One of the world’s most diverse cities, Auckland has a dazzling cultural scene, delicious eats and stunning nature that will captivate you from dawn to dusk. Check out this jam-packed itinerary that will have you intimately familiar with this city curled around the sea.
1. Wake up next to the water
Book a stay at Hotel Britomart in downtown Auckland, where it looks over the Waitematā Harbour. The vibe is serene from the get-go, like an ultra-chic version of a bach, or Kiwi holiday house.
Enter an expansive lobby decorated with salvaged timber shelving and a giant slab of shattered stone as a coffee table. The rest of the spaces follow through with timber-lined walls, handmade ceramics and a selection of local books.
Book a corner room that looks down on Takutai Square for maximum views of the harbour and downtown city life.
2. Fuel up with a flat white
A two-minute stroll from Hotel Britomart, Daily Bread on Galway Street is where you’ll find a flat white – milkier than a cortado, less diluted than a latte – that Aucklanders approve of.
The café’s extensive lineup of pastries will leave you spoiled for choice, but if you only have space for one, try a custard slice, where creamy vanilla custard is sandwiched between layers of pastry. While you can find this local classic in any neighbourhood bakery, Daily Bread’s is delightfully fresh, with custard flecked with real vanilla bean.
3. Experience world-famous haute couture
From Daily Bread, head up High Street and Lorne Street to the Auckland Art Gallery. It’s a 10-minute walk, if you don’t get distracted by the boutiques and bookshops along the way.
Once there, make a beeline for “Guo Pei: Fashion, Art, Fantasy”, a blockbuster exhibition showcasing more than 60 of the renowned Chinese designer’s haute couture gowns that’s ongoing until 5 May 2024.
The celebrity couturier’s most famous work, a lavish yellow robe worn by Rihanna to the Met Gala in 2015, is the star of the show, but you’ll also find her other creations that call to mind butterflies, bullfighters, cathedrals and clouds. They’re marvels of craftsmanship as well as creativity, and the exhibition does a great job of delving into the processes behind these immaculately wrought pieces.
Parents take note: your kids will receive their own guidebook to the exhibition on arrival, along with a small embroidery kit. It’s a cute souvenir that will enable the youngsters to experiment with some of the embroidery techniques, whether at home or at the gallery’s children’s centre.
4. Go souvenir hunting at an artsy local boutique
Take a leisurely stroll to Ponsonby through the inner-city oasis of Myers Park, where you’ll pass by a stunning new art installation titled Waihamara, en route.
From there, it’s an 18-minute walk to The Poi Room, a boutique showcasing work from more than 100 New Zealand artists. There’s pounamu (greenstone) jewellery, sculpture, photography, ceramics and traditional woodcarving: the perfect spot to find a souvenir small or large.
5. Take a lunch and ice cream intermission
Ponsonby Road is café central – perfect for a lunch stop. Check out Orphans Kitchen for some hearty fare featuring local produce, and be sure to leave space for dessert at Duck Island Ice Cream.
New Zealanders eat the most ice cream per person of any nation in the world, and it’s easy to see why here. Classic flavours sit alongside local specialties: try Fairy Bread, a vanilla-flavoured ice cream sprinkled with sugary confetti, or Peppermint Slice, the frozen version of a bakery favourite. Seasonal fruit also makes an appearance throughout the year – don’t pass up the chance to try feijoa or tamarillo if either is on the menu.
6. Stroll up a volcano with a gorgeous view
Auckland is built around more than 50 extinct volcanoes, and Mount Eden, also known as Maungawhau, is the highest natural point in the city. Take a 10-minute taxi ride from Ponsonby to Takahi Reserve, where you can begin the half-hour walk to the summit.
You’ll pass through a pōhutukawa (commonly known as New Zealand’s Christmas tree) forest, where you might spot native tūī, black songbirds with a puff of white at their throats. At the summit, enjoy a 360-degree view of the city, which includes Waitematā Harbour, the far cliffs of the Manukau Heads and even distant offshore islands.
7. Sample local wine on one of Auckland’s most hippest streets
Reward yourself with a tipple at Flor along Karangahape Road, a short cab ride away. This wine bar and bistro specialises in natural and organic wine – and if you find something you fancy, you can pick it up at their sister store, Everyday Wine.
Then, have a pre-dinner wander along what the locals call K Road, one of the city’s most iconic streets. Formerly the city’s red-light district, K Road has since transformed into one of Auckland’s coolest streets thanks to its mix of vintage and secondhand stores, chic eateries and artist studios.
8. Dig into global flavours at the city’s top restaurants
While the array and quality of Auckland’s restaurants make it an excellent city for foodies, visitors are often surprised to learn that there’s no national cuisine. Instead, dining in Auckland takes inspiration from the many cultures that call it home. From Karangahape Road, walk towards the iconic Sky Tower; at its foot are a range of the city’s top restaurants.
You’ll need a reservation for Cassia, but it’s worth planning ahead to experience chef Sid Sahrawat’s elevated take on the flavours of his Chennai childhood.
9. Finish off with an aria – or some laughs
Being near Sky Tower puts you within reach of multiple theatres. Next door, the Aotea Centre is home base for ballet, opera, classical music and the Auckland Arts Festival in March. A little further, the Basement Theatre hosts comedy gigs most nights of the week, as well as the New Zealand International Comedy Festival in May.
And if you’re swinging by for a show at The Civic, note that the building itself is as much of a spectacle as any performance: its century-old interior imitates the experience of being seated in a Moorish garden, complete with minarets, porticoes, life-size statues of panthers and a night sky filled with stars.
For more information on Singapore Airlines flights to Auckland, visit the official website.