Christchurch has been through some massive changes in recent years, and its hip, refreshed city centre has become a major draw. Brimming with history and culture, it’s the perfect spot for a city break. Here’s what you can’t miss.
1. The incredible history at every turn.
Step back in time at Ferrymead Heritage Park, a family-friendly reconstruction of an early 1900s Edwardian township. You’ll find houses, schools, a theatre, bakery, jail, railway station and more — plus a chance to ride on the Ferrymead Tramway.
For a generous serving of Victorian splendour, head to the stunning grounds of Riccarton House, flanked by open parkland and exquisite gardens, bordered by the Avon River and native bush filled with Kahikatea trees, some 600 years old. Inside, join a guided tour through more than 20 rooms and the family drama that filled them. Don’t miss a morning or afternoon tea in the Drawing Room or outside in the rose garden
2. The quirky markets and excellent boutiques.
Find everything you never knew you needed — from vintage clothing to luxurious homewares — in a beautifully restored 19th-century building, The Tannery. Or indulge in a bit of tasting at Riverside Market, a multi-level market packed with fresh produce. Even better, most of the city’s most popular food trucks are represented, making it the perfect place for excellent ramen, authentic souvlaki, drool-inducing barbecue and more.
3. The hidden gems of the Arts Centre.
This extensively restored space is home to heaps of incredible finds. More than 135 years old, The Great Hall and Rutherford’s Den are seeing new life with a smorgasbord of boutique shops, galleries and foodie hotspots. You’ll also find a range of on-site events and the seriously cool Lumière Cinema, a boutique theatre blending state-of-the-art technology with lux vintage ambience.
4. The cultural scene in city centre.
Christchurch offers plenty of world-class theatre in settings that are half the thrill. The Isaac Theatre Royal was built at its current site in 1908 and besides being the only operational Edwardian-style theatre left in New Zealand, it’s also the spot for the best touring and local productions. Classical music fans, meanwhile, will be spoiled for choice with Christchurch Symphony Orchestra performing new programmes every year.
5. The punting on Avon River.
About as iconic Christchurch as it gets, these gentle boat tours offer a unique vantage point and an unforgettably quirky experience, thanks to fun commentary by your multi-tasking punter — who’s perfectly kitted in traditional Edwardian attire! For an easy ride through the city’s stunning Botanic Gardens, depart from the historic Antigua Boat Shed landing. Or to take in the heart of the city, depart from the main City departure.
6. The fantastic foodie scene.
Leave your belts behind and plan to eat your way through a circuit of delicious dining. Whether you opt for cheap and cheerful or feel like something finer, you’ll be very, very impressed. A fixture on every ‘best’ list, Twenty Seven Steps serves up hearty meals made exclusively from local and seasonal ingredients — all alongside some of the city’s best cocktails. For fine dining, pull up a seat at the chef’s table at Inati and watch as your meal is expertly crafted (Go low-key by opting for the lunch seating). 5th Street has a cult following for its small locavore menu, Bessie might just be the city’s best steak and Black Estate, with its vineyard terraces and excellent service, offers an incredible meal. Find expert Japanese at Yamagen. And sweettooths should plan a stop at Rollickin, the city’s decadent gelato and dessert bar.
Brunch is not to be missed! We like Town Tonic and Little Poms — or skip straight to your best flat white at Unknown Chapter.
After a splash of something? Christchurch is booming with excellent craft breweries like Three Boys, Cassels Brewing, The Fermentist and friendly English traditionalists The Twisted Hop. Have a drop of history — and stumble on some great live music — with your grog at Pomeroy’s Old Brewery Inn or imbibe with elegance at OGB Cocktail Bar. Wine connoisseurs, meanwhile, can ditch their car keys and join tasting tours through the beautiful nearby Waipara region.
7. The 360° views on the Christchurch Gondola.
An absolute must when you’re in the Garden City, this iconic gondola lifts you nearly one spectacular kilometer to the top of the Port Hills for an unforgettable look out over the region. Gaze out across the cityscape, over the Canterbury Plains and straight to the snow-dusted Southern Alps and dramatic hills of the Banks Peninsula. You’ll find a café and shop at the top, so grab a bevvie and make the most of the sights. You’ll also find the Time Tunnel ride, a simulator taking you back 12 million years to the formation of the land, then returning you to the present through early native bush and the first local settlements — a hit for families!