Queen Victoria Building
The Queen Victoria Building (QVB) is an absolute delight. As well as being home to terrific retail outlets, the architecture and ambience make it a much more rewarding experience than just a trip to the shops. It’s an easy walk from Rydges Sydney Central (head up George Street just past the Town Hall). Town Hall is the best rail station and it has direct access to the QVB via the Lower Ground Floor. The QVB Bus Station is on the York Street side of the building and there is undercover parking for 700 cars.
The QVB takes up an entire city block. It was designed by George McRae and completed in 1898, replacing the original Sydney markets on the site. Built as a monument to the long reigning monarch, construction took place in dire times, during a severe recession. The elaborate Romanesque architecture was planned for the grand building so the Government could employ out-of-work craftsmen (stonemasons, plasterers, and stained window artists) in a worthwhile project. Originally, a concert hall, coffee shops, offices, showrooms, warehouses and a wide variety of tradespeople, such as tailors, mercers, hairdressers and florists, were accommodated.
Some dramatic Art Deco remodelling happened in the 1930’s and from 1959 to 1971 the building was facing demolition because no-one could work out what to do with it. After murmurs of turning it into a casino, a massive restoration project was given the green light in 1982 and the fully-restored building re-opened her doors in 1986. Since then there have been additional refurbishments like restoring the ballroom plus new escalators, balustrades, bathrooms, signage and painting throughout. It is a monument to the talents of the original builders and artisans as well as those who undertook the restoration and refurbishment – it is a building of grace and beauty that beautifully balances history and architecture with retail and commercial outlets.
Oh! Nearly forgot that bit – there are over 200 shops that offer ladies and men’s fashion, children’s wear and footwear, gifts, accessories, arts & antiques, jewellery, health and beauty, homewares and ATMs as well as a fine selection of restaurants and cafés. Here is a link to the QVB stores, listed by category.
You can experience the history and grandeur of the QVB with a guided tour ($15, runs approximately 45 minutes) on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:30pm. To book, contact the QVB Concierge on the Ground Floor or ring +61 2 9264 9209. There are also chocolate tours to tantalise the tastebuds at 2:30pm on Wednesdays ($65, runs approximately 90 minutes). And you can enjoy lunch or a coffee break with free high-speed Wi-Fi.
The QVB is disability friendly with lift access to all floors (at both ends and middle), there is a disability access bathroom on the Lower Ground Floor and wheelchair hire is available from the security desk. The Concierge Desk is on the Ground Floor (near the centre dome) and the friendly team there can assist with directions, general info and a free city map to assist getting around town.