If you journey beyong the Gothic Revival walls of Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre, you’ll find Christchurch’s newest and most stylish boutique accommodation – The Observatory Hotel.
Sigh. My old travel writer self has certainly missed new hotel launches and the buzzy excitement of the tourism industry! If you have worked in the travel industry, you know that the last few years have sucked big time. Pre-pandemic, I was regularly invited to new hotel launches and other travel PR parties; glamorous and exciting, I felt like I had finally made it when I would waltz through new spaces sipping bubbles and networking.
I’m not sure I even know how to network anymore, let alone wear high heels.
I’ve been waiting so long for something colorful, bougie, and full of character to open in Christchurch.
Christchurch is a complex city with a complex past. It’s very much still recovering from the devastating earthquakes in 2011; then there was the mosque shooting a few years ago. Damage is still visible on the old walls of the city, and the residents that stayed wear the trauma on their sleeves.
It’s a place that feels like it’s still finding its footing after being dealt some bad cards.
But as the years go by, more and more exciting ventures are appearing throughout the city, like the brand spanking new Observatory Hotel. Or, of course, my houseplant and design shop, NODE, over in Lyttelton.
As soon as I saw the images of the Observatory Hotel, I knew this was my spot. I’m such a sucker for good branding and a good story, both of which this place totally nails.
As the former home of the original University of Canterbury, the buildings now make up the Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre in Christchurch. The journey of the buildings is fascinating. Nowadays, hidden away in the Observatory Tower, as well as the old astronomy and physics departments of the old university, you’ll find the new Observatory Hotel, which opened in May 2022.
The iconic Observatory Tower was built in the 1890’s to house the equatorial telescope of Canterbury College. But sadly, the Observatory Tower collapsed in the 2011 earthquake. The entire historic area was closed – some of it’s still closed – as it’s repaired and strengthened. The telescope is currently being repaired and will hopefully return to the tower once again.
The Observatory Hotel is breathing new life into such a historic and beautiful part of the city.
As someone who thought that her life’s trajectory would be in academics, staying in what was once a historic university is actually pretty special.
Though you’d never catch me in the physics or astronomy departments, my academic background always has been so important to me. With double degrees in Spanish language and literature and medieval history, I always thought my path would be graduate school then eventually becoming a professor. It’s what I planned for. I even winning grants to study at the Bodleian and at the National Library in Spain for my dissertation.
But life has other plans, and my path took me in a different direction. What I love about my life now is that I have the freedom to continue to learn and research on my own terms, something pretty special.
My heart fluttered with nostalgia for my own alma mater, Mount Holyoke, and my time studying at Oxford, Salamanca, and Madrid. Hopefully, I can return to research again one day.
The thoughtfulness and care behind the Observatory Hotel are obviously. The details are exquisite, and the level of comfort is unmatched. There is so much character throughout the hotel, reflecting its history, which I adore.
The ten premium rooms on site were named after color pigments, a nice nod to the art space. I stayed in the Verona Room, which has the most epic skylight over the bed – complete with electric drapes. I also made the team give me a tour of the property and peeked inside most of the rooms, which I can vouch for being divine.
No two rooms are the same, each individually designed and featuring furniture made in Canterbury. There is local art dotted throughout the entire property, most of which I believe is for sale. Colorful and bright, the rooms feature textiles and patterns by British designer William Morris 150 years ago, another nod to the art world.
Now I’m just wondering what the next amazing space in Christchurch will be – any ideas?
What do you think? Is the Observatory Hotel in Christchurch the kind of place you’d love to stay? Have you been? Share!