A freelance writer living and loving in the northern beaches of Sydney...travelling, writing, outdoor activities, gardens, and Pilates are a few of my favourite things. Visit me www.potpourritravels.wordpress.com or www.facebook.com/potpourritravels/
Published November 29th 2016
Blur Your Shopping Experience Between the Past & the Present
In the busy heart of Sydney, whilst dodging traffic and rushing commuters, it's easy to walk straight past the famous Queen Victoria Building, barely giving it a second glance. But detour off the bustling streets and step back in time.
WHY VISIT? - The history and the architecture
The QVB, as it's commonly known, fills an entire city block in the centre of Sydney. Bounded by George, York, Market, and Druitt Streets, the dominant feature is the imposing central dome. It consists of a glass interior and copper-sheathed exterior and is filled, at the moment, with a giant Christmas tree. For information on regular tours, click here.
Built in 1898, replacing the original Sydney markets, it was a monument to a long-reigning monarch. Sydney was in a recession at the time, so the Government designed the elaborate Romanesque architecture to provide employment for many out-of-work craftsmen. Glaziers, stonemasons, and plasterers were the artisans of the time who helped build this iconic, although somewhat austere, Sydney landmark.
Over the early 1900's the tenants changed often. It once housed the city library, the Sydney City Council, a concert hall, showrooms, warehouses, tailors, piano tuners, and florists. Until about 1960 it was often threatened with demolition. But the QVB, with its original 19th century staircase, restored arches, pillars, and intricate tiled floors, still stands in central Sydney as a fitting testament to the original builders and architects.
In the plush shopping centre as we know it today there are also two massive mechanical clocks. The Royal Clock, depicting scenes of English royalty, shows the head of the king being rolled off the chopping block every hour. Located on the upper level of the southern half of the building, it was designed by Neil Glasser in 1982.
The Great Australian Clock includes 33 scenes from Australian history, and is the largest hanging animated turret clock in the world. This fantastic piece of machinery was designed and made by Chris Cook. It is decorated with 23 carat gold and gold-leaf, and weighs 4 tonnes. The clock chimes on the half hour. A lid swings open above the turret and a map of Australia appears as the door closes.
The Great Australian Clock, near the front door of the QVB
Her rather dour expression is not exactly becoming or inviting. Seated on a low chair and made of bronze, her Majesty was seconded here as public art from Ireland. Unveiled on Sunday 20 December, 1987, the statue was given to Australia, with one condition attached - "on loan until recalled". Rather ironic that the British Queen was transported to Australia by sea, don't you think?
With over 150 stores over four levels, it's the quintessential shopping destination. Accessories, arts and antiques, children's wear, footwear, giftware, jewellery, health and beauty, fashion, homewares, restaurants and food are all housed amongst the beautifully restored historic walls and windows. Click here for a list of retailers.
For a special occasion, it can be High Tea, or just a casual afternoon cuppa and a la carte lunch, the royal Tea Room is olde-world opulence. Elaborate, detailed cornices, high ceilings and Baccarat crystal chandeliers certainly makes this reviewer feel like a queen. Located at the north end of the third level, it would certainly make a grand and memorable wedding venue. Today, perhaps I'll just pick up a gift voucher.
By train, Town Hall train station is located beneath the building. Access is via the Lower Ground Floor. By road, enter undercover parking from York Street. The QVB bus stop and Bus Info kiosk is located on the west side on York Street.
History aside, this 'grand 'old dame' of a building deserves to be the major Sydney destination that it is. Don't rush through it with the commuters. Stay all day and be transported back in time where your shopping experience is blurred between the past and the present.