I’ve been living a year and half in Christchurch and I have to admit that I haven’t spent enough time in it. But that has to change. Christchurch is turning into such a unique and cool city, and this is why:
Christchurch was hit hard by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. To give you an idea: almost 80% of the city centre was damaged and had to be demolished. Can you imagine? Now, 5 years later there are still many empty spaces (turned into car parks) and abandoned buildings in town, which doesn’t make the city look very attractive in tourists’ eyes.
But – and there is a huge but – Christchurch has taken this rebuild as an opportunity to make the city even better than it was before. They are not just rebuilding the city, they are making it the best version possible. Christchurch has been through a lot of pain and loss, but this rebuild gives hope and is seen as a second and unique chance to start all over again. And they’re doing such a good job.
Every day the city is looking better and cool and quirky places keep popping up. To all the tourists who are just flying in and out of Christchurch: The city is not dead! Have a look yourself and spend an amazing weekend in Christchurch.
1. Shop til you drop at The Tannery
The Tannery is a Boutique Shopping Mall on the banks of the Heathcote River, on the outskirts of Christchurch.
It catches the eye with its industrial look and unique architecture – on the outside and inside! It’s super quirky, eclectic and a great place to wander around. There are more than 50 boutique shops and there’s even a deluxe cinema!
The Tannery is the place to be for clothes, art, antiques, book shops and so much more. You’ll find shops that yo do not find in the large city malls. There are also a few cafes to relax after hopping from shop to shop, or try a craft beer in The Brewery!
Extra tip: definitely try a croissant at the Tanner Street Bakery right across the main building. You won’t regret it!
2. Wander around at Lyttelton market
We are lucky in Christchurch, there are a lot of markets around. My favourite one is Lyttelton Farmers market next to Lyttelton port and only a 15 minute drive away from the central city. Lyttelton got struck quite hard by the earthquakes, but the strong and funky community managed to restore its charm. Lyttelton is now an artsy little town with cool bars and cafes.
The Farmers Market, which is community run, offers a variety of fresh vegetables, delicious fresh cheese, bread, juices or even a Japanese pancake, all in the main street (London Street). But what I love most – and is also very important – the atmosphere is right on. There are a few musicians positioned along the street, they play great tunes and they make people dance. Everyone is infecting each other with their happiness and that just puts a big dorky smile on my face.
No plans on a Saturday morning? Visit Lyttelton Farmers Market, because local food just tastes better! Every Saturday from 10 to 1pm.
3. Brunch at Hello Sunday
First of all I’d like to share my love for the name Hello Sunday. Quirky, cute and clever, all things we like! I was a bit naughty and went to Hello Sunday on a Saturday… And I was not the only one.
This place is very popular and the tables are (almost) all the time full. Make sure to book a table or you might have to take away. Don’t be put off by the small and busy area when you enter, there is another cosy larger room and courtyard in the back.
Hello Sunday offers coffee, cakes and delicious brunch. Imagine all that fantastic food in a beautiful old building. Did you know that it used to be a Post Office in the 18th century?
Granola, quinoa salad, savoury crumpets or the traditional eggs benny, you’ll find it all. The chef also pays a lot of attention to the presentation, which makes the food look even better (if that was even possible).
4. Get lost in the botanical gardens
If you want to stretch your legs, pay a visit to the Botanical Garden. Just make sure you’re not afraid of Pokemon hunters, because there are many. A walk in the quiet and peaceful area of 30 hectares is a perfect morning or afternoon activity! You can even make a full day activity out of it by visiting the Canterbury Museum, which is just next doors.
For the people who are on a lower budget and are looking for a free activity – this is it! In Summer it is blooming with all kind of flowers you haven’t even heard of and in Winter it’ super peaceful. Don’t forget to check out the Ilex cafe, its architecture will blow your mind!
If plants and huge trees are not your thing: you have still the Pokémon.
5. Find the perfect gifts at Re:Start Mall
Update 2018: Unfortunately the container mall doesn’t exist anymore. The mall was only temporary and has been replaced by new buildings.
Have you every been shopping in containers? Here’s your chance at the Re:Start Mall – also known as the container mall. It’s one of many creative and original ways how Christchurch reacted after the earthquakes. Many cool and quirky projects turned up and Re:Start Mall was one of them.
