Christchurch is literally an ever-changing city. That's what makes it the most interesting city of New Zealand. Join me on a discovery tour and see all the exciting things you can do in Christchurch.
A trip to New Zealand is – of course – all about the beautiful scenery, but that doesn't mean the cities aren't worth visiting. Besides camping, hiking and road-tripping, I like to visit the “big” cities in New Zealand, such as City of Sails Auckland and the craft beer capital Wellington.
There is a lot to do in Christchurch. This is what you can expect to find in this blog post.
- How to sleep cheap in Christchurch
- Everything about getting around in the city: walking, cycling or….?
- The best places to taste craft beer in Christchurch
- Indoor activities: things to do on a rainy day
- Christchurch for foodies or where you can find tasty yet affordable food
- Free things to do and see in Christchurch
- More things to do in Christchurch (discounted activities)
- Virtual tour of the city via our photo gallery
Of course, you can sleep at a hostel or hotel at Christchurch airport (there are some good options at walking distance from the arrivals hall), but staying in the city is more fun. Especially because you want to fully explore Christchurch on this city trip. Check out these deals on accommodation in Christchurch.
My recommendations for sleeping in the city are these:
- All-Stars on Bealey (hostel & hotel) – great hostel: good rooms, lots of outdoor space, free street parking but a relatively small & busy kitchen.
- BreakFree on Cashel (cheap hotel) – cheap & good hotel in the city centre
- Urbanz hostel – no-frills hostel close to good coffee shops, cafes and attractions
- Ramada Suites (Wyndham property) – slightly more expensive than the others but also more luxurious and bigger rooms.
- YHA hostels in Christchurch (2 hostels to choose from) – both are great hostels with good facilities and close to attractions like the Art Gallery & Canterbury Museum
If you've come to Christchurch by car/camper, leave it at your hostel. This city is so easy to explore by foot. Christchurch is the opposite of the hilly city of Auckland, it is a compact and above all flat city. Not as compact as Wellington but compact enough to explore on foot. Or by Lime or Beam e-scooter.
Christchurch has extra appeal for cyclists, it is an ideal city for cycling. Not only because it is completely flat, but also because it is a city with many cycle paths. There are therefore plenty of bicycle shops where you can rent bicycles per hour or day, for example at Action Bicycle Club.
For lovers of New Zealand craft beer, there is plenty to taste in Christchurch. Visit a brewery or go for one of the dedicated craft beer bars.
Two Thumb Brewing Co.
A small brewery (nano) with a nice vibe. A brewery with a tasting room in a shed that looks more like a living room (with various furniture pieces thrown in) than a slick hip tent. Just the way I like it.
A band or artist regularly performs and there are often food trucks parked outside. The beer menu is relatively simple with the well-known beer types such as IPA, Pale Ale, Scottish Ale and Stout. The latter can be obtained in two ways, from the “warm” (as it should be) or cold tap.
Tasty & lots of fun, making it a must-do in Christchurch. Especially if you're spending the night at the All-Stars on Bealey hostel as this brewery is just around the corner. Skip the standard on-site Irish pub (The Bog) when staying at All-Stars hostel & hotel and go for the Two Thumb brewery for some tasty craft beers.
The Craft Embassy
A slightly slicker place than the brewery above, but an ideal place if you want to get a nice cross-section of the New Zealand craft beer scene. There are about 20 taps so you can choose from a wide variety of New Zealand craft beers. You'll definitely want to spend some time here. Craft Embassy is located on Oxford Terrace next to the Avon River.
Beer Library or 12Bar
Beer Library is the ideal place if you want to buy some beers on the go or at your hotel or hostel. This store has a small but very good range of craft beers. If you are looking for less common beer styles then you can succeed very well here. Visit the store or order online (free delivery in Christchurch).
Opposite the Beer Library, you'll find 12 Bar. A great place for even more local craft beer, delicious snacks (also for the vegetarians among us) and jazz/blues music. The choice of craft beer is super varied as the refrigerators are managed and refilled by Beer Library.
Smash Palace in the centre of Christchurch (on High Street), opposite the BreakFree hotel, is an open-air biker/rock bar. Take your jacket with you if you don't go in the summer because the Christchurch evenings cool down quickly in the spring and fall. There are patio heaters, but having an extra layer with you is the sensible thing to do in Christchurch.
Pomeroy Old Brewery Inn
At Pomeroy, at 292 Kilmore Street in Christchurch, you'll get the English pub feel and beer garden in one. Go there on a beautiful summer day and you don't want to go anywhere else that day. Let the craft beer flow and enjoy the tasty pub food.
Your taste buds will also have a wonderful time in Christchurch. There is more than enough to taste in the city centre. You don't have to go far.
Everything with coffee at C1:
breakfast, lunch or more
C1 Espresso can be found in a beautiful building on Tuam & High Street. The Post & Telegraph Office building looks amazing. In the area, you regularly smell the freshly roasted coffee because C1 does all that itself. Inside you can also see the characteristics of the old post office. Very good coffee and tasty snacks make C1 a Christchurch favourite.
