New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings are on Molesworth Street in the city center and include the distinctive beehive-shaped building that is the administrative headquarters. You can visit Parliament daily free of charge. The 1-hour tours include the Edwardian neoclassical Parliament House, the Victorian-Gothic Parliamentary Library, and, if the group is not too large, the 1970s-style Beehive. If you want to see and hear history in the making, call first to check when the House is sitting. The Debating Chamber makes for fascinating spectator sport.
The refurbished buildings also present outstanding examples of New Zealand art. The most impressive of all is the spectacular work by Malcolm Harrison, which occupies the three-story height of the new Galleria. The Maori Affairs Select Committee Room, at the front of Parliament House, is another interesting feature, worth visiting for the remarkable carvings and weavings specially commissioned for it.
Across the road, the Old Government Building is also worth a look. It’s the second-largest wooden building in the world and now houses the University Law Faculty. And since you’re in the vicinity, you could also check out the National Library of New Zealand, 70 Molesworth St. ([tel] 04/474-3000; www.natlib.govt.nz). The ground-floor National Library Gallery showcases the art and history collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library and is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday from 9am to 4:30pm, and Sunday from 1 to 4:30pm. The Alexander Turnbull Library, in the same building, is the research wing of the National Library, specializing in New Zealand and the Pacific. Books, serials, recordings, manuscripts, and archives are on the first floor and newspapers on the lower ground floor. On the second floor, visitors can peruse files of photographs. Drawings, paintings, and maps are available for research by appointment.