The devastating earthquake in February 2011 changed the entire landscape of the central business district of Christchurch. Instead of mourning over what was lost, the city has rebuilt, and new things sprouted.
Now Christchurch is known for its innovative attractions in addition to the great old English charm. From a cathedral made of cardboard to the first ever shipping container mall, here are 10 free things to do in Christchurch.
1. Visit Cardboard Cathedral
Meant to be a transitional cathedral while the ruined Christ Church Cathedral is waiting to rebuild, the Cardboard Cathedral is a unique place. Transitional Cathedral or Cardboard Cathedral is made up of steel, paper tubes coated with waterproof polyurethane, polycarbonate (roof) and wood. It is not meant to last forever and is said to last up to 50 years.
It’s only a 5-minute walk from the ruined Cathedral and guests are welcome to join their morning prayer at 8:30 a.m. from Monday to Friday.
2. Check out Re: START
Opened to shoppers and visitors just eight months after the earthquake, Re: START is now an iconic shopping mall in Christchurch. Made up of shipping containers, Re: START has over shops, bookstores, banks, restaurants, and cafes.
The mall is busier during the summer months and in winter (from Friday to Sunday) when stalls selling caramel nuts to miniature clocks, New Zealand Paua and hundreds of other items fill the streets.
3. Discover 185 white chairs memorial
At the corner of Cashel and Madras Streets are 185 white chairs of all sizes and shapes commemorating those vanished in the 2011 earthquake. It’s a poignant reminder of the devastation that the city went through.
Take a moment to look at the chairs, including a wheelchair and ponder on the fragility of life.
4. Learn about New Zealand’s rich history and cultural heritage at the Canterbury Museum
Opened since 1867, the Canterbury Museum now houses natural history specimens, all things New Zealand like Maori artifacts, Paua shells and colonial history. There’s also a section on Antarctic expeditions and Christchurch old time street.
The Canterbury Museum is located next to the Botanic Gardens and is one of the leading museums in the Southern Hemisphere.
5. Admire the manicured Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens is open daily from 7 am to 6:30 pm. There’s so much to see and do in the gardens. Besides seasonal plants and flowers, the gardens have flowers from all over the world in six conservatories and sculptures.
Check out the gardens’ website and find out what’s in bloom during your visit.
6. Take one of the Transitional City Walks and explore the city, art, gardens and new building projects
According to Christchurch City Council, temporary and transitional projects have become part of life since the earthquakes and visitors can take advantage of the creative projects in the city.
Print the Gap Map and take one of the Transitional City Walks:
- Transitional Garden Walk – 90 minutes; start at Green Lab, Cranmer Square
- Gap Walk – 60 minutes; start at The Commons, corner of Kilmore and Durham Streets
- City Art Walk – 60 minutes; start at The Commons, corner of Kilmore and Durham Streets
7. Go to one of the fresh markets for an authentic culinary experience
Join the locals and explore Christchurch Farmers Market at Riccarton House on 16 Kahu Road every Saturday starting at 9 am and ends at 1 pm. You’ll get the freshest Canterbury products, gourmet food, coffee and entertained with live music by local artists. It’s the largest in Christchurch with over 300 stores.
If you’re not available on Saturday, check out Ohoka Market on Friday from 9 am to 12:30 pm and Oxford Farmers Market on Sunday.
8. Exchange your read books for new titles at the Think Differently Book Exchange
For a one of a kind experience, look for Think Differently Book Exchange, a public book exchange place located on Barbadoes St. Here you’ll find used books inside a recycled fridge. It’s open year-round.
Some neighborhoods in the city have their little book exchange box outside their home like this one:
9. Picnic at Hagley Park
Hagley Park is Christchurch’s largest park and if you’re there in summer check out their free concert days. It’s a lovely place to walk through the gardens by the river, hire a boat or a kayak on the Avon River, or have a picnic at your favorite spot.
10. The Arts Centre of Christchurch
The Arts Centre of Christchurch are clusters of heritage buildings in Christchurch that take up the entire city block around Worcester Blvd, Montreal Street, Hereford Street and Rolleston Avenue. Not all the buildings are open to the public as restoration is underway.
Currently, Great Hall and North Quad are open daily from 10 am to 5 pm.