Seats in the City: Best Seats in Ōtautahi Christchurch

A big wooden building in the forest at Christchurch adventure park.

People watching and view gazing are among life’s small pleasures, and there’s nothing quite like walking into your favourite café and seeing the prime table empty and beckoning you. Now while this may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, anyone who has ever ended up seated by the bathroom or a swinging kitchen door will be nodding their heads in agreement.

Words by: Julia Rutherford

Throughout Ōtautahi Christchurch we are blessed with some pretty incredible places and scenery, both courtesy of nature and talented interior designers. From restaurants and bars to public spots and outdoor areas, we are rounding up the best seats in the city.

Christchurch Adventure Park

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225 Worsleys Road, Cracroft, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

There’s no better place to go if you want a dose of adrenalin coupled with stunning scenery, than the Christchurch Adventure Park. Nestled in and amongst the Cashmere side of the Port Hills, you will find some of New Zealand’s best mountain biking trails and a zipline that provides you with arguably the highest seat in the city. Once you have had your fill of thrills for the day, head on down to the park’s café and make sure to nab a spot out on the deck. With a beer in hand and a pizza in front of you, soak up your surroundings and enjoy the view.

Civil and Naval

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16 London Street, Lyttelton, Christchurch & Canterbury

From Christchurch’s city centre head through the Port Hills tunnel and make your way to Lyttelton, where you’ll find the treasured Civil & Naval. Known as the harbourside suburb’s biggest little bar and eatery, this cosy spot is ever so cool and makes the most of its small square footage. Grab a seat by the window, order a crafty or vino and watch all the comings and goings of the main street. We’d highly recommend an order of fries, and depending on where your preferences lie, either the fried chicken or fried cauliflower - they’re pretty hard to beat.

Tūranga

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60 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

One of the city centre’s proudest achievements in its post-quake era, has been the purpose-built central public library, Tūranga. Set across multiple levels, this community hub provides something for everyone, and that includes those that love to take in a view or two as they browse the thousands of books housed at Tūranga. For the very best seats at the library, head on up to the top two floors where there are a variety of options to take in the panoramic sights of the city below and enjoy a moment or two of reflection. There are low lounging chairs, desks if you want to try and get some work done, and outdoor decks to get some fresh air.

The Welder / Grizzly Baked Goods

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20-26 Welles Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

What once was a series of old industrial buildings have been beautifully repurposed into a hub of wellbeing, community and incredible hospitality. The Welder is home to a number of businesses, many of which are dotted around a shared indoor courtyard space. By day the best seat in the house here is most definitely up at the Grizzly Baked Goods counter. Not only do you have the drool-worthy views of all the carby goodness, but it’s also a great people-watching spot too. At night, definitely try and score a spot on one of the loungers in the inside courtyard, chill with your pals and take your pick on where to order a drink from.

The Last Word

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Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Streets don’t come any prettier in Christchurch than the pastel-hued New Regent Street. Featuring on many an Instagram feed over the years, the powder blue, buttercup yellow and mint green Spanish Mission-style buildings are a visual delight. Take in the beauty of the street from the whiskey and cocktail lounge The Last Word. Find yourself a seat by one of the arch windows upstairs, where it’s quite easy to spend several hours watching the world go by, sipping from the whiskey flight in front of you.

5th Street

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5 Elgin Street, Sydenham, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

5th Street is an award-winning restaurant in the heart of Sydenham just south of the city centre. In a previous life, the building was a fruit and vegetable warehouse, but owners Chris, Jonathan, Sam and Max have managed to create a space that combines a relaxed homely environment, top service and phenomenal food. Every table is a winner at 5th Street, but if you do have the chance, dining at the bar is something special and will give you an extra appreciation of what goes into creating your delicious meal.

Image of the Godley heads track in Christchurch.

Godley Head Loop Track

Getting out into nature and appreciating its beauty is seriously good for the soul. Luckily Ōtautahi Christchurch is blessed with a multitude of walks and hikes right on its doorstep, so it’s very accessible to get a good dose of outdoor activity. One of our favourites would have to be the Godley Head Loop track. Begin this headland walk at Taylor’s Mistake beach and take in the gorgeous coastal views around every bend. As the track winds its way up to showcase the old gun emplacements from World War II, take advantage of the various benches along the way for a water break, a little breather and, most importantly, to take in the ocean vista in front of you.

He Puna Taimoana

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195 Marine Parade, New Brighton, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

What could be better than sitting back and relaxing in luxurious saltwater hot pools… how about a panoramic ocean view? That’s exactly what you get at beachside He Puna Taimoana. Each of their five pools provides you with an excellent outlook and, because you have to book a time slot, it’s never overcrowded. While you’re visiting, don’t miss experiencing the sauna and the steam room, and if the season and availability allow, it’s highly recommended to book in for the sunrise soak - what a way to start your day!

Two people enjoying a coffee under the archway at the Arts Centre Christchurch.

Frances Nation Grocer

28 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch Central

It’s a hive of activity around Frances Nation Grocer, found on the ground floor of the Arts Centre. There are the beloved trams making their way down Worcester Boulevard, often with several waving passengers on board. Then there’s the comings and goings around the Arts Centre itself, with many boutique shops found inside and the super cute Custard Square Bookshop out in the courtyard. So once you’ve had a browse around the grocer’s for any pantry staples you might need, order your coffee of choice and take a seat at the table just outside the building’s front door. Bask in the morning sunlight and enjoy the beauty of the heritage backdrop that is the building behind you. Be warned… it’s quite easy to lose an hour or two people watching from this viewpoint.

Pink Lady

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Level 8/159 Manchester Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch, Christchurch & Canterbury

Looking for somewhere to take sundowner drinks to the next level… how about a rooftop? The Pink Lady is a well-loved spot among locals and visitors alike, providing sweeping views across Ōtautahi Christchurch no matter where you end up sitting. They also deliver strongly on their choice of tipples and snacks, a key component when choosing where to go post-work, pre-dinner or on a night out. From creative cocktails and a wine list featuring the best from North Canterbury wineries to the boujeee fries and taco platters, The Pink Lady never fails to deliver.

Neat Christchurch & Canterbury Places

Posh Porridge

A bowl of porridge on a table against a white background.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Posh Porridge offers boutique flavours and lashings of luxury toppings for its porridge bowls. Just pop into its Montreal St location and find out for yourself.

Head over Heels

Shoes and bags on display at Head Over Heels in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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With New Zealand and international labels abound, expect plenty of classic shoe designs, mixed with fashion-forward options from the latest collections of top designers.

Fiksate

View of the gallery with woman working in the distance at Fiksate in Christchurch.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury
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Fiksate provides an unexpected hotspot for Christchurch’s love of urban art.

Frances Nation Home

The inside of Frances Nation Home.
Place Christchurch & Canterbury

A store devoted to celebrating beautiful, made-to-last daily wares from New Zealand makers.