9 Free or Cheap Things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand

My husband and I started our New Zealand adventure in Christchurch at the end of January 2016. Even though we were focused on buying a car and starting our travels we were able to experience many things in Christchurch. Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island and is the oldest established city in New Zealand. A devastating 6.3 earthquake shook Christchurch on February 22, 2011 killing 185 people. While the initial quake only lasted for approximately 10 seconds, the damage was severe because of the location and shallowness of the earthquake’s epicentre in relation to Christchurch and previous quake damage. (Wikipedia) Even though we were in the city almost 5 years after the 2011 earthquake, there was still a lot of evidence of the earthquake. There were empty lots, empty business buildings and building ruins. However, the city is slowly being rebuilt and there are many beautiful parts of the city. 

  1. Cathedral Square: This is the center and the heart of Christchurch. The 2011 earthquake destroyed the spire and part of the tower of ChristChurch Cathedral. It is currently closed to the public. There is no news on whether it will be rebuilt or demolished.


  2. Re: START Container Mall: This is a temporary mall built from shipping containers. It was a response to the 2011 earthquake which destroyed most buildings in City Mall, the main shopping area in central Christchurch. We listened to some live music while we were there. http://restart.org.nz/
  3. Canterbury Museum: This free museum includes information about New Zealand’s history, art and the natural world. http://www.canterburymuseum.com/ 


  4. C1 Espresso: My sister took me here. We had a feijoa smoothie. A feijoa is a fruit that grows in New Zealand. This place is unique in that they have installed an air tube system to deliver food to tables superfast. Other cool features: sliding bookcase to enter the bathroom area, futuristic domed lights, pinball machines, sewing machine that acts as a water filter. http://www.c1espresso.co.nz/ 


    Photo credit: webuiltthiscity.co.nz

  5. Free walking tour: Learn more about the city from a local guide. The tours are tip-based. You don’t need to sign up. You just turn up at 11:00 a.m. by The Chalice in Cathedral Square. The tour is just over two hours in length. We had a great tour guide and we learned a lot! http://www.freetours.co.nz/
  6. Hagley Park: Hagley Park is the largest urban open space in Christchurch. See the Botanic Gardens, the Cuningham Glasshouse, the Avon River and the World Peace Bell. There are many events here. We saw a free outdoor movie one night.

  7. 185 Empty White Chairs: The 185 white chairs each represent one of the 185 lives lost in the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. Each chair, just like its owner, has its own distinct personality. This art installation is temporary just like life.


  8. Transitional Cathedral (“cardboard cathedral”): This cathedral built out of cardboard was the first non-commercial structure to be built in the city center after the earthquakes. It is a temporary replacement for the ChristChurch Cathedral.


  9. Dance-O-Mat: Since the earthquake left Christchurch with many vacant lots, a local group organized a DIY dance party. They turned an old washing machine into a jukebox. With just a $2 coin and a phone or MP3 player, anyone can start an instant outdoor dance party.


  1. Susan Skytta

    You have an amazing eye for how to photograph what is essential for understanding.
    Good work!

  2. Pingback: 38 Day Driving Itinerary for South Island, New Zealand |

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