Dusk scene of Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch. © Chanachai Panichpattanakij

Christchurch: a city transforming


View the map

TAP FOR MORE INFO:

I’m often asked by visitors if they should bother to visit Christchurch. I’m always a bit gobsmacked by this.

To me, it’s like asking if it would be interesting to see Pompeii before the volcano erupted. Or Paris in the 1920s. Because how often do you get to see a city in the midst of a complete transformation – in such a rapid period of change? And Christchurch today is a unique experience – different from the experience of Christchurch last month, next month and certainly six years ago.

Christchurch today has it all – the still-lingering rubble of the 2011 earthquakes alongside the transitional and temporary projects that tell the story of a city whose spirit refused to die – as well as a few examples of the shiny and modern, where new visions, hopes and dreams for the future spring up every day.

The old Tram against a new backdrop - this is Christchurch! ❤️️ 📷= @shaydennz #pocketsofawesome #christchurchnz #iloveisite

A post shared by Christchurch & Canterbury NZ (@christchurchnz) on Feb 18, 2017 at 11:24pm PST

Lonely Planet called Christchurch a 'vibrant city in transition, coping resiliently and creatively'. 

Gap Filler is an organisation that jumped in following the 7.3 magnitude quake in September 2010. They developed transitional projects to fill the little 'gaps' of demolished buildings that dotted the city like missing teeth. Five months later, there were more gaps than not. More than 80% of the central business district was demolished after the quakes, leaving plenty of room for new ideas.

It's shaping up to be a great weekend in #ChristchurchNZ ☀️Photo thanks to our friends @christchurch_isite 🙌

A post shared by Christchurch & Canterbury NZ (@christchurchnz) on Mar 2, 2017 at 11:46pm PST

Now that the Christchurch Art Gallery and the stunningly refurbished Isaac Theatre Royale are re-opened and fully functioning, the city has a full slate of urban offerings – restaurants, shopping, art and entertainment. Each week, something new opens. Seeking these out is half the fun. Try the Neatplaces website and app for guidance.

Christchurch was once known for being more English than England.

When the special commissioner representing the British government, John Gorst, visited the 1906 International Exhibition in Christchurch he remarked, 'It is the loveliest town I have ever seen. It is a "garden city". To my mind, Christchurch is exactly what we are trying to make our garden cities in England.'

The Garden City name stuck, but city slogans seem to be on hold at the moment – waiting patiently for the city to redefine itself.

The beautifully restored Arts Centre is one of the few remaining examples of this English past – and Christchurch’s Gothic Revival architectural heritage. In fact, the former Christchurch College is one of the most significant collections of heritage buildings in New Zealand, all the more precious in the glass and steel post-quake city. The painstaking rebuild and earthquake strengthening has been one of the great rebuild success for the city, with most of the complex re-opened by the end of 2016.

For the people who live here, Christchurch’s main attraction is not the city itself, but its position being cradled between the Southern Alps and the Pacific Ocean.

Summer sunrises 🌅 📷= @hazza.photo #pocketsofawesome #christchurchnz #canterburynz

A post shared by Christchurch & Canterbury NZ (@christchurchnz) on Jan 31, 2017 at 12:51am PST

As Booker Prize novelist Eleanor Catton beautifully explained, 'I grew up in a city chosen and beloved by my parents for its proximity to the mountains – Christchurch is two hours distant from the worn saddle of Arthur’s Pass, the mountain village that was and is my father’s spiritual touchstone, his chapel and cathedral in the wild.' 

New Christchurch has an influx of new residents, drawn by the opportunities in making a new city.

Filmmaker Adam Luxton recently returned to New Zealand from Berlin. His film On an Unknown Beach was released at the 2016 New Zealand International Film Festival and features post-quake Christchurch as an instrument of sound artist Bruce Russell. Luxton said in an interview, 'In a way, Christchurch reminds me of Berlin. This broken space. How there is potential in a place that is not organised properly yet.'

Potential. It’s an exciting idea for a city. Every day, Christchurch has less 'potential' and more 'actual' – for better or worse. But this time of change is not short of energy – which is dramatically expressed in street art on the city’s exposed walls, and in the vibrant pockets of life that are clawing back around the city. Anyone interesting in urban change or who is curious about how a city rebuilds itself from the ground u will find great stories of resilience and innovation in Christchurch.

We really do love our Street Art here in Christchurch 🎨 #pocketsofawesome #christchurchnz #canterburynz 📷= @torsten.graf

A post shared by Christchurch & Canterbury NZ (@christchurchnz) on Feb 26, 2017 at 12:03am PST

Even if this tale of destruction and rebuild doesn’t pique your interest, New Zealand’s second largest city still has lots to offer.

Explore more...


Be the first to comment on this page. You cannot post comments until you have logged in. Please log in or register if you don't have an account.

More stories like this

Find out more

Road trips

Alpine Pacific Triangle: Christchurch to Kaikōura (and back again)

The Alpine Pacific Triangle takes you from Christchurch to Kaikōura, to Hanmer Springs and back again. Enjoy whale watching, hot pools and wineries. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Road trips

Inland Scenic Route 72: Christchurch loop

Round trips are immensely satisfying. There’s a pleasing symmetry in ending up back where you started, a closing of the loop, a real sense of achievement. Read the story . . . 

Find out more

Must-Do's

Christchurch’s street art: an expression of solidarity

This isn’t a couple of cute billboard-type pieces put up in obvious places. This is a thing.   Read the story . . . 

Where to stay in Christchurch City

4.4 /5
Tuscana Motor Lodge Visit website

FREE Wi- Fi Quality Christchurch City Motel accommodation within walking distance from City Centre and the ReStart Shopping Mall, Christchurch Casino, Canterbury Museum, Southern Cross . . . More . . . 

Book now

Book now

4.2 /5
From $115
4.2 /5
Best Price Around
Ashleigh Court Motel Visit website

Quiet central location in Riccarton, Christchurch amongst established gardens just off busy main roads between city centre and airport. FREE Wireless internet. . . . More . . . 

From $115

Book now

Book now

4.2 /5
From $129
4.2 /5
Diplomat Motel Visit website

An established Christchurch Motel located on Papanui Rd in the heart of Merivale, 1.5km from Christchurch city centre and a 5 minutes walk to Hagley Park. . . . More . . . 

From $129

Book now

Book now

4.4 /5
4.4 /5
Best Price Around
162 Kings of Riccarton Motel Visit website

Luxury motel apartment in Riccarton. Late check out 11am for a relaxed departure. Free WiFi. Superior self-contained studios, 1-bedroom suites, and 2 bedroom apartments. . . . More . . . 

Book now

Book now