Auckland is the greatest seat of culture in New Zealand. That may seem like a bold statement until you realize that the capital city, Wellington, is less than one-third the size. Not that population is the most accurate indicator of a city's commitment to preserving its historic elements and supporting modern art and architecture, but Auckland would be a handy example to prove the rule. Home to plenty of art galleries, hip neighborhoods, leading museums, developed waterfront areas, and much more, Auckland is your most likely choice in New Zealand if you value contemporary culture.
There are a handful of national institutions to be found in Auckland. The Auckland Art Gallery, located on Albert Park near the university, is the most vast and complete collection of art in the country. The Auckland Zoo has the largest assortment of both indigenous and international animals in all of Polynesia, the Sky Tower is the tallest tower in the Southern Hemisphere (with superlative views in all directions), and the Auckland War Memorial Museum is a comprehensive look at not only the nation's war history, but a look at the peoples and artifacts of various time periods. This is the place to go if you'd like to look more deeply into the country's Maori roots or to even see how the city has developed over time.
There are a number of interesting neighborhoods that prove a resurgence of modern culture and renewal in Auckland. Freemans Bay and Ponsonby. both just west of the Auckland CBD, have benefited from urban gentrification and have grown into popular drinking and dining areas. The Viaduct downtown, Devonport across the gulf (a few minutes by ferry), and Mission Bay just to the east all have easy access to modern waterfronts and promenades where a leisurely stroll (and maybe some shopping at local shops for a few curios) are the type of comfort to be had. For a better sense of how people live outside of the city, there are plenty of small towns along the coast in every direction, as well as more isolated farming communities as you travel toward the western side of the North Island. Although a few hour drive, Rotorua is an interesting full-day/multi-day destination if you're into exploring Maori villages and other Maori-related attractions (as well as a literal hotbed of geothermal activity).
For more on what Auckland has to offer the culturally savvy, browse through our listings. You'll find that there is plenty to see and do.