Wellington is well suited for walking around its major cultural experiences. Several important museums and galleries are strung along the waterfront, adjacent to the downtown area, or are just a block or two back from there, while others are a kilometre or so further away.
Start at Te Papa on the waterfront, not just because it’s the biggest and most interesting, but also because it’s the first to open (9am and entry is free). Take at least a couple of hours, and then head either north or south.
To the south (several blocks) is the National War Memorial at Pukeahu Park in Buckle Street (free, and well worth a wander all by itself), and in the old Dominion Museum building behind that is Sir Peter Jackson’s Great War Exhibition, including his latest addition the Trench Experience that takes visitors into a trench high on the hills of Gallipoli.
The House of Compassion Creche, set up by Sister Mary Aubert in 1914 to look after the urban poor, is also in the park and worth a stop.
About a kilometre away (heading west and up the Brooklyn Hill) is the Nairn Street Cottage believed to be the oldest house in Wellington. It was built in 1858 by William Wallis and is beautifully presented and rich with history of the early settlement of Wellington.
Alternatively, head north from Te Papa and seven-minutes’ stroll around the waterfront will bring you to the Wellington Museum (formerly the Museum of City and Sea, but now much improved). This tells of the city’s history and how the 19th and 20th centuries have impacted people’s lives.
Also on the waterfront (next to the Wellington Museum) is the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, which has an ever-changing series of exhibits, often, but not always paintings and other art work. There is also a very enticing display of all styles and genres of art in the Academy Shop – all original works by New Zealand artists.
If you are interested in banking, then head into the city to the BNZ Heritage in the Old Bank Building, opposite what used to be Stewart Dawson’s corner.
The Reserve Bank’s Museum (at the north end of The Terrace, opposite Parliament) has a wonderful econometric model of the economy, where the flow of water simulates how money moves around in the economy.