Wellington’s city centre is compact and the main sights can easily be explored on foot. The city boasts the most important landmarks in the North Island: they are concentrated around the historic suburb of Thorndon, the Parliamentary District and Civic Square & the waterfront.
New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings include three distinctive buildings, the 1970s-style Beehive building designed by British architect Sir Basil Spencer that is the administrative headquarters, the Edwardian neoclassical Parliament House and the Victorian-Gothic Parliamentary Library. A highly informative free guided tour will take you through all three buildings after a short presentation in the visitor centre of Parliament House. When Parliament is not in session, the tour also includes the Chamber. Both the Library and Parliament House underwent extensive restoration after a fire in 1992.
The Old Government Buildings
Now home of Victoria University faculty of Law, the Old Government Buildings are a treasure of New Zealand’s architectural heritage. The colonial building is the second largest timber building in the world. With its grandiose facades, columns and porticoes it was designed to look like an Italian Renaissance palace but was actually built from kauri, one of New Zealand’s native, and now protected, timber. It is the work of architect William Clayton and was completed in 1876. The gardens which include many rare species are also well worth a visit.
Old St Pauls
A treasured historic building, Old St Paul’s was consecrated in 1866. It is the work of Reverend Frederick Thatcher, an English ecclesiastical architect. Constructed entirely from native timbers, the interior was crafted in early English Gothic style, enhanced by stunning stained glass windows.
Katherine Mansfield Birthplace
Childhood home of New Zealand's most distinguished author and short-story writer Katherine Mansfield, the wooden house has been tastefully restored with copies of original wallpapers. Born into the Beauchamp family in 1888, she left Wellington at the age of 19 for Europe, where she met Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, and D. H. Lawrence. If you are familiar with her stories, you will get a sense of what inspired them as you walk about the family home. An upstairs room recounts her life and includes a collection of black and white photos.
The National Library
Wellington Public Library
The Public Library is a stunning example of Ian Athfield’s work, Wellington’s most influential contemporary architect. It is a light and spacious building, made of steel, stone and timber and its originality lies in exposing and integrating the building’s inner workings into the design. It is worth going to the top floor for the stunning views over Civic Square.
The National War Memorial commemorates all New Zealanders who gave their lives in military and peace-keeping operations. Its construction was first approved in November 1919 although the dedication ceremony did not take place until 1932. The Memorial features an art-deco Carillon tower dating from 1932, a Hall of Memories completed in 1964 and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. The same architects, Gummer and Ford and the same builder completed the project over the thirty-year period.
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