Te Papa Tongarewa – roughly translated as "the place of treasures of this land" – is New Zealand's boundary-pushing national museum, widely celebrated for its innovative approach to cultural experiences. Visitors shouldn't expect run-of-the-mill dusty artefacts and a static environment here; Te Papa is a interactive and inclusive space housing treasures works of art that celebrate the unique cultural, social and natural history of Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Te Papa's collections cover five main areas: art, history, Pacific, Maori and the natural environment. Throughout the year, Te Papa plays host to a myriad of free events, performances, lecturers and more, including internationally acclaimed exhibitions such as "Warhol: Immortal", "Monet and the Impressionists" and countless others spanning the realms of fashion, archaeology, fine art, language and sculpture.
Longterm showings at Te Papa include "Slice of Heaven: 20th Century Aotearoa", which showcases the events that united and divided the people of New Zealand and shaped their present. Another permanent exhibition, "Blood, Earth, Fire", reveals the dramatic landscape changes the island nation has gone through, and introduces you to the likes of the native stout-legged moa and laughing owl.
Te Papa traces its roots all the way back to a humble wooden building circa 1865, known as the Colonial Museum. While the site of the museum and the contents have changed over time, you can still catch a glimpse of the past with historic works dating back to the early 20th century, reflecting the nation's British ties. The waterfront museum is just a short walk from the Wellington train station and is close to many hotels in the CBD, with busses conveniently stopping along nearby Courtney Place, so it's easy to squeeze a visit into your intinerary.
If you are visiting on a tight schedule or simply prefer a more personal museum experience, you can join a 60-minute introductory tour covering the Te Papa highlights. If you are more of a DIY sort, pick up a "Te Papa Explorer" booklet and discover the exhibitions on your own terms, or grab the in-depth "Te Papa: Your Essential Guide" for a handy run down and memento of your visit. General admission to the museum is free, though some more prominent exhibitions might be ticketed.