A few years after the deadly 2011 Christchurch earthquake, street artists and graffiti writers took to the damaged streets of Christchurch. Traditionally associated with vandalism, the goal of this art initiative was to fill the streets with colour, joy and optimism. And now almost a decade after the destructive event, Christchurch has grown into one of the world’s street art capitals. One of the big forces behind this is the street and graffiti art production organisation ‘Oi YOU!’. Read on to get a taste of the outstanding Christchurch street art scene.

Large wall painting of a flying angelic figure on Cashel Street in Christchurch
‘She came from the stars’ by Vexta on Cashel Street

My Christchurch street art walk

Some people choose their holiday destination based on the weather, local nightlife or number of Michelin restaurants. For me the decisive factor is the presence of street art.

Truth be told, when I was putting together the itinerary for our first New Zealand road trip, I didn’t plan on including Christchurch first of all.

Sorry Christchurch, it wasn’t personal!

Mural of an elephant family on Manchester Street in Christchurch
Elephant family by Owen Dippie on Manchester Street, surrounding graffiti (very respectfully) added afterwards

It was just that I had my heart set on traversing New Zealand’s majestic landscapes rather than spending time in cities. Until I discovered the great amount of street art in Christchurch, that is. After that I suddenly found myself very eager on visiting the South Island’s largest city! So, I booked us into an apartment for a couple of nights and scheduled in a whole day of exploring Christchurch’s urban canvases.

As you can see from the eye-catching giant spray cans in the photo below, these urban canvases are very diverse indeed. Located next to a basketball court on the corner of Manchester and Lichfield streets in the city centre, there are eight oversized spray cans in total. Three of them are long-term works painted by professional artists. The remaining five are freely available for local aspiring artists with the aim of creating an ever-evolving public art project.

Three giant spray cans on Manchester Street in Christchurch with street artworks on them
The three semi-permanent spray can artworks by Jacob Yikes, Ikarus, Wongi “Freak” Wilson
Street art of three red-lipped mouths by Tilt in the Christchurch Casino parking lot
Three bright red-painted mouths by Tilt in the Peterborough Street parking lot

Street art in Christchurch city centre

I’m fortunate to live close to Shoreditch, a London neighbourhood famous for its outstanding street art. This has introduced me to some of the world’s best street artists. I recognised the works of some of my long-time favourite artists in Christchurch such as the Belgian ROA and Australian RONE, both highly respected names in the international street art scene.

But the great thing about travelling, especially to the other side of the world, is that you discover new things to get excited about. Such as the works of Jacob Yikes and Wongi “Freak” Wilson. These are both incredible New Zealand artists who have played a significant role in the post-earthquake transformation of the city.

Here’s a small selection of the murals I came across in Christchurch’s city centre.

Mural by RONE of a female portrait on a brick wall in Christchurch
Casually walking past a mural by RONE on Worcester Street
Mural by Adnate of two hands with open palms on Kilmore Street in Christchurch
‘Giving hands’ (unofficial name) by Adnate on Kilmore Street
Large wall painting of two children playing hide and seek on Manchester Street in Christchurch
‘Hide and Seek’ by Wongi “Freak” Wilson on Manchester Street
Large black text on a white wall saying in bold black letters: This Wall Can't Talk
‘This Wall Can’t Talk’ by Rob Hood on St Asaph Street
Black and white portrait of a woman combined with abstract details on a bright pink background
‘Wicked Monarch ‘by Joel Hart on Welles Street
Colourful abstract street art by Jacob Yikes in Christchurch
Colourful street art by Jacob Yikes on 44 Welles Street, Christchurch
New Zealand native bird street art in Christchurch on Hereford Street
‘Rise From the Rubble’ by Brandon Warrell on Hereford Street
Black and white cartoon-style mural on Hereford Street in Christchurch
Cracked Ink on Hereford Street

Mural by ROA on the Canterbury Museum

As mentioned earlier, ROA is at the top of my all-time favourite urban artists. One of his large-scale murals has even become an icon of East London’s street art neighbourhood of Shoreditch. But seeing his wall paintings whilst travelling is always a special treat!

