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48 hours in Wellington for arts and culture lovers

In Wellington, there’s always a live performance on offer – from theatre, to ballet, to contemporary dance. Our art scene is lively, with art galleries all over town showing regularly changing exhibitions of art, both historical and contemporary, and everything in between.

Here’s our 48-hour guide on how to have the ultimate arts and culture lover’s weekend in Wellington.

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Explore Wellington's street art-lined laneways

Friday

Arrive late afternoon or early evening and check-in to your hotel. If you’re going by taxi, ask the driver to take the scenic route around the bays into town.

A quick bite to eat at 1154 Pastaria on Cuba Street. Take your pick of fresh, hand-made pasta with your favourite classic sauce, natural and organic wines and the best flourless chocolate cake in town.

See a live theatre show at waterfront Circa, or BATS at the top of Courtenay Place. Check out what's on and book seats for a theatre performance during your stay.

After the applause has faded, head to Crumpet on Manners Street for a cocktail before you head back to your hotel. Consult with Crumpet's staff to find a cocktail based on your preferred flavour profile, your mood or the weather, or take a flick through their filofax of cocktails to find something that tickles your fancy.

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Fresh, handmade pasta at 1154 on Cuba Street

Saturday

After a leisurely sleep-in and breakfast in bed at your hotel, head out for a coffee and gallery crawl in the Cuba Quarter - with a concentration of art galleries and cafés, it’s easy to spend a few hours meandering around the galleries and stopping for coffee.

Grab a coffee from Customs by Coffee Supreme on Ghuznee Street and sit outside to take in Bowen Galleries’ regularly changing window exhibition and the street art across the road.

Wander upstairs to Hamish McKay then pop around the corner to pay a visit to Cuba Street’s oldest running gallery, McLeavey Gallery. Then walk a few metres down the road to find Bartley + Company Art – it’s just behind a contemporary wooden picket fence with Coco the chocolate Labrador sitting outside in the hope of a pat.  

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McLeavey Gallery on Cuba Street
Photo credit: Darryn George, installation for Gates and Journeys, McLeavey Gallery 2018

Lunch at the lovely Loretta, where Scandinavian-style design meets Californian-style menu meets Wellington's Cuba Street. Loretta is a smart but casual eatery serving up wholesome and delicious food. We recommend the wood-fired whole chook to share and bottle of something organic and natural to drink.

Spend the afternoon exploring the Ghuznee Precinct. Ghuznee Street is one of Wellington’s coolest new areas with new brew bars, boutique stores and cafés regularly popping up. It’s well worth a visit for lovers of New Zealand-made mens and women’s clothing and accessories, designer homewares and contemporary art.

  • Precinct 35: A carefully curated homewares and furniture store, sourcing goods from locally and abroad.
  • Caughley: 28 different labels from New Zealand to New York and beyond.
  • twenty-seven names: beautiful lovingly-made sustainable clothing designed on Ghuznee Street and made in New Zealand
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Scandi style meets Cali menu at Loretta on Cuba Street

After a chill out at your hotel, it’s time for dinner. The culinary capital has plenty of options for pre-show eats, ranging from the cheap and cheerful to the mid-priced and magnificent. For a splash of well-priced extravagance, book a table at Logan Brown - this Wellington institution and frequently awarded restaurant offers an excellent value pre-theatre menu for $50 per person.

Time for a show! Wellington is home to major national arts companies, including the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and NZ Opera, all of which regularly perform in the capital. Check out what's on and book tickets for a performance. 

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Wellington is the home of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Photo credit: Matt Grace

Sunday

Wander down to the waterfront to check out the Harbourside Market by Te Papa. Grab a coffee and a pastry for breakfast – or a paua fritter sandwich if that’s more your thing – and listen to the buskers and do some people watching.

Head inside Te Papa to check out Toi Art, a two-level art gallery within the museum. Showing works from the national collection, as well as commissioned works and touring exhibitions, Toi Art is two floors of art for your explore.

When it's time for lunch, take a short stroll to Egmont Street Eatery in Egmont Laneway. Serving up fresh, seasonal and simple cuisine, with daily specials focusing on local produce, matched with carefully selected craft beer and wine, quality caffeine and house made condiments – this is absolutely a hidden gem.

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City Gallery Wellington in Civic Square

After lunch, take a short walk from Egmont Laneway to City Gallery Wellington in Civic Square or New Zealand Portrait Gallery on the waterfront.

Grab a gelato or a coffee from Gelissimo on Taranaki Wharf and find a spot on the waterfront to sit and reflect on the wonderful weekend you’ve just had.

Best places to stay for the arts and culture lover

The best thing about a weekend in Wellington is that you won’t need a car. Stay in the heart of the city and you’ll be able to walk most places or catch a ride when you need one. Here’s our pick of the best places to stay for the arts and culture lover. They’re all located in the central city and within easy walking distance of the city’s arts and culture venues.

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Axminstress, Kate MacKenzie, New Zealand

Best time to visit for the arts and culture lover 

You don’t need to plan your visit for a particular time – Wellington is always on, making it the perfect getaway for the arts and culture lover. But here’s some particularly good times to come for an arts and culture weekend in the capital.

August

  • Burn Her (3 – 31 Aug) Get set for searing political thriller at Circa Theatre
  • RNZB: Bold Moves (16 – 18 Aug) Featuring choreographers from three continents and dancers from the Royal New Zealand Ballet
  • NZSO: Beethoven Festival (28 – 31 Aug) All nine of Beethoven’s symphonies performed across four days

September/October