Auckland’s 1.6 million people sprawl across a large geographic area, in many distinct neighborhoods.

Stretching across a narrow strip of land between the West Coast and the Hauraki Gulf and pouring over the region’s dormant volcanoes, the city and its suburbs seem to occupy every inch of usable land.

The Central Business District (CBD) is relatively small, with the majority of Auckland’s population living in suburbs outside of the city center. As a result, each neighborhood has developed its own town center, with local eateries, parks and shops. Where you choose to stay in Auckland will play a large part in how you experience New Zealand’s largest city.

Here are a few neighborhoods to consider visiting next time you travel to Auckland.

People lie on the grass of Takutai Square, surrounded by office buildings, on a sunny day
Takutai Squre provides a bit of greenery in Britomart, Auckland’s Central Business District © YIUCHEUNG / Shutterstock

Britomart is the best neighborhood for a short stay in Auckland

Named after the HMS Britomart, the first English ship to explore the nearby harbor, Auckland’s city center is popular with visitors and makes an easy, convenient base for stays in the city. Britomart is a modern and dynamic downtown location with a wide range of restaurants, bars and cafes within easy walking distance. Grab lunch from a nearby cafe and join the locals relaxing on the lawn at Takutai Square on sunny days. This is also a popular venue for public events during the summer, including music gigs, open-air cinema screenings and the Saturday markets. Be sure to check out what’s on at the nearby Spark Arena, which hosts international performances. 

Discover local designers in Britomart’s boutiques and spend an afternoon exploring the shops and eateries in Commercial Bay, Auckland’s newest mall. Queen St, Auckland’s main drag, is where all the international designer brands like Louis Vuitton and Gucci have set up shop. You can also walk around the harbor to the Viaduct and onwards over the small bridge to Wynyard Quarter to explore Silo Park and the Fish Markets.

How to get there: The SkyBus leaves the airport every 30 minutes and stops in Customs Street East near Britomart.

Where to stay: Hotel Britomart is a newly opened contemporary hotel in Britomart, otherwise choose Sofitel Auckland for a luxury stay.

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If you like eating out, stay in Ponsonby

If you’re after an area with a bit of buzz, consider staying in Ponsonby. One of Auckland’s older neighborhoods, Ponsonby has narrow streets and Victorian villas – yet it’s the main drag that attracts visitors to the area. Lined with boutique shops, Ponsonby Rd is a great destination for scoping out local designers, perusing art galleries and enjoying long lunches as you watch the world go by.

Foodies will find themselves in close proximity to good restaurants ranging from newer fusion eateries to some of Auckland’s best fine-dining institutions. To linger over dinner and drinks, head to Prego, an Auckland institution known for its duck risotto, seafood linguini and extensive wine list. Continue the fun late into the night with a quick taxi ride up the hill to K’Rd, Auckland’s previously grungy side of town now known for its bars, nightclubs and small but trendy restaurants. We recommend Candela for cocktails (they also have great dinner options), or heading to Caluzzi, a drag cabaret, for dinner and a show.

How to get there: A short taxi ride from the city center or take the Inner Link bus.

Where to stay: Hotel Fitzroy, a boutique hotel located in an old villa.

People sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Ponsonby Rd in Auckland
Ponsonby Rd offers some of Auckland’s best cafes, boutiques and people watching © ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock

Live like a local in Grey Lynn

A city-fringe suburb, Grey Lynn is an appealing local neighborhood with an eclectic mix of residents. You’ll find good spots for brunch and lunch, a couple of good pubs, a range of Asian restaurants and one of the best butchers in the city. And you’re never more than just a short stroll down leafy streets to a local cafe or wine bar. This area predominantly caters to locals, so expect to rent an Airbnb or apartment during your stay.

Visit the weekly market in the community center, relax in the park and enjoy a bit of local life in the city, with easy access to the CBD and all major sites. Western Springs stadium, a popular venue for international performances and a number of festivals, is also nearby.

How to get there: Take the Outer Link bus from the city center.

Where to stay: The Convent Hotel, a boutique hotel that was once (true to its name) a nunnery.

If you like art and nature, you’ll love Titirangi

About half an hour out of the city is the suburb of Titirangi, situated on the fringes of the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland. With a charming village, houses nestled in native bush, and tiny bays and coves, it’s a great neighborhood to enjoy during any visit to Auckland.

Have lunch at Street Feast, a street food collective, before checking out the Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Art Gallery, an exhibition space that puts an international focus on regional artists. Then take a drive through the twisting roads toward the coast, stopping in French Bay, a little cove with views of Manukau Heads. It’s a great stop on your way or from the Waitakere Ranges, and the gateway to a number of small, artistic communities in West Auckland.

If you choose to base yourself in the area for a few days, you can do day trips to the nearby coastal settlements of Huia and Laingholm. You can also find beautiful hiking tracks in the Waitakere Ranges or walk along the black sand at Piha Beach.

How to get there: It’s a 25-minute drive to Titirangi from the airport and about a 30-minute drive from the city center.

Where to stay: Titirangi Native Hideaway, a small AirBnB nestled in the trees.

Surfers silhouetted on the beach at dawn with a pink-and-blue sunrise at Takapuna Beach
Takapuna provides easy access to white-sand beaches © IanMairPhoto / Shutterstock

Stay in Takapuna to enjoy Auckland’s beaches

For a city break with a holiday feel, spend a few days in Takapuna, on Auckland’s North Shore. Situated on a large stretch of beach with views of Rangitoto Island, Takapuna lets you enjoy Auckland’s coast while being within reach of the city. Sip a cocktail with views of the ocean, walk along the white sandy beach and try Tok Tok or Madam Woo for Asian Fusion, or El Humero, a Colombian BBQ restaurant in Eat Street.

Wander along Hurstmere Rd for some boutique shopping, and be sure to head to the Saturday market in the town center, where stalls sell everything from vegetables and juices to crafts and bric-a-brac. 

How to get there: Takapuna is less than 15 minutes from the city center by bus. If you have a car, you can easily explore the North Shore and the nearby colonial village of Devonport. 

Where to stay: Get a room with a view at the high-rise Spencer Hotel.

Sports fans should consider Kingsland

One of Auckland’s older suburbs, Kingsland offers good food, quirky shops and close proximity to Eden Park, home of the All Blacks and Auckland Cricket. The atmosphere in Kingsland is electric before and after a big game, when sports fans descend on the local pubs for a drink or dinner.

On quieter days, enjoy a leisurely brunch at Little Q, visit the jewelry and greenstone shops or make your way to nearby Arch Hill Scenic Reserve for walking or mountain biking. In the evenings, have dinner at Phil’s Kitchen, and stop in at Portland Public House for a drink and some live music.

How to get there: Kingsland is only about 10 minutes from downtown by train. Mt Eden/Maungawhau, Auckland’s highest volcano, is also easily accessible from Kingsland by public transport. 

Where to stay: AT Eden Park Motel, a renovated villa from 1910.

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