Things to do in Brisbane

17 Must-See Museums in Brisbane

Indulge your curiosity and expand your horizons at Brisbane's many museums.

Brisbane's museum scene is one of the city's most surprising aspects—it's delightfully eclectic, covering topics ranging from the broad (natural history) to the specialized (vintage trams). Enjoy a peaceful afternoon strolling through imaginative art installations, or get deep into the weeds of your favorite hobby or interest.

No matter which you choose, visiting a museum is one of the most affordable things to do in Brisbane, since the vast majority offer free admission.

History and Heritage

The largest museums in Brisbane focus on the history and heritage of the city and the Queensland region — and if you know anything about Australia's past, you know there's plenty to discuss.

Each museum is located in or near the central business district, so they're easy to reach via public transportation. Along the way, you might even spot a few of Brisbane's most popular viewpoints.

1. Commissariat Store Museum

Explore Queensland's unique and colorful history at the Commissariat Store Museum. The permanent collection tells the story of the state through a curious selection of relics, including a prisoner's prosthetic leg and a tree carved with the name of a wrecked ship.

Each artifact provides a glimpse into the colonialist traditions and penal settlements that shaped Brisbane into what it is today. The museum building is part of the attraction. The first two floors were built by convicts in the early 1800s. The facility is fully accessible, and discounted tickets are available for kids and families.

2. MacArthur Museum Brisbane

During World War II, American General Douglas MacArthur established a headquarters in Brisbane's Mutual Provident Society building. Today, the eighth floor of that same structure is the home of the fascinating MacArthur Museum Brisbane.

MacArthur Museum is a must-visit destination if you're a World War II buff. The exhibits provide insights into the general and the Allied forces he commanded in the South-West Pacific Area.

Of course, the effects of war are never limited to the armed forces. You'll also learn how the fighting and the enormous troop presence impacted the residents of Brisbane — and not for the better. Opening hours are limited—consider booking your ticket in advance.

3. Museum of Brisbane

Part art gallery, part history museum, the Museum of Brisbane has something for everyone. You can trace the city's past through historic photos or examine work from modern Brisbane artists. We recommend booking a free guided tour. It provides a great introduction to the highlights of the collection.

Don't hesitate to stop by if you're traveling with the entire family. Entry is free, and the museum offers a range of interactive sessions for kids. After your visit, stop by the front desk to ask about the free Clock Tower and City Hall tours.

4. Old Government House

If you're searching for a small and manageable museum, look no further than the Old Government House. Set inside a historic governor's mansion from the 1800s, the museum gives you a peek into colonial life in Brisbane.

You can see where the governor conducted business. You can wander through rooms that hosted social gatherings for early upper-crust settlers. At the Virtual House stations, you can see what the space would have looked like more than a century ago.

If you have time, schedule a tour. The guides bring the house's history to life in vivid detail. Admission and tours are both free of charge.

5. Victoria Barracks Museum

Located inside the Victoria Barracks, the Army Museum South Queensland is dedicated to the military history of Brisbane and Queensland. Stepping onto the grounds feels like a trip back in time. The buildings still look like they did in 1864.

The only way to visit the museum is on a guided tour, and you must reserve a time slot in advance. Your guide will take you through different areas, all while explaining the role of the military in colonial Brisbane and beyond. It's an exciting experience for visitors of all ages.

Art and Culture

Queensland's rich cultural heritage takes center stage at Brisbane art galleries and museums. Whether you're interested in indigenous art or large-scale contemporary installations, these excellent institutions have you covered.

6. Institute of Modern Art

Find out how Australian artists are shaping the ever-evolving face of art at the Institute of Modern Art. Each gallery features something new and unusual, and since the exhibits are constantly changing, you never know what you're going to discover.

Whether you're an art expert or simply appreciate weird and beautiful creations, the remarkable installations speak to the mind and the soul. Since the space is relatively small, it doesn't feel overwhelming.

You can see everything in about an hour and feel invigorated and creatively refreshed. If you're lucky, you can catch an artist's talk, a lecture, or a panel discussion.

7. Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

The QAGOMA features two galleries: the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art.

That might sound intimidating, but there's nothing stuffy or pretentious about this facility. You're just as likely to find a superhero exhibit as you are a piece by an old master. This fun, welcoming approach makes this one of our favorite Brisbane museums.

Entry to QAGOMA is free! You can also choose from various paid events. Learn more about the artists during a tour, or break out your artistic skills during one of the museum's interactive workshops.

8. Birrunga Gallery

In a sea of art museums, the Birrunga Gallery stands apart. This small, friendly space showcases the work of Indigenous artists, but it's more than a museum. It's a hub for culture and community, bringing together First Nations people from the Brisbane area and farther afield.

The museum's resident artists make many of the pieces you'll see on display. Book a guided tour with a First Nations artist to get the most out of your visit. Keep the cultural experience going at the museum café, which features an indigenous take on modern cuisine.

Science and Education

Are you visiting Brisbane with kids? When the Australian sun wears on you, head indoors to check out the city's science and education museums. Interactive and exciting, they capture the imagination and entertain your little ones.

9. SparkLab

Think your kids would rather be participants than observers? The SparkLab at the Queensland Museum Kurilpa is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Think your kids would rather be participants than observers? The SparkLab at the Queensland Museum Kurilpa is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. This museum was designed for children aged 6-13. It features an interactive space with more than 40 exhibits. Each teaches kids about science, math, engineering, and technology.

