Why you need to visit Christchurch, New Zealand…now!

July 1, 2014 by Elle Croft

New Zealand is a destination deserving of at least a couple of weeks’ exploration. Even if you’re visiting friends and family, it would be a shame to travel across the world and not take the time to discover some of this spectacularly beautiful country. There are so many exceptional destinations to see, from the top of the North Island to the very bottom of the South Island (take a look at this two week itinerary idea for inspiration), but one  that should be firmly on your list is the city of Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island.

Since 2010, this city has been best known for the earthquakes that caused so much damage, as well the resilience of the residents who have put their hearts and souls into rebuilding and revitalising Christchurch. Although the natural disaster didn’t detract from the beauty of the region or limit the myriad things there are to see and do in the area, there was a significant amount of structural damage caused to many buildings in Christchurch. Rebuilding of the city is well and truly under way, but there is still a lot of work to do before it is restored to its former state. In the meantime, this transitional period has resulted in a vibrant, innovative city that’s created art from rubble and vibrant hotspots from next to nothing. Don’t delay your trip to Christchurch, or you may miss many of these incredibly creative sights and experiences.

Cardboard Cathedral

One of the most impressive transitional structures in Christchurch is the ‘Cardboard’ Cathedral, which was built after ChristChurch suffered irreparable damages in the earthquakes. Designed by Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the building is made from cardboard tubes, shipping containers, timber beams, steel and concrete, and seats 700 people. It is both a fully-functioning church as well as a concert venue, exhibition space and a place to hold civic and community events.

Although this structure is thoroughly modern and unconventional, measures have been taken to retain the history of the original cathedral that stood in the square. For example, the Cardboard Cathedral’s triangular window design incorporates images from ChristChurch Cathedral’s original rose window.

Re:START Container Mall

Designed to help retailers who were displaced after the earthquakes, Re:START is an outdoor mall built from brightly coloured shipping containers stacked on top of one another.

Here shoppers can find trendy cafés and restaurants as well as boutique shops to browse in the sunshine. Opened in October 2011, Re:START has grown to around 40 shops, street food vendors and even a market on the weekend.

Quake City

Located in the Re:Start container mall, Quake City is a multi-sensory exhibition exploring the science behind earthquakes, while at the same time remembering the lives that were lost and paying tribute to those who helped with the rescue and rebuilding efforts.

At Quake City, visitors can see an active liquefaction volcano, see photos and stories of emergency service teams during the aftermath of the earthquakes, and see iconic objects like the Cathedral Spire.

Quake City is located at 99 Cashel St in Re:START Mall and is open every day, 10am-5pm, except Christmas day. Adults $20.

Street art in Christchurch

If street art is your thing, Christchurch is a city worth exploring. The many empty sites left after the earthquakes hit are being revitalised by local artists with temporary exhibitions and installations. Gap Filler is a group whose mission is, as their name suggests, to fill the gaps in the city, and they’ve done so with murals, giant outdoor games, public book swaps and interactive sculptures. There are a number of different groups who are doing similar things around the city, which means there’s an ever-changing outdoor art gallery just begging to be explored.

Are you inspired to visit Christchurch for yourself? Take a look at our New Zealand holidays page to find your next holiday!

About Elle Croft

When Elle is not travelling, she's blogging about it over at A Bird in the Hand Travel. She believes that you don't have to look like a backpacker to travel, and writes about the stylish side of wanderlust, from stylish destinations to packing tips.