So many people only know Christchurch in New Zealand because of the devastating earthquake that hit the city back in 2011. Knowing this fact and after speaking with people who described Christchurch as being rather boring, we drove on a November day with zero expectations towards the city. Honestly, we didn’t even really know on what to do in Christchurch as we had no clue about the things to see or experience there. For us it was the city where we would end our eight month trip across New Zealand, and after seeing so many incredible places in New Zealand, it was kind of enough anyway.
But how amazing is it still when you arrive in Christchurch and you find out that the city is actually totally awesome and colorful? Christchurch is developing extremely fast. Around the city centre you can find tons of creative projects to create something of Christchurch again. The fact that it would be a boring city? Nonsense. Still damaged due to the earthquake? Well, yeah, you can still see the scars around town. There are a lot of empty places everywhere – temporary and mainly used as parking lots nowadays – where buildings once stood. But the positive vibe and all the colorful amazing projects will show you one, very important thing: New Zealanders rather look towards the future than the past.
What to do in Christchurch
See and do in Christchurch, New Zealand
On the day we visit Christchurch back in November, a gentle breeze is blowing around town and the sun is warming the city up. I keep telling it over and over again in articles, but the weather is just so unpredictable in New Zealand. But luckily for us, the days we spend in Christchurch are dry and filled with sunshine. The weather plays kind of an important roll on what to do in Christchurch. A lot of the things to see and to do are outside, so dry weather is preferable. In this article I will show you what to do in Christchurch and I will give you some important information about transportation and accommodation in Christchurch.
Spotting street art in the centre of Christchurch
The city of Christchurch is really about street art. It doesn’t matter where you go, you will find street art everywhere. I actually found the street art in Christchurch the most impressive I have ever seen, even more impressive than the street art in Melbourne. The murals are colorful, gigantic and there are also a lot of other forms of street art around. Just walk around the city centre, and you will see for yourself. If you like to know where you can find certain street art, you can check out this website.
Check out the surroundings in the Christchurch Gondola
All the things you can do in Christchurch I mention in this article are in the city centre, except the Christchurch Gondola. But this is just one of the things I think you need to know about anyway. Especially when you haven’t seen anything of New Zealand yet. The Christchurch Gondola will bring you up to a height of 445 meters on Mount Cavendish and from there you will have a fabulous view over Christchurch, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury Plains and the Southern Alps. You will straight away see a few of the great things New Zealand is about to offer you on your holiday.
Address: 10 Bridle Path Road, Heathcote Valley, Christchurch
Opening hours: daily from 10.00 am till 5.00 pm
Costs: $ 30,-. You can book your ticket in the city centre or buy it straight away online
Drinking a coffee in New Regent Street
New Regent Street is a fairly small street built back in the 1930’s and is seen as the historic version of the shopping malls nowadays. You can find a lot of small stores in these historic and colorful buildings, among them are a lot of coffee shops and souvenir stores. There are a few places where you can sit outside and every 15 till 20 minutes a historic tram will pass the street. From my experience it’s such a nice place to have a coffee break.
Wandering around Hagley Park and the botanical gardens
Hagley Park is such a nice place to get rid of your jetlag when you’re about to start your travel itinerary for New Zealand in Christchurch. It is a great big park divided in a few different parts, like North Hagley Park and South Hagley Park. You can also find a big pond and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens around here. They are worth paying a visit. Often they will organize events around Hagley Park, so make sure to keep an eye on that.
Go for a ride on the historical tram in the centre of Christchurch
The city centre of Christchurch is fairly big I would say, although the main things to do and to see are still on walkable distance from each other. Would you like to see the main Christchurch attractions in a kind of different way? Then I would recommend you to take the historical tram for a ride through the centre. Taking the whole loop will take you about 50 minutes, but you can hop on and off whenever you want during the day. A ticket will cost you $ 25,- and you can book it online or buy it in the city centre.
Quake City – learn about the earthquakes in New Zealand
If you like to know something more about the background of earthquakes in New Zealand and in particular the Canterbury earthquakes from 2010 and 2011, you should definitely pay a visit to Quake City. A big exhibition will tell you a lot about the devastating earthquakes that hit Christchurch and the whole area about a decade ago, how emergency aid got started and how the Canterbury region developed after the disaster.
Adres: 299 Durham Street North
Opening hours: daily from 10.00 am till 5.00 pm
Entrance fee: $ 20,-
Choosing between all different kitchens at Little High Eatery
The first day when we were in Christchurch we spontaneously walked past Little High Eatery. I was so happy we found out about this place the very first day already. The food here is amazing. You can see Little High Eatery as a sort of food market where they serve Korean, Thai, Mexican and Japanse food among other great dishes. Besides that, the food is also really good and not that expensive compared to other restaurants in New Zealand. And from the inside the whole place just looks fabulous. I can highly recommend it to go here for lunch.
