For most of its history, Perth was a sleepy city in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by pristine beaches and national parks, its residents cultivated an outdoorsy lifestyle that made the most of the plentiful sunshine.
Since the 1980s, though, Perth's population has doubled to over 2 million, and the city has developed a thriving inner-city culture of food and nightlife. Local cafes, boutiques, parks, and beaches attract visitors to the coastal suburbs, while the urban center hosts trendy museums, restaurants, and bars.
The city center, also known as the Central Business District or CBD, looks out over the pretty Swan River. Here, you can visit the Elizabeth Quay waterfront precinct and check out the public art, or take a cruise along the river.
We recommend grabbing a coffee at Tiisch to start the day, before exploring the Art Gallery of Western Australia or the Government House gardens, and strolling down St George's Terrace, the city's main thoroughfare. For shopping, head to Forrest Chase, Hay Street Mall and the pretty Tudor-style London Court arcade.
Across the river, South Perth is made up of leafy parks and tree-lined streets. The South Perth foreshore is much quieter than its northern counterpart, but it does have impressive views of the city skyline. There's lots of open space for recreation, as well as cycle paths, picnic tables, barbecues, toilets, cafes and four children’s playgrounds.
Just to the east of South Perth, Victoria Park is a hub of inner-city arts and culture. Since 1898, the regal Broken Hill Hotel has presided over the Albany Highway shopping strip. Here, you'll find craft beer institution Dutch Trading Company and Harvest Espresso serving up some of the best coffee in town, as well as alternative bookstore Crow Books.
In the past decade, Northbridge has become Perth's coolest neighborhood. Although it remains a little rough around the edges, this area just north of the city center is full of hidden bars, vegan eateries, and designer boutiques. The Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) is a good place to start.
Flora and Fauna may be the city's most Instagrammed cafe, while visitors to Sneaky Tony's rum bar are required to provide a password on Friday and Saturday nights (it can be found on the bar's Facebook page.) Ezra Pound is all about the cocktails, while Frisk specializes in gin. For local fashion, visit William Street.
The tiny neighborhood of Leederville is popular with students and young professionals, thanks to its eclectic vibe and proximity to the city and Lake Monger. We love Pixel for coffee and the Garden for cocktails, as well as Low Key Chow House for Asian-inspired share plates.
If you're in the mood for some retail therapy, stop by Hunter Store, Urban Records or Varga Girl, then settle in with a glass of wine and an independent film at the Art Deco-style Luna Cinema. In summer, Luna also hosts outdoor cinema sessions in the courtyard. Leederville is just a 10-minute drive or 25-minute train trip away from Perth's city center.
Stylish yet relaxed, Mount Lawley sits on the Swan River north of the city center. It is known for its restaurants, nightlife, and fashion. The easiest way to explore is to take a walk along Beaufort Street, where you can eat pasta by the meter at Solo Pasta, vegan snacks at Veggie Mama or pan-Asian delights at Dainty Dowager. Down Beaux Lane, you'll find some of Perth's hottest foodie destinations.
Down by the river, Banks Reserve has a playground and shady picnic tables. Plus, Mount Lawley is home to the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts, where you can catch music, theater, and dance performances. You can reach Mount Lawley in around 25 minutes via train or 10 minutes driving from the city center.
Fremantle is a revitalized port city south-west of Perth that has become an integral part of the capital's fabric. You can easily spend a day here, taking a tour of the Little Creatures Brewery and relaxing at Leighton Beach, or learning about Western Australia's history at the Round House and Fremantle Prison.
When it comes to food, Fremantle is packed with both quirky and classy options along the bustling Cappuccino Strip. During the day, you can carb-load at Bread in Common or soak up the sunshine at Port City Roasters, then at night, head to Paris-style Whisper's Wine Bar or the relaxed Mrs. Brown's for a drink. You can get to Fremantle via public transport in under an hour or half an hour driving from Perth's city center.
Make sure to stop in at Guildford on your way to visit the wineries of the Swan Valley. This quaint neighborhood in north-western Perth is brimming with history, from the taxidermy wonders of the Museum of National History to Retrofind, a top-notch vintage homewares store.
The Rose and Crown pub is the oldest operating hotel in Western Australia, with two restaurants, a small bar and a gorgeous outdoor beer garden. The recently renovated Guildford Hotel caters to a younger crowd, with quiz nights and a menu featuring burgers and barbecue. Guildford can be reached by train or car in around 20 minutes from Perth.
Cottesloe is a picturesque coastal strip just north of Fremantle. The beach stretches for over half a mile, offering snorkeling, swimming, and surfing. The iconic Indiana Tea House and huge Norfolk pines give the foreshore a unique appearance.
This inner-west neighborhood experienced an economic downturn in the mid-2010s, but the Rockeby Road strip is now showing signs of renewal. Boucla is a beloved Mediterranean-style cafe, Refuge Small Bar is perfect for a craft beer, and Juanita's is a cozy bar and restaurant where you'll feel instantly at home. Subiaco is also the location of Perth's very own cat cafe.