QVB Sydney

The Queen Victoria Building is my all time favourite building in Sydney. Not that I’ve seen everything Sydney has to offer, but I can’t see my love for this grand old building changing. QVB Sydney is historic, beautiful and rather individual.  We booked a tour with Robyn, the Concierge and it was clear she has a passion for this building too as she proudly took us around and showed us her ‘office’.

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The QVB is quite astonishing and has weathered trials and triumphs and not only survived the threat of demolition but won the opportunity for a high risk restoration. A lot of its finery has gone full circle, from the awnings and graceful Victorian shopfronts being removed and then re-emerging after restoration. The same as the vibrant stained glass windows once obscured and now restored to their splendour.

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The Queen Victoria Building is a late nineteenth-century building designed by the architect George McRae in the central business district of Sydney, Australia.

The interior is stunning, the architecture eye popping, just magnificent how it combines modern day shopping with historical value.  This spectacular grand old building is in the centre of Sydney. Despite major renovations they have kept the original staircases, lifts and interior décor within the sandstone façade heralding back to the colonial past.

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Despite the renovations and restorations of the QVB it has retained the public market roots. Well you can still buy produce and textiles here just they are now in the form of prepared gourmet meals and designer label clothes.

Inside are numerous pricey shops to appeal to a lot of people’s discerning tastes and many different small cafes to make this an ideal place to indulge in window shopping or people watching whilst enjoying a relaxing cuppa, savouring the beauty of this incredible piece of architecture.

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I couldn’t believe when I learnt at one stage they were set to demolish this building.

Walking through this mall feels like a stroll back to the magnificence of the Victorian era with the Romanesque architecture, wrought iron and domed roofline. Don’t forget to look up and admire the best feature of the building, a massive stained glass dome in the centre. The dome allows ample natural light to illuminate the amazing building. It is clear this building has been carefully restored, with ornate tiled floors, ornate and animated clocks. There is even a time capsule containing a letter on display from Queen Elizabeth to the citizens of Sydney with instructions not to open until 2085, the year the current 99 year lease expires.

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The QVB is one Sydney destination that is of equal value for locals and visitors alike. Even if you don’t plan spending money on shopping or eating, it is worth a 30 minute investment of your time to take in a tour with the Concierge. You will stroll around and admire the details of the workmanship and learn the history. Upstairs you will see the Royal Clock and the Great Australian Clock, both definitely worth a look.

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I would hate to imagine the Sydney city landscape without the QVB. The QVB fills an entire city block and dominated by the mighty centre dome with its glass inner and exterior copper sheath. Every detail was faithfully restored, from the glorious stained glass windows, the splendid staircases, colonnades, cupolas, arches, pillars, balustrades and intricate tiled floors typically in intricate Victorian style, maintaining the integrity of the era of the buildings’ origin.  Much of the tilework is original, especially under the central dome, the remainder is in keeping with the original style.

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The restoration reflected the building’s original design and a bold and gutsy colour palette of red, turquoise and eggshell blue was used to replicate how the Victorian era embraced colour.

The entire cartwheel stained glass window had to be replaced after it was destroyed by the Hilton bombing in 1978 and the visual message is the finishing touch to the $48 million project. It includes Sydney’s coat of arms, a beehive to depict business, a sailing ship depicting trade, dolphins representing the harbour. One panel represents the council of City of Sydney, symbols of architecture. There are very few signs that QVB is owned and leased for 99 years by a Malaysian company, but a representation is the letters IGB on one panel symbolising Ipoh Gardens Berhad. Another panel on the bottom centre is two joining hands denoting the fusing of two cultures.

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Two inclusions representing Queen Victoria are outside QVB in Town Hall Place. A colossal statue of Queen Victoria on a grey stone plinth was a gift to the people of Sydney from the Government of Republic of Ireland. The second, nearby is the Royal wishing well and a 60cm bronze sculpture of Queen Victoria’s faithful companion, her dog Islay. The recorded voice of John Laws requests a donation when you make a wish and the money is donated to deaf and blind children.  An addition to the rim of the well is a stone from the battlements of Blarney Castle, Ireland.

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The $48 million project promoted an upgrade that reflected the building’s original design, including devising a Victorian inspired colour palette to complement the unique cultural elements in the use of red, turquoise and eggshell blue as a more energetic and frank interpretation of how the Victorian awareness embraced colour in courageous combinations. There aren’t many signs that it’s now owned and leased by a Malaysian company for 99 years. But the beautiful stained glass cartwheel window has three panels, and one has the letters I.G.B which stands for Ipoh Gardens Berhad. The entire cartwheel stained glass window had to be replaced after it was destroyed by the Hilton bombing in 1978.

