City Center, Christchurch

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  • City Center
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    The Chalice - Mirror of the Cathedral Spire

    by Kakapo2 Updated Sep 17, 2008

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    We have had such discussions in my old city of Ulm in Germany when they built the modern "Stadthaus" next to the gothic Cathedral, and there were surely some people who found it inappropiate that such a cold-looking sculpture like the Chalice was erected next to the Victorian Gothic revival style Christchurch Cathedral. But here and there most of the pure conservationists have found their peace with the modern addition.

    The Chalice on Cathedral Square was officially lighted on 7 September 2001. It celebrates the new millennium and the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Christchurch and Canterbury.

    It is shaped like an ice-cream cone, standing 18m high, with a diameter of 1.2m at the ground and 8.5m at the top.

    There is much thought behind it. The sculptor Neil Dawson whose works are on display at Stadium Australia in Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Wellington and Auckland, created the conical shape as the mirror reflection of the Cathedral spire.

    Above the solid steel base, sitting on a block of black granite, you will easily recognise the network of leaves which has the structure of a perforated shell. These leaves were cut from 42 aluminium sheets that were welded to triangular beam structures and then bolted to the rounded hexagonal frame. The leaf pattern depicts the leaves of native trees (mapou, kowhai, mahoe, totara, karamu, titoki, ngaio, maratata and koromiko) that once grew in the city centre. (The closest place where you can see most of them today are the nearby Botanic Gardens.)

    As these leaf patterns are like a net, becoming less dense, more detailed and leaving bigger gaps the higher you get, you get changing views through the open texture. The artist's intention was to reflect the geometric features of the Cathedral in the Chalice, the architecture, windows and tiles.

    In good light you easily see that the Chalice has different colours on the outside and inside. The exterior is painted silver, the inside metallic blue. On the photo in this tip you can see this very well as I had - as I call it - rainbow skies, meaning: black rainy sky on one side and the sun shining from the other side. At night the Chalice is illuminated.

    In another tip I have written about Cathedral Square at night you can see which perfect reflection of the Cathedral the Chalice is, as there I have both "cones" on one photo.

    The Chalice - a perforated network of leaves.
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    The Citizens’ War Memorial beside the Cathedral

    by Kakapo2 Written Jan 8, 2008

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    The striking monument north of the Cathedral – to the left, if you stand in front of it – is the Citizens’ War Memorial. It is 18.3 metres high and made of bronze and Portland stone – the latter was left over from the building of the Auckland Museum. As it stands on the grounds of the Cathedral it had to fulfill some requirements of the chapter, as for example, include a big central cross (that sprouts over the six allegorical figures you see on my photo; see the cross on photo 2).

    The proposal to build the monument came in competition with plans for the Bridge of Remembrance. As the council did not support the project it took 17 years until the War Memorial could be unveiled on 9 June 1937. It was designed by the local artist William Tretheway, and he worked on it with the architect G.A. Hart.

    The allegorical figures symbolise youth, justice, peace, sacrifice, valour and victory. The special thing about those figures is that the are based on people the artist knew, like his daughter (peace) or a workman (youth).

    War Memorial; in the background: Press building. The memorial is dwarved by the Cathedral.
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    The Alternative: A Guided City Tour

    by Kakapo2 Updated Dec 11, 2007

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    For people who are still weak from their long trip to NZ or do not want to read maps (or who do not get the opportunity to know me... LOL) there is a comfortable alternative to get around the city centre: On the southern side of Cathedral Square, at a red kiosk, is the start of guided walks which depart daily at 10am and 1pm (15 minutes earlier from the Visitor Centre) from October to April. From May to September they offer the 1pm tour only, and you should book before 12noon at the Visitor Centre. The tours take approximately two hours.

    Although I do not join such guided tours very often, wherever I am, I must admit that the guides normally offer a lot more interesting information than guide books. And even more: If you hear such stories, garnished by little anecdotes, you normally remember the facts and figures more easily and for a longer time than if you only read them in a book. And if you want to know more you can ask millions of questions and normally get an answer.

