Why Wellington Rocks
Wellington is a gloriously compact city, and the Town Hall is right in the centre of it. Webstock is an awesome indoors experience, but make sure you get outside and explore! Here are a few places you might like to check out. It's not a list of everything, but all the places on the list come with the Wellingtonista seal of approval (unless otherwise stated).
Wellington is well known for its coffee culture. Most cafes in the inner city, and many in the suburbs, know how to pour good espresso, latte, or that Australasian specialty, the flat white. Local chains and roasteries whose outposts are generally reliable include Peoples (sic), Supreme, Fuel and Mojo. There are also a several places that stretch the boundaries a little and may be worth a special visit: among these are Customs Brew Bar, who have Wellington‘s only Slayer espresso machine, Memphis Belle, and Lamason, Wellington‘s only siphon bar; all three of which make fine espresso as well as single origin beans brewed in a number of interesting ways.
Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten-free and others who are dietarily challenged
Almost every restaurant & cafe in Wellington will offer you a vegetarian option, but finding vegan is harder to do. Some suggestions:
- Deluxe Cafe 10 Kent Terrace: This tiny cafe has a big range of food, offering vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free salads, sandwiches, pizza, filos and baked goodness. Everything is clearly labeled too, so you’ll know what you’re getting into.
- Victoria Street Cafe 98 Victoria Street: close to the Town Hall, this cafe has at least six salads on offer and a selection of well-marked cabinet food as well.
- Midnight Espresso, 178 Cuba Street: Open until 3amish, this cafe is the perfect destination not just for vegans but also for anyone wanting coffee, cake, hot food or the perfect place to watch people in one of Wellington’s most interesting streets.
- Aunty Mena's Vegetarian Cafe, 167 Cuba Street: It may look rundown, but you don't go to Aunty Mena's for the decor, luckily, you go for a wide range of Asiany food with fake meats.
- Meow Café, Edward Street: Great for all kinds of eaters, but they specalise in tasty gluten free treats (Gingerbread pancakes are a recommendation). Plus it has a bar and great space
- Duke Carvell's, Swan Lane: a little fancier than the others, but with a great tapas-style menu that lets you mix and match, including plenty of inventive vege options that even carnivores drool over. Plus, the menu has a handy cross-reference matrix at the back to help with all sorts of dietary requirements.
If you've been out and get hungry, you have more options than MacDonalds and Burger King in Manners Mall and on Courtenay Place. All bars are obliged to offer some kind of food which often takes the form of toasted cheese sandwiches, but if you step out onto the streets, you'll find other places to eat.
- Denny‘s, Upper Willis St: it‘s a tacky family faux-diner, but it‘s 24 hours.
- J&M's, 21a Courtenay Place: The bright lights and hordes of drunks can be a little bit disconcerting, but if you want greasy Chinesy- takeaways, J&M's will provide.
- Kebabs: there are kebab shops all over the place that stay open until around 4am to provide the traditional food of regret. Our favourite is Sahara at 39 Courtenay Place.
If long days of geeking has taken it out of you and you want to just chill out at home, perhaps you're after food to take home or have it delivered to you?
- Fish'n Chips: Wellington Trawling Company at 220 Cuba Street come highly recommended.
- Pizza: if you're after thin-crust wood-fired pizza, Scopa (141 Cuba Street) and Heaven (Upper Cuba Street) are where you wanna get takeaways from.
- Hell Pizza is the Geek Standard in Wellington. Sure, their site's all designed in Flash circa 2002, but they have a huge selection of sides, salads and toppings.
- Wholly Pizza do enormous ‘New York style’ pies (note: if you are actually from New York, you might not find them to be all that authentic). Why not get 20 inches in you whilst in Wellington?
- Curry in a Hurry will deliver you Indian food with a minimum of fuss.
Looking for something cheap to eat that you can take your own wine to? Here are some recommendations by eating style:
- Malaysian: Istana Malaysia (1 Allan Street): there are seemingly hundreds of Malaysian places in Wellington, but Istana is getting our nod because it's big, friendly and tasty.
- Indian: Balti House (78 Victoria Street) offers fresh-tasting food which stands out from the 'same slop, different colours' that other Indian restaurants are known to dish up. Plus, it's right across the road from Webstock, which will save you valuable time.
- Indian: Meanwhile, Namastey isn‘t too far away either. This piece of real estate on Dixon Street seems cursed, churning through tenants every few months, but we hope Namastey is going to stick around for a long time because it‘s definitely our favourite Indian restaurant. Try the sizzling Tandori lamb chops or the paneer in chili and you‘ll probably agree with us. The restaurant is large and spacious (and sadly, often empty) so there‘s plenty of room for a crowd.
