Wellington: culture and coffee capital of New Zealand. A laid-back, budget-friendly, non-intimidating alternative to the hustle and bustle of Auckland. A cool city all around, which can easily be enjoyed in 24 hours. If you’re wondering how to spend your time, here’s a quick run-down that will help you maximise your visit.
8:30am: An Early-Morning Stroll Around Wellington’s Botanic Garden
Open from dusk till dawn, the Botanic Garden boasts 25 hectares’ (62 acres) worth of native blooms, forestry, and specialist plant collections from around the world. If you’re not one for steep hill climbs in the wee hours of the morning, the Cable Car begins its circuit at 7:00am on weekdays and 8:30am on weekends. If you miss the first one, don’t fret – another will arrive in 10 minutes. Once you’ve reached your destination, you can spend some time admiring the various garden facilities, from its lovely duck ponds to its famed floral displays.
Wellington’s brunch scene should be on top of every foodie’s to-do list. Usually, cafes are up and running around 7-8am on a weekday, but they tend to open a little later (8:30-9:00am) on the weekend. Depending on which day you’ve touched down on the capital, you could swap out the Botanic Garden visit with an early coffee fix. Popular establishments to check out include Fidel’s, Caffe L’Affare, and Floriditas.
Fidel’s Cafe, 234 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, +64 4-801 6868
Floriditas, 161 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, +64 4-381 2212
11:00am: A Parliament tour
Parliament tours typically depart every hour from the Beehive’s main entrance. You can choose between the 30 minute highlights tour, which takes visitors to the Banquet Hall, parliamentary Debating Chamber, and Select Committee rooms; or go for the full 60-minute introductory guide which includes these rooms and many others. Art tours are also held on a monthly basis – it’s best to keep your eye on Parliament’s events calendar to see if your timing suits this 90-minute option.
Beehive, Molesworth St, Pipitea, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, +64 4-817 9999
12:00pm: Lunch by the waterfront
They say you can’t beat Wellington on a nice, sunny day. If you’re blessed with great weather, make sure to select a good lunch spot that will enable you to soak up those lovely waterfront views. You’ll have a trove of eateries to choose from, including Shed 5, Foxglove Bar and Kitchen, and Mojo’s Waterfront cafe.
Shed 5, Queens Wharf, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand, +64 4-499 9069
1:00pm: A visit to Te Papa Museum
Allow a couple of hours to visit Wellington’s biggest museum. Whether you’re a keen history buff, a budding scientist or just an all-round museum lover, Te Papa is filled with interesting things to discover and cherish. The world’s only colossal squid exhibition resides on its second floor, as does an awesome earthquake simulation exhibit. Te Papa is also home to various Maori treasures (locally known as taonga), artworks, and historical relics.
3:00pm: Afternoon sugar fix
With all this exploring, you’re bound to need an extra sugar fix. Wellington is dotted is sweet treats to try – ranging from your favourite bakery staples, to the best ice creams around. For instance, you’ll find beautifully decadent delights at the Sweet Bakery and Cakery and an incredible assortment of artisan gelato from any of Kaffee Eis’s various locations.
4:00pm: A panoramic expedition to Mount Victoria
You don’t need to be a hiker to scale Wellington’s most picturesque summit. Mount Victoria is located a few minutes away from downtown and the heart-pumping climb will reward its explorers with 360-degree panoramas of the entire city. You can choose from various forested routes. The Southern Walkway on Majoribanks Street is the quickest way to get directly to the summit – enter through Charles Plimmer Park, walk across to the Southern Walkway, then up Lookout Walkway to reach your final destination. Alternatively, if you want to spend 2.5 hours exploring your surroundings, opt for doing the full 4.5-kilometre (2.8-mile) loop across all the main trails.
30 minutes before sunset: Zealandia By Night
This after-hours tour of Wellington’s remarkable ecological sanctuary will bring you up close and personal to some of New Zealand’s best nocturnal critters. Little spotted kiwi birds, glowworms, tuatara, and longfin eels are some of the cool wildlife you might catch a glimpse on your visit. Bookings are essential, as this will tell you when you need to arrive for your expedition. Tours happen rain or shine, daily in the summer season and four days a week in the colder months.
8:00pm-midnight: Dinner and Bar Crawl
One can never go wrong with Wellington’s eclectic nightlife. Cuba Street has its fair share of cheap eats and lots of lively bars. Not too far away, Courtenay Place is the street to visit if you’re wanting to try some of the city’s finest cocktails. For a substantial meal, some of the city’s most palatable venues include Ortega, The Larder, and Matterhorn.
Matterhorn, 106 Cuba St, Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand, +64 4-384 3359
Midnight onwards: Late-night feasts
So, you’re ready to scale things down. Before calling it a night, why not grab a quick midnight snack? The aptly-named Midnight Espresso is the popular choice among Wellingtonians looking for some late night bites. Sweet Mother’s Kitchen and Pizzeria Napoli are a few of the other nightly options worth setting your sights onto.
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