7 Free Ways to Get Cultured in North Terrace Adelaide

You can tell a lot about a city based on how it treats its art. A well-kept museum attracts visitors from all over the world and oftentimes is one of the greatest memories you take with you when you leave. It’s not often that someone visits Paris and doesn’t go to the Louvre.

But sometimes those huge museums can resemble the worst aspects of an amusement park. The ticket prices high. The ambiance non-existent. The gift shop unavoidable. You came for the culture, not the long lines.

Sound familiar?

Instead, head on over to North Terrace Adelaide – the cultural epicenter of South Australia. This art and museum district is loaded with great places to take in international and local art,culture and history – stress and entry-fee free.

South Australian Museum

Photo: Adam Bruzzone

Start your tour off with a visit to Adelaide’s premier cultural institution. The South Australian Museum is in a 5-story building on the North Terrace, making it the largest in South Australia. It houses a variety of natural history and sciences, archaeological and biological exhibits. The museum also holds the largest and most comprehensive collection of Aboriginal art and ethnography in the world. You’ll see ancient Aboriginal tools, instruments, jewelry, ornaments and more in the museum’s vast collection.

Tip: Take the guided museum tour. An expert tour-guide walks you through the museum, giving you insightful commentary on the collections within. The in-depth knowledge provided by the guides are a terrific way to make the most of your museum. And did we mention the tours are also free?

State Library of South Australia

On the opposite side of South Australia’s largest museum sits South Australia’s largest library. The State Library of South Australia has tens of thousands of books old and new. Reference materials and ledgers that date all the way back to pre-European settlement offer unique insight in to the history of this Aussie state.

Spend some time in the Mortlock Wing, a section of the library that visitors have referred to as being “Harry Potter-esque”. Victorian-era architecture and old-world charm of the interior make you feel like you stepped straight in to a cozy reading chamber in Hogwarts. The Mortlock Wing was also named one of the most “Beautiful Libraries in the World” by Travel + Leisure Magazine.

We think you’ll love browsing the centuries old library, thumbing through books and appreciating this South Aussie staple.


Botanic Gardens of South Australia

Photo: South Australia Tourism Commission

You won’t have to travel far for a bit of downtime from the hustle and bustle of the city-center. More than 130 acres of thriving greenery make up the Garden, making it the largest in South Australia. In addition to the amazing plant-life found in the gardens, the site is home to three large, glass-structures. The Palm House is an amazing Victorian era glass structure.

Garden designers in 1875 had the entire structure shipped from Germany in flat boxes and reassembled in Adelaide, making this mail-order building the first of its kind. And you thought assembling Ikea furniture was hard! Also check out the Bicentennial Conservatory and the Amazon Waterlily Pavilion for more amazing glass architecture.


Parliament House of South Australia

Photo: South Australia Tourism Commission

You don’t often hear the words “beautiful” and “government” in the same sentence together, but we’ll try anyway: You’ll definitely want to check out the beautiful architecture of Adelaide’s finest government building at the Parliament of South Australia. There, that wasn’t so hard! The huge marble and granite Parliament House building is where the magic happens for South Australia’s lawmakers and heads of state. Take one of the guided tours inside for a look at its great interior design. You’ll also hear the secrets behind the red tape that caused this building to take more than 50 years to complete!


University of Adelaide

This beautiful urban campus is another centerpiece of downtown Adelaide. Walk the grounds of this famed research institution. The University’s public art galleries and museums are a great way to spend some time soaking in some fresh student art and work from artist residencies. The Samstag Museum is one of the best places to see contemporary work from art students and visiting artists. The focus at Samstag is on cutting edge visual art and sculpture in a building whose architecture is as notable as the work inside. The funky glass and concrete structure is a visually striking introduction to the contemporary works inside.


National War Memorial

In honor of those who fought in the First World War, this large concrete memorial sculpture is a historically significant part of South Australia culture. Located adjacent to South Australia Government House, the site serves as a gathering place for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, both Australian holidays to honor those who served and died in the line of duty.

Art Galleries

The North Terrace is home to so many art galleries its almost hard to keep track. Here’s a selection of some of our favorites.

Art Gallery of South Australia 19th-Century International and Aboriginal Works

City Gallery Flinders University Contemporary Visual Works

SASA Gallery Contemporary Sculpture and Visual Works

Royal South Australian Society of Arts Painting and Print Gallery

Jam Factory Contemporary Art Gallery and Functioning Studio

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