Christchurch, New Zealand is a young city that wants to be old. Least that’s what it’s buildings seem to indicate.The central city houses a wonderful collection of neo-gothic stone buildings well worth visiting. And when you’re standing on a bridge over the Avon River, watching Edwardian dressed punters drifting along the river, you might even start thinking you’re in England. But there is much more to this city – arts, culture, and adventure – then replicating England.

It is a city made for walking. Flat and with the streets laid out in a grid formation from Cathedral Square, it is impossible to get lost. Check out the ‘culture precinct’ website to see what’s worth seeing around the inner city.

Top eight things to do when visiting Christchurch include:

1. Spend some time in Cathedral Square watching the world go by.

This is the true city center. A pedestrian only area, the best time to visit is lunchtime. Buy some food, find a seat, and wait for the entertainment to begin. Step ladders and soapboxes come out and a collection of eccentric individuals will spew forth on anything that holds their attention. You may be shocked or even insulted, but you will not be bored.

 

tram2. Catch the Tram for a quick trip around the central city.

Hop a tram to explore Christchurch. The 2.5 km circuit passes most main attractions of the central city. Get on and off as you desire. The whole circuit takes 25 minutes.

 

 

3. Have lunch at the Art Center and then explore its numerous galleries and shops.

The Art Center used to be the University of Canterbury. You can even visit Rutherford’s Den. But most of the neo-gothic buildings now house arts and crafts shops and galleries. There are more than 40 to wander through, as well as a few cafes and restuarants. And during the weekends, market and food stalls go up in the adjacent carpark.

4. Walk off lunch with a stroll around the botanic gardens.

Seventy four acres of gardens, lawns, and paths right in the heart of the city. Take a book, bring a camera. Walk the paths or find a quiet corner to sit and watch the world go by.

punt_on_avon5. Take a punt on the Avon River.

The Avon River runs through Christchurch and is an ever present part of the landscape. The Antigua Boat Sheds, an institution in the Christchurch since the 1880s, provide canoes and paddle boats that can be taken along the river into the botanic gardens.

And for the less energetic, there is ‘punting’ in English flat-bottomed boats with Edwardian dressed punters.

 

 

6. Catch a bus to the Gondala to see the sunset from the top of Mount Cavendish.

It’s a cliché, but ‘on a clear day you can see forever’ from the top of Mount Cavendish. The gondola takes you up the side of a long extinct volcano for a spectacular 360 view of the region – Christchurch., Lyttleton Harbor, and the Southern Alps.

7. Visit the International Antartic Center.

Christchurch has been the gateway to the Antartic ever since Robert Scott and then Ernest Shackleton used the city as their expedition launch point. So it makes sense that the International Antarctic Center would also find its home here.

With interactive exhibits, audio visual shows, live penguins, and a very, very coldd ice cave and Antarctic storm (jackets and overshoes provided), the International Antartic Center is well worth a visit. Additonal activities include riding on the Antarctic Hagglund, an all-terrain amphibian vehicle.

8. Get creative at The Bone Dude.

Go on a carving adventure and create a lasting souvenier of your visit to Christchurch at The Bone Dude gallery. With expert instruction, you use the simple hand tools provided to create your own bone carving. There are 16 contemporary designs available or you can create your own. And at the same time, you get to learn more about the history of bone carving in New Zealand.

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Liz Lewis is a New Zealand based writer who favors wine tasting and food markets over bungy jumping and mountain climbing.