Travel guide and things to do in Christchurch, New Zealand: The three-minute guide


The illuminated EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT Martin Creed artwork spanning an exterior wall of Christchurch's main gallery is still a poignant message of hope and encouragement or sarcasm and irony to the city it overlooks. Soil liquefaction, economic challenges and indecision have rendered recovery from the February 2011 earthquake a slow and frustrating process. Accessing the city centre has, until very recently, been such a palaver that only cafes, bars and restaurants well worth the trip have thrived and survived. Locals would like you to join them in these much-loved spaces – it helps them feel normal again. 


Peter Majendie's 185 empty white chairs installation on the corner of Cashel and Madras streets and the Canterbury Earthquake National Memorial on the Otakaro/Avon riverbank near Montreal Street Bridge.


Twenty Seven Steps on New Regent Street serves fish of the day and char-grilled Canterbury beef and harissa roasted aubergine and seasonally inspired desserts ( For something more casual collect your fries and sliders from repurposed pneumatic bank tubes at C1 Espresso – established 1996, destroyed 2011, re-opened 2012 in a different building as the first permanent cafe in the red zone ( At South American style bar and cafe Casa Publica they make the guacamole at your table ( Family-owned-and-operated motorcycle-friendly community-minded live-music-providing Smash Palace has their bar in a bus and the self-proclaimed best burgers in New Zealand (


See a show at the rescued and restored Edwardian style Isaac Theatre Royal just around the corner from New Regent Street ( Invitations for opening night – an emotional evening – were extended to the project's construction workers who were reportedly mesmerised by the performance of Russian ballet company Kostroma. 


Get to know the evolving street art and best cafes on a cycle tour with Vintage Peddler Bike Co ( Shake it to your own music for 30 minutes on the Dance-O-Mat or play the latest giant-screened Super Street Arcade game or interact with whatever pop-up installation you happen to stumble across ( Buy local products at the Re:Start container mall before it's dismantled ( Take a punt on the Otakaro/Avon River as a break from road blocks and vacant lots ( View little blue penguins and stand in a polar storm at the International Antarctic Centre on the city's outskirts (


Novotel Christchurch Cathedral Square is centrally located with views of the Southern Alps from executive rooms ( Beside Hagley Park and just a few blocks from the city centre is the great-aunt of Christchurch boutique hotels: The George. Despite her impossibly outdated facade, the lobby is tastefully retro, the parquet floors have been re-laid and the service remains you're-one-of-the-family friendly (


Skip ChristChurch Cathedral and its wretched demolition and restoration delays – and head to Latimer Square for the transitional Cardboard Cathedral, designed and donated by architect Shigeru Ban. 

Elspeth Callender travelled as a guest of Scenic ( and Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism (