A Wondrous Walking Guide to Christchurch Ōtautahi

A big glass house filled with rows of plants.

Lace up your comfiest shoes and hit the pavement, the best way to explore a city is on your own two feet and Christchurch is no exception. In fact, with not a hill or steep incline in sight in the city centre, it’s arguably the easiest city in the country to walk around - or at least the easiest on your calf muscles.

 Begin with the most important meal of the day and from there explore some of the best public spaces in Christchurch Ōtautahi; with a library, gallery and arts centre included in this guide, your day won’t be short of some culture! It’s important to keep your energy up with all this walking and we’ve made sure to include pit stops with incredible food and drink offerings. So get your walk on and discover the very best the garden city has to offer.


Fuel up for the day ahead at Foundation Cafe

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

Starting your day with breakfast is vital with all the walking, exploring and good times ahead. Foundation Cafe is the perfect spot and caters to all kinds of tastes first thing in the morning. With a great range of options to order off the menu, from egg dishes to classics like porridge and granola with a twist, there’s also a very tempting cabinet if you’re more of a breakfast pastry person. Foundation shares the local Ōtautahi love with Prima Roastery as their coffee bean of choice and their flat whites are on point. Best of all, Foundation is on the ground floor of Tūranga, the central city’s public library and the next stop on this day guide. 

Explore Tūranga

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60 Cathedral Square, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Perfectly positioned following your breakfast, spend some time exploring the four floors of this stunning building. Opened in 2018, Tūranga is one of the key sites of the city centre’s regeneration following the earthquakes and has quickly become a hub for locals and visitors alike. Beginning on the ground floor, the array of magazines to peruse is seriously impressive, and as you work your way up the levels there is more and more to discover. If you have little ones with you, it’s a must to stop on the Hapori | Community floor, with plenty of play and craft areas to entertain young minds.

Head to Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

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312 Montreal Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

From the library take a short stroll across the Avon river and down Worcester Boulevard, where you will happen upon the jewel in the city’s artistic crown - Te Puna o Waiwhetū. Take a moment to visually soak in your surroundings before heading inside. From the large illuminated sign on one side of the gallery reassuring us ‘Everything is Going to be Alright’, to taking in the stunning architecture of the building itself. Once you head in, enjoy wandering both the ground floor and upper-level galleries. The exhibitions are world-class and there’s always a mix of contemporary and modern pieces on display. Before you head off to the next stop on this walking tour, make sure you exit via the Design Store, the gallery’s gift shop, where there are many pretty items to look at.

Soak in the history at the Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora

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2 Worcester Boulevard, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

Just a couple of hundred metres down the road, you’ll find yourself at one of Christchurch’s most iconic sites, the Arts Centre. The Gothic Revival style buildings have had an eventful life, originally housing Canterbury College (now the University of Canterbury) and both Christchurch Boys and Christchurch Girls High Schools. The centre suffered greatly in the earthquakes, but thankfully has been restored immaculately and to its former glory. Spend some time browsing in the Old Boys High building where there are boutique shops such as Frances Nation and Indigo & Provisions. Sample some handcrafted fudge at The Fudge Cottage and amble around the other buildings in the centre, making a mental note to return another time to catch a film at Lumiere Cinema.


Lunch with a wine flight at Cellar Door

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1 Hereford Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

After clocking up your steps, it’s definitely time for a lunch break at Cellar Door in the Arts Centre. If the sun is shining, try and grab a table outside in the courtyard so you can keep soaking in the sights of the architecture around you. However, a seat inside is just as special, with an exposed red brick and forest green wall interior plus cosy vibes in spades. Cellar Door has quickly become known for its wine flights. There are numerous choices and always interesting drops included. The food menu is full of seasonal fare, and there are options to build your own cheeseboard right through to larger plates to energise you for more walking ahead.