    The Personal Guiding Service is a non-profit organisation. The members are citizens who enjoy meeting people. Cost of a tour is NZ$ 10.

    The guided tours start at this kiosk.
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    Play Chess on Cathedral Square

    by Kakapo2 Written Nov 8, 2007

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    Not a lot to add to this photo.

    Although I do not play chess as I only have some superficial knowledge about this brain game, I love to watch the chess players on Cathedral Square. I think it is already hard enough to be prepared for all eventualities on a common chess board. So I am deeply impressed how people can think forward moving the figures on such a huge square and not lose the overview.

    Chess artists in Christchurch.

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    Cathedral Square Market

    by fishandchips Updated Oct 3, 2007

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    Most days of the week in the centre of Christchurch, there are a number of stalls in Cathedral Square. The stalls sell all sort of items from jewellery to clothing plus there are a couple of food vendors.

    Prices vary greatly with the stall owners often the makers of the item (esp. re the jewellery) so willing to talk price and able to tell you about the item you are looking at.

    The stalls come and go depending on the number of visitors and the time of year with the busiest period from January to March.

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    Town of the Festival

    by fishandchips Written Aug 9, 2007

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    Christchurch has a multitude of festivals. Ranging from the International buskers festival to the Christchurch Arts festival there is often something special going on in Christchurch.

    The festival list includes - Buskers in January, Global Extravaganza in February, Flowers in march, Jazz & Blues in April, Music in July, Film Festival in August, Cultural festival in August and Writers in September. There is also the Festival of Romance which is part of the flowers.

    Currently the Cathedral Square is adorned with giant flowers, a mini tent city and UFO building all in the name of art.

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    Kate Sheppard Memorial, Reflecting Women's Rights

    by Kakapo2 Written Jul 24, 2007

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    It is remarkable that in a country with macho and rugby culture so many important positions are held by women, with the most outstanding post, of course, by Prime Minister Helen Clark. Many guys complain about this dominance of females. The truth is that in total far more men than women hold executive management positions. And very personally I have to say that Helen Clark with her masculine attitude seems to be much more a leader than her opponents - which does not mean that I would think everything she does is right. It is just about her leader's skills.

    After this little detour into actual politics let me come to the core of this tip which is about the Kate Sheppard Memorial on the banks of the Avon River. It is not far from Kate Sheppard to Helen Clark - as Kate Sheppard once fought for the women's right to vote, and as a consequence, to be elected into political positions.

    NZ was the first country in the world that granted women the right to vote in 1893. To the 100th anniversary the Memorial on Oxford Terrace - mentioned in my tip about the "Stroll along the Avon - was erected. It is a 5m wide and 2.1m high bronze screen, created by the artist Margriet Windhausen.

    Kate Sheppard (1848 - 1934) was a fighter for women's rights, and subsequently for their right to vote, because she knew only this would lead to social reforms. So she became a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and took up national office as the superintendent of its franchise department in 1887. The fifth petition to Parliament in 1893 contained 31,872 signatures. This was a third of the number of women living in NZ at the time. Due to this effort, on 19 September 1893 the Electoral Bill was passed.

    The funny thing about the memorial is that critics said the choice of the artist put gender before merit. The old-fashioned proposal was regarded as dull. But the memorial committee favoured the work because it would be easily understood.

    So you will see a life-sized bronze relief sculpture, with Kate Sheppard flanked ...

    NZ women were the first to get the right to vote.
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    Victoria Square, an oasis in the city centre

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 23, 2007

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    There is tourist hustle and bustle nearly everywhere in the city but Victoria Square seems clearly underrated. There are never big crowds, and people lying on the grass in the midday sun are mostly locals, although this beautiful small park ist only two blocks from Cathedral Square, and on one side is a stop for tour buses which spit out huge amounts of tourists.