River Side Market
Along the river Avon in the centre is a strip (Oxford Terrace) with restaurants, cafes and more food and beverage outlets. You can have a great time there and it doesn't have to cost much. River Side Market is located between Cashel and Lichfield on Oxford Terrace just a few steps from the Craft Embassy.
River Side Market is an indoor food court, but not one like you find in shopping centres. It's more upscale than a food court, but not so upscale that it's expensive. You can compare the concept to Elliot Stables in Auckland.
You can also buy fresh ingredients if you like to cook yourself, especially in the field of Mediterranean food. There are lots of delicious snacks and dishes ready to eat there. Definitely worth a visit if you are going to explore Christchurch. You don't have to be a food snob to go to Riverside Market. Everyone's tastebuds will love it there.
Fast, tasty and typical Kiwi on Hereford St
If you want to eat something simple while exploring Christchurch, Hereford Street, just around the corner from Cathedral Square, is a good place. You can find, for example, the famous gourmet burgers from Burger Fuel (also several vegetarian options).
Hashi Hashi is a sushi place where you can eat the famous sushi burger, among other things. Of course, there is also very good sushi (vegetarian as well). A little further on Hereford Street is a Hell slice shop, where they sell the famous pizzas of Hell (Lust, Mayhem, Limbo and more) per slice. There are also various delicious devilish pizzas available for vegetarian and vegan foodies.
Even on a rainy day, there is lots to do in Christchurch. The above-mentioned foodie and craft beer places of course, but there is more to do in Christchurch.
Arcadia video games & pinball
Arcadia is a must-visit for pinball and retro video game fans. It's a small place but it is packed with machines, about 10 pinball machines and 20 video games (some are Mame machines so several games per cabinet to choose from). Entry is free, you just pay the number of tokens you want ($1 per token) or the beers you drink or food you eat (vegetarian options as well).
Arcadia is located at 204 Barbadoes Street in Christchurch. It is a kids-friendly place so bring the whole family for some pinball fun on a rainy day in Christchurch.
A visit to Christchurch doesn't have to cost much. It is a city where you can do many free things. It is, therefore, the easiest to explore the city on foot. Or combined with an e-scooter like Beam to cover the longer distances if you don't feel like walking all the time.
There is no shortage of street art in Christchurch. The big advantage of Christchurch is the space and the old buildings that may or may not have to be demolished. After the great earthquake of 2011, the city took advantage of street art to give the city more colour.
And you can still see that today. So go in alleys and in between streets to discover and view the artwork. There is more to see than you think. Look up, down and in strange places. Discover the colourful side of Christchurch.
Canterbury Museum and Botanic Garden
A visit to Christchurch is not complete without a visit to the Canterbury Museum. Admission is free but a donation is appreciated. The collection is extensive. You will learn a lot about New Zealand, in terms of culture, history and art. Take a look at the online collection of the museum.
Christchurch art museum
(Te Puna o Waiwhetū)
The Christchurch Art Gallery is open to everyone free of charge. Even if you are not a big fan of art, it is definitely worth a visit. Even if only for an hour. The modern building houses an impressive collection that gives you a good idea of New Zealand culture.
Christ Church Cathedral
Without the cathedral, no Christchurch. Cathedral Square was the centre of the city for many years, but that has changed due to the earthquake. Since the square is open again, the half-collapsed cathedral is the best memory of the earthquake. There has been so much discussion about whether or not to build up that tourists have only been able to look at the remains for years. The decision has been made and works on the cathedral restoration has begun.
The famous cathedral in Christchurch: after the earthquake but before construction
Personally, I would have liked it better if the cathedral had remained like after the earthquake. A wonderful way to show the devastating force of the earthquake, but also how a building that is so many centuries old is still largely standing. Behind the fence where the further decline would give an interesting picture.
Memorials and statues in Christchurch
You can still find traces of the great earthquake in Christchurch. It will be a long time before the reconstruction is fully completed. The 185 White Empty Chairs is probably one of the most dramatic and beautiful memorials to the tragic event. It is an unofficial and temporary monument that has been standing since 2012. The current (and now second) location of the monument is at St Paul's Church on Madras Street.
The Bridge of Remembrance war memorial is one of the other important monuments you really must visit in Christchurch. This bridge commemorates the victims of the First World War, but also those who died in wars afterwards.
Whether you're in Christchurch as a “quick” stop to experience the city in a day or two or whether you are staying for a bit longer, the city has so much to offer. There are so many activities to do in the city or in the area. And Christchurch is a great starting point to explore the rest of the South Island.
Click on the photos to see them full-size. It'll be like a digital walk through the city. A great way to prepare your city-trip to Christchurch.
Christchurch is definitely one of my favourite cities in New Zealand. As you probably noticed by reading the detailed blog post, which was published earlier on travel blog 123NZ (a Dutch travel blog about New Zealand). It has been translated and modified for this particular travel blog by me, the author of the original blog post.