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!
Budget hotel prices – You can expect to pay at least 95 NZD per night for a double room. Free WiFi is generally standard, and many budget hotels also offer self-catering facilities. Plenty of hotels also offer free breakfast. Airbnb is also available in the city, with shared accommodation starting around 85 NZD per night and entire apartments around 150 NZD per night.
Average cost of food – A typical restaurant meal will cost you at least 18 NZD (likely more). If you choose to cook your own food, plan to spend about 70-90 NZD per week for typical staples like pasta, rice, vegetables, and meat. You can find sandwiches around the city about for 8 NZD, and fast food like McDonald’s or Burger King costs around 11 NZD. Many Japanese, Korean, and Chinese restaurants will also have meals for as little as 10 NZD. Expect to pay around 8 NZD for a beer at the bar. Be sure to visit Louis Oyster Bar, Moko Design Café, Pot Sticker Dumpling Bar, and Sal’s Authentic NY Pizza. For drinks, check out Red Light District.
Transportation costs – The historic tram is up and running again after being closed for two years because of the earthquake. A ticket costs 25 NZD, though children ride for free. Local bus fares start at 2.55 NZD for a single trip but fares are cheaper with a Metrocard. Expect to pay around 8.50 NZD for a ride to the airport (though it’s only 2.55 NZD if you have a Metrocard!). Bikes are available for rent, though prices aren’t cheap — expect to pay over 30 NZD for a full-day rental.
Suggested daily budget
70 NZD / $50 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
- Buy a Metrocard – If you plan to spend an extended time in Christchurch, you can save money on public transportation by buying a Metrocard. These reloadable cards cost 10 NZD and must be loaded with an additional 10 NZD to work. However, this card is well worth it since it makes bus fares 25% cheaper.
- Take a free walking tour – If you want to learn more about the history, culture, architecture, and people be sure to take a free walking tour. Free Christchurch Walking Tour offers daily tours, so check them out if you want to get beneath the surface of the city.
- Stay with a local – If you want to cut down on your costs, try staying with a local. Not only will you save money accommodation but you’ll get a chance to live with a local, someone who can answer all your questions about the area and provide suggestions you might not find in your guidebook.
- Cook your own food – Since many hotels and hostels have kitchens you should be able to cook your own food with ease. With restaurants being quite expensive, this is a simple way to stretch your dollars and keep your budget intact!
- Save money on rideshares – Uber is way cheaper than taxis and are the best way to get around a city if you don’t want to wait for a bus or pay for a taxi. The Uber Pool option is where can you share a ride to get even better savings (though you can get your own car too). You can save $15 off your first Uber ride with this code: jlx6v.
- Enjoy free attractions – There are plenty of free attractions in Christchurch to keep your budget intact, from museums to hiking trails. If you need to slow your spending, do some free activities to keep your wallet happy!
- Happy hours – Alcohol isn’t cheap in New Zealand, so if you’re planning on drinking than be sure to hit up the happy hours. You can usually save a few bucks on a beer, which will add up over the duration of your stay!
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