Avon river and streetscape central christchurch

Christchurch: New Zealand’s New Culture Capital?

19 September 2018
Read Time: 6.0 mins

Wellington has long been lauded as a cultural hot bed for New Zealand, renown not only for its museums and galleries, but for a food scene to rival that in Auckland. More recently though, there’s a new city on the block. Christchurch. For the past eight years Christchurch has been quietly rebuilding post two devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, reshaping itself into a city that’s surprisingly different to the one it was before. Today it’s a city growing at lightning speed, having redesigned itself the way locals want to live there, with a burgeoning art scene, exceptional eateries and an infectious energy.

Christchurch historical building with mural Christchurch is a patchwork of grand historic buildings and modern street murals. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Art At Face Value

The 2011 earthquake caused significant damage to much of the city, resulting in the demolition of 1,240 buildings in the CBD. These empty city blocks created unique sight lines between historic buildings, and opened up blank canvases for street artists. Today Christchurch city is something of an open air art gallery, with large scale murals by a number of local and international artists. While, intriguingly, many of these works will once again be covered up when buildings are developed on the empty blocks, there are a number of new buildings with permanent murals that have been commissioned by the city council.

street art in christchurch new zealand There are art installations scattered all throughout the city. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Christchurch city centre is small enough to walk around in a day. Take yourself on a walking tour to explore the rejuvenation, starting at the Earthquake Memorial along the Avon Riverfront. Be sure to pass the new Justice and Emergency Services Precinct murals on Tuam street as you head east to One Central, home to numerous temporary artworks, and a putt putt golf course that replicated landmarks around the city. Then loop back past the Cardboard Cathedral (Christchurch Transitional Cathedral), and along the banks of the river.

christchurch transitional cathedral Christchurch Transitional Cathedral is built from 98 cardboard tubes. (Image: Greer Gardiner)

A Festival Of Flavours

When you think of New Zealand cuisine, undoubtedly Queenstown and Auckland spring to mind first. Yet Christchurch locals sure do know how to whip up a tasty treat. While the food has always been top quality here, the city’s redevelopment has bred some healthy competition and spelt the opening of a number of modern bars and restaurants. In fact, in 2018 alone, there have been over 80 applications for liquor licenses in the CBD, showing there’s no sign of slowing down.

rhubarb porridge at C1 Espresso Christchurch We hope you like rhubarb, because it's a delicious staple on many menus. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Our top picks:

Breakfast at The Caffeine Laboratory. Be sure to try the charred greens!

Address: 1 New Regent Street, Christchurch Central

Coffee at C1 Espresso. If tea is more your thing they also serve an array of delicious brews, as well as a great breakfast and lunch menu. Housed in the old Central Post Office, you can even order your fries via the old pneumatics tubes!

Address: 185 High Street, Christchurch Central

Lunch at INATI. Chef Simon Levy previously worked as Head Chef at Gordon Ramsay’s The Warrington in London before opening INATI with his wife Lisa. The plates are designed to share, so come for the lunch special or a delicious dinner, and enjoy exceptional flavours in an elegant, yet relaxed space.

Dinner at Little High Eatery. A kind of permanent collection of food kiosks, Little High has the ambience of a pub, but suits all tastes. The atmosphere is on point.

Address: 255 St Asaph Street, Christchurch Central

After dinner drink at O.G.B Bar. Located in one of the most beautiful historic buildings in Christchurch (the Old Government Building), this speakeasy style bar is everything a ye olde watering hole should be. On weekends the hidden cocktail bar Parlour is also hopen, and gents can get a trim at the inhouse barber shop too.

Address: 28 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central

chef simon levy cooking at Inati restaurant christchurch Chef Simon Levy marries delightfully unexpected flavours and textures in his dishes at INATI. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

Take Me To The Gallery

Museums and galleries is another thing Christchurch does exceptionally well. Be sure to add the Christchurch Art Gallery, an impressive glass building, to your list, along with Quake City, which covers the science of earthquakes. One absolute corker of a museum in Christchurch though, is the International Antarctic Centre. Covering life and science in the isolated, icy continent, visitors can ride in a hagglund all-terrain vehicle over an obstacle course, experience a real Antarctic storm (at negative 18 degrees celsius!), and learn about rescued Little Blue Penguins that call the centre home.

If you visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can also say hello to beautiful huskies from Husky Rescue New Zealand, who are looking for new homes.

husky rescue NZ visits the Antarctic Centre in Christchurch Husky Rescue New Zealand adds a furry element to the fun at the International Antarctic Centre. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)
rescued penguins at the antarctic centre christchurch The International Antarctic Centre is home to many Little Blue Penguins that can no longer live in the wild. (Image: Vicki Fletcher)

 

Maori Traditions

New Zealand's proud Maori heritage and traditions are a special part of the makeup of this country. Witnessing the fierce warrior song and dance of the Maori people is an experience like no other, and one that tourists should definitely experience on a visit to New Zealand. In Christchurch, the place to do this is KoTane, where visitors can experience a cultural show, learn about the art of Maori dancing and feast on a hangi - a traditional Maori feast cooked buried in the ground. KoTane is located at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, the only place in New Zealand that you're guaranteed to see kiwis in their natural habitat!

Address: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve, 60 Hussey Road, Harewood, Christchurch


 

Vicki Fletcher

A writer and photographer for Flight Centre, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, hiking into mountain ranges, following locals to the best food in town, and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's written for publications across Australia and Europe. Top travel tip: always look up. Follow Vicki on Instagram @vickijanefletcher.