In 2010 and 2011, Christchurch went through two big earthquakes, which destroyed tourist spots, heritage buildings and lives. Now, it is a city in transition with many interesting tourist spots, which shows both its past and future. This city is definitely one to recommend to all travellers who appreciate the past and like to see many things in one accessible city, as most places of interest are within walking distance!
1. Cardboard Cathedral
One of the most famous buildings Christchurch is known for is the Cardboard Cathedral. This transitionary structure was designed by Shigeru Ban with paper cardboard as its main material. Cladded with striking stained glass and cardboard beams, this cathedral is definitely one of a kind.
It’s a five-minute walk from the former (destroyed) Christchurch Cathedral and away from the busy central business district. There is a daily mass at 12.05pm so be sure to go at that time if you want to experience an Anglican mass. There is a tiny shop at the foyer of the church perfect for buying souvenirs such as postcards, books, stained glass and wood bookmarks and many more.
So what are you waiting for? Go and visit this amazing transition project while it’s still there!
2. 185 Chairs
Just around the corner from the Cardboard Cathedral is this memorial installment called 185 chairs. Cantabrians know how to commemorate those who they have lost during the earthquakes well. In this installment, each chair symbolises a certain type of person. You are more than welcome to walk around in this temporary installation and sit on the one, which speaks to you the most. If you don’t feel like sitting on one, there is also a booth where you can pay your respects.
3. The Commons
If you are an avid shopper who likes fresh produce, live music and sweet bargains, then the Sunday market at The Commons is the place for you! Just three minutes from the Christchurch Cathedral, The Commons is an area for all things fun. It is an open event centre for hosting activities and there is a stylish green space to lie around, play or read a book at.
The Commons is also very close to the restaurant and bar hub, Victoria Street, which makes it a great place to hang out before eating out.
4. Re:Start Mall
Ever heard of a mall made out of shipping containers? The Re:Start Mall is a colourful open mall that has a wonderful communitarian atmosphere. After walking around the city, stop by at Re:Start for a shopping spree and a food fest. There are tons of signature brand outlets, quirky gift shops and food trucks!
On Friday nights, the mall turns into a night market showcasing a melting pot of almost all cuisines you can possibly think of. Local bands and musicians provide live entertainment too.
The mall is also home to banks and the post office for all of the essential things you might need during your travel. Most importantly, the Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism booth is also located at Re:Start Mall, available to give you more information about what to do in Canterbury or to simply take a souvenir photo at their photo booth.
5. Christchurch Botanic Gardens
Although Christchurch lost most of its buildings, it certainly did not lose its astonishing gardens. Upon entering the Botanic Gardens, you will be welcomed by a calming fountain with crystal clear water. You will be given a map, which shows you the different horticultural sections and the best way to walk around them. If you get tired from walking the vast garden, the new modern visitor centre has a café, a souvenir shop, toilets and free Wi-Fi.
Avid readers will sure enjoy this tourist spot, as it is laid back, tranquil and isolated from the hustle and bustle despite the fact that it is inside the CBD.
6. Paua Shell House in the Canterbury Museum
Just next door from the Botanic Garden is the Canterbury Museum. Although it looks quite small from outside, there are tons of things to see inside the museum. From real life displays of Maori civilisation (aboriginal settlers of New Zealand) to the Antarctic wildlife installments to contemporary art made out of rubble, this museum is perfect for those who likes to be entertained.
One of the most iconic and authentic exhibitions, the Paua Shell House, is also on display inside the museum. A simple six-minute movie free of admission introduces you to how this house came about and who the masterminds behind this eccentric tourist spot are. Afterwards, you get to see a tour of the house itself, which shouts – Kiwiana (slang for anything New Zealander or Kiwi)! It is complete with paua shells completely covering the walls to the Bumble Bee and jandals (another slang word for slippers). This museum is definitely one to entertain especially if you are travelling with kids!
7. New Regent Street
If you ever get tired of walking around the city, catch a tram and hop off at the historic New Regent Street. This street is a burst of colours and character in the middle of a fast growing and modern city. You will find many cafes, restaurants and shops, which are perfect for strolling or a time out from walking. Being just 2 minutes from the Christchurch Cathedral, this place not hard to miss.
8. Antigua Boat Shed
Another historic tourist spot that is lucky to go undamaged during the quakes is the Antigua Boat Sheds. For a reasonable price, you can go punting along the Avon River and see the city from a different perspective. Punting is a great activity for families as they offer affordable family deals.
Punting can be done at any time of the year, as they even provide blankets during winter. Most of the punters also act as your tourist guide, as they will stop at different parts of the river tour to show and explain what used to stand there, what is still there and what is going to be there soon!
Great mixture of old and new!
Christchurch is definitely a city highly recommended for laidback travellers who appreciate old and new structures and don’t mind walking. The vast amount of things to do, see and eat within walking distance to one another is tremendous. Christchurch may have lost a lot during the quakes but it certainly did not lose its charm. If anything, most of the transition projects have added so much more!
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