ip target image
You are currently browsing our site with content tailored to students in your country
The basics
New Zealand: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Christchurch

Christchurch is a unique city which thrives in the face of adversity and continues to live up to its global reputation for creativity, culture, and community.

share image

Christchurch is the biggest city on the South Island and is known for its strong English heritage. Despite the impact of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the city remains a thriving hub for education, business, and the arts. If anything, the challenges its population have overcome are further fuel for its world-famous spirit of resilience and determination.


Christchurch continues to push forward with an incredible programme of rebuilding and regeneration, encouraging creative architecture and innovative new projects to spring up throughout the city centre.


As a compact city, you’ll love walking and cycling around Christchurch and taking in all there is to see, including a huge variety of street art and community works. Parks, gardens, and squares cover the city, and when you aren’t busy walking, there are all kinds of trendy places to stop for great food, coffee, or locally brewed beer.


The city’s temperate environment means you can enjoy outdoor activities for much of the year. Christchurch is also one of New Zealand’s more affordable cities, meaning you’ll be able to experience everything the region has to offer without breaking the bank. And there’s a lot on offer, as the country’s South Island is home to hundreds of miles of breath-taking coastline, world-famous alpine landscapes, unique wildlife, and all sorts of outdoor activities.


There are two internationally renowned universities for students who choose Christchurch as their home. You’re sure to find the perfect course and work towards a transformative qualification while living in New Zealand.


Find out how to apply to study in New Zealand


What is Christchurch like?


Location and demographics

Christchurch is like most cities in New Zealand, a coastal city and port. It’s found on the eastern coast of the South Island and is located at the point where the Avon and Heathcote rivers meet the sea. On one side of the city, the Canterbury Plains stretch into the distance, while on the other side volcanic hills slope up to the horizon.


Christchurch is a diverse and cosmopolitan city, with over 20 per cent of its population identifying as from a non-European ethnic heritage. It’s home to a significant Māori population, making up just under 10 per cent of the city’s residents.


Culture and history 

The Canterbury region was inhabited for generations by the Māori people before European settlement, which began in 1848 through the efforts of a group called the Canterbury Association. The settlement was originally called Canterbury but was renamed Christchurch and became a city in 1862. It grew first as an agricultural town and then as an industrial powerhouse. Today is the second-largest city in the country, with a vibrant urban atmosphere and diverse population.


Discover more about the university culture in New Zealand


Which universities are in Christchurch?


Christchurch was rated as the second-best student city in New Zealand and 80th best in the world by QS Best Student Cities 2022, and its prestigious universities are a big part of that. The city is home to two universities that place in the top 400 worldwide.


The University of Canterbury is ranked 284th in the world according to QS World University Rankings 2023. Its has been educating students in Christchurch for almost 150 years. It’s known for its excellent teaching quality and modern facilities, offering dozens of courses to almost 15,000 students from around the world.


Lincoln University is just a short way out of the main city and is rated 372nd in the world, according to QS 2022. It has around 3,500 students and produces world-class research across many subject areas. It’s a land-based university that specialises in agricultural and environmental subjects, and it’s the longest operating university of this kind in the southern hemisphere. 


Discover more universities in New Zealand


What does Christchurch offer international students?


What transport is there?

There’s so much to see in Christchurch and the surrounding regions of South Island. There’s no doubt you’ll be travelling around and exploring during your time there. Fortunately, the city is easy to get around by foot or bike, and a network of trams and ferries are available for longer journeys. Road and rail links, along with exciting biking and hiking trails, allow you to get around the country.


What about entertainment and food?

Christchurch is developing a reputation as one of the best food scenes in New Zealand. Whether you’re a high-end foodie or just a hungry student looking for good food after class, the city is filled with lots of globally inspired foods at every budget level.


As a major city, Christchurch has all the entertainment options you could hope for. It boasts several leading theatres, including the Isaac Theatre Royal and Court Theatre, as well as hip live music spots such as Darkroom or Blue Smoke where you can grab a local beer and see a range of artists.


Explore some of the things you can do in New Zealand


Is there accommodation?

There are plenty of student accommodation options in Christchurch. Your university will offer halls and residences on campus, as well as options nearby, offering shared or studio accommodation. Self-catered or catered options are also often available, as well as specific accommodation for families or couples. You might want to rent a place in the city, allowing you to immerse yourself in Christchurch’s relaxed lifestyle. Private rental options are broad, and your university can help you find a suitable place.


Are the 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 Christchurch?


The general cost of the city

Christchurch is widely known as New Zealand’s most affordable major city, and one of the best value-for-money cities in the country. Prices for essentials like rent, groceries and utilities are typically lower than in Auckland and Wellington. If you choose Christchurch, you’ll be able to have a great experience in New Zealand with your student budget.


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


Student budget

As a single international student living in Christchurch, you might expect to spend somewhere between NZD 275 and NZD 550 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 Christchurch you choose to live.


Read more about how much it costs to study 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. You’ll also need to purchase mandatory health insurance, costing NZD 200 to NZD 700 a year.


Learn more about tuition fees in New Zealand


What are the main attractions in Christchurch?


Christchurch is one of New Zealand’s most popular travel destinations. There are many of things to do and see, whatever your interests! The city is known for its natural wealth, lush vegetation, and bountiful wildlife. There is no better example of this than the Christchurch Botanical Garden, boasting several conservatories and a wide range of manicured gardens. There are also hundreds of native plant species.


For something a little wilder, you can take a ‘punt’ cruise down the River Avon, which is a small boat driven with a long pole. This serene journey will allow you to travel through the centre of Christchurch in style.


The city is home to a range of impressive buildings, including the Victoria Clock Tower, Cardboard Cathedral and Riccarton House. Spanning a range of architectural styles from Edwardian to Victorian, as well as innovative modern styles, Christchurch is a hub for architecture despite the efforts of the 2010/11 earthquakes.


Out of the city, the TranzAlpine Train offers an incredible way to see the magical alpine regions of the South Island. This purpose-built route carves its way through snow-capped mountains and stunning valleys over a five-hour trip.


Christchurch is the beating heart of New Zealand’s South Island, offering visitors and residents a heady mix of boundary-pushing arts and architecture, unparalleled landscapes to explore, and excellent higher education study options. You can find your perfect academic path in New Zealand using our course matcher tool