    The park is, of course, named after Queen Victoria, and a monument at the corner of Columbo and Armagh Streets is sign of this.

    Flower beds, lawns, benches and a fountain give the square a relaxing touch. On two sides the Avon River borders the park, Town Hall with its famous water feature is on the other side of the Avon. A carved totara reminds of Maori culture and history. Some metres right of this ochre pole you can see a young kauri tree BTW.

    There are some very interesting historic features (and more monuments than Queen Victoria's) in the park, for example Captain James Cook. Go to the bridge left of Town Hall which is a kind of double bridge.

    The cast iron and stone Victoria Bridge was built in 1863/64 at the place of a wooden bridge called "Papanui Bridge" from 1851, and was the first of this kind in NZ. In 1875 and 1885 it was widened to its present form by adding wing piers and wooden outrigger footpaths. It was renamed in 1989 and is now the Hamish Hay Bridge, named after a former mayor of Christchurch.

    In the middle of the bridge is a big gap under which you see the Avon River, and over it several rails. They commemorate 74 years of public tram services in Chch and mark the Papanui and Fendalton routes which first operated from 1880, first by steam locomotives, then horses, and by electricity from 1905 until 1954. To me they are a symbol for the stupidity of the Christchurch City Council because they abolished a transport system which is much more effective and punctual than buses because it is independant from traffic volumes.

    The historic tram lines in Victoria Square. Queen Victoria, Wizard + Swim Star Danyon Loader A place to relax: Victoria Park.

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    The miraculous Survival of Shands Emporium

    by Kakapo2 Updated Jul 2, 2007

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    You might pass a lot of times at this unique building in Hereford Street and not notice it because you would mostly walk on the busy side of the street where it is situated, and eventually have a look at the windows. But you only recognise its uniqueness in the row of historic buildings from the opposite side of the street from where you have an overview. And from there it stands out like a Maori chief in a row of Pakeha (Europeans), or the only black sheep in a white herd. It is sandwiched between two massive heritage buildings.

    The Shands Emporium is a simple utilitarian building, one of the very few survivors in Central Christchurch from the very early days when the first wooden houses were erected on the open Canterbury Plains. The building was first used as a solicitor's office and then continuously housed professional offices until it was converted into a shop in 1977. Only then it was named Shand's Emporium. Actually it houses an antiques shop. They even would buy your vintage watch if you run out of money during your visit... ;-)

    It is remarkable that this building has survived whereas all the other surrounding buildings have been replaced by stone buildings at later dates.

    The house was built in 1860 on land owned by farmer John Shand. That is where its name comes from.

    On the library's heritage website you can see how much air once was around Shands Emporium, and how rural the area looked, and learn everything about its history and owners.

    Shands Emporium was built in 1860.
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    Oyez! Listen to the Towncrier, he Knows what's on

    by Kakapo2 Written Jun 23, 2007

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    He is a colourful appearance on Cathedral Square. And not just that. He is loud. He does not need a microphone to be heard over the whole place. Every weekday when the Cathedral's bells are silent after the noon bells have told, the Towncrier takes a handbell to attract the people's attention, and shouts: "Oyez, oyez", which sounds like the Spanish word for "Listen"", and that is exactly what it means, although its origins are anglo-norman. Then he opens a big scroll and reads out what's on in the city - which BTW is good information for locals and tourists who do not have plans for the day or the evening yet.

    The tradition of towncriers dates back to the Middle Ages, and like then their job is to make public announcements, but the innovation of their costumes somehow stopped in the 18th century. So you will spot the Christchurch towncrier in his spectacular historical costume rather easily. He wears a rich red robe, black breeches, white stockings, and a black cocked (or: tricorne) hat.

