The vibrant city of WELLINGTON is the cultural, political and commercial capital of New Zealand, though this is not what most Aucklanders would have you believe. A healthy antipathy exists between the two cities, fuelled by Auckland's conviction that it should be capital. Wellington is by no means a pale shadow of Auckland, though, not least because of the high levels of investment in recent years, aimed at making the city worthy of its capital status and more attractive to visitors. Most of the city is built on the foreshore and the precipitous hills overlooking a magnificent harbour, fringed by beaches, marinas and warehouses. The inner city is an energetic mix of historic stone buildings and modern structures, most notably the radical contemporary architecture of Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand's best-known architects, while the suburbs are a combination of grand residential villas and unspectacular commercial buildings. The surrounding hills have provided a natural barrier to the unbridled development typical of other New Zealand cities, helping to keep central Wellington an easily walkable area with a definite identity.
Wellington is truly cosmopolitan, offering a huge range of culinary experiences, alongside nightlife and artistic culture from all over the world. The most exciting months to visit are February and March, when the city hosts three separate festivals: the annual Wellington Fringe Festival, a carnival along the lines of the Edinburgh Festival; the biennial International Festival of the Arts, a month-long celebration that draws the best international acts in opera, theatre and music; and the annual Dragon Boat Festival (in late February), which attracts huge crowds to the inner harbour.