An image of the plants at the Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Get into nature at the Botanic Gardens

A day guide to the garden city would not be complete without a visit to the gorgeous green space that is the Botanic Gardens. From your lunch at Cellar Door, it’s an easy stroll across the road, past Canterbury Museum and into flora and fauna heaven. There are so many different pockets of the Gardens to see, from the heritage rose garden and woodland garden, to the conservatories, to the children's playground. As you leave and make your way to the next stop on your tour of the central city, walk along the Avon River, where you’ll come across some unique and special sites. The first is a giant mōkihi (raft) sculpture, that’s a reflection of all the work that has been done with the local iwi to restore and clean up the river. The next is Oi Manawa, the earthquake memorial honouring all the lives lost and ensuring they will always be remembered. Touch the pounamu as you pass by and pause for a few minutes in quiet reflection.

The front of the Riverside market with umbrellas in the picnic tables.

Embark on a taste trail at Riverside Market

96 Oxford Terrace, Christchurch Central City

At this point in the day, you might be getting a touch snacky, so it’s just as well Riverside Market is where you’ll find yourself next. One of the shining lights to emerge from the city’s rebuild, Riverside is a must-visit for anyone coming to Christchurch. With small independent food stalls, bakeries, a butcher and larger restaurants, there’s something to satisfy every taste here. Let yourself aimlessly stroll around the two floors of the market and be wowed by all the amazing smells, sounds and sights. Whilst you’re here, make sure you find the Canterbury Brewers Collective and try a local brew - there’s always an interesting drop on tap and they’re staunch supporters of small Canterbury craft beer labels.

Looking down the stairs from the first floor at the CBD's crossing.

Discover the best shopping in the city centre

As you head off from Riverside, you’ll land on Cashel Street and be perfectly placed to embark on some of the best shopping in the city centre. First things first though, pick up a sweet treat from Sweet Soul Patisserie for a late-night dessert moment.  The pastries and cakes are works of art and deliver 10/10 on the flavour front. Now onto retail therapy. If you’re a department store fan, then look no further than Christchurch city icon, Ballantynes. With local and international designer fashion labels, a well-stocked beauty department and a comprehensive homewares and gifting department, it’s a pretty special shopping spot. Across the street, is Five Lanes where you’ll find an array of shops and food offerings including two local favourites. The first is Christchurch institution Scorpio Books, a treasure trove for literary lovers and where tomes on all subject matters can be found. The second is Hapa, a design store that is committed to showcasing local designers and artists - it’s perfect for picking up a gift for someone or yourself! Speaking of something for yourself, you have to pop into Infinite Definite.  From their effortlessly cool aesthetic to their lineup of New Zealand brands, it’s worth a visit. And any mention of shopping in the central city must include The Crossing, a cute network of laneways with well-known international retailers alongside independent local boutiques, a shopper’s dream!

Pre-dinner wander at The Welder

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20-26 Welles Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

With the afternoon winding down, take some time to explore The Welder, a unique space in the city that combines health and wellbeing with some of the best eateries in the city. Make a note of any spots to come back to; perhaps you want to try some yoga at O-Studio, a cooking class with the Raw Sisters or grab some snacks at GoodFor. At this stage on your walking tour, you may feel like a pre-dinner drink and bite, and you’re definitely in the right place. Whether it’s a sushi taco and edamame at Bar Yoku or a glass of wine and tapas at Salut Salut, it’s sure to fill a gap before you get to the main event. 


New Regent Street on a sunny day.

End the day on a high note down New Regent Street

It’s been a full day of walking and while it might be tempting to call it a night, hopefully we will be able to persuade you to stay out a little longer, and take an after-dinner stroll down the city’s prettiest and most Instagram-worthy street - New Regent Street. The illuminated pastel-painted buildings are a sight to see and there’s always a buzzing vibe from the many bars and restaurants lining the street. If you feel like a creative cocktail pop into gin gin, got a neat whiskey nightcap on your mind then it has to be a visit to The Last Word or if a sweet, icy treat is more your scene, go see the folks at Rollickin’ Gelato. And that’s a wrap on your day.  Time to rest those legs, check your final step count and enjoy a deep sleep after a packed day of exploring Christchurch’s central city.