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Cuba Street, Wellington Overview

Considered to be the Bohemian slice of the city, Cuba Street is a pedestrian-only mall in the section between Dixon Street and Ghuznee Street in Wellington, New Zealand. Sprinkled with world-class restaurants, both fine dining and casual, and dotted with big brand apparel stores, op shops, art galleries, boutiques and music shops etc.

The hip street is always bustling with activity where people visit to eat, drink, dance, sing and have fun. You can also find buskers playing the tunes on their instruments or a flash mob happening somewhere in the middle of the day. The uber-cool town is soaking up the relaxed culture; Cuba Street has also been registered as a Historic Area under the Historic Places Act since 1995. Besides, an upside-down bucket fountain is a popular attraction at the spot.

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History of Cuba Street

The history of Cuba Street can be traced back to 1840 when a settler ship called Cuba arrived here near the inner city, slightly to the south of the Central Business District. Originally the street has rail lines and tracks and was used by New Zealand trams. Later, in 1969, the middle section was closed to traffic and the railway lines were removed. This section was opened as the new pedestrian mall and ever since it became synonymous with the bohemian and creative culture of the city. It also became one of the busiest areas of pedestrian activity in the city. More and more cafes and restaurants came up on the street while some of the originals still exist. And activities by buskers, street dancers and artists gained still more momentum, making Cuba Street what it is today. In 1995, it was also registered as a Historic Area under the Historic Places Act 1993.

Culture and Activities at the Cuba Street

A perfect amalgamation of the Bohemian culture and New Zealand’s hospitality, the street has an eclectic collection of cool cafes, fine dining restaurants, gorgeous boutiques, small fashion stores, art galleries, music shops and the like. At any time of the day, you can find buskers entertaining a small crowd on the corners, or a street dancers performing in a circle of standing people, or a street a street artist painting the square or a juggler showing off amazing tactics etc. One of the highlights of the place is the bucket fountain which is especially loved by children which attracts attention like nothing else. 

Another prominent attraction that was famous in the Cuba Street was the Blanket Man- the homeless man who wandered the streets asking for alms. The north end has an abundance of cafes and retail outlets and showrooms. However, the south end is on the sparsely populated areas. The middle section, also known as ‘Mid Cuba’ hs remnants of the gay bars and the red light areas from the 70s and the 80s. All in all, the place is a bustling commercial hub of town which is a pool of creativity, culture and art. The place is popular for all kinds of activities including exhibitions, protest, stone carvings, sculptures and contemporary art. Cuba Street is also known for Cuba Street General Store than was ran by Mary Taylor- friend and correspondent to the renowned author Charlotte Bronte. This shop doesn’t exist now but a storyboard at the site commemorates the owner.

Festivals at the Cuba Street

Cupa Dupa is the lit festival that is dedicated to the Cuba Street and celebrates the vibrant culture of the place. The arts festival is held in late March and holds a plethora of functions and music and dance performance on the streets. These stage theatre performances and the music shows are conducted on the several stages that are constructed on the street. There is an abundance of local street food which people relish while singing and dancing on the streets. The festival showcases more than 120 acts and 250 performances on an annual basis. It is believed to be the revival of the ‘Cuba Street Carnival’.

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