If there’s ever a city that encapsulates the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” it’s Christchurch, the capital city of New Zealand’s South Island. With the downtown area still reeling from the devastating 2011 earthquake (whole blocks are still vacant, others are undergoing feverish rebuilds), signs of life are slowly emerging — especially with the street art and nightlife scene.
1. C1 Espresso
Although not a bar, its whimsical ways will set the tone for a night of wild revelry. Load up on a barrel of fun via a jolt of caffeine, sliders delivered by pneumatic tubes, vintage video games, water dispensed by a 19th century sewing machine and a motion sensor bookshelf entryway to the bathroom. Soon to open, C1 will have four hotel rooms above the coffee shop in the same old-school cool design with a rooftop cocktail bar.
2. Cargo Bar
The first to start the container bar trend after the earthquake took out so many beloved bars, Cargo Bar is industrial-chic with a raging fireplace and swanky outdoor patio. The jam jar cocktails — like the Black Currant Caipiroska— are a must try.
Opened this spring, this brooding wine/spirits bar with velvet red curtains and exposed brick walls oozes edgy-cool in spades. The house favorite is the TDL Negroni or if you’re feeling wild, try the mystery cocktail of the week.
This Day of the Dead-themed bar shakes up deadly good margaritas (think exotic like blood orange or pomegranate) paired with Mexican street food. Don’t miss the tuna ceviche or oyster torta.
5. Smash Palace
In true Christchurch uber-innovation style, this commercial bus-turned-bar in an empty lot serves up craft beers, stellar burgers and great tunes.
Like the Re.Start outdoor shopping mall of brightly colored shipping containers, the funky Revival bar is also housed in a shipping container with nearly all recycled materials. Local bands and DJs rock the up-cycled hotspot most nights.
Check out this Caribbean-meets-South American cantina’s Grapefruit Gin & Tonic and spiced crispy pork. FYI, with one of the last calls in town (3 am) save this for last on your Vic Street crawl.
From selling bras to beers, Kat McCorkindale has transformed her Hot Damn! Lingerie shop into a chill craft beer and cocktail haunt with chalkboard tabletops—just in case a moment of chalk art inspiration strikes you. The two-level bar features New Zealand beers on tap with new cocktails rotating regularly.
9. Public Art Gallery
While you’re on your bar crawl, make sure to check out the murals, graffiti art and installations. Download the free Oi You! app from iTunes for a street art map and information about the artists. Head to streetart.co.nz for more deets.