Fortitude Valley

The Valley, as it’s affectionately known by locals, was Australia’s first dedicated entertainment district and continues to be a hive of activity, alive with the sounds of people and music. Live music thrives in venues such as The Zoo and Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and international DJs are drawn to the super clubs and chic bars.

Fortitude Valley has a well deserved reputation as Brisbane's home for one-of-a-kind fashion, with the mix of fashion designers, artists and musicians working within the area. In the 1950s, the suburb was the largest shopping precinct outside of a central business district in Australia.

Highlights

Wickham Street: Running through the heart of Fortitude Valley, Wickham Street has grown over the years to incorporate up and coming urban and street wear stores, as well as many sporting and outdoor adventure retailers. Shopping around the Valley is always an adventure with the variety of food outlets in the Chinatown mall, the end of which meets up with Wickham Street.

Brunswick Street: With a history of eccentric characters and a taste for the alternative, Brunswick Street Mall in Fortitude Valley is a magnet for all things boho.

Judith Wright GalleyJudith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art: Modern art has long been an area of focus in Brisbane. The Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art is home to the Institute of Modern Art, founded in 1975, which continues to deliver programs dedicated to emerging and established artists.

Phillip Bacon Galleries: In terms of longevity and quality, Philip Bacon Galleries is not only downtown's most prestigious private gallery, but regarded nationally and internationally as among Australia's best.

Queensland Military Memorial Museum: displays are set out chronologically from the early 1800s to the modern era, relating the history of Queenslanders' service in Queensland and Commonwealth Defence forces, both in times of peace and during war, and of the Allies of the Colony and Commonwealth in war.

Chinatown Mall: Situated in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane's Chinatown is a hive of activity draws in as many locals as it does visitors. Maybe it's the hustle and bustle of the Chinese supermarkets, the exotic ingredients, or the steaming Yum Cha breakfast shared with friends that bring people back time and time again. Maybe it's the smells and sounds of fresh ingredients meeting a wok, or green tea poured over and over. Whatever the case, Chinatown is celebrated as an ever-changing feast.

Black Pearl Epicure and Cooking School: a gourmet paradise. Be tempted with olive oils, French chocolate, exquisite teas, rich smoked salmon, caviar, specialty sausages, truffles, imported Australian cheeses and delicious hampers.

Perfume Masterclass at Libertine Parfumerie: Stepping inside Libertines is like walking into the French boudoir you always dreamed of. From black polished wood floors and ornate architraves, through to the gorgeous chandelier centrepiece and rows and rows of shelves brimming with intricate perfume bottles adorning beautiful cabinets. Libertines run evening Perfume Masterclasses where the experts can help you select a perfume that's just right. Libertines run 'singles' nights once a month to cater for individuals or small groups who want to learn more about fragrance. Location: Robertson Street (just off James Street), Fortitude Valley.

Valley Markets: also called the Valley Markets or the Brunswick Street Markets. Held every Saturday and Sunday in the Brunswick Street Mall, you can hunt for a bargain, check out the vintage fashion and bric a brac or chill out with live entertainment.

Events

Valley Fiesta: an annual three-day event featuring free live music, market stalls, food and drink from many local restaurants and cafés, and other entertainment. Artists that have performed at the Valley Fiesta include Tim Rogers, Butterfingers and Evermore on the main stage and Nick Skitz and End Of Fashion at surrounding venues.

Valley Jazz Festival: was founded in 2004 by Jazz Queensland Incorporated.

Big Gay Day: a Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Trans-gender festival held over one day in and around the Wickham Hotel in Fortitude Valley. The celebration raises money for GLBT groups such as GLWA and Open Doors. Previous entertainment has included various local and international DJ's, performers such as Marcia Hines, Operator Please and TV Rock as well as Drag Shows.


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Location

Fortitude Valley is an inner suburb of the City of Brisbane. The suburb lies immediately northeast of the Brisbane central business district, which is 1 km away.

How to get there

Fortitude Valley railway station serves all suburban and interurban lines, including Airtrain to the Brisbane Airport. The station is located in Zone 1 of the TransLink integrated public transport system. Brisbane Transport operates buses to, from and through Fortitude Valley.

Brief history

Scottish immigrants from the ship SS Fortitude arrived in Brisbane in 1849, enticed by Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang on the promise of free land grants. Denied land, the immigrants set up camp in Bowen Hills. A number of the immigrants moved on and settled the suburb, naming it after the ship on which they arrived. A post office was established in 1887. 1891 saw the train line extended from the Brisbane central business district into Fortitude Valley, and Thomas Beirne opened a business on Brunswick Street. His business thrived and, after extension, he travelled to England in 1896, leaving his manager of two years, James McWhirter, in charge. Soon after his return, McWhirter established a competing drapery business opposite Beirne's in 1898. Beirne and McWhirter became keen rivals and are credited with establishing the Valley as a hub of commerce from the late 1890s.

In the late 19th century, commercial activities in Brisbane were divided along religious lines, with Protestant shopkeepers setting up along Queen and Adelaide Streets in the central business district, and shops operated by Roman Catholics in Stanley Street, South Brisbane. However in the 1893 Brisbane flood (and again in 1897), major floods wiped out many shops, and owners in that area decided to move and set up operations north of the river in an area free of flooding. The area they chose was Fortitude Valley. By that time Brisbane's horse-drawn tram system already centered on Fortitude Valley, making it the logical choice to establish a shopping precinct.

From the early 1900s through to the 1960s, the thriving shopping precinct was dominated by McWhirters, Beirne's and, later, Overells' department stores. The Overells Building was completed in 1907. They were ultimately bought out by the Myer, David Jones and Waltons chains respectively with Overells being bought by Walton in 1956. Woolworths and Coles supermarkets and a host of smaller shops also flourished in the precinct during this period. Owing to its proximity to the central business district and the close concentration of public transport in the area, the Valley became the largest non-CBD shopping precinct in Australia through the 1950s and 1960s.

The rise of suburban shopping centres and the closure of the tram network in 1969 sounded the death knell for Fortitude Valley, with a gradual decrease in customers. David Jones closed its Valley store in the 1970s and Myer closed its doors in the early 1990s, and the once-thriving commercial centre devolved to dilapidation. In the 1970s and 1980s, the area fell into disrepute and, with the tacit support of police and government, illegal gambling houses and brothels set up shop. As the first step to its revitalisation, the Chinatown Mall opened in 1987.

The 1990s saw the development of Fortitude Valley into a thriving live music scene and nightclub district. In 1991, the Brunswick Street pedestrian shopping mall was established. Thereafter, the Brisbane City Council led a concerted urban renewal campaign, encouraging high density residential development around the suburb to clean up the suburb and rid it of its seedy reputation. In 2012, around 50,000 people head to Fortitude Valley's clubs, pubs and restaurants each weekend night.

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