Outside the Wellington Chocolate Factory, 2 people stand enjoying a coffee. A large black wall is to the left with the business name on it.

24 hours in Wellington

Caffeinated breakfast

You’re going to need energy to tackle the city’s sights so start the day with breakfast at one of Wellington’s top cafés. Wellingtonians take coffee very seriously and many local roasteries keep cafés well supplied, so a quality brew is never far away. If you want an ocean view while you plan your day, there are some great cafés around the harbour and along the southern coastline. Travelling for a view to accompany your eggs is worth it.

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A Cable Car quest to the bush

Wellington’s historic Cable Car has been trundling up and down the hill from Lambton Quay to Kelburn for over 120 years. It serves many commuters and students needing a convenient way to avoid a steep walk home, but is also a huge tourist attraction. There are several stops on the way, but you’ll want to stay on until the end where you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city and harbour.

The Wellington Cable Car parked at the top terminal, people walk in and out of the doors.

The adventure doesn’t stop at the top. From there, you can explore the 25 hectares of Wellington Botanic Gardens (the final stop on the Cable Car leaves you on its boundary). Or, you can catch a free shuttle to Zealandia Te Māra a Tāne, a fully-fenced predator-free ecosanctuary. The world-first conservation project has a 500-year vision to restore a Wellington city valley back to a pre-human state. The forest and freshwater ecosystem support native bird life and other endangered species.

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Cuba connection

Back in the city, a stroll along Cuba Street will get you in the thick of Wellington’s atmosphere. Cuba Street, along with its side streets, hosts a colourful clutch of cafés, restaurants, and boutiques. It attracts a diverse group of people who keep the area busy from morning until late at night.

The Bucket Fountain (an unofficial symbol of the city) often has buskers and performers nearby who will keep you entertained should you want to eat your lunch outside. Nearby are a couple of quaint laneways running between Ghuznee and Dixon Streets.

Egmont and Leeds Streets have hidden restaurants, bars, and shops. If you’re a chocoholic you’ll want to visit artisan chocolate maker Wellington Chocolate Factory. For lovers of traditional pizza, Pizza Pomodoro in the Hannahs Courtyard serves great takeaway if you’re in a rush.

People walking down Cuba Street, past the Bucket Fountain, an iconic kinetic sculpture.

Wellington’s iconic Bucket Fountain on Cuba Street.

Waterfront stroll

The largest museum in the country takes pride of place on Wellington’s waterfront. At 36,000 square metres and six stories high, Te Papa contains a vast repository of collections with over 800,000 artworks, objects, and specimens. You could spend an entire day exploring and still not see everything, but you can select at least one exhibition to see during your 24 hours in the city. Entry is free and it’s open 365 days a year.

Once you get back outside, you’ll need a pick-me-up. If that takes the form of gelato or ice cream, there are several options nearby. If it’s a restorative beer, then there are some excellent inner-city breweries that will serve up a cold one. Whistling Sisters, Fortune Favours, Choice Bros, and Heyday Beer Co are all within walking distance. You can see their product maturing in the vats before sampling it at the bar.

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Dinner in the culinary capital

For dinner, head to one of Wellington’s top award-winning eateries. Wellington offers a dizzying range of dining styles that suits all budgets. From fun, casual eats at Mr Go’s, 1154 Pastaria and Burger Liquor to the laidback luxury of Ortega Fish Shack and Concord. If you head back to Cuba Street precinct there is a concentration of great Malaysian, Italian, South American, Indian, and Japanese eats.

3 plates of food on the corner of a table, one is fries and sauce, the other has dressings and another appears to be crumbed fish.