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New Zealand: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Wellington

Located at the centre of the country, Wellington is New Zealand’s capital and offers some of the country’s best big city experiences along with a small size and famously friendly locals.

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As a modern, compact city sitting on a natural harbour between New Zealand’s two islands, Wellington is the political centre of the country and an unbeatable city for overseas study.


Surrounded by forested hills and national parks, Wellington is a city with a vibrant city centre filled with modern and period architecture alike. In its suburbs, colourful houses with a unique Victorian timber style spread out into the leafy hills.


Wellington is known for its excellent cafés and bars, offering a fantastic selection of places to hang out and sample some of the best craft beer and coffee this side of the world. The city has an international reputation among food lovers, priding itself on quality ingredients and artistic flair among its chefs and cooks.


Though the city is compact, it offers much for arts, culture, and things to do. The city has a wealth of public art to take in as you explore the city, and a variety of leading contemporary art galleries make it a must-visit among New Zealand cities.


Wellington is surrounded by the breathtaking nature that New Zealand is famous for. Endangered bird sanctuaries, epic coastlines, vineyards, picturesque harbour towns and rainforests are all within a couple of hours’ drive. With several international universities added to the mix, Wellington offers fantastic academic opportunities wrapped up in a New Zealand living experience.


Find out how to apply to study in New Zealand


What is Wellington like?


Location and demographics

Wellington is the capital city of New Zealand and is located at the southernmost end of the country’s North Island. At the heart of the nation, it is a harbour city with the warm water of the Tasman Sea on one side and forest-covered hills on the other.


Wellington is a diverse city, with almost a third of its population coming from non-European ethnicities. Over 16 per cent of the population are Māori, and over 15 per cent are originally from Asia.


Culture and history 

The area where Wellington is now built was originally inhabited by Māori peoples. They are thought to have lived there for hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans. In 1839 local chiefs agreed to sell off parcels of lands to newly arriving settlers, and a town soon formed. 


It became the home of New Zealand’s government in 1865 and has continued to thrive as a hub for international trade, services, and administration. Today it is a popular destination for both tourists and international students.


Discover more about the university culture in New Zealand


What universities are in Wellington?


Wellington is home to some of New Zealand’s best universities and colleges. This capital city has a strong reputation for its outstanding institutions and attracts students from all over the world.


The University of Otago, Wellington is the city’s premier medical school and is affiliated with the University of Otago, which rates in the top 300 worldwide on the QS World University Rankings 2023putting it in the top one per cent. It has an excellent academic reputation for medical research, including in specialisations such as pathology and paediatrics.  


The Victoria University of Wellington is ranked in the top 300 universities in the world (QS 2023) and offers a choice of over 30 undergraduate programmes, and 140 postgraduate learning pathways. It places in the top one per cent worldwide for over 20 different subjects and is the number one university in the country for research intensity (PBRF, 2018).


Wellington is also home to The New Zealand School of Music and Massey University, so you’ll be sure to find a world-class programme of study in your chosen subject.


Discover more universities in New Zealand


What does Wellington offer students?


What transport is there? 

Wellington is a pleasure to travel around due to its small size and great transport network. When you aren’t walking or cycling, you’ll be able to choose from buses, trains, ferries and even cable cars to get around. The centre of the city is flat, and many of the city’s landmarks and attractions are within walking distance of each other.


What’s the entertainment and food like?

For many, Wellington has taken its place among the best food cities in the world. With more cafes, bars, and restaurants per person than New York, the city thrives on a passionate food culture based on quality. When you’ve eaten all the fabulous food, neighbourhoods like Te Aro and Miramar offer visitors a great mix of bars, clubs, pubs, and underground venues to see you through the evening and beyond.


Explore some of the things you can do in New Zealand


What about the accommodation?

Choosing your student accommodation is an important part of your time in the city, and Wellington is an extremely safe city offering a wide variety of quality living options. Whether it’s university-run halls, homestays with local families, catered accommodation or an apartment in the city centre, there are plenty of choices with good access to Wellington’s universities.


Are there public services for students? 

The New Zealand Government runs the International Student Wellbeing Strategy, which supports several services and projects designed to help overseas learners settle in and thrive during their time there. Post-study work permit visas are also available to students who complete an eligible qualification in the country.



How much does it cost to live in Wellington?


The general cost of the city

Wellington is one of New Zealand’s more expensive cities to live in, as it’s a major city and the nation’s capital. While it’ll generally cost you more to live in Wellington compared to Christchurch, you’ll be able to take your budget a little further than if you lived in Auckland.


Read more about how much it costs to study in New Zealand.


Student budget

As a single international student living in Wellington, you might expect to spend anywhere between NZD 350 and NZD 600 per week. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other living costs. Your budget will vary depending on your living arrangements, lifestyle, activities, and where in Wellington you decide to live.


Learn more about tuition fees in New Zealand


Financial requirements

The New Zealand Government asks that international students demonstrate that they have at least NZD 15,000 accessible for the first year of their studies, or NZD 1,250 per month of their studies if the course is 36 months or less. An equivalent value scholarship, sponsorship or financial guarantee from a family member is also accepted. 


Are you looking for a scholarship? Discover the top scholarships in New Zealand


What are the main attractions in Wellington?


Wellington can sometimes be an underrated city in New Zealand. But, despite cities like Auckland having a bigger population, the capital is home to a wide range of truly unique things to see and do.


The seat of the New Zealand Government is in Wellington, and you won’t miss it – this incredible piece of architecture is called ‘the Beehive’ and joins onto Parliament House. You can take guided tours around both and explore areas, including the Debating Chamber and Banquet Hall.


Wellington’s cable car is an iconic feature in the city and will allow you to get from the centre of the city to the top of its Kelburn neighbourhood in just five minutes. From there, you'll get the best views of the city, including the harbour and the ocean beyond or sprawling hills behind on fine days.


Wellington is home to a range of excellent museums. The museums chart the country’s Māori, colonial, and maritime history. You can experience the whole story of New Zealand through a range of immersive and interactive exhibits. The city is also a natural paradise, with wildlife sanctuaries like Zealandia and the Wellington Botanic Gardens offering the chance to view one of the country’s unique ecosystems.


When you’re in Wellington, wherever you want to be is usually just around the corner. White sand beaches sit across from the bustling harbour, while the bustling central business district is just 5 minutes away from panoramic views of the whole region. This peaceful city offers the perfect combination of natural features, interesting neighbourhoods, and prestigious universities. You can find your perfect academic path in New Zealand using our course matcher tool