Te Papa is a museum like no other

Rated by Lonely Planet as one of their top 500 places on earth, New Zealand's interactive national museum is a must-visit.

Where

Waterfront Precinct

Location

55 Cable Street

Contact

+64 4 381 7000

Any visitor to Wellington should have Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa at the top of their to-do list. This national museum is a must-do, with six storeys of cutting-edge interactive exhibitions housed in an architectural wonder of a building.

If the phrase "national museum" conjures images of dusty artefacts in glass cases, let Te Papa change that for you. The clever, contemporary, and bicultural approach puts Te Papa in a league of its own and, unlike so many museums, general entry is free.

Te Papa Tongarewa translates to "container of treasures", which is an apt description for a museum considered the home of New Zealand stories.

Te Papa is so rich in stories that even its staff are constantly learning. Anny Mawson, a museum host and one of the public faces of Te Papa, says she didn't realise how much new information she'd need to take on in her role. She shares these cultural, scientific, and historical insights while hosting tours, and draws on her background in education to keep visitors engaged and entertained.

Anny says her favourite thing about working at Te Papa is the people – both her colleagues and the visitors she looks after. This reflects a Māori proverb that explains the most important thing in the world: "he tangata, he tangata, he tangata", or: "it is people, it is people, it is people".

Te Papa is one of Tripadvisor’s top 25 museums in the world

Explore some of the national art collections in Toi Art. This set of galleries both maps the evolution of Kiwi art and hosts newly-commissioned contemporary works. From a giant three-dimensional social media page to an immersive space where your mood controls the lighting, Toi Art is proof that art is about so much more than paintings on a wall.

Museum host Anny Mawson says there's visible excitement on the faces of people seeing these spectacular installations. Her favourite is Indra's Bow, a huge rainbow piece by Tiffany Singh that even smells amazing, so you can enjoy it with your eyes closed too.

In an exhibition that's true to Wellington's famous spirit of collaboration, Te Papa has joined forces with Wētā Workshop to create an exhibition that humanises the stark realities of war. Gallipoli: The Scale of our War follows eight ordinary New Zealanders through the Gallipoli campaign, using their real stories and words to explain this harrowing event.

The exhibition opens with literally larger-than-life models of these real Kiwis, expertly crafted at 2.4 times human size. This monumental scale reflects the monumental impact of this event, which is explained through models, 3-D maps, interactive displays, and miniatures.

Take a tour

If you're short on time, book in for a guided tour. Options include Introducing Te Papa, Daily Mana Māori, and Art Narrative tours or opt for your own private tour.

If you want to know more about New Zealand’s creatures and critters, head to Te Taiao Nature, an exhibition that celebrates our weird and wonderful wildlife. It tells the story of our shaky isles and their seismic history, how this influenced our incredible native flora and fauna, and what we're doing today to protect our natural treasures.

And once you've learned about our natural wonders, head out to Bush City for some fresh air. This living outdoor exhibition is a bushwalk with a difference, with thousands of native plant species and some fun family-friendly activities too.

Museum host Anny Mawson says that having returned to New Zealand after years living overseas, working at Te Papa has made her fall back in love with her own country. Once you've experienced this museum's magic, it's hard not to feel the same way about New Zealand.

What's currently on display?

From permanent exhibitions to short-term shows, find out what's on at Te Papa now 

View exhibitions

You might like

Be in the KNOW

Subscribe to get fortnightly updates on what’s fresh, new and happening in Wellington

You may unsubscribe in the footer of all emails from WellingtonNZ. For more info, read our enews terms