As you will hear many times as you explore Christchurch, it is a city in transition. Years after being shaken to its core by a major earthquake, Christchurch is rebuilding slowly but surely. As the city finds its footing, there is still plenty to do and see (as long as you’re cool with dealing with a whole lot of construction.) Here is a list of my favorite free activities in Christchurch.
Street art & installations
In recent years art has begun to pop up on the streets in the voids left by the devastation. Giant murals cover the sides of buildings all over the city. Around every corner you’ll find a new art installation, from statues to a tree museum to a dance floor powered by a washing machine (disco ball and all.) You could spend an entire day scouring the city for all of the free artwork it has to offer (and should if you have the time!)
This one will take a car or bus ride to get to, but it’s worth it! The Tannery is a lovely old school shopping center, filled with cute shops of all kinds, a couple of cafes and a cinema. Shopping covers all the bases, from vintage to home goods to flowers to bags (there’s even a tattoo parlor!) This is definitely a sweet place to spend an afternoon. The Tannery is accessible by bus 28, the same bus that goes to the gondola and the Bridle Path hike (listed below!)
If you’d like an extra bit of exercise, head down to the Christchurch gondola. But instead of hopping on, go around the right side of the building and you’ll see the start of the Bridle Path trail. You can take this up to the summit for some great views of the surrounding area and then continue on to Lyttelton following the trails of the first European settlers in the area. Be warned, this hike is quite steep so a certain level of physical fitness is likely needed. There were also a number of people biking to the top, which looked like my own personal hell, but if you’re into that sort of thing go for it. There are also plenty of other hiking options around the area, so make sure to grab a map at the i-site.
Perfect for a rainy day, the Christchurch Art Museum has two floors filled with art of all kinds. There is a large focus on local/New Zealand art and artists, which is great to see. The art itself ranges from historic pieces to modern works and installations. You can also take a quick trip down to the car park in the basement to see the coils put in under all the buildings in Christchurch to help keep them stable in the event of an earthquake.
The famous shipping container mall! You can’t miss seeing the ingenious way Christchurch decided to deal with the post-earthquake retail issues. Even as shopping centers are reopening around the city, the container mall lives on. There are several cute shops to look through, but my favorite part was all of the food carts.
Botanic Gardens & Hagley Park
For a more leisurely walk, head to the city’s Botanic Gardens and Hagley park. The botanic gardens sit in the middle of Hagley Park and are home to thousands of flowers and plants from all over the world. There is a beautiful rose garden right in the middle with every color of rose you could want. Hagley Park has lots of space to walk and play games as well.
There are several markets that take place in Christchurch, but you definitely need to make sure to check out the weekly farmers’ market! For more on what all this market has to offer, see my Christchurch Farmers’ Market post.
Another free museum! This one covers the history of the Canterbury region, from the first arrival of the Maori people through to the present day. One hall of the museum is made to look like a Christchurch street in the 1800s. It’s definitely cool to feel like you’re (literally) stepping back in time. The museum also has changing exhibits, so make sure to check and see what they have on while you’re in town. While I was there they had a very interesting exhibit on the history of Air New Zealand!
Hopefully this list helps you plan an awesome trip to Christchurch! If you know of any other cool free things to do in the city, please leave them in the comments!