Christchurch, New Zealand: a place that’s usually only recognised by global travellers because of its devastating 2011 earthquake.
However, having visited the city recently as part of my South Island travels, I’ve decided that this is a travesty. I mean, I only needed to spend one day in Christchurch to learn that this piece of land on the east coast of New Zealand is so much more than the two tectonic plates that it straddles.
For instance, did you know that it’s called The Garden City because of being home to numerous beautiful parks? Or that Avon River meanders through its centre? Or that there is so much to see and do that you may struggle to fit it all into 24 hours?
Personally, I loved my time there (and I’m sure you will too!).
How to Get to Christchurch from the UK
First things first, getting to Christchurch from the UK can be a challenge and it will take you around a day!
That said, it is possible.
In fact, Air New Zealand offers the following flight routes from London.
- London – Los Angeles – Auckland – Christchurch
- London – Shanghai – Auckland – Christchurch
- This route is serviced by Singapore Airlines all year round and serviced by Air New Zealand from December to February: London – Singapore – Christchurch
Based in the north of England? No worries. You can also fly to Christchurch from Manchester via Singapore with Singapore Airlines.
How to Get Around Christchurch
Luckily, when you get to Christchurch after having to take multiple flights (phewf!), it’s super easy to get around. You can walk around the CBD, or you can use public transportation.
- If you’re using cash, fares start at NZ$4.20
- You can apply for a Metro card (NZ$10 to sign up) and top up with no less than NZ$10, but then fares start at NZ$2.65 and are reduced by 30%
- You can rent bicycles through Nextbike and they’re located all around the city
- The first 30 minutes are free, but then you’re charged NZ$4 an hour
- You need to unlock one and rent it through the Nextbike app
- Christchurch Tram
- This hop-on, hop-off tram service runs in a loop around the city centre
- The tickets are NZ$25 per adult and up to three children can come along for FREE
- Every additional child beyond that is NZ$5 per child
The choice is yours!
How to Spend One Day in Christchurch
If you’re heading there soon or plan to at some point in your life, read on for my top recommendations on how to spend one day in Christchurch.
1. Go Shopping at Cashel Mall
Spending one day in Christchurch 101: start your walking tour at Cashel Mall where you’ll find luxury and high street chains in abundance.
All the buildings are newly built following the earthquake damage, which makes it a shiny-looking, clean area to shop.
This is also where you’re likely to spot the Christchurch Tramway for the first time. Even though we didn’t get the chance to try it out, this hop-on and hop-off vintage tram ride stopped at several places around the city – and looked like a hoot!
Pro tip: Need a decent cup of coffee or a hearty brunch to get you going in the morning? I hear you – try the Caffeine Laboratory on New Regent Street. Not only is it situated in a cute little area with multi-coloured buildings, but it also has amazing food and drinks. Win-win.
2. Walk Along the Riverfront
After you’ve finished shopping, head towards the riverfront and you’ll reach the Bridge of Remembrance. This serves as one of two war memorials in Christchurch and is dedicated to those who gave their lives in World War I.
Follow the river southbound and you’ll find Punting on the Avon. Here you can take a sightseeing ride in a small, flat-bottomed boat that is poled by an Edwardian-dressed guide. In other words, Christchurch is full of surprises.
Does this activity remind you of Cambridge punting? It makes sense. After all, Christchurch is renowned for its English heritage.
3. Visit the Earthquake Memorial
From the punting shed, cross over the river to the other side and follow it north to find the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial.
The Crown’s official memorial for those killed or seriously injured in the 2011 earthquake, it’s a touching tribute to the victims and their families.
But pro tip: take a tissue.
4. Check Out Hagley Park
Another must-do if you’re spending one day in Christchurch: check out Hagley Park.
It’s the largest urban open space in the city at 164.637 hectares and known as “the heart” of Christchurch. Alongside the majestic Botanic Gardens, it features some gorgeous greenery, flower displays, and quirky fountains.
We walked around it during winter and thought it was great, so I can imagine it is even lovelier in the summertime!
5. Visit the 185 Empty White Chairs
Finally, loop back around to Cashel Street and head east where you will find the 185 Empty White Chairs.
An unofficial memorial for the 185 individuals who lost their lives in the 2011 earthquake, this installation was meant to be a short-term solution until the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial was built. That said, eight years later, it’s considered a major tourist attraction in Christchurch and another sad and moving memorial.
From this installation, cross the road and walk north and you’ll find The Cardboard Cathedral created by award-winning architect Shigeru Ban.
Originally called The Transitional Cathedral until it was significantly damaged by the 2011 earthquake, it attracts visitors due to its innovative look and feel.
Pro tip: Head south from The Cardboard Cathedral and wander the surrounding streets where you’ll find unique street art and the city’s famous giant spray paint cans. You can also still see earthquake damage in this area.
Making the Most of Your One Day in Christchurch
Christchurch in a day is achievable as the city is super walkable. In addition to my top recommendations, there are also some museums worth visiting if you have the time.
Got more days to travel in Christchurch? Hike up to the Cashmere Hill Lookout that overlooks the city for incredible views.
Whatever you decide to do, I’m sure that you’ll enjoy yourself. After all, the city is an intriguing fusion of the old and new with distinctive points of interest – and fantastic coffee.
You just need to give it a chance to impress.
Decided on what to do in Christchurch? Do you think one day in Christchurch will be enough?
Katie Davies is the Yorkshire-based freelance writer who founded Trendy Tourist. Since 2017, she has written for over 100 companies on a range of subjects, from fashion to marketing. When she’s not producing content, you can find her shopping, exploring a new place or sitting somewhere having a cup of builder’s tea.