Auckland's Aotea Square has put on a festive face with deck chairs around a bandstand, dancing, table tennis tables, Christmas decorations, Saturday market and a fancy iron gate to frame a photo opportunity.

Helped by fine weather, the square is providing a focus for visitors and city workers, said Natalie Donze of Heart of the City, which is partners with The Edge in the promotion.

"We say welcome to Auckland's big little city - where everybody goes to get together," said Ms Donze.

After a lunchtime concert at the square, visitors told the Herald they agreed with the sentiment of the campaign.


"I think it is so because there is always lots to do," said accountancy office worker Jill Farrar, of the North Shore.

But the main drawback for the former United Kingdom resident was "average" shopping and lack of variety of goods she had been used to.

Her co-worker and friend, Di Butler, of East Tamaki, said her Auckland favourites were the cafes and harbour ferries.

"I think it's a big city but I tend to stick in my own area for shopping."

She said the city's effort with Christmas decorations was poor compared with Melbourne's and lacked impact because they were too spread out.

Australian visitor Janelle Nolan said Auckland seemed a little city compared with Sydney and she liked that.

"But on my first day I'm unsure I'm walking in the right places - they need signs to show where to find the main places for shopping."

Father and son visitors from Brisbane, Mark and Evan Lendich, came for a week's stay in a waterfront apartment where they found the rent was reasonable because of the strong Australian dollar.

Heart of the City said it is running a $750,000 events budget and is adding to its $1 million collection of Christmas decorations in response to public calls for the city to be "more Christmassy".

Four years ago, it started by buying Santa and the reindeer on the Whitcoulls Building.

This year it had greater numbers of illuminated decorations in the main shopping streets, said Ms Donze.