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Queen Victoria Building

Posted on March 8, 2008 - Filed Under Historic Sites, Sydney Shopping

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The Queen Victoria Building is both a magnificent historical landmark and a shopping paradise. Affectionately referred to as the QVB, it has been described as the “most beautiful shopping centre in the world” by Pierre Cardin. It is a hub of activity and attracts hundreds of locals and tourists every day.

Queen Victoria Building

Queen Victoria Building Tour
History Of The QVB:

The Queen Victoria Building was built on the site of the George Street Markets, Sydney’s produce markets in the 1800s. Architect George McRae submitted four separate designs for the building to the Sydney City Council, each with their own style. The styles were Renaissance, Gothic, Romanesque Revival and Queen Anne. Ultimately, the Romanesque Revival style was chosen. Construction began in 1893.

Sydney was in the midst of a recession in 1893 and many people were out of work. The building project provided many job opportunities, especially for construction workers and artists and gave some much needed relief for many families.

Construction was completed in 1898 and the building was named after Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch at the time. It originally featured coffee shops, showrooms, a business environment for various tradesmen and a concert hall. The concert hall has since become a library.

Several alterations were made over the following years. For example, the original concept of a glass-roofed shopping street was lost when much of the building was converted into office space. Sadly, as time went on the building slowly deteriorated and in 1959, it was threatened with demolition.

Thankfully, the building was rescued and underwent extensive restorations and refurbishment. It was reopened in 1984 and although it is now home to over 200 modern shops, it still retains its turn-the-century charm.

The Architecture:

The architecture of the Queen Victoria Building is stunning both inside and out and offers a unique contrast to the surrounding modern structures. Even if you do not wish to shop, it is worth the time to have a look around.

From the outside you will notice the large central dome. It is 20 metres in diameter and is made up of an inner glass dome and an exterior copper-sheathed dome, topped by a domed cupola. Other smaller domes also feature prominently along the roof.

Queen Victoria

At the main entrance is a statue of Queen Victoria by Irish sculptor, John Hughes. The statue once stood outside the Irish Houses of Parliament in Leinster House, Dublin but in 1947 it was given to the people of Sydney by the Government of the Republic of Ireland. It was placed here in 1987.

The Royal Wishing Well stands nearby. It features a bronze sculpture of Islay, Queen Victoria’s favourite dog. A recorded message by radio personality, John Laws encourages passers-by to make a donation in the well, with all proceeds going to deaf and blind children.

Queen Victoria Building - Islay

Inside the Queen Victoria Building you will find beautiful wood panelling, sweeping staircases and stunning stained-glass windows, including a window featuring the original crest of arms of the city of Sydney. While you are there, make sure you look down at the tiles on the mosaic floor. Many are the originals.

The upper levels of the building overlook the ground floor, creating a beautiful open space full of charming shops and cafes. If you have time, try one of the cafes on the upper levels and relax as you people-watch in exquisite surroundings.

Queen Victoria Building Inside

Exhibits and Attractions:

The upper floors feature a number of exhibits and attractions that are well worth a look.

The main attraction is the Royal Clock – This spectacular mechanical clock was made by the Queen’s clockmaker and resembles Balmoral Castle. It is suspended from the ceiling and is the world’s largest hanging animated turret clock. Every hour, on the hour between 9am and 9pm, it’s mechanical action figures sound the trumpets and act out a Royal Pageant. It features six scenes from England’s history including King John signing the Magna Carta in 1215, Queen Elizabeth I knighting Sir Frances Drake in 1588 and the beheading of Charles I in 1649.

Queen Victoria Building Clocks

Others attractions include:

· The Great Australia Clock – This clock stands 10 metres tall and depicts 33 scenes from Australia’s history from both Aboriginal and European perspectives. An Aboriginal hunter continuously circles the exterior of the clock to represent the never-ending passage of time.
· Replicas of the Crown Jewels – These were made by the crown jeweller’s craftsmen and are on display in the top gallery
· A Wax Model of Queen Victoria – She is dressed in full coronation regalia and is seated on an ornate chair
· A Letter from Queen Elizabeth II – Written in 1986, it is to be opened by the Lord Mayor of Sydney in 2085
· A tribute to recipients of the Victoria Cross
· Replicas of Royal paintings

The upper floors are usually fairly quiet and provide a nice escape from the bustle of the ground floors.

The Shops:

Over 200 stores call the QVB home. The ground floors feature well-known fashion brands like Esprit, Ralph Lauren, Country Road, Oroton and Guess. The upper floors focus more on boutique shopping, jewellery, international and Australian art, antiques, Australian craft and quality Australian souvenirs.

You can buy almost anything at the Queen Victoria Building, but be aware that most (not all) stores are fairly upmarket and have the prices to match. Generally, the higher the level, the more expensive the prices are likely to be.

Queen Victoria Building Tour

Important Information:

Guided Tours:

Guided tours take place twice daily. They run at 11:30am and 2:30pm Monday to Saturday and 12:00pm and 2:30pm on Sundays. Tours cost $10 Au each (free with a See Sydney Card) and run for one hour.

Tours cover a wide range of interesting facts and give a good overview of the history of this remarkable building. Stories will cover everything from the original concept to trading difficulties during World War II.

Night Tours are also available for $25 Au each. Night tours include the regular tour with the added bonus of giving you the opportunity to visit inner and outer domes via spiral staircases. Champagne and savouries are also served under the grand dome as you listen to a piano and violin duet.

Tours can be booked by contacting the Concierge Desk on (02) 9264 9209.


The Queen Victoria Building is located in the centre of the city, adjacent to Town Hall. It occupies an entire city block bounded by George, Market, York and Druitt Streets.

The Queen Victoria Building can be easily reached by train or by bus. Both Town Hall Station and Pitt Street Mall are directly connected with the lower levels of the building by underground passageways.

Paid parking is available on site and can be accessed via York Street.

Nearby Attractions:

Nearby attractions include Town Hall, Pitt Street Mall, Hyde Park and Darling Harbour.

Opening Hours:

The Queen Victoria Building remains open 24 hours a day. However store hours are:

Monday: 9:00am-6:00pm
Tuesday: 9:00am-6:00pm
Wednesday: 9:00am-6:00pm
Thursday: 9:00am-9:00pm
Friday: 9:00am-6:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am-6:00pm
Sunday and public holidays: 11:00am-5:00pm

Stores located on the upper levels open at 10:00am. Some stores and cafes may remain open for longer hours.


There are no admission fees for the Queen Victoria Building.

Food Services:

The QVB caters to all tastes when it comes to food. The lower levels feature several options including a bakery and an inexpensive food court. Cafes and restaurants can also be found on the upper levels.


The Queen Victoria Building is wheelchair accessible. Lifts are located at both ends of the building to provide access to the upper floors.

Contact Details:

You can contact the Queen Victoria Building directly on (02) 9264 9209.

Have You Visited The Queen Victoria Building?

Please share your experiences of or questions about the Queen Victoria Building in the comments box below.

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 8th, 2008 at 3:09 pm and is filed under Historic Sites, Sydney Shopping. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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