Canberra named No.3 on Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2018 list: Here's why

Canberra, you've come a hell of a long way since the days when the French, reputedly at least, classified the bush capital as a hardship posting for its diplomats. But, frankly, it's also been quite the hardship being a Canberra champion all these years, too.

To advocate a holiday to Canberra has been akin to coming out as a regular Starbucks customer. Or to publicly announce a preference for Silver Service cabs instead of Uber. Successive Prime Ministers like Paul Keating, John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull haven't helped the cause either.

They'd all expressed a preference to live in Sydney, or at least advocated for it over their own much-derided capital. But the incumbent and Sydney resident PM did chip in some of his own funds to help rescue The Lodge in Deakin from dilapidation.

Three years ago Traveller declared Canberra "the new capital of cool" with The New York Times, no less, finally declaring it visit-worthy. Around the same time Andrew Barr, the Australian Capital Territory's chief minister, issued a threat to rob Wellington, New Zealand of its "world's coolest little capital" epithet.

Three years later, on Wednesday morning the world woke, incredulous, and guffawing, to the news that Lonely Planet had declared the Australian capital one of the three must-visit cities in the world for 2018.

But, really, Canberra, truly the bush capital with one of the most salubrious natural environments and settings of any world capital, has had the last laugh, even as the world is still laughing at it.

If you love good food and cool hotels Canberra may your kind of town these days. In a city of 357,000, admittedly affluent souls, 13 of the capital's restaurants made the new national Good Food Guide, published by Fairfax Media for 2018, recently, with eight of them receiving a coveted "one chef's hat".

Add to that some excellent cafes as well as some of the best cultural institutions, including the impressive new National Arboretum, in the country and we're starting to talk holiday.

"Where else could you chill out in with fresh ground coffee," Lonely Planet declares in its website, "before spotting kangaroos in the capital's reserves then taking in some of the nation's best culture?"

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Furthermore, per capita, Canberra has a range of more interesting boutique and design hotels than Sydney, with more on the way. The cutting-edge Hotel Hotel, located in Canberra's NewActon development, one of Australia's best pieces of multi-purpose inner-city urban development, has single-handedly attracted, and converted, a legion of Canberra-doubters

See: How Canberra became out capital of cool hotels

Canberra even has an outstanding modern airport - one of the best in the country, in fact - these days, and even the odd international flight, with one of those trendy boutique hotels, channelling Frank Lloyd Wright no less, attached.

If only the bush capital's original planners had displayed the same courage as those of Brasilia in commissioning a series of bolder and braver public buildings. However, Canberra's Parliament House is an underrated architectural success internationally.

Really, as Lonely Planet's listing implies, the truth is you have to be a bit boring yourself these days to find Canberra really boring. Okay, it ain't Paris, but even the finicky French may have grown to quite like it.

Anthony Dennis is the editor of Fairfax Media's Traveller.

See also: The 10 most bizarre inclusions in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2018 list

See also: 20 reasons Canberra is Australia's new capital of cool

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