ROA painted this mural on the Canterbury Museum (Rolleston Avenue) during the 2013 Rise festival. It represents two native birds to New Zealand: the now extinct moa and rare kiwi. I kept seeing signs for kiwi zones during my several hikes across New Zealand, but I think this mural is the closest I’ve got to actually seeing one.

Monochrome mural by ROA on Canterbury Museum in Christchurch representing a moa and kiwi
ROA on Canterbury Museum (Rolleston Avenue)

More street art in Sydenham, an inner suburb of Christchurch

The thing about following street art trails is that they often lead you to remote industrial areas. I did end up in such an area, but entirely by chance as we followed a tip from a friend who recommended a visit to Penny Lane record shop. This was located in Sydenham, an inner suburb of Christchurch and about 1.5 kilometres from the city centre. Unfortunately, we weren’t to pick up our rental car till the next morning. However, always in for an adventure, Hubby and I ventured to the record store by foot. And that was actually very lucky as this allowed us to discover some great street art and graffiti in the area.

Abstract colourful street artwork of a woman on Colombo Street in Christchurch
‘Paris in Christchurch’ by Mark Henare on Colombo Street
Colourful abstract mural by Berst in Battersea Street car park Christchurch
Mural by Berst in Battersea Street car park
Street art in Christchurch of a Japanese samurai
Japanese samurai (unknown artist) on Colombo Street

Interactive Christchurch street art map

I didn’t use a street art map at the time, but found some locations online before our trip. But as you wander around town, it’s hard not to come across any street artworks!

However, once I got home I wanted to look up the artist names. That’s when I found a great interactive street art map called Watch this Space. Besides photos of the artworks it also gives you the exact locations for them, together with the artist names and their bio (plus social media handles). And if applicable, it also gives you some background information on the project or festival it was part of. Even if you’re not searching for street art locations in Christchurch, it’s worth checking out the website as it contains some amazing artworks!

Street art of sea gulls by Anthony Lister on Cashel Street in Christchurch
This Anthony Lister mural of a group of seagulls has now been painted over by property developers

The changing streetscape of Christchurch

Ironically Hubby and I returned to Christchurch a year later for yet another epic New Zealand road trip. This time my street art hunt was limited to our route from the apartment to the car rental. It was curious to see all the new building work that had gone up in those twelve months’ time.

Most of the street artworks had stayed the same, except for the three spray cans which had been renewed. Sadly, the Anthony Lister artwork in the photo above had disappeared as the wall was painted over by the property developers. Although this is a great loss, it’s also a reminder of the common fleeting nature of graffiti and urban art. I’m looking forward to my next visit to Christchurch and see how much more this resilient city has emerged from the debris.

Do you go on street art walks when you’re travelling? I find that following street art trails often leads me to surprising parts of town. What is your experience?
Share your thoughts in a comment below.
Thanks! Zarina xx

Want to discover more surprising street art destinations? Then have a look at these articles:

40 Comments

  1. Your blog is definitely giving me an appreciation of street art! They’re all beautiful but the elephants is my favourite

  2. I love street arts and photos like these. All this work is pretty impressive. New Zeeland is one of the places where I want to visit in future.

  3. You found so many fantastic artworks! We visited Christchurch just over a year ago, but I have to admit, although we saw fab street art in other parts on NZ, in Christchurch we went straight to the beach, so we didn’t actually explore the city and see all this. You have convinced me I need to go back and actually look around the city next time! (oops!)

  4. I was in Christchurch in 1998, way before the deadly 2011 earthquake but the street art they have created is outstanding because it is truly art and not graffiti.

    • Wow, I wonder what the city looked like when you visited. It was really sad to see all the derelict buildings around town πŸ™ But I agree that these murals are real works of art!

  5. This is some of the finest street art I’ve ever seen, and such a beautiful start to it as an art initiative to bring back joy in the city! I was in New Zealand a couple of years back but didn’t think of including Christchurch – gives me a reason to go back now.

    • Ah what a shame you missed it then, but if I hadn’t found out about the amount of street art in Christchurch by chance, I would’ve skipped the city too! If you do go back, make sure to visit Dunedin as well, because the mural art there is even more impressive in my opinion!

