Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand. It has the second-largest urban population in the country, with 397,900 residents. Wellington was named for Arthur Wellesley (1769-1852), the first Duke of Wellington, in recognition of his strong support for colonisation. The city possesses three Maori names; the most commonly used is Te Whanga-nui-a-Tara, ‘the great harbour of Tara,’ which refers to Wellington Harbour.
Wellington city, the site of the CBD and around half the population, sits on a peninsula at the southwestern tip of the North Island of New Zealand. It has the distinction of being the world’s southernmost capital city of a sovereign state. Wellington is the political centre of New Zealand, the home of its Parliament as well as the head offices of all Government ministries and departments. The Executive Wing of New Zealand’s Parliament, where Parliament sits and the offices of the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers are located, is colloquially known as the Beehive due to its unusual shape. Free guided tours of the building are available, and members of the public are able to visit the public galleries of the debating chamber while Parliament is in session.
Central Wellington is known as a ‘young city’; a larger proportion of its population are in their twenties and thirties than elsewhere in New Zealand, and a smaller number are aged 60 and over. This demographic lends itself to a thriving arts scene. Wellington is home to numerous theatres, both fringe and mainstream; dance companies including the Royal New Zealand Ballet; public and private visual arts galleries; a strong musical presence; and some of the country’s most notable filmmakers. Central Wellington also plays host to many of New Zealand’s high-profile cultural events and celebrations. The Brancott Estate World of Wearable Art event, an 11-day festival culminating in a spectacular awards show, is held each September in Wellington, attracting more than 47,000 people to the capital.
Another notable feature of Central Wellington which adds to its appeal as a visitor destination is its flourishing cafe and restaurant culture. Tourist literature proclaims that there are more restaurants and bars per capita than anywhere else in the world, or at least more than there are in New York City; whether this is true or not, it’s hard to deny that Central Wellington is home to some of the nation’s best coffee and dining. There’s an espresso outlet on what seems like every corner, including some legendary coffee houses offering not only great coffee and food, but the opportunity to sit back and observe the city’s vibrant, outgoing, unique hustle and bustle. There is certainly a lot to recommend Wellington as the ‘coolest little capital in the world’, as described by Lonely Planet in 2011.