pavilion are not to be missed. Or just find a shady spot under a gum and while away the afternoon., 8.30am-6.30pm Mon-Fri, 9am-6.30pm weekends in March (closing times vary month-by-month), free

Go mad for March

It isn't known as Mad March by locals for nothing. Also happening during festival season is the Adelaide Fringe (until 17 March,, featuring comedy, circus and cabaret in venues across the city, while the Garden of Unearthly Delights (until 17 March, transforms Rundle Park into yet another entertainment space. There are countless pop-up events in temporary spaces across town, from The Birdcage's block party to al fresco late-night drinking venue Little Miss Mexico, which has an on-site winery. Meanwhile WOMADelaide (8-11 March, 2013 headliners Hugh Masekela and Jimmy Cliff, will be in full swing in Botanic Park (see above), along with literary festival Writers' Week (1-7 March,, the Adelaide 500 motor race (28 Feb - 3 March, and much more.

Stroll down the river

Torrens river and Adelaide Festival Centre, Elder Park, Adelaide
The Torrens river and Adelaide Festival Centre in Elder Park. Photograph: Hemis/Alamy Photograph: Hemis/Alamy

To the north of the city, the River Torrens meanders through parkland, connecting up with the Gulf St Vincent to the west. Starting at the edge of the easterly Botanic Park, walk along the water's edge, skirting the zoo, with the city's much-loved pandas. Next, pass through the university district, which is also home to some of the big cultural institutions of the state, such as Art Gallery of South Australia ( and the South Australian Museum ( Coming up on the left bank is top restaurant Jolleys Boathouse ( and also the landing for Popeye boat tours ( The Oval is next up to the right, followed by St Peter's Cathedral (, then finally Elder Park and the heart of festival activity.

Sample some local fare

Aside from Central Market, Adelaide has many other edible highlights. FruChocs – apricots and peaches dipped in chocolate – are a local delicacy, as are Haigh's chocolates, which runs a factory tour ( Pie Floaters, a meat pie in pea soup (just what you fancy on a hot day), are available throughout town, including at legendary 24-hour Bakery on O'Connell Street ( Keep an eye out for Fork on the Road events to sample the city's burgeoning street food scene. And wash it all down with a Boost juice ( or Farmer's Union iced coffee (, both of which started life here. Finally you really haven't been to Adelaide without going to one of the many pudding-only venues, such as the swanky Onyx Dessert Lounge.

Have a culture fix

As the state capital, Adelaide is home to some of South Australia's greatest cultural treasures. The South Australian Museum ( contains the largest Aboriginal collection in the world, with all kinds of artefacts and documents narrating indigenous histories. Also worth a look are the national meteorite collection, the majority of which you can touch as the museum promotes interactivity rather than dusty glass cabinets, and some of the oldest fossils in the world from nearby Flinders Ranges. Next door at the State Art Gallery (, there are Australian, Aboriginal and international artworks. The current visiting exhibition is a Turner from the Tate show (until 19 May), and be sure to observe the gallery's latest acquisition, a hanging horse torso by Belgian artist Berlinde De Bruyckere.

Rundle Street is the place to be

Rundle Street, Adelaide, Australia
Catch a summer evening market in Rundle Street Photograph:

Rundle Mall in the city centre has the usual shopping suspects, from David Jones to Woolworths. If you continue east along the mall it becomes Rundle Street, where the stores are hipper and the bars livelier. Wander off the main street and smaller lanes like Ebenezer Place hold hidden treasures such as Das Boutique for a flat white with your hipster hair-do or Treadly for cycling accessories, plus there are late-night openings and summer evening markets. Grab a coffee early on in the day at the Howling Owl at 13 Frome Street, or head there in the evening when it is magically transformed into a gin den.

Get on your bike

Mount Lofty Botanical Gardens, Adelaide
Mount Lofty botanical gardens. Photograph: David Moore/Alamy Photograph: David Moore/Alamy

Everyone's at it, from the baristas to the fashionistas, partly for environmental reasons but also because masses of parks and good weather makes you more inclined to cycle. Hire a free city bike and head up to Mount Lofty botanic park in the Adelaide Hills, or make the most of the flat-as-a-pancake city streets. Cycling fever peaks in January when the Tour Down Under comes to South Australia and finishes in Adelaide.

Drink local

One of the best things about Adelaide is the local grog. Coopers beer is brewed in the Regency Park suburb where you can take a brewery tour (, or just grab it at one of the numerous pubs (confusingly called hotels), such as the Exeter ( or Austral (, in huge, sociable jugs. But given that the vineyards are mere miles away, it's a wine drinkers' paradise. Try Riesling from the Clare Valley, Shiraz from the McLaren Vale or Cabernet from the Barossa, with a decent list at even the diviest of venues, giving you the most authentic of South Australian experiences.

The Adelaide festival runs from 1-17 March. The Guardian's daily coverage starts on 1 March at, supported by Emirates. For more information visit:


Sarah Phillips

The GuardianTramp

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