  6. Wow this art is amazing! it’s so great to see people trying to make a positive impact following such an awful event. I think this will really challenge a lot of people perceptions of ‘graffiti’ too!

    Great to know there is an app you can use to find out any additional information on the art! Thanks for sharing

  7. Wow, I had no idea about Christchurch being so rich in street art. Thank you for sharing this perspective of the city πŸ™‚ Look forward to visiting.

  8. I just love checking out street art in different cities around the world. In fact, I’m sure it could be a full-time hobby if you wanted it to. My fave here is the ‘Rise From the Rubble.’

    • I’m surprised how much street art there is everywhere nowadays! It no longer has the more ‘edgy’ character as the artworks are commissioned, but they’re still beautiful and impressive nonetheless! I like how they often bring you to areas of a city you wouldn’t necessarily go to otherwise.

  9. Wow! I’m a big street art fan and am super impressed by the amazing street art in Christchurch, would love to visit and check it out for myself soon (:

    • I hope you do make it out there one day! But don’t forget to visit Dunedin (360 kilometres south from Christchurch) then as well because I found the street art there even more impressive! Will be writing a Dunedin street art blog here too πŸ™‚

  10. Oh my goodness, I love this post! I would never have thought that Christchurch has so much beautiful street art. I’m especially taken with the concrete spray paint cans that people can paint again and again. Love this!!!

    • Thanks! Nice to read you enjoyed it so much ^-^ I was so surprised about this too! But there’s another city in New Zealand, Dunedin, which is also home to fantastic murals and I’ll be sharing some photos I took there soon here as well so keep tuned πŸ™‚

  11. I love looking at street art in cities! I’ve always wanted to go to New Zealand, so now I’m definitely going to have to add this to my itinerary when I get there. πŸ™‚

    • Ah that’s so great to hear my post inspired you πŸ™‚ I’m in the midst of an epic blog post series about my New Zealand travels so make to return to my site in case you do ever make it out there! πŸ™‚

  12. I used to live in Christchurch, but it was during the bad quakes. There was some street art, but mostly just ruined buildings. These look beautiful. I should go back and see how it’s changed.

    • I’m sorry to hear you experienced the earthquakes, that must have been terrifying! Glad you were okay though. Wonder what it will feel like if you do go back.

  13. More and more cities are adding street art, I love it, it changes from the ugly graffiti and brings a lot of life to a city. Obviously, I don’t expect to find street art in cities where ancient architecture is featured or cities known for their history such as Paris and Rome!

    • You know, regarding that latter: I was so surprised to see there was so much street art and graffiti in Athens! But also Paris and Rome have their abundant street art neighbourhoods, but those are not right in the ‘pretty’ city centre πŸ˜‰

  14. So many epic street art works! I especially like Giving hands and Elephant family! Thanks for the artsy inspiration!

  15. So much cool street art! I was in Christchurch 12 years ago but can’t remember any street art. I really want to go back now! πŸ™‚

    • That could be right, because as I gathered they didn’t start until 2013, following the devastating earthquake in 2011. Curious to know what the city looked like when you were there, because it was still full with damaged buildings and there wasn’t a main shopping area either for instance.

  16. Robin Rimbaud Reply

    Amazingly colourful and inspiring street art! Always a joy to see you celebrating these places and discoveries!

    • Thank you! It’s my number one goal whenever I visit a city nowadays, to seek out their street art neighbourhood and have been doing quite well on recent trips πŸ˜‰

  17. I loved Christchurch when I went. I was only there briefly and if I had known that there was such cool street art I would have stayed longer!

    • Oh what a shame! But wonder how you managed to miss it as there’s so much of it! πŸ˜‰ Unless you were there before 2013 as that’s when they started painting.

  18. When I read through street art posts, I always try to pick my favourite art work. It is IMPOSSIBLE with this post. The Giving Hands, the spray cans, Hide and Seek, and the Red Lips are all awesome. But so are the others!

    • I know, they’re all pretty impressive, right?! I did select some of my favourites of course, I photographed loads more artworks but that would be rather overwhelming for one blog post ha ha!

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