You get a sense of how important Ballarat has been in the past when you discover the Art Gallery of Ballarat is Australia's oldest regional gallery. It's something to think about as you look at the seriously good collection of art, which includes many Australia's big names.
Just up the road, Federation University has taken over the old post office and turned it into a gallery that shows works by students and staff from the uni as well as by local and emerging artistis. Nearby is one of Ballarat's most intriguing buildings, the Mechanics' Institute - hard to miss with its massive statue of Minerva on the roof. Its also an arts hub, with its own theatre that shows films, hosts talks and has a whole range of other events.