Tucked away at the bottom of New Zealand’s North Island, Wellington is easily overlooked. Yet Wellington is a vibrant hub for artists and activists, for dreamers and lovers and poets. When I decided to move to Wellington for university, I had no idea that I was set to fall for the place. It’s home. It’s this free city where one can be whoever they want to be. I’ve never felt freer than in Wellington. When I walk the beautiful streets, I feel on the cusp of my life, on the cusp of every art project I’ve ever wanted to do. Wellington is a city that inspires.
The windiest city in the world!
No exaggeration needed. Wellington’s wind sometimes feels like human hands threatening to push you over. When I’m crossing the road, purposefully leaning into the wind, I’m sometimes scared I’ll get thrown in front of a car. But don’t let this scare you away! The wind is unique for its power, strong and strangely freeing. There’s something authentic about Wellington’s natural prowess – the city is nestled in hill, at the edge of ocean, whipped by wind.
Home to Parliament.
I’m a law student, so this is exciting to me, but it’s also the cornerstone of Wellington. It’s the reason there’s so much happening in Wellington. You get to see politicians wandering the streets, protests going off every other week. Wellington is a place where people want to see change. And, as a tourist, you get to tour the famous Beehive.
Stunning nature scenes – just about everywhere.
Of course, all of New Zealand boasts natural beauty. But one of Wellington’s charms is the accessibility of everything. The physical city is small and that means you can walk just about everywhere. You can be astounded by a whole city view at Mt Victoria, and then walk down to Oriental Bay – the closest beach to the city. It’s always busy, and always cheerful. From Oriental Bay, you can walk along the whole waterfront. The waterfront is one of Wellington’s best features – it stretches across the whole city front and is beautiful the whole way. And once you’ve taken the famous Cable Car from Lambton Quay up to the Botanical Gardens, you not only get a different city and water view, but also picturesque walking tracks and a rose garden.
Arts and entertainment – look no further.
Te Papa is considered one of the best museums in the world. The Great War exhibition contains huge war figures, made by Weta Workshops (who made The Lord of the Rings) which make me tear up every time. The facial expressions are so real. And beyond Te Papa, there’s the main art gallery, and lots of little galleries and studios hidden all over the city. There are also shows and gigs constantly. Every night of the week there’s live music somewhere, whether it be jazz, a touring folk band, or a rock duo. It’s all easy to find too, just google: what’s on in Wellington. You’d be surprised at who comes to a smaller city. Wellington has a number of independent theatres which means it’s easy to see dance groups, theatre productions, and comedy nights. The Fringe Bar is always full of original stand up shows and sometimes poetry. If films are more your thing, there are also a number of movie theatres. There’s a film festival almost every other week, and I personally make an effort to go see something from at least three festivals each year.
Oh, and returning to the Lord of The Rings – which I’m sure you know – you can actually visit Weta Workshops for a tour to marvel at the making of Gandalf or Legolas’s costumes. That’s pretty cool.
Crammed full of food and drink.
Wellington is known for coffee culture. And that extends to good food and snacks.
- Olive Cafe
- Milk Crate
- Midnight Espresso
Midnight Espresso holds a special place in my heart because it’s open until 3am, and well, as a student, sometimes life just gets overwhelming. The American diner feel and overflowing stacks of (vegan options) cake means I always feel better after going there. And it isn’t really for coffee, but I have to endorse Kaffee Eis. It’s some of the best gelato in New Zealand, and Wellington literally has five of them.
- Mr Go’s
- Capital Markets
- Little Penang
- Aunty Mena’s Vegetarian Restaurant and Cafe
Courtney Place is always alive on a Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday. So, if you want a classy gin and tonic (my personal favourite) or to get down on the dance floor, there’s something for you.
If you want class:
- The Library
- Basque (if you like a Latino theme, or tequila)
- Dirty Little Secret
If you want to party:
- Red Square
- Eddison’s Suprette
Have we mentioned the shopping?
Wellington is an artsy city, after all. And that means the fashion is good. Cuba street is full of second hand and vintage stores where you can always find something comfortably off-trend. A pretty, bricked outdoor shopping area, Cuba street is always vibrant. Apart from clothing, there are hidden galleries, vape stores, art stores, and cafes. If you want branded or more mainstream clothes, there’s always Lambton Quay and Victoria Street. All the classic names like Just Jeans and Glassons are there. Wellington is even home to New Zealand’s only David Jones.
Markets, markets, markets!
Perhaps because Wellingtonions don’t like spending too much money (or maybe that’s just me) there are a lot of markets. On Cuba Street there’s both the Friday and Saturday night markets which feature food trucks and stalls, art, and buskers. There are various Sunday morning fruit and vegetable markets which offer amazing deals. And down by the waterfront, in one of the underground carparks, there’s a market every Saturday morning. That market has pretty much everything – food, art, clothing, henna tattoos. I once bought some amazing earrings there for only $5.
So go explore!
I hope that you love Wellington as much as I do. It’s an easy place to love, but you will find it difficult if you don’t like walking.