Christchurch has plenty to offer, both within the city limits and beyond. Focusing on the former, this article will detail the top sights in Christchurch city centre – my favourite 7 to be precise.
For other aspects of the city, check out my complete list of Christchurch articles:
Top 7 Sights in Christchurch City Centre
(In no particular order)
1. Punting on the Avon
One of the most picturesque areas of Christchurch is down by the Avon River. A popular activity here is to go punting along the river in a vintage boat. These half-hour guided tours allow you to see the city from an alternative perspective, and also in a relaxing manner.
Punting tours depart from the Antigua Boat Sheds – an attraction within themselves. Tickets are NZ$30 (£15/US$19) for an adult. Note that discounts can be had if booking more than one of the city’s main attractions – visit their website for more details. The Antigua Boat Sheds also offer bicycle hire and a range of other water activities.
Alternatively, walk over the footbridge to snap a picture of the iconic boat sheds and relax in a scenic setting on the riverside.
2. River wander
Following on from punting, another great way to explore the beauty of the Avon is by taking a wander along its banks. Winding gracefully through the city, the river is bordered on both sides by designated park areas for much of its length. These park areas help the river retain much of its natural appeal; you’ll often find people hanging out, going for a walk or reading a book near the river.
Of course, taking a wander along the river is appealing to budget backpackers such as myself who can’t justify the price of a punting trip. One of the more attractive sections of river is the steps along Oxford Terrace between Hereford St & Cashel St, located next to the Bridge of Remembrance and opposite my favourite restaurant in town – Amazonita. The Avon also stretches through the Botanic Gardens (see below for more info).
3. Traditional Trams
By far the most stylish way to explore Christchurch is on board one the heritage trams! The beautifully restored and decorated trams now offer a sightseeing service around the city centre (9am-6pm in summer, 10am-5pm in winter). The route takes in popular areas such as New Regent Street, the Avon River and Botanic Gardens. Each ticket permits unlimited hop-on and hop-offs throughout the day of purchase, allowing people to explore at their own pace.
At NZ$25 per ticket, the trams are definitely geared more towards conventional tourists than backpackers or residents. However, it’s a great way to tick off all the city centre sights in one day – and travel between them in style. For even more style points, consider booking onto the restaurant tram – a 2.5 hours, 4-course dining experience on board a moving tram!
For ticket bookings and more information about either tram service, visit the booking office located at Cathedral Junction.
4. Art Gallery
The Te Puna o Waiwhetu – commonly referred to as Christchurch Art Gallery – is…wait for it…an art gallery in Christchurch! Free to enter, it’s a popular attraction in the city centre and probably the best place to go on a rainy day.
Opening hours are daily from 10am-5pm, with special late night hours on a Wednesday until 9pm. Free guided tours take place daily at 11am & 2pm, plus an extra one at 7:15pm on Wednesdays – simply meet at the front desk to take part.
5. Cardboard Cathedral
After the deadly 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people, the original Christchurch Cathedral was largely destroyed. Despite many tourists still visiting this site (currently cordoned off as a construction site), it is no longer able to function as a place of worship. Therefore, a new cathedral was needed…
Enter the Cardboard Cathedral. Yes, you read that right – a cathedral made from cardboard. Not entirely of course, but sufficient to warrant it being named as such. This new Cardboard Cathedral is actually quite an attractive building – a multicoloured centrepiece draws attention from the outside and looks particularly impressive when the sun shines favourably.
6. New Regent St
This pedestrianised street in the centre of Christchurch is famous for its beautiful architecture and historic city trams. Since the street’s development in the 1930’s, the heritage listed buildings have been restored multiple times and are now colourfully decorated.
At present, most of the buildings are boutique shop fronts or independent cafes. Tourists come here to admire the architecture and enjoy a bite to eat. New Regent Street is also one of the stops on the city’s heritage tram tour – either hop on/off here or take some snaps as it glides past.
7. Botanic Gardens
A great place to relax in the city is the Botanic Gardens. Aside from being peaceful and full of green spaces, the gardens have flower areas, conservatories and a lake.
Located just to the west of Christchurch city centre, the Botanic Gardens are bordered by the Avon River. Thus, walking around the gardens is a good chance to spot others on a punting tour (and snap a cheeky pic!).