Christchurch is the most English of New Zealand's cities, named after an Oxford college. The atmosphere is reminiscent of an English university town, with school boys in striped blazers and punting on the River Avon, a grand Anglican cathedral dominating the central square, little stone-walled bridges, elegant Victorian architecture, and numerous parks and exquisite gardens.
Dubbed the 'Garden City', it is the lively capital of the Canterbury region, priding itself on its green areas, arts, and history, as well as its sports. The surrounds offer beach suburbs, protected bays and dolphin swimming, green valleys and snow-capped mountain ranges for skiing, hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. The city itself has a relaxed and cosmopolitan centre with historic trams rattling along the streets of the bustling downtown area, a lively pub and restaurant scene, theatres, street buskers, museums, and art galleries.
Christchurch was devastated by a major earthquake in February 2011, and some of the damage is still evident, but the city has rapidly risen from the rubble and now frequently graces lists of the top cities to visit in the world. The nightlife and restaurant scene has bounced back impressively, with close to 1,000 cafes, bars, and restaurants currently operating in the city. Some tourist attractions and hospitality businesses have not reopened after the earthquake, but others have sprung up to replace them.
Christchurch is the gateway to the South Island and offers the visitor an appealing mixture of historic charm and vibrant city life, a pleasing balance between urban pursuits and outdoor activities. With the least rainfall of any of New Zealand's cities and plenty of sunshine, it is a perfect base for a diverse range of activities, including a Canterbury skiing experience.