Planning a weekend trip to Christchurch? You’ll want to see the best of the city and its surroundings. I’ve lived here the last several months and created a suggested weekend itinerary for a first-time visitor. This schedule hits the highlights of Christchurch and gives you a general feel for the area.
You’ll most likely be arriving on a Friday evening, hungry from your travels. Your first stop should be Velvet Burger, a restaurant on Riccarton Road that serves delicious venison burgers. (Don’t worry, vegetarians. They have an Animal Rights option, too, which is just as tasty.) A mini burger was sufficient for me but if you are extra hungry, you could get a full-size burger or any of their other specialties.
Your next stop should be Riccarton Mall (Westfield Riccarton). It’s one of New Zealand’s biggest malls so you’ll have plenty of stores to hold your interest as you shop around. Or, if you would rather just relax, the mall is also home to a movie theater where you can sit back and enjoy the latest releases to finish your first evening.
Hopefully you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to explore the city Saturday morning. Start with breakfast at Vic’s Café, just northeast of Hagley Park. Follow this with a short walk south on Park Terrace, which will take you to the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and museum. The museum is pretty small, so pop in there for a bit first and then wander around the gardens to see the fantastic displays of garden flowers, impressive trees and native vegetation. The gardens are truly beautiful on a sunny day.
Next, you’ll want to take on the city center. There’s a lot to see just walking around. The Cardboard Cathedral has gone up since the earthquake and there are sculptures all over celebrating new life in the city. There are even small art museums that have been put up on street corners and quite a few thrift shops and antique shops to visit around town.
By now you might be getting a little hungry, so walk over to the Re:Start Mall or Container Mall for a bite to eat. There are plenty of stores in the brightly-colored containers and on nice days there will be tents set up with other vendors. Grab a snack and sit down to watch some street performers in the market busk.
When you’re done exploring the Container Mall, stop for a coffee break at C1 Espresso. This fun cafe has a secret bookshelf door and a sewing machine water dispenser. If you come after 3pm, the sliders you order will be delivered to your table in a pneumatic tube.
I hope you sleep well Saturday night because you’ll be getting up early Sunday morning to watch the sunrise from New Brighton Beach. It’s on the east side of town and you can get there by bus. Once there, sit back in the sand or wander along the length of the beach up to the pier and listen to the waves.
Take the rest of the day to continue enjoying the nature surrounding Christchurch. Pack a picnic and head down to the Port Hills. There are quite a few hiking trails there and all of them will take you up into the hills for a great view of both Banks Peninsula and the Southern Alps with the city spreading out in between. If you have extra time today, make your way down to the little harbor town of Akaroa where you will likely see seals and penguins. Or you can relax in the Port Hills and enjoy the view.
Elizabeth Jacobsen is TEAN Alum and graduate from Williams College. She studied abroad with TEAN in Christchurch, New Zealand.