The Maker Space is all about building solutions. In the Science Bar, kids can watch live science experiments and ask all the questions they want. Space in the SparkLab is limited, so it's important to reserve your spot online. Advance booking is particularly important on weekends and holidays.

10. Queensland Museum

Set on the shore of the Brisbane River, the Queensland Museum Kurilpa is a few steps away from the popular South Bank area. A favorite among local families, it's known for its attention-grabbing exhibits and remarkable pieces. On one visit, you can see Kalka spear points, ancient Egyptian jewelry, and otherworldly insects.

We love the museum's approach to its First Nations exhibits. Curators collaborate directly with Traditional Owners to decolonize collections and ensure every display is authentic. Entry is free, although you may need to pay to access the SparkLab or other special areas.

Specialized Interest

Brisbane's broad selection of specialized museums sets it apart from other cities. Each one explores a specific topic, captivating connoisseurs and casual visitors alike.

11. Queensland Maritime Museum

Discover Brisbane's seafaring roots at the Queensland Maritime Museum. Boats are the main focus, of course, but the exhibitions teach you about aspects of maritime history, ranging from lighthouses to the pearling industry.

Outside, you can walk through the warship Diamantina, a river frigate that was commissioned in 1945. Other highlights include the pearling lugger Penguin and the brightly colored Carpentaria Light Ship.

The Queensland Maritime Museum is open from Wednesday through Sunday, and tickets are available at the front door.

12. Queensland Police Museum

Police have long played a central role in the development of Brisbane and the surrounding area. See how the service has evolved over time at the small but engaging Queensland Police Museum.

You can spend an hour examining the displays, which focus on everything from the Stock and Rural Crime Investigation Squad to the bite suits worn by police dog trainers. Kids love the unique police vehicles.

As with many museums in Brisbane, admission is free. You can see everything in 30–45 minutes, although there's plenty to keep your attention for longer.

13. Brisbane Tramway Museum

Next, it’s off for a visit to the Brisbane Tramway Museum. Although this facility is open only on Sunday afternoons and by appointment, it's well worth visiting.

Your admission includes unlimited rides on the museum's five historic trams. This unique opportunity is loved by our performers, who enjoy bringing their families here when they're in town.

After you take a ride through the bush, spend time reading about the history of each tram. The museum has an impressive number of photos of the trams in action, so it's easy to imagine them chugging through the streets of Brisbane. Have a question? Staff members are extremely knowledgeable and willing to chat.

14. RD Milns Antiquities Museum

If your history interests date back centuries rather than decades, don't miss the RD Milns Antiquities Museum. Tucked away on the beautiful University of Queensland campus, it's a true hidden gem. The small but remarkable collection features pieces from Ancient Greece and Rome. Plan to spend about an hour here.

To get the full experience, attend one of the museum's public lectures, seminars, or panel discussions. Speakers skillfully connect the artifacts to the human stories they represent, bringing history to life.

Performing Arts

Only a few cities have museums dedicated entirely to the performing arts, but Brisbane is the exception. If you love everything about the stage, this museum should be at the top of your to-do list.

15. Tony Gould Gallery

Are you planning to catch a performance at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre? Arrive early and spend some time wandering through the Tony Gould Gallery. Here, you'll find a collection of exhibits dedicated to theater and the arts.

Depending on the time of year, you might discover gorgeous costumes, production photos, or displays that lay out the experience of mounting a theatrical show. Our team is partial to the costume displays, which capture the artistry and hard work that goes into a stage show.

If you're a serious theater enthusiast, drop by the box office to request a tour of the theater. When space is available, you'll get to go backstage at the different venues to see the inner workings of a professional performance space.

Medical and Health

Is there anything more bizarre and intriguing than the history of medicine? We don't think so, which is why these health-related museums are among our favorites in Brisbane. They tend to fly under the radar, so you might even have the exhibits to yourself.

16. Diamantina Health Care Museum

If you've ever researched historical medical practices, you know health care has changed dramatically over the centuries. Discover the peculiar instruments and unusual medical practices of decades past at the Diamantina Health Care Museum.

As you investigate the origins of health care in Australia and beyond, it's hard not to feel grateful for the modern treatments available today. This Brisbane museum is located in a historic building on the campus of Princess Alexandra Hospital. Its hours are extremely limited, so double-check the schedule before you go.

17. Marks-Hirschfeld Museum of Medical History

Head to the University of Queensland to find the Marks-Hirschfeld Museum of Medical History. Run by a team of passionate researchers and academics, it houses an exceptional collection of healthcare objects.

Find out how Victorian-era women used electrified corsets for pain relief, and check out a Magneto-Electric Machine that supposedly cured a wide range of conditions. That's just the start — the museum has over 5,000 medical objects and photographs.

Whether you're a healthcare professional or simply fascinated by the incredible history of medicine, even a short visit will give you ample food for thought.

Exploring Brisbane's Museums: A Journey Through Art, History, and Innovation

Brisbane's museums connect you to the people who shaped Queensland, making it easier to appreciate the state's modern conveniences.

Are you in the mood for a different type of journey through time and space? Our shows in Brisbane combine thrilling acrobatics, colorful costumes, and the latest in theatrical light and projection technology. We'll take you on a whimsical journey into our world.

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