Christmas Day in Wellington

Learn what Christmas Day in Wellington is like, what kind of weather to expect, where you can eat, what you can do, and see photos of the city.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the New Zealand Travel Insider!

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It was a gorgeous day today in Wellington, so I decided to head out for a morning walk to see how busy Wellington city really is on Christmas Day.

I also wanted to get some photographs of the red flowers on Pohutukawa trees – New Zealand's Christmas tree – that line Wellington's waterfront.

As a photographer, I was certainly not disappointed to see that Wellington city centre was completely dead on Christmas Day.

Not because I am ashamed to have people see me with a camera (you know, the "tourist in own country" thing?), but because I was able to shoot uncluttered pictures of Wellington.

What is Wellington like on Christmas Day?

While there were a few people walking on the streets, Wellington was mostly quiet and empty on Christmas.

So I had a chance to get a few nice photos of Lambton Quay, Mr. Plimmer at Plimmer Steps, and of the Old Bank Shopping Arcade.

Then I headed down to Wellington's waterfront to see whether there was more life to be found there.

Statue at Plimmer Steps Wellington New Zealand

Old Bank Shopping Arcade Wellington New Zealand

There were more people walking, running, and biking along the waterfront than there were in the city centre, which surprised me a bit. And while there were people on foot and bike, there was nobody to be found on the boats that were docked at the marina.

The flowers on the Pohutukawa trees were looking lovely. Unfortunately, in the past few days we have had quite a bit of rain and high winds, so many of the flowers were damaged.

But I still found a few undamaged and colourful flowers here and there while walking along the waterfront.

Pohutukawa blossoms in Wellington New Zealand

And the good news is that while many of the Pohutukawa trees were in bloom, there are still a good few trees on which the flowers have not blossomed yet, so I suspect that we will continue enjoying the red flowers on the Pohutukawa trees well into January.

By the way, if you want to know when the Pohutukawa flowers started to come out, it was around the end of November.

All in all, Christmas Day in Wellington was a quiet, but beautiful day to be out and about and enjoy the sun!

Wellington City as seen from the waterfront in Wellington New Zealand

What is the weather like on Christmas Day in Wellington?

The weather is always hard to predict. But since it is summer in New Zealand when Christmas Day arrives, it should be nice and warm.

However, it almost never gets too hot or too cold in Wellington, so do not expect temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius. Temperatures in Wellington in December range between 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit) at night and 24 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day.

For the years that I have been living in Wellington, the weather has been miserable on maybe only two Christmas Days.

Generally, Wellington tends to get very lucky on Christmas Day where the weather is concerned boasting lots of sun, low winds, and just very pleasant weather to be out and about.

But don't hold me to that if the weather is very bad when you visit.

Boats in the harbour of Wellington New Zealand

Are shops open on Christmas Day in Wellington?

As you could read from the story I wrote above, Wellington is pretty quiet on Christmas Day. The city is virtually dead, at least early in the morning. During the day, more people will venture out for walks.

All shops are closed and are required to be closed by law on Christmas Day in New Zealand.

Other holidays to which this restriction also applies are:

However, there are a few selected types of shops that can remain open if they meet certain conditions.

The law is so complicated that shop owners themselves do not know whether they are allowed to be open or not, so you will see many in violation of the law or just blatantly ignoring it.

But if you are visiting New Zealand, do not assume that shops are open, because most will be closed on Christmas Day.

Lambton Quay Wellington New Zealand

Things to do on Christmas Day in Wellington

So if shops are closed and all other attractions are closed, where do you go on Christmas Day in Wellington?

There are still a good couple of free attractions and activities you can do on Christmas Day in Wellington.

For starters, the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand is open on Christmas Day until 6 p.m., so you could pay the museum a visit. Entry is free, but they do charge sometimes for exhibitions.

There is also a café in Te Papa that is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. So if you want a bite to eat and cannot find any restaurant open in Wellington, you could head to Te Papa and eat something in the café.

Another free activity you could do is walk up Mount Victoria in Wellington if the weather is nice enough for such a walk.

Because bus, train, and ferry services in Wellington are reduced starting from Christmas Day until the end of the first week of January, it might be difficult to catch the bus up Mount Victoria.

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In any case, I personally find it more enjoyable and rewarding to walk up the hill instead of catching the bus up the hill.

Mount Victoria will give you a scenic view of the Wellington city from the East. However, there are two other easily accessible vantage points.

The first is from the top end of the Wellington Cable Car. The Wellington Cable Car does not operate on Christmas Day, so you would have to walk up to that vantage point, which is located at high end of the Wellington Botanic Garden.

The quickest way to get to that vantage point is to walk up Bolton Street near Bolton Hotel when coming from The Terrace, and then continue on Salamanca Road until you see the MetService building on your right where you can then hook on to a trail that leads to the Cable Car Museum and the scenic lookout over Wellington from the West.

And the second vantage point is also from the West from a hill not too far from a suburb called Brooklyn. You can do the Brooklyn wind turbine walk to get to that vantage point.

If you are not into walking up hills, you could also just stroll around the waterfront and visit the beach at Oriental Bay. There are other beaches in Wellington, but those are not as easy to get to if you do not have a car.

And finally, while most restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, there are still a few restaurants that are open for Christmas lunch or dinner.

So after your morning of visiting the museum or doing one of the walks outlined in this article, you can pick one of those restaurants and have a meal or food from the buffet.

Statue and boats at the marina in Wellington New Zealand

Close-up of red Pohutukawa flower in Wellington New Zealand

Final words on Christmas Day in Wellington

While Wellington is not a vibrant city to visit on Christmas Day, it is still a nice place to spend Christmas if you are into getting some peace and quiet during a public holiday.

Most shops are closed, but you can still get a bite to eat somewhere public, mostly in a restaurant of a hotel or at the café in Te Papa Museum.

Most attractions are closed, but you can still head to the museum or go for a walk in the city looking at street art and old buildings.

And for the active ones among us, there are lots of hills you could walk up to get a nice scenic view of Wellington city and its surroundings.

All you have to do is plan ahead well, and make the most of the day.

Enjoy your visit!

 

Note: This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm all details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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