The capital city vies with Auckland as the queen of New Zealand’s nightlife and clubbing scene. Wellington has been dubbed the ‘Cafe Capital’ as the 400 restaurants and cafes give it the highest per capita concentration of eateries in the country. The city has many professional, culture-conscious, party-loving citizens – more in the 20-34 age group than any other city in New Zealand.

Wellington’s after dark playground extends from swinging Courtenay Place to Willis Street, Lambton Quay and Queens Wharf. Scores of late-night cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs can be found within easy walking distance of central hotels and motels. The frenetic partying carries on well into the night, every night, but pulsates longer and louder from Thursday to Saturday. Often there seems to be no distinction between bars, cafes and clubs as many offer live music and dancing and live bands perform on the weekends.

Pubs and bars open daily around 11 am and continue until midnight or later. Popular late night drinking holes include the Backbencher in Molesworth Street, Bar Bodega in Willis Street and Hummingbird and Molly Malone’s in Courtenay Place. Champagne drinking is the house specialty at CO.2 and beer lovers are spoiled for choice at the Matterhorn in Cuba Street. Clubs offer a wide range of music styles pumped out by local or visiting DJ’s and live bands. Radio Active 89 FM puts out gig guides to the best music currently playing.

The aroma of freshly roasted coffee wafts on the not-so-gentle Wellington breezes from cafes all over town. Cafe L’affare in College Street and the Olive Cafe in Cuba Street are funky and fashionable. Creative and artistic folk gravitate to the Civic Centre cafe district.

Popular restaurants include the warm friendly Logan Brown in Cuba Street (BYO on Sundays), The White House in Oriental Parade, Icon at Te Papa Museum, The Fisherman’s Table in Oriental Bay, Shed 5 and Dockside on the waterfront. Ethnic diners can enjoy a cosmopolitan melting-pot of national dishes from Asia, Europe and the Pacific Islands.

Wellington occupies centre stage in the New Zealand visual and performing arts scene and lauds itself as the ‘Cultural Capital of New Zealand’. The city supports a number of professional live theatre production companies like Downstage, Circa and Bats Theatre. The city is also home to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand String Quartet, NBR New Zealand Opera, Chamber Music New Zealand, the Wellington Sinfonia, and the renowned New Zealand Festival and Fringe Festival. Venues for excellent classical and orchestral music include the Town Hall, St James Theatre, Convention Centre and occasionally the Westpac Trust Stadium. The Royal New Zealand Ballet performs in the St James Theatre and the National Opera uses the grand State Opera House.

The silver screen is not neglected with an excellent display of moving image history at the Film Archive. There are attractive cinemas like the refurbished Embassy and the Mid-city and Hoyt’s 5 on Manners Street.