The Queen Victoria Building, known by locals as QVB, is a famous historical building in Sydney CBD that is home to a variety of boutique stores and cafes.

It was completed in 1898 as a monument to Queen Victoria, and has an interesting history that has seen it ruined, almost demolished, and finally resorted to its original beauty.

Table of Contents

Things to See & Do at QVB

Shopping Experience 

The Queen Victoria Building was originally intended to be a central marketplace, and that holds true today as the building is home to a variety of different shops.

Enjoy a diverse shopping experience in the QVB, as well as top of the range services and amenities from eateries to restrooms.

Architecture Features 

The Queen Victoria Building is a gorgeous example of the Romanesque Revival, considered by many to be on the scale of a cathedral. It has a number of architectural features worth keeping an eye out for.

These include the building’s many domes (the biggest of which are clearly visible), beautiful windows on George Street (recently restored), the central mosaic area and two historical clocks: The Royal Clock and The Great Australian Clock.

Clocks 

There are two clocks in the Queen Victoria Building, each of which has remarkable details missed by many visitors to the centre.

Keep an eye out for the Royal Clock (which goes on the hour) and shows six English royalty scenes, paired with the trumpet voluntary of Jeremiah Clarke.

Then there’s the Great Australian Clock, which shows 33 scenes from Australian history, as seen from both Aboriginal and European perspectives.

You’ll notice the Aboriginal hunter circling the outside all the time, to represent the passage of time.

Statues & Sculptures

Make sure you have a look around the outside of the Queen Victoria Building, where you’ll see a number of statues and sculptures connected to the building.

There is a bronze statue of Queen Victoria facing Town Hall in Bicentennial Plaza as well as a wishing well featuring a statue of the Queen’s favourite dog Islay.

The Tea Room QVB – High Tea

For a true historical experience you should visit the Tea Room.

This cafe, located on the third floor in what was once the grand ballroom, serves traditional delicious high tea and is definitely worth trying.

If the occasions right, you could even organize an event there, like a wedding or conference. 

Official site

QVB Tours

To get a more in-depth understanding of the Queen Victoria Building history and features, you can participate in a guided tour run by the concierge service on site for only $15.

The concierge desk is near the centre dome on the ground floor and tours run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:30am for around 45 minutes.

Alternatively, book a packaged city tour which includes the QVB and the rest of Sydney CBD.

Book Tour

Transport

  • Train: The Town Hall train station is the closest to QVB and is accessible from the Lower Ground Floor of the building.
  • Bus: The QVB bus station is located behind the centre on York Street.
  • Car: 700 space car park accessible via York Street, includes valet parking, car wash and park assist services.

History

The Queen Victoria Building was designed by George McRae a Scottish architect who immigrated to Sydney. Dedicated to Queen Victoria, the building has had somewhat of a challenging history beginning with its construction in the middle of an early Sydney recession in 1893.

The Queen Victoria Building was opened in 1898 and contained a large marketplace, a concert hall (with room for 500 people) and a residential hotel called Coffee Palace. But as early as 1902 the City Council had begun to worry about the QVB being a non-paying asset, and the building was one vote away from being demolished when a 1913 decision was made to renovate it.

Again in 1959 it was threatened with demolition, and plans were in place to replace it with a fountain, plaza and car park. Luckily it was classified by the National Trust in 1974, and between 1984 and 1986 underwent an $86 million dollar restoration.

The building that you see now is the result of yet another $48 million dollar renovation that took place between 2008 and 2009, which was met with some criticism.

Interesting Facts

  • The extravagant Romanesque style of the building was specifically used to provide work to many craftsmen who were out of work, including stonemasons, plasterers and stained window artists.
  • The Queen Victoria Building occupies an entire city block.
  • The Great Australian Clock weighs four tonnes and is ten metres tall.
  • On the top level of the QVB, near the dome, there is a display containing a letter written by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986. It is to be opened in 2085 and read to the people of Sydney by the city’s mayor, but nobody knows what it contains.

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For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!