    Like in the days long gone by, the towncrier is employed by the City Council. Stephen Symons is the man who has been doing this job in Christchurch for 18 years (as June 2007). He is on Cathedral Square on weekdays from 11am to 1pm - but not like the Wizard who has reduced his freelance work to summer and sunny days, he shouts his information over the Square year-round. On normal days he works three hours but during special events he also guides tours and has official tasks, so it can happen that he walks around in his spectacular costume up to 40 or 50 hours per week.

    Of course he is a great object for tourist photos. He also talks to tourists. But whereas he knows everything that's on in Christchurch I would not believe everything he tells you about other regions. When I was there the other day he told American tourists they should not walk on the glaciers of the West Coast because every now and then a visitor would die there, falling into crevasses. Which, of course, is absolutely not true if you go on a guided tour.

    Stephen Symons, Christchurch's towncrier. When the bells have told the towncrier shouts.
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  • City Center

    by SOGAExplorer Written Jun 18, 2007

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    Christchurch takes about a days total time to see if you want to go to the four or five sights. There is nothing spectacular to do or see. Don't take the tram unless you cannot walk. You can see every site and walk the whole center in less than a full day.
    If you see the museum in Auckland, then there is no need to see the one in Christchurch. The Cathedral takes five minutes tops.

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    Citizen's War Memorial

    by Aidy_p Written May 27, 2007

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    In and around Australia and New Zealand, you will see monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers of their countries. These ANZAC troops have travelled the globe to fight for the freedom of other countries.

    This memorial was erected in 1937 to commemorate the fallen NZ soldiers of World War I.

    Citizen's War Memorial

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    Do not Stumble over the Corgis in High Street

    by Kakapo2 Written May 17, 2007

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    I do not walk down High Street every time I am in the city - but every time I go to the fabulous furniture shop McKenzie & Willis at the corner of Tuam, Manchester and High Streets, I am so pleased to nearly stumble over the three life-sized bronze Corgis next to a bench before crossing Tuam Street.

    Somehow I never think of them, not even when I start to walk down High Street. When I happen to see them they always come as a nice surprise. They put a smile on all people's faces.

    The three dogs are sneaking around this street corner since December 2003. A local artist named David Marshall created them. Their installation coincided with the 50th jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II who is the world's most famous Corgis lover, and as we are still a kind of British colony... LOL... At least the Queen is still the official head of state, so it is ok. And apart from that those bronze dogs are great, a pinch of humour is included. One corgi is licking on an ice-cream cone thrown on the footpath, another one is carrying the leash in his mouth. So real-life scenes with life-sized dogs.

    The corgis in front of McKenzie & Willis. Life-sized dogs in real-life scenes.
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    Cathedral Square at Night - no Place to Stay

    by Kakapo2 Written May 17, 2007

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    Christchurch has missed a big chance to use Cathedral Square as the heart of city nightlife. I think of Italian cities and their squares, like Piazza Navona or the the square next to the Pantheon in Rome, or the city centres in France which are full of outdoor restaurants and cafés. All this transforms those squares into buzzling and joyful meeting places.

    Here the Square is more or less dead at night. The places to go to are in the streets that lead away from the Square which is strangely empty. This gives nice views of the Cathedral and the other buildings which are nicely reflecting in the spotlights, but you would not want to stay longer than necessary.

    Also during daytime the Square could be much better used for hospitality, with two or three more cafés than just Starbucks.

    The Square is no place of activity at night. The Cathedral at night.
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    The Wizard

    by didgeridorien Updated Apr 24, 2007

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    The Wizard is a man who hasn't worked for years, but doesn't get money from the government either. He stands at the Cathedral Square every day between November and March at 1 pm to tell every one who wants to hear it about his philosophies. He's been declared a living work of Art and is a fictional character, he has no wife or children and doesn't pay taxes, so he's one of the most free persons in New Zealand. It's fun to listen to his amazing theories, but don't get upset with him, I saw one woman trying to engage in a discussion with him and she was shredded to pieces by him. Apparently the wizard has retired now, but I'm not sure.

    The Wizard at work
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