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Lonely Planet called it first and we reckon they were bang on - but we’re not the only ones. Wellington was named best city in the world for quality of living by the Deutsche Bank (2018) and we ranked in the top 10 cities in the world for quality of living in a Mercer Survey (2016). So, what’s so cool about us? Allow us to introduce ourselves.
Embraced by a natural amphitheatre of ocean and hill, Wellington merges big city culture with small town charm. A lively energy pulses through what is celebrated as New Zealand’s arts, film, coffee, culinary, craft beer, events and political capital.
Wellington is also known as a socially and environmentally conscious city. Declared nuclear weapon free over 30 years ago in 1982, it was also the first capital city in the southern hemisphere to gain Fair Trade status, and is home to the world-leading Zealandia sanctuary.
Naming our fair city at number 4 on its list of top 10 cities to visit in 2011, Lonely Planet's Best in Travel mused that Wellington may just be 'coolest little capital in the world'. Why? Well, let us begin to tell you.
We're the coolest little capital because we are actually quite little (about 180,000 people live in the city). Because there's always something going on, like CubaDupa, when thousands of Wellingtonians and visitors turn up for a huge street party and festival on Wellington's coolest street. Because it's really true that you can't beat Wellington on a good day with a gelato and a paddle in the (quite cool) water at Oriental Bay, our beach right in the heart of the city. Because we're home to the creative and the brave, from craft beer brewers to coffee brewers, film makers to peanut butter makers and fashion designers to digital platform designers, all pushing boundaries and being inspired in the coolest little capital.
Long celebrated as New Zealand’s arts and culture capital, Wellington is home to the country’s major arts institutions such as Royal New Zealand Ballet, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa. Wellington Museum was ranked as one of the 50 Best Museums in the World by The Times UK, and City Gallery Wellington in Civic Square offers world-class exhibitions of contemporary New Zealand and international art and an engaging public programme of events.
The beating heart of New Zealand theatre for more than 25 years, BATS Theatre is the place for exciting, affordable, and unpredictable live theatre experience. Te Papa's waterfront neighbour, Circa Theatre, has a New Zealand-wide reputation for excellence with an exceptional selection of shows and two performance spaces.
Wellington is home to a range of contemporary art galleries, from artist-run spaces, to public art galleries and dealer galleries. Our city's art extends beyond the walls of the galleries with public sculpture weaving a creative trail throughout the city, and street art adorning and enlivening building walls and laneways throughout the city.
The city’s ‘Wellywood’ nickname was coined as homage to our world-leading film industry. You might have heard of a couple of little trilogies called Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit that were made here, and blockbusters are filmed or worked on here all the time by the likes of Weta Workshop and Park Road Post. Oscar-winning director Guillermo del Toro has described Wellington as “Hollywood the way God intended it”.
Visitors can get a taste of Wellywood at the Weta Cave in Miramar, which takes you behind-the-scenes of Weta’s filmmaking brilliance as well as selling their famed collectables. A number of tour operators also offer film-based tours, including Wellington Rover Tours, Flat Earth New Zealand Experiences and Wellington Movie Tours. You'll find capital Film Tourism in Wellington.
Follow your nose and your stomach in Wellington and discover the best cuisine New Zealand has to offer. Said to have more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York, the city has taken out the country's cuisine prize more times than is probably fair. Visitors can pick up local produce and products from a range of boutique weekend food markets or the award-winning Moore Wilson Fresh. We've noted down a list of must-do foodie experiences in the capital which we think are well worth a visit.
Collect local cheeses, pickles and fresh bread for a picnic in the Botanic Garden or on the city’s golden sand beach; or serve seafood fresh from the surrounding bays with local wine in your hotel suite. The annual Visa Wellington On a Plate food festival in August celebrates the region’s culinary prowess through a delectable menu of events.
Wellington’s cityscape draws from a range of architectural styles in a manner fitting of a city with something for everyone.
The Victorian houses on Mount Victoria and along Oriental Bay are often noted as reminiscent of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies. The central city is home to some stunning heritage buildings alongside award-winning new developments, such as the Te Wharewaka on Wellington’s waterfront.
Wellington city is linked up with urban laneways — pedestrian connections between streets that have become destinations in their own right. Hannahs Laneway is a culinary hub is home to bakers, roasters, grinders, brewers, chocolatiers, pizza slingers and soda crafters, who work collaboratively together to bring life to a former industrial quarter. The laneway is vibrant with lighting installations, painted surfaces, bright murals and new planter boxes.
Wellington Airport’s international terminal – known as The Rock – was ranked 4th best in the world by Frommers.com in 2012 and has won no fewer than 13 awards, including the transport category in the prestigious World Architecture Festival in Barcelona. A more recent addition to the terminal by Warren and Mahoney has picked up an award or two and also made it to the finals in the 2017 World Architecture Festival Awards.
Wellington’s compact geography makes this city one at one with its environs. Our compact nature makes the city easy to navigate by foot, and a fantastic public transport system is available for those wanting to venture further afield. Or jump on an electric bike from Switched On Bikes and cruise your way around the bays, stopping off for a swim or a coffee one of our seaside cafes, or head up Mt Victoria for panoramic views of the city and harbour.
Our city is home to heaps of visitor experiences with a green bent, including the multi award-winning Zealandia. With an ambitious vision to turn the clock back 500 years to restore a piece of New Zealand to its pre-human state, Zealandia was selected by UK broadsheet The Guardian as one of the top 75 green tourism companies in the world and won a prestigious Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award in 2010.
Our accommodation operators are all doing their bit too - YHA Wellington was the first backpacker hostel in New Zealand to gain Qualmark Enviro-Gold status and was a previous winner in the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards. Wellington is also home to New Zealand’s first carboNZero-certified taxi company, Wellington Combined Taxis.
Visitors can step back in time and travel to the edge of the Universe in Wellington. Zealandia takes you back in time to the day before humans arrived. Visitors meet the extinct giant moa and fearsome Haast's eagle and hear the haunting song of the extinct huia. Discover the impact of human settlement on a fragile paradise and the groundbreaking work that’s being done to restore a piece of New Zealand to what it once was.
After a stroll through the world-first wildlife safe haven, head to New Zealand’s ‘Place for Space’, Space Place at Carter Observatory. The observatory features interactive exhibits and a 9m dome digital planetarium that takes you from Wellington to the edge of our Solar System and beyond.
There's more to the capital’s nightlife than classy cocktails and boutique brews (though make sure you do those as well!)
The Wellington Night Markets held every Friday and Saturday evening are a vibrant multi-cultural mix of good eats and live music right in the heart of the Cuba Quarter.
Wellingtonians are said to be among New Zealand’s fittest people, with over 18,000 residents choosing to walk or jog to work. As well as strolling through shops in the compact downtown, visitors can learn about the scenery and heritage on a number of walking trails and guided walking tours. Start your day with a walk up to the Mount Victoria Lookout and spend an afternoon seeking seals and marvelling at the Red Rocks on the South Coast.
Wellington’s waterfront and Botanic Gardens are home to a wonderful assortment of wonderful, weird and wind-powered public outdoor sculptures which can be explored on self-guided walking tours using these handy Wellington Sculpture Trust maps.