Christchurch, New Zealand boasts beautifully-sculpted parks and gardens reminiscent of Victorian England. Though severely damaged by earthquakes in the last few years, coming back here recently was like coming back to a brand new city. While there’s a lot of open space from demolished buildings, there’s a lot of rebuilding, a sense of hope, vibrancy, and a feeling that the city is on the move. The town is now filled with funky bars, markets, new restaurants, shops, and art exhibits. It’s magical here. This travel guide can help you plan your trip to this up and coming destination!
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Christchurch
1. Check out Canterbury Museum
2. Ride the Christchurch Gondola
3. Cycle Through Hagley Park
4. Visit Quake City
5. Eat and drink
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Visit the Antarctic Center
This tourist attraction near the airport has a lot of information on the environment and wildlife of Antarctica. It features a simulated Antarctic environment and you can even ride in a all-terraine Hägglund Antarctic vehicle. Tickets to the center are 59 NZD for adults, with discounts available for students, families, and children.
2. Check out the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
This wildlife park has all sorts of neat critters to see and interact with, from macaws to emus to gibbons. Try feeding the wild eels and lemurs, or make friends with the local livestock breeds. A great place to take the kids, adult admission is 29.50 NZD and there are discounts available for seniors, students, families, and children.
3. Explore Cathedral Square
This is the main center of town where you’ll find all the markets and fairs. The square is also home to the beloved cathedral, which is still closed due to the earthquakes (you can snap pictures of the ruins though). The 18m-high metal sculpture Chalice, designed by Neil Dawson is still here and on Friday’s there is a food truck market.
4. Attend a festival
Christchurch is the hub city of festivals in New Zealand and there is typically something going on every month. Whether you’ve come for the South Island Wine and Food Festival, the Christchurch Lantern Festival, or the Autumn Garden Show, you’ll be in for a good time! The Festival of Romance is perhaps the most unique with a 10-day celebration prior to Valentine’s Day. Other noteworthy festivals are the World Busker’s Festival, the Great Kiwi Beer Festival, and Christchurch Holi.
5. Tour Mona Vale
This is a traditional, Elizabethan-style home on a huge plot of beautifully manicured land. The inside of the house is pretty cool, but the neat thing about this place is the pre-made picnics. You actually have to order them the day before because of the high demand and attention to detail they put into every meal. Entry is free.
6. Wander through SoMo
The area ‘South of Moorhouse Ave’ is the hippest, most creative area in Christchurch, consisting of neighborhoods Sydenham and Addington. Spend an afternoon exploring the streets, eating at the unique cafes and restaurants (check out Honey Pot Cafe or Burgers & Beers), or check out some of the live music that can be frequently found here in the evenings.
7. Experience Maori culture
If you haven’t been exposed to it yet, you can get a sense of traditional Maori culture by visiting Kotane, a cultural center located on Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. The full package includes a tour of the village and wildlife reserve, a performance show, and a four-course dinner, but prices are high at around 165 NZD (though discounts are available for families and children). This is a pretty upscale production, so prepare yourself for a full day of activity.
8. Visit the Centre of Contemporary Art
If contemporary art is your thing, be sure not to miss Christchurch’s CoCA. The exhibitions change regularly so there is always something new on display (you can check their website for up-to-date exhibitions). The centre is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm, and admission is free.
9. Shop at Lyttelton Farmers Market
Whether you are looking to stock up on some groceries or just want to check out an authentic market, this is the place to stop. Many locals contribute and shop here, stuffing it with only the freshest seasonal produce, bread, cheeses, honey, eggs, relishes, and more. There is always great people-watching and sometimes also music to enjoy. The market is just 12km outside of town, accessible by both car and bus.
10. Visit the Christchurch Art Gallery
Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu is the largest museum on the South Island and home to some of New Zealand’s best artwork. You’ll find a lot of landscapes, portraits, and modern art here. The exhibitions are always changing, so check their website to see what’s on during your visit. Admission to the museum is free and there are also free guided tours, which last around an hour. Expect to spend a few hours if you really want to see everything.
11. Tour Christ’s College
Christ’s College is a private school for boys that was founded in 1850. If history and architecture are your thing, it’s worth taking the tour to check it out. Tours cost 10 NZD and are run every weekday at 10 am, lasting for around 80 minutes (they don’t run on holidays, though).
12. Experience the foodie scene
Little High Eatery is home to eight locally-owned restaurants all under one roof. There is shared seating and something to satisfy every craving. If you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely want to check this place out. It really fills up fast, though, so be sure to dodge the crowd if you don’t want to fight for a table!