The central city was severely hit by the earthquakes, and the city council knew the wait for new buildings would be too long. So a container mall was the solution. People needed to be encouraged back into the central city as soon as possible – and it worked!
It turned out to be a colourful collection of funky shipping containers that definitely brought new life into Christchurch. There are now more than 50 businesses. You’ll find gift stores, fashion boutiques, food, coffee, and even banks and a Post Office.
6. Catch a movie at Alice Cinemateque
Alice Cinematique is actually a video rental shop – yes they still exist – with an almost unnoticeable door left of the counter. That door leads you into a magical Egyptian style theatre! There is only one room and the luxurious dark red seats and Pharaoh statues make you feel in a different world.
The 38 seat cinema focusses mostly on art house movies and documentaries. You sit, relax, enjoy and afterwards you go for a stroll between the DVD’s or go for a drink at neighbouring cafe C1. And that’s how you enjoy a night out in Christchurch!
7. Discover the newest exhibitions at the Christchurch Art Gallery
The Christchurch Art Gallery has seen many lives. After the earthquakes it was turned into an emergency headquarters, then it provided temporary accommodation for Christchurch City Council staff and it also has undergone intensive repairs.
The public art gallery finally reopened last December! There are more than 20 exhibitions and installations to choose from and all of that in beautiful exhibition rooms. I also love the light and bright entrance. When you’re walking up the stairs, check out the art right above you!
The gallery is now one of the safest buildings in Christchurch and can deal with seismic events, which is very important to ensure the safety of the collection and its visitors. I also helps to secure the loan of art from around the world, art owners and insurers now have peace of mind that the art will be safe.
Entry is free and on Wednesday nights the gallery is open until 9pm.
8. Feel like a royal in Isaac Theatre Royal
This 100-year-old beautiful building has been through a lot. As many buildings in town, the Isaac Theatre Royal was severely damaged by the earthquakes. It took 3,5 years to restore and rebuild it and now it looks as glamorous as ever.
The beautifully restored heritage theatre re-opened on 17 November 2014 and is 100% safe if a new earthquake would hit the city. The engineers said that’s the place they would hide during an earthquake,that must mean something!
I just love going to the Isaac Theatre. It’s such a classy venue and the attention to detail adds to the theatres ambience. Don’t forget to look up in the auditorium, the ceiling will blow your mind.
There is always something on, from musicals, ballet, drama to the NZ International Comedy Festival. This Thursday 28 the New Zealand International Film Festival opens in the Isaac Theatre. Definitely go and check some of the movies out!
(Pic by Nico Babot)
9. Dine at Cook’n with gas
When people ask me to recommend a great restaurant I always say Cook ‘n’ With Gas. This place ticks many boxes. First of all the restaurant is in a beautiful historic 1860s villa, which is adorable. It looks small from the outside, but there is lots of space on the inside. The walls are decorated with frames of old movie stars which gives the restaurant a warm an quirky atmosphere.
And I haven’t even started yet about the food… It is all New Zealand made and it is delicious. I’ve been here four times and every time I left with a smile on my face. The staff is nice and the food is really good. You can order from a set menu, but I always go for a meal à la carte. You’ll pay about 45 dollar. My all time favourite is the lamb. And a nice little touch is that you get a tiny appetizer before your meal – on the house!
Something to celebrate or feel like a nice dinner out? Definitely go to Cook ‘n’ With Gas.
10. Go on a graffti hunt
Christchurch is the city of graffiti. Actually Christchurch is called the Garden City, but I think we should call it the graffiti city.
Around every corner you will discover some graffiti. And I’m not talking about ugly graffiti where teenagers write their names or bad words. I mean stunning, impressive graffiti, sometimes covering an entire wall. It’s an art and it is giving Christchurch that funky edge.
Street art became a big part of Christchurch after the earthquakes. The city centre was a mess, but beyond the abandoned skyscrapers and the scaffolding, walls of beauty started popping up. Local and international artists created beautiful murals throughout the city and brought it back to live.
Anyone who visits Christchurch – and even every local – should wander around the city and be amazed by the street art in town. Put on those walking shoes and start walking!
Are there any places in Christchurch you highly recommend? Or places you would like to visit?