It's hard to find a more picturesque retail experience in Sydney than the iconic Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Completed in 1898, the grand dame of Sydney shopping replaced earlier markets on the site and the elegant sandstone edifice was designed to utilise many unemployed craftsmen across the trades of stained glass, plastering and stonemasonry during what were dire financial times in the city.
The refined Romanesque architecture originally housed a concert hall, cafes, showrooms, warehouses, offices and various trades within an entire city block. Although threatened with demolition in the 1930s and '50s, QVB has endured through major refurbishments in 1934, 1982 and again in 2009 to remain as one of the shopping showpieces in Sydney's CBD. The main feature of the facade is the copper centre dome while the interior is furnished with sweeping 19th-century central staircases, stained glass windows, arches, pillars, balustrades and tiled floors. Of interest is the sumptuously decorated women's bathroom on level 2 - surely the prettiest public toilets you'll see. More about the history of QVB can be gleaned from guided 45-minute tours for AU$15, which run on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:30am.
Today, QVB now boasts over 200 boutiques and restaurants across six floors ranging from basic services and chain stores to antique stores, art galleries, souvenir shops, international designers and upmarket boutiques. During peak commuter times, the lower grounds levels 1 and 2 host a steady stream of people using the building as an underground thoroughfare to Town Hall railway station. At the top, level 3 is home to the elegant Tea Room for traditional morning and afternoon teas. Don’t miss the Royal Clock, which is suspended from the glass roof and chimes on the hour with a rotating tableaux that includes notable historical royal events.
To visit QVB, the closest rail station is Town Hall, located directly opposite the shopping centre and accessible from the lower ground levels. From Pitt Street Mall, it's a two-minute walk down Market Street.