CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND: Novotel Cathedral Square

If you are planning a trip to Christchurch, New Zealand, the Novotel Cathedral Square is centrally located and convenient to much of what the city has to offer, including some graphic reminders of the devastating 2011 earthquake from which much of the city is still recovering.

Exterior at night

The Novotel, a solid mid-range hotel, is a short walk from the newly opened central bus terminal, which one can reach with a 30-minute $8 bus ride from the airport or, of course, by taxi.

Uncharacteristically, I chose to take the bus and, upon leaving the bus terminal, followed the signs indicating that Cathedral Square was to my right. I arrived at the hotel within just a few minutes.

Check-in was handled quickly and when I arrived at my room I found a personal note from the manager on duty and two bottles of sparkling water on ice waiting for me.

Contemporary furnishings that adorned the 190-square foot main room included a low-slung European bed, lots of glass and wood offsetting cream-colored wall and beige carpeting. My room, a standard King, had a lounging chair, a work station with audio-visual inputs so one could use the flat-screen TV as a monitor, power outlets and both wired and wireless internet connections.

The room also had a minibar that contained, appropriately, full-size bottles of a New Zealand Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc under the label “Montana,” which is the domestic name for the wines exported under the Brancott label. The room also included a hot pot with a selection of teas, hot chocolate and instant coffee while the closet held an iron, ironing board and a safe.

Guest room, Novotel Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand
Guest room 1003

A deep soaking tub awaited in the bath, along with a wand shower and all the standard amenities including a hair dryer. The vanity area outside the main bath has a movable mirror, a view of a full-length mirror and, I was pleasantly surprised to find, a heated floor.

The property has three public computers off the lobby, a fitness center (though no swimming pool), an on-site restaurant and offers in-room dining from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Owned by the French company AccorHotels, Novotels are classified as “mid-scale” properties by their parent company but the service I experienced went well beyond mid-scale; it was top flight. Requests for ice were met within minutes. Room service trays and other items placed in the hallways were removed promptly. Service in the on-site restaurant was very good and the food was freshly prepared and tasty.

Every staff member I encountered was friendly, polite and welcoming and offered a friendly greeting whether I was returning to the hotel after my wanderings or passing them in the lobby, hall or restaurant. On my second day, I asked that my room be made up early, and when I returned from a morning jaunt, it had been refreshed and was again ready.

Fitness centre, Novotel Cathedral Square, Christchurch, New Zealand
Fitness center

Complimentary internet access was extremely slow compared to most hotels, at about 0.5 Mbps, as measured by That is primarily due to the fact that the city has yet to extend fiber optic connections to the area of Cathedral Square. Following the earthquake, other issues understandably took priority but a hotel representative assures me that faster complimentary connections will be the norm within a few months. In the meantime, speeds of approximately 5 Mbps are available for NZ$10 per day.

A couple of aspects I thought worth noting may or may not be important depending upon your personal tastes and travel style.

First, the contemporary furniture in the room did not include a dresser or bureau for storing one’s clothes. If I am staying at a property for more than one night, I prefer to unpack at least a few items, as I hate living out of a suitcase.

Second, while it offered a fairly good selection of teas and hot chocolate, the in-room coffee service provided only instant coffee. Ground coffee and a French press would be represent a bump up.

Ruins of Christchurch Cathedral, Christchurch, New Zealand
Damaged Christchurch Cathedral

Completed in 2010 and built to modern building codes, the Novotel suffered only minimal damage in the 2011 shaker but its next-door neighbors were not so fortunate. The hotel is right across the trolley tracks from what remains of the Christchurch Cathedral and its once-magnificent tower. The church is one of a modest number of buildings that remain standing in a damaged state. Many other buildings that had been adjacent to the hotel were badly damaged and have been torn down, along with about 1,800 other buildings in the downtown core.

Fortunately, the hotel is convenient to a number of attractions that were either undamaged by, or have since been repaired following, the earthquake. Those include Cathedral Junction, the point of departure for the Christchurch tram and the Tramway Restaurant dinner tour. The Novotel is across the street from the Isaac Theatre Royal, and a short walk from New Regent Street, a pedestrian-only enclave of shops and stores, bars and restaurants.

If you are traveling to Christchurch, whether for business or pleasure, I recommend the Novotel as an excellent, centrally located place to make your home base.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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The Novotel Christchurch provided me with accommodations so that I could experience the property and service first-hand.