Address: 255 St. Asaph Street, Central Christchurch
Opening hours: the restaurants have different opening hours, but they are open daily roughly from about 10.00 am until 10.00/11.00 pm. Some of them will open already around 08.30/09.00 am or earlier
Visit some exhibitions at the Canterbury Museum
The Canterbury Museum is right next to Hagley Park and offers a wide range of different exhibitions about the past, present and future of the Canterbury region and New Zealand. If you are not really into visiting musea I would still recommend you to go here to see at least the outside of the building. It looks great. Maybe you will even stumble upon some great street art (head to the side wall of the museum for that I would say).
Address: Rolleston Avenue, Christchurch Central
Opening hours: daily from 9.00 am until 5.00 pm between October and March and from 9.00 am 5.30 pm between April and September
Entrance fee: free
Cardboard Cathedral and 185 Empty Chairs Memorial
It was the devastating earthquake back in 2011 in Christchurch that caused 185 deadly victims. More than half of them fell in the building of Canterbury Television, that collapsed. Just across the place where this building once stood, you can find the 185 Empty Chairs Memorial to remember all the deadly victims of this horrible event. It is quite an impressive monument in my opinion, as every one of the 185 white chairs (and children’s chairs) symbolizes one of the fallen victims.
Close to the 185 Empty Chairs Memorial you can also find the Cardboard Cathedral. This temporary church has been made out of cardboard and is placed as a replacement for the cathedral that once stood there in the very same area. I expected a bit more of the design of the church in my honest opinion, but the story behind it is nevertheless impressive and inspiring.
Eating taco’s and quesadilla’s at Mexicano’s
They are not going to win the award for most original restaurant name but who cares. The food at Mexicano’s is finger-licking good anyway. We went there for lunch one time and we could have stayed there for hours, just eating more and more. Did I already mention that the food is VERY good? I really enjoyed the taco’s while my boyfriend ordered the quesadilla’s. If we might return to Christchurch one day, you know where to find us. It’ good to make a reservation during the weekends by the way.
Address: 131 Victoria Street, Central Christchurch
Opening hours: Sunday till Wednesday from 12 pm till 8 pm, Thursday and Friday from 12 pm till 11 pm and Saturday from noon till midnight
The heart of the city: Cathedral Square
Cathedral Square is the main square of Christchurch and the heart of the city. Once this square was dominated by the historical ChristChurch Cathedral, that was unfortunately heavily damaged during the quakes. Cathedral Square is a good starting point for the things you like to see and do around Christchurch, like spotting street art. There are also some shopping streets close to it and around the square you will find a few historical buildings.
Tasting local beers at Smash Palace
Built from an old, colorful painted coach, the bar that forms the heart of Smash Palace is already great to see. Add all the lights, colorful sea containers and fun music on top of that, and you will find an amazing and creative hotspot where you can taste locals bears and eat hamburgers. Smash Palace even has its own brand of beer.
Don’t get yourself fooled by the picture below. We accidentally arrived just before they opened, but when we went for a beer later on without taking the camera with us it was super busy. Absolutely worth visiting on a sunny day.
Address: 172 High Street, Christchurch Central
Opening hours: Monday till Thursday from 3 pm till late, Friday and Saturday from noon till late and Sunday from 12.00 pm till 8 pm
Christchurch Travel Information
Booking your hotel in Christchurch
During our visit to Christchurch we stayed at Dorset House Backpackers, a simple and somewhat quiet hostel with dorms and private rooms about a bit more than a kilometer away from the city centre, next to Hagley Park. A good location to relax a bit after a long flight for a real budget price. Do you prefer something a bit closer to the centre? I’ve heard really good stuff about Urbanz. They still look pretty new, have fast wifi and comfortable beds. I can recommend JUCY Snooze if you are looking for something closer to the airport. We stayed at JUCY Snooze in Queenstown and we loved it.
Start your New Zealand trip in Christchurch: this is how you get there
Most people will start their travels in New Zealand in Auckland or Christchurch. If you are just planning on traveling around the South Island, the best thing you can do is probably to book a return ticket to Christchurch. We ourselves arrived in Auckland and flew out of Christchurch with Qantas. You can check out cheap plane tickets here to and from Christchurch.
It is fairly easy to get from Christchurch Airport into the city centre. Both the purple line or line 29 busses will get you there. A one-way ticket will cost you $ 8,50 and a return ticket $ 15,- and it will take you about half an hour. You can also arrange a SuperShuttle shared ride. They will drop you off at your accommodation and the price for that will be around $ 20,- or $ 25,- for two persons.
Have you already made your decision on what to do in Christchurch?
Would you like to read more about New Zealand? How about this:
• How to buy a backpacker car in New Zealand
• What to do in Queenstown, the capital of adrenaline
• Milford Sound Cruise: our one-day experience in New Zealand’s most famous fiord