- Thai: Phu Thai Essan, in contrast to Namastey, is not at all spacious; because it‘s so popular there are too many tables, and they‘re all constantly occupied. That‘s okay, though, the food makes it totally worth the squish. You‘d do well to order sticky rice, and maybe the duck larb, to go with your delicious Northern Thai mains (the house specialty). Or of course there are the usual range of curries and stir fries, made better with the generous use of fresh herbs, and beautifully presented. Service is impeccable, and just writing this is making us hungry.
- Italian: Honestly, if you want Italian food you'd be much better-off going somewhere licensed and paying a little bit more for a whole lot better quality. But for European-y food, Hazel on Roxburgh Street is classy and not hugely expensive.
- Japanese: Hede Restaurant (43 Lower Cuba Street) upstairs is crazy busy and bustling, but they're very good at fitting people in. The menu covers a broad range of Japanese food, and their set menus are really great value.
- Japanese: Alternatively Ozeki on Upper Tory Street is a huge space and might also be able to fit in large parties, although it‘s a bit of a trek from the Town Hall.
- Chinese: There are many many Chinese restaurants on Courtenay Place but for big plates of food suited to our western tastes and lovely service we head to Lonxiang at 98 Dixon Street, or the spacious China Grill on Allen Street.
Places to buy booze in the city
If you want to buy wine or beer, you'll be able to find it at most dairies in the Cuba Street area, New World Metro at 68 Willis Street and the Railway Station, and New World Proper at 227 Wakefield Street. There is also a very nice wine shop called Wine Seeker conveniently located right across the road from Webstock. If spirits are your thing, there's Glengarry on Courtenay Place, Liquor King at 29 Kent Terrace, or the studenty The Mill at 233 Victoria Street.
Bars with room for 20+ people to invade
So you've got yourself a big group, and you're moving venues, or you've made plans to meet up with people and you've spread the word over Twitter. These venues are the most likely to have room for you and all your new friends:
- The Southern Cross, 35 Abel Smith Street: This sprawling bar has a whole variety of different settings, from high stools, to comfy couches and the biggest garden bar in Wellington (we think) which is perfect for smokers. Their menu runs all day long, there's coffee and great beer on tap.
- Apartment Bar, on Allen Street: is set up like (wait for it), an apartment. Smoke cigarettes on the deck, laze in the lounge, eat around the dining room table, or make new friends in the bedroom.
Bars in which you can hear yourself talk
Conversations are generally the best if you can actually hear the person you're talking to, right? So if you're going for drink and a conversation, here are some places you might want to check out.
- Hashigo Zake: If beer is your thing - or even if it isn't - Hashigo Zake with its ridiculous stock of over 200 kinds from all over the world should definitely be a place you should stop in at. Underneath Zibbibo at 25 Taranaki Street, the former police cells now serves a range of Japanese snacks as well in very comfortable surroundings. The barmen have an insanely wide knowledge of beer and they even stock one that tastes like bacon...
- Hooch and The Hawthorn Lounge: The Mckenzies (yes, brothers of Bret of Conchords fame) own two of the most delightful bars in town. Hooch is the larger of the two, upstairs at 46 Courtenay Place, with leather armchairs, cozy nooks and the possibility of burlesque dances. Hawthorne meanwhile is quieter. Upstairs at 86 Tory Street, it's possibly the most classy bar in Wellington, but that doesn't mean you'll have to put on airs to fit in. With an air of a Gentleman's Club in the 1920s , the service and drink selection here is second to none.
Bars to shake your groove thang in
Maybe you don't want to talk. Maybe you just wanna dance. These places were our nominations for "Best Place to Shake Your Thang" in our Wellingtonista awards, so you should be able to dance here!
- San Francisco Bathhouse (171 Cuba St) First, there’s the wide variety of gigs that they have — from Iron and Wine, to Peaches, to the regular new-wave Atomic nights, to drum and bass. Then there’s the fact that there’s a clear, unobstructespace for dancing right in front of the stage. Add in a super-late license, a big balcony for free air, and a handy Cuba Street location, and you’ve got the recipe for one big party going on.
- Mighty Mighty (Cuba St) When the disco ball is spinning, who knows what madness will take place on the crowded floor at Mighty Mighty? It might be Wellingtonista parents rocking out to Wayne Mason, it may be minimal disco, or it might be one big mash-up of everything that’s random. And that’s what we love about the place - you never know who will be there or what will be going on, even if you do keep abreast of things in a gig guide.
- Havana (32 Wigan St) The dance floor at Havana is as tiny as any of the other areas in the cute little house, but somehow bongos and funk are still a regular feature. The intimacy of the venue may enhance the intimacy of your night as well, especially given that we’re pretty sure it’s not always just cigarette smoke out back.
- Sandwiches (Corner of Kent Tce and Majoribanks St) If you like your music in the oonst-oonst, boom-boom, bass-bass parts of your body, Sandwiches may very well be your second home. It plays host to most international DJs when they come to town, as well as an assortment of live bands, and it’s consistently winning 'best night club' awards from other people, so there must be something good going on there.
