Having spent a little over a year in Wellington, New Zealand, both as a study abroad student and a young professional, I can confidently say that this is one of the best cities on the planet. You truly can’t go wrong with a place like this — there’s something for everyone. Here are just a few of the reasons why I love it so much.
1. It’s “The Coolest Little Capital in the World”
In 2011, Lonely Planet gave Wellington this title, which is no surprise to anyone who’s gotten the chance to visit. The vibe of this city is incredibly welcoming and lively and you’ll likely feel at home immediately. From the people, to the food, to the art, to the landscape, it’s nothing like a normal capital city.
The city center is so compact and flat, you can walk from one side to the other in about 40 minutes. Many of the surrounding suburbs, like Kelburn, Aro Valley and Newtown, are small and easy to explore as well if you’re willing to climb a hill or two.
3. It’s in the Heart of Middle Earth
Love Lord of the Rings? Wellington is home to the studio that brought these films, and many others, to life. The Weta Workshop, co-founded by Peter Jackson himself, is world renowned for its film and television production, prop design and special effects. Thankfully, Wellywood isn’t nearly as chaotic as Hollywood. Despite being one of the largest film studios in the world, it’s tucked away in a quiet suburb just outside the central business district.
4. Easy and Affordable Public Transportation
If you’re not willing to climb a hill or two (and I don’t blame you), Wellington is known for having some of the best public transportation in New Zealand. There are many buses and trains that can take you quickly around the city or to suburbs more than an hour away and they’re much cheaper than Uber, which is also readily available in Wellington. To make it easier, pick up a Snapper Card at a local dairy, tap on and off the bus, and enjoy the city without having sore legs for the next few days.Explore study abroad programs in Wellington, New Zealand
5. Great Universities
Whether you decide on Victoria or Massey University, you’re sure to be in good hands. Both schools offer fantastic resources, class options and housing with dedicated professors from all around the world. These universities want you to succeed, so there’s always someone there to help you if you’re struggling with a problem, small or large.
6. The Waterfront
Look at a picture of it and you’ll understand. Following the entire length of the city (and then some), the waterfront is the best place to go for a morning run or an afternoon stroll. It’s dotted with fantastic restaurants, bars with bean bag chairs out front, ice cream shops, and plenty of places to sit and read or dive into the water for a swim. You can rent kayaks, paddleboards, paddleboats, “croc bikes” and rollerblades – you could spend your entire semester at the waterfront and still not do everything it has to offer.
7. Festivals and Markets Every Weekend
There is a night market on Cuba Street every Friday and Saturday, an underground craft market every Saturday, a farmers market every Sunday and plenty of other markets that pop up throughout the year. For festivals,, we have the New Zealand Festival, Cuba Dupa, the Fringe Festival, the Homegrown Music Festival, Wellington On a Plate, Beervana, the World of Wearable Art and the Lux Light Festival…just to name a few. You’ll never be hard-pressed to find something fun to do on the weekends.
8. A Thriving Art Scene
Walk around the city and surrounding suburbs and you’ll see a plethora of murals, sculptures and graffiti that would make a great backdrop for any Instagram shot. There are also many art museums that are either free to enter or extremely inexpensive. For example, Te Papa, New Zealand’s national art and history museum, is located in Wellington and is completely free with the exception of some special exhibits.
9. Landscape Diversity
This was one of the things that sold me on Wellington the most when I was deciding where to study abroad. Not only is it a proper city, tall buildings and all (which is quite uncommon in NZ), but it’s completely surrounded by a ring of small mountains, a calm harbour, and the open ocean so you truly get the best of every world. In the same day, you can go kayaking in the harbour, go for a hike up Mount Victoria, go surfing in Lyall Bay and grab a drink at the Dirty Little Secret rooftop bar.
10. Friendly Locals
Kiwis are a notoriously friendly and relaxed bunch and Wellingtonians are no exception. Despite being a bustling, business-driven city, rarely will someone ignore you if you ask for directions, need help navigating public transport or just want to have a quick chat.
11. Always Something New
Walk down the street on any given day and you’ll find a dozen fun activities to do that are free or very low cost. From yoga classes to free outdoor cinemas, festivals to food trucks, you’ll never be bored in Welly. There’s never an excuse to stay locked in your room all day!
12. Incredible Food, Coffee and Craft Beer
Wellington is said to have more bars, restaurants and cafes per capita than New York City, so they obviously take food very seriously. Although there are some chain restaurants in Welly, the vast majority are small, locally owned shops, so you get a unique experience everywhere you go. Some crowd favorites are Mama Browns, known for their brunch menu and famously delicious milkshakes, Midnight Espresso, known for being one of the few coffee shops open past 5:00 pm, and Garage Project, known for their huge variety of house-made craft beers
13. High Quality of Life
Wellington is a great place to live. There’s amazing food and entertainment, friendly people, good job opportunities, no overcrowding, safe public transportation and well-maintained (albeit pricey) housing options. Most people in Wellington seem genuinely happy to live here. Although many citizens were born and raised in the city, a significant amount have also moved to Wellington from around the country and abroad, showing how wonderful of a place it really is.
14. So Many Walks, Hikes, and Lookouts
Most people think of the South Island as the place to go for hiking, or “tramping” as it’s known in NZ, but there are also plenty of great day tramps and walks on the North Island, particularly around Wellington. The walks up Mt. Victoria and Polhill Reserve start right in the city, while many others, like the Skyline Walk, Moa Point Reserve and Otari-Wilton’s Bush are a short bus ride away.
15. The weather…on a good day
The city has affectionately been nicknamed “Windy Welly,” because of the crazy amounts of wind it gets throughout the year. But, it’s true that, when you catch Wellington on a good day, nothing can top it. Although it’s a great place everyday, when the sun’s out and the wind has calmed down, it gives you a chance to look around and enjoy every bit of the beauty that Wellington possesses, and you can rest assured that you picked the right place to study abroad.