The best of Wellington's art scene

Wellington is home to the innovative Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and is famed for its public art trails and Bohemian lifestyle.

Celebrated as New Zealand’s cultural capital, the country’s creativity pulses through Wellington. The city is home to the innovative Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and is famed for its public art trails and Bohemian lifestyle.

A lot of places have art. A lot of places have galleries. A lot of places have art and galleries. What makes Wellington New Zealand’s cultural capital is its spirit – its enthusiasm and passion for the arts. The city’s compact nature makes for a great place for following public art trails and enjoying dinner out, followed by a night at the theatre; and so the locals do in spades. You’ll find a show on almost every night in the theatre district – centred around Courtenay Place – or if you’re interested in live indie music, head to vibrant Cuba Street.


The work of filmmaker Peter Jackson and Oscar-winning Weta Workshop has taken Wellington to the world and the world to Wellington, through movies like Avatar, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Film themed tours and visits to the Weta Cave in Miramar - the heart of ‘Wellywood’ – are a must for movie fans. 

Film-making and film-going are part of the culture in the city fondly known as Wellywood. Catch a film at the incredible Embassy Theatre, which played host to the world premiere of The Return of the King – you never know who may have sat in the seat before you. Wellington’s suburbs are dotted with gorgeous art house theatres; visit the Empire Theatre in the cute seaside suburb of Island Bay, the art deco Penthouse Cinema in Brooklyn, or the Lighthouse Cinema in Petone. These cinemas regularly host film festivals, so be sure to check out what's on during your visit. Visitors can also get a feel for New Zealand’s cinematic history at the Film Archive.


You’ll find Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa on Wellington’s picturesque waterfront. This innovative museum takes visitors on an exploration of the great stories of the youngest country on earth and the people who live here; it also houses New Zealand’s national art collection and regularly showcases international touring exhibits.

Just a short walk away, the Museum of Wellington City & Sea tells Wellington’s stories and gives local history a dedicated and creative space. The city and surrounding region are filled with niche museums and historic sites.

Galleries Galore

One of the jewels in Wellington’s art crown is City Gallery in Civic Square, which offers a programme of contemporary visual arts, architecture and design. Featherston and Victoria Streets have a great collection of boutique dealer galleries, while you’ll find something more edgy in the Cuba Street precinct. A short trip out of town is the cutting edge Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt and PATAKA in Porirua is a must if you’re keen to look at Maori, Pacific Island and New Zealand art.

On the Stage

Enjoy live theatre at its best at Circa Theatre and BATS. Or catch a show at the beautifully restored Opera House or St James Theatre, which have a steady stream of ballet, opera and musicals. The theatre precinct is centred around Courtenay Place and the waterfront, and is surrounded by restaurants and cocktail bars. You’ll also find live theatre outside the city in Hutt Valley - at the Little Theatre, Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre or in Porirua’s Little Theatre.

Live Music

Wellington has a vibrant local music scene and has produced leading New Zealand bands such as Fat Freddy’s Drop and The Black Seeds. From edgy local bands to internationally acclaimed musicians, the city is alive with music nearly every night of the week. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the NBR New Zealand Opera also call Wellington home, as well as the folk-comedy sensation, Flight of the Conchords. Be sure to check out what gigs and events are happening during your visit.

Art and About

Hiding below seawalls or twisting and turning in the wind, sculptures pop up everywhere around you when wandering through the city. Wellington loves to embrace its famous windy days and to celebrate Wellington, artists have made a series of wind sculptures all around town – make sure you keep an eye out for them. The most photographed man in Wellington has to be Solace in the Wind – a Max Patte sculpture that looks set to dive into the city’s harbour just outside Te Papa – and the Wellington Writers Walk literally sets words about the capital of cool in stone.

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