Getting around the city
You can walk everywhere in Wellington, but if you choose not to, buses in the inner city (from the Railway Station to Courtenay Place) will cost you just $2 (ask for a city fare). You can find out more information about the buses on the GoWellington website.
If you're after a taxi, the Wellingtonista like Green Cabs because it's a hybrid fleet. Their free-call number is 0508 4 Green. If Green Cabs aren't available, the biggest company in Wellington is Combined Taxis, on 0800 THE CAB.
Places that offer wifi
Free wifi is available outside around the waterfront thanks to Trade Me, and in the CBD thanks to @cbdfree.
If that's not enough for you, we hear rumours that large foreign generic "coffee shops" have their own kinds of wifi available in store, but we can neither confirm nor deny. Instead, we will point you to cafenet.co.nz for lists of places that you can buy prepaid wifi and receive signals, and also put in special recommendations for the following spots:
- The Film Archive, Taranaki Street: Home to a huge collection of films, videos, television shows, commercials and an exhibition space, the Film Archive also has a 1960s Futuristic feel, with good coffee and booze available.
- Southern Cross, Abel Smith Street: This sprawling bar has a whole variety of different settings, from high stools, to comfy couches and the biggest garden bar in Wellington (we think). Their menu runs all day long, there's coffee and great beer on tap.
Dick Smith Electronics in Manners Mall is the closest electrical shop. Their staff may seem a little aloof, but they tend to know their stuff, and best of all, their website will list availability of all their products.
JB HiFi downstairs on Willis Street is a huge store with all kinds of electronics, usually cheaper than most other stores.
The two big telecommunications companies Telecom and Vodafone have shops all over the place for your mobile needs.
You can walk around Wellington so easily that no doubt you'll be browsing freely, but here are the Wellingtonista's nominees for the best shops in town:
- Wanda Harland (Petone and Elizabeth Street, Mt Victoria): Owned by one of the Wellingtonistas, we‘d still pimp this quirky design/gift shop even if we didn‘t get drunk with its owner. The Mt Victoria is a short stroll away from the CBD, while the Petone one is worth visiting if you‘re hitting up Petone as a foodie destination (see below).
- Holland Road Yarn Company (Jackson Street, Petone): You might not realise it but Webstock Special Agent Tash 2.0 is not just a girl with an earpiece - she also makes fantastic yarn and runs her own shop. Holland Road is bursting with knitting supplies and accessories, as well as books and other associated goodness.
- Unity Books (57 Willis St) Back by popular demand. Unity Books has won this award for the last two years running (see picture) and people still ask for it, so Unity must be doing something right. Let’s see - it’s a bookshop that is a pleasure to browse, and with knowledgeable staff who are more than happy to guide you in the direction of a book you’ll love. Hmm, it might be something to do with that.
- Slow Boat Records (183 Cuba St In this modern digital age, where the local record shop is a dying breed, Slow Boat is still around and still thriving with their bins full of lovely lovely vinyl. Whether you’re after something specific or just wanting to browse for inspiration, Slow Boat is a jewel of Cuba Street.
- Swonderful (95 Victoria St) Swonderful is a sweet li’l boutique, showcasing emerging Wellington design, art and craft. Originally in Brooklyn, Swonderful made the move to Victoria Street in October this year. Swonderful's house label, Papercup, is designed and handmade by owner Ginny McMullen and her mum. Papercup jewellery is cute and quirky, its clothing a bit like classy-vintage-Paris-cupcakes, and other bits and bobs are just gorgeous and beautiful and we want! We want! We want! They're so Wellington, they even make Swellington tees and totes.
- Moore Wilson's Fresh Recently redeveloped to open it up to the “gentrified” College Street, Moore Wilson will overpower you with its glorious smell when you walk past — a mixture of fresh produce, cut flowers, fresh baked bread and the anticipation of all the glorious cheese and chocolate inside. Although we‘re secretly a little sad you no longer need a club card to shop there, it‘s a great place to load up on food, or to just pop into for a few things.
- Jump on a bus or a train to Petone. You want to visit La Bella Italia, On Trays, Cultured and the Dutch Shop. Be prepared to try many many delicious things. While you‘re there, you may also like to visit Wanda Harland and Holland Street Yarn Company.
- Get your ass on a #2 bus out to Miramar. There you‘ll find the Weta Cave, as well as the Roxy Cinema, which is co-owned by Weta guy Sir Richard Taylor. The Roxy has recently reopened, restored to its former glory with bonus amazing murals by Greg Broadmore - it has to be seen to be believed.
- Make sure you take a stroll around our waterfront (and do look up from your devices, even if there IS free wifi available). There‘s a sculpture tour to be done, and many things to be photographed! We particularly recommend Sundays, so you can also go to the City Markets at Waitangi Park, where you can try all kinds of delicious local produce.
Beek guide to Wellington
- A 3-D interactive guide to Wellington produced for us by the guys at Beek.