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11 unmissable experiences in New Zealand's capital of cool

Named on BBC’s Hottest Cities and Rough Guide’s Top 10 Cities for 2015, Wellington has been labelled the ‘coolest little capital in the world’ by Lonely Planet and a ‘locavore’s dream’ by Vogue for good reason...

1. Get your bearings with a stroll to Mount Victoria Lookout

Whether your motivations are for the scenery or the selfie op, there’s nothing quite like getting a bird’s eye view of a city. Hugged between harbour and hill, this is easy to do in compact Wellington. From the top of the Courtenay Place entertainment district or Oriental Bay Beach, a variety of walkways up Mount Victoria take you to stunning panoramic views of city and sea.

2. Get your coffee fix

Named as one of the top 8 coffee cities in the world by CNN, Wellington knows its brews and beans. You’re spoilt for choice in New Zealand’s coffee capital and it’s pretty tough to go wrong, but for a typically Wellington brew and vibe, Flight Coffee’s The Hangar is a good place to start for your first dose.

3. Get up close to giants at Te Papa

No trip to New Zealand is complete without a visit to the incredible Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. As well as discovering stories rich in Maori history, the shared Anzac history is commemorated in monumental scale in the new Gallipoli: The scale of our war exhibition, featuring the figures of seven soldiers and a nurse frozen in a moment in time, crafted by Oscar-winning Weta Workshop at 2.4 times human scale.

4. The world’s tastiest laneway?

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To sample local flavours and pick up some gifts for anyone you've left back home, take a stroll down Hannah’s Laneway. Right in the heart of the city, this laneway is salted caramel, chocolate, craft beer, coffee, handcrafted soda, pizza and peanut butter heaven thanks to residents Leeds St Bakery, Wellington Chocolate FactoryPizza Pomodoro, Fix & Fogg and Golding’s Free Dive.

5. Tour dozens of boutique vineyards

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Just over an hour’s drive or train ride from Wellington city will take you to the stunning Wairarapa, one of New Zealand’s premier wine regions. If you’re self driving, park up and hire a bike in Martinborough to cycle your way around some 24 boutique vineyards. For easy access from Wellington, book in a Martinborough Gourmet Wine Tour day trip to sample the plummy pinots and delectable olive oils the region is known for.

6. Meet a few local birds

Get up close and personal with a three-eyed prehistoric reptile and New Zealand’s native birds at nature reserve Zealandia. This epic ecosanctuary is fenced off from predators and ripe for exploring. You can catch a free shuttle from the Wellington i-SITE to this groundbreaking sanctuary, where you might even meet one of the resident kiwi on a beautiful Night Tour.

7. Hit the Wellington markets

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A visit to a city isn’t complete without checking out its markets, and Wellington has plenty. The bohemian Cuba Quarter has an incredible Night Market on Friday and Saturday nights, while Saturday morning visitors should swing by the Underground Market to pick up some local crafts. On Sunday mornings, stock up on produce at the Harbourside Market, handily located on the waterfront and next to Te Papa

8. Discover movie-making magic

Oscar-winning Weta Workshop have worked on some of the biggest and most ambitious movie projects of our generation. A behind-the-scenes tour at the workshop headquarters reveals the incredible artistry and remarkable Kiwi innovation, as well as a few industry secrets. And of course a visit to The Lord of the Rings locations with Wellington Rover Tours is a must for Middle-earth fans.

9. Be WOWed in Wellington

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Once described as making ‘Lady Gaga look like a librarian’, the World of WearableArt Awards Show is a phenomenal fusion of art, design, fashion, dance and performance which takes place in Wellington each spring. Think Cirque du Soleil meets Vivienne Westwood, along with New Zealand’s top cultural performers and the world’s most incredible designers across a range of disciplines.

10. Culinary capital

Wellington is home to some 750 cafes and restaurants – more per capita than New York City. Dine at new eateries Shepherd and Sterling, or classics like Logan Brown, Capitol and Floriditas. Then cosy up over cocktails at Hawthorn Lounge, The Library, hit the dance floor at your pick of the clubs and music venues, or sample craft brews at The Third Eye or Malthouse.

11. Ride the Wellington Cable Car

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The bright red Wellington Cable Car is a bit of a classic. For just a few bucks, you can take the short ride up from the terminal in the heart of the Lambton Quay shopping district up to the lookout, where you’ll also find the Cable Car Museum, Space Place at Carter Observatory and Botanic Garden.