Christchurch city guide

Christchurch is the largest city of New Zealand’s Southern Island. They are proud of their English heritage, but I wouldn’t say the city looks or feels very English. Perhaps it’s because of its complete renovation following a series of devastating earthquakes some 10 years ago. Look at the satellite photos. Christchurch is just north of the volcanic Banks Peninsula. It looks menacing even from space. But that wasn’t the end of tragedies that befell this charming city. Remember the chilling terrorist attacks a couple of years ago? Those recordings from two mosques? That also happened in Christchurch. People have moved on. People have rebuilt. Now Christchurch is better and safer than ever. But…is it a stand-alone tourism destination? Would I fly across the globe to see Christchurch? Nah, no way in hell. It’s more of place you see when you’re already in New Zealand. Or planning a trip to see the whole country.

The Peacock Fountain in the Botanic Gardens of Christchurch

The Peacock Fountain, an elegant fountain built with money donated by John Peacock, pioneer, businessman and politician, who supported Christchurch since its inception

Once you’re there sightseeing in Christchurch gets physically taxing. You’re constantly on the move, distances between landmarks are not to be scoffed at. Thankfully, most landmarks and activities are basically different kinds of a taxi. The experience is one long ride. Let’s start with my personal favourite: punting. I swear it’s not what you think. Punting is sort of a boat ride. Think Venice gondolas but New Zealand style. Antique boats, heated blankets and the boatman telling you stories are the main attractions. He’ll show you different parts of Christchurch as you pass by them. Like the Botanic Gardens, for example. It's a beautiful park, but there’s one particular thing worth seeking out: the Peacock Fountain. The fountain was sponsored by the Peacocks, a family of merchants. It was one of the oldest families in Christchurch, and the Peacocks supported the city since its establishment. The whole site is a real gem, the fountain looks like something you’d build to celebrate decades of trading with China.

Punting on the Avon is closely connected to an antique tram that runs throughout Christchurch. It’s old, it’s wooden and they serve meals on the ride. Best part is that you buy one ticket and you ride all day. It’s an uncommon experience. The tram drives even through narrow streets and promenades filled with tourists. And no one minds. The Regent Street is one of the most famous ones in Christchurch and luckily, the tram has a stop there. Remember those reconstructed Wild West cities? With wooden buildings, sheds and saloons? This is how Regent Street feels but not with a Spanish twist. The smell of freshly baked cookies hits you when you exit the tram. Everyone notices it, there’s a famous spot but I’ll let your nose guide you. Then there’s the Regent Street nightlife. Imagine something close to Japanese izakayas. Basically they are tiny, hidden mini bars and perfect materal for a bar crawl.

Akaroa lighthouse at Banks Peninsula near Christchurch

Christchurch lies right at the doorstep of the Banks Peninsula, a unique ancient volcanic landscape on the east coast of the South island of New Zealand

The Riverside Market is yet another cool spot for a dinner, night out…or groceries. It’s an essential part of Christchurch, bright, colourful and very modern. It’s spread along the river Avon and you couldn’t hope for a better place to meet the locals. Different food stalls, trucks, craft beer breweries and cafes. That sort of stuff. Nothing overly unique to try there, but the fish is good. You can easily spend a day (and night) there sampling different foods, chilling, drinking and enjoying the riverside promenade. How about a hike to get the guts running, get some fresh air in?

Christchurch Adventure Park is the place to be when you feel like getting out of town. New Zealand’s picturesque nature is hard to beat, especially when it’s warm outside. You can take a gondola straight to the top of Mount Cavendish. There’s a café on top, with the most amazing 360 view on the whole peninsula…and decent pizza. You can partake in all sorts of activities. You can hike, you can mountain bike, but the zipline is the best of them all. You can just strap up and zip down all the way down. I’m too chickenshit to try but people absolutely swear that it’s the best thing ever. Don’t forget to dress properly; it gets really cold especially because the zipline is 1km long and goes pretty fast.

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