A Brave New Christchurch Rises From Ruins

25 March 2015
Read Time: 3.3 mins

The earthquake of February 22, 2011, shook the city to its core leaving gaping holes in what was once a busy, vibrant CBD.

But bit by bit, brick by brick, Christchurch and its people are reclaiming these desolate, achingly empty blocks. New hotels have opened with more on the way. New restaurants have popped up, incredibly inventive ways of filling empty spaces have been implemented and some iconic structures have been rebuilt. Christchurch is back.

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New Concept In Hotel Beds

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Christchurch lost several hotels in the quake so new hotels are vital to the city’s resurgence.

The Hotel Montreal opened in October 2014, opposite the beautiful green fields of Hagley Park. It’s a boutique property with 25 larger than usual rooms and a three-bedroom penthouse, all stylishly decorated in rich mochas and creams.

 Inside the new Montreal

Another new property in town is the Ramada Suites, which opened in January 2015 in Tuam Street – a short walk from main attractions. The all-suite property has 44 studio-, one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as a café.

Mantra Group has just announced that it will manage the fully reconstructed 263-room hotel in Cashel Street and brand it as the BreakFree on Cashel when it reopens in April 2015.

New Zealand-based car rental company JUCY has come up with a new concept to add more beds to the city for short stays – JUCY Snooze. It’s a low cost pod-style venue with shared communal spaces - expected to open in early 2016.

InterContinental Hotels has announced it is going to build Crowne Plaza Christchurch, a 200-room property across from the recently-announced new Convention Centre which will be open in 2017.

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The Food Scene Has Bounced Right Back

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The dining scene is booming in town with the city now boasting over 700 cafes, bars and restaurants.

Victoria Street is bustling with excellent options. Chinwag Eathai serves authentic Thai ranging from street food favourites to tried and true classics.

 The Orleans

The Dirty Land is popular for its innovative cocktails, while next door, Mexicano's is jumping with crowds loving the tacos, sombreros and stick-on moustaches.

King of Snake is a one stop shop – an uber-trendy bar and restaurant, with Southeast Asian cuisine.

Strange’s Lane is a new dining hub – with five eateries connected via a courtyard and a heated (in winter) alleyway. We dined at Orleans, which lives up to its name with everything from Jambalaya to Gumbo and Po Boys. The Chicken Waffle was ridiculously good – almost as good as the interior, which features stained glass windows and pressed tin recycled from a house that was destroyed in the quake.

 The Brick Pit

The Brick Pit has vegie gardens growing out the front and serves European bistro-style fare.

Across the road is the best café in town - C One Espresso – which also has its own gardens, as well as bee hives and a small vineyard. The original cafe was flattened in the quake and it was rebuilt in the historic old post office nearby.


Use Christchurch as a touring gateway. Why Day Trips From Christchurch Make Perfect Sense

Rebuilding that sense of community. Rebuilding the Community Spirit of Christchurch


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Even The Trams Are Back

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The Isaac Theatre Royal had a special place in the hearts of Cantabrians, being the only Edwardian theatre in New Zealand.

After suffering damage during the quakes, its façade was protected, as many still are around the city, while the interior was rebuilt and its exquisite dome was thoroughly cleaned and restored. The 106-year-old theatre reopened in November 2014.

Trams trundling through the city centre were part of the landscape in Christchurch prior to the earthquake, and locals were extremely relieved to see them back up and running in November 2013. There are now three trams back in operation, with the loop being extended on 12 February from 10 stops to 17, to run a long Cashel and High Streets.

 Cricket is back at Hagley Oval

Kiwis love sport and cricket lovers were delighted when Hagley Oval opened in leafy Hagley Park in September 2014.

Cricket has been played in Hagley Park for over 160 years with the new Oval preserving the village green feel while also providing modern facilities in the two-storey heritage Umpires Pavilion.

There are so many innovative programs that have lifted spirits around the city, filling the soul-destroying gaps with gardens, mini-golf holes, dance mats and art installations.

Incredible street art adorns the walls of buildings beside vacant blocks, part of the ‘Big Walls’ component of last year’s Rise Festival, conducted by the Canterbury Museum. Favourites include ‘The Ballerina’ by Owen Dippie and ‘Portrait of a Woman’ by Melbourne’s Rone.

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Don't Miss 'The Cardboard Cathedral'

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The Transitional “Cardboard” Cathedral has become a tourist attraction with its stained glass windows and incredible architecture. Designed by Shigeru Ban as one of his pro bono emergency projects, the Cathedral has been built using 90 cardboard tubes up to 20 metres long.

There is plenty of good news for Christchurch, with work beginning on the new Christchurch Convention Centre (due to open in 2017), a magnificent new covered sports stadium is planned for a 2019 opening, work is progressing on the magnificent Avon River Precinct, a modern bus interchange will be open this winter, a world-class Maori cultural centre will be built, the new Central Library will open in 2017 and the restoration of the historic Arts Centre is well underway.

The World Cup Cricket had the city buzzing and thoughts go from cricket to soccer when the FIFA U-20 World Cup comes to New Zealand between 30 May and 20 June. The city will host nine games.

The future is indeed, bright.

Six things to do in Christchurch

  1. Go punting on the Avon River
  2. Do the two-hour Rebuild Bike tour
  3. Stroll through the Botanic Gardens and have lunch at the Curator’s House
  4. Ride the tram
  5. Visit the International Antarctic Centre
  6. Visit the Re:START shopping mall

Need to know

Stay at: Rendezvous Hotel

Eat at: Orleans; Chinwag; The Dirty Land; Brick Farm; C One Espresso

Helen Hayes

When not at home chained to the computer keyboard, I love nothing more than checking out ski resorts here and overseas, tropical islands, country towns, big cities, beautiful places to sail, and anywhere I can ride a horse. Twitter @helenhayes4 Instagram @helenhayesmedia