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For some delectable treats in QVB head to the top floor for some grandeur for a traditional high tea in what was previously the Grand Ballroom. Now the QVB Tea Room, it still epitomises style and quality. A private entrance via an old worldly cage elevator sets the scene and when you enter the large room it is like stepping back in time to the original facade of the building with intricate art deco ceilings. On the second floor try traditional Chinese with a hint of colonial opulence at Fat Buddha. On the ground floor, sweet treats from Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie.

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At Christmas the QVB is adorned with the most magical Christmas tree. Spanning 3 levels with 144,000 magnificent Swarovski crystal ornaments and 60,000 lights it takes more than 40 hours to be erected. Installed by a team of 72 technicians, engineers, lighting consultants and crystal makers this special tree is renowned worldwide. We would love to go back to QVB and see that tree.

Quite simply, I think it’s the most magnificent building in Sydney and I’m so glad they did not end up demolishing such a magnificent example of 19th century architecture. If you enjoyed this post you might like to check out The Block in Melbourne.

Have you been to QVB? What is your favourite part of the building?

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25 Responses

  1. Natalie says:

    What a beautiful building! Love the stained glass!

  2. A beautiful building…I don’t think I visited it – which is crazy – a fascinating history and unbelievable that they were thinking of demolishing it! Thanks for linking to #citytripping
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) recently posted…6 Reasons To Visit Copenhagen My Profile

  3. What an incredible building-the history sounds fantastic, so glad it escaped demolition. Thanks for linking up to #citytripping
    Cathy (MummyTravels) recently posted…City Tripping #18My Profile

  4. Rachel says:

    I love the QVB! It’s where my engagement ring is from so even though I had a soft spot for the building before that, now it’s love. So glad you enjoyed your trip too!

    • Lyn says:

      Agreed, it’s a beautiful building. How special to have memories attached with the purchase of your engagement ring there. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment Rachel.

  5. It has been years since I visited QVB but it is such a beautiful building that it is hard to forget. I’m sure next time I am back in Sydney I will give it another visit. I never knew you could get a tour of the place!
    Thanks for joining in #wednesdaywanderlust
    Malinda @mybrownpaperpackages recently posted…Wanderlust Budapest & LinkyMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      How could anyone not love this beautiful building, the tour was really worthwhile and a great way to learn about the history of QVB.

  6. Definitely, an impressive building. This is way more interesting than a boring, modern shopping mall. I kept looking at your photos and keep discovering details. The fact about the letter to be opened in 2085 is intriguing. I wonder what the letter says.
    Ruth – Tanama Tales recently posted…Capitola: Color by the SeaMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Yes very impressive Ruth. Such a shame a lot of us won’t be around in 2085 to find out about the content of that letter.

  7. The QVB is such a beautiful building. Sure, the shops in there are way too pricey for my liking but I love wandering in and mostly outside the building. We are so fortunate in Sydney!
    Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life recently posted…Travel Tales: New York City – You are not for meMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Thanks for your comment Sanch, I didn’t go for the pricey shopping but could spend hours at the this beautiful building.

  8. When I visited Sydney, the QVB was one of the buildings we visited and quite simply one of the most beautiful.
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted…How to have a Sun Smart HolidayMy Profile

  9. Anda says:

    Queen Victoria Building is really stunning. No wonder is your favorite one. Victorian style architecture is my favorite too, but I have never been in Sydney. Those stained glass windows are gorgeous.
    Anda recently posted…Living the Good Life in Lake ArrowheadMy Profile

  10. Love the gallery of photos. Great way to showcase the most “magnificent building in Sydney”.
    elaine schoch recently posted…10 Things to do in Steamboat Springs…Besides SkiingMy Profile

  11. Those stained glass buildings are beautiful and I love the deep red colourway
    Suze the Luxury Columnist recently posted…Enoteca Rabezzena – London’s New Wine HotspotMy Profile

  12. Corinne says:

    Can you believe I’ve been to Australia twice, but not to Sydney. I’ve got to go to the QVB if and when I do finally get there!
    Corinne recently posted…Mongolian Food – KhuushuurMy Profile

    • Lyn says:

      Corinne, I can believe it. I have lived in Australia all my life and only finally got to Sydney last year. So glad I included a tour of QVB, such a beautiful building, I can’t believe they were going to demolish it. Thank you so much for commenting.

  1. August 11, 2016

    […] shopping in an arcade with grand old, graceful shopfronts that fills an entire city block. At The Queen Victoria Building you can take a tour of this historic, beautiful shopping complex. Shop from the underground […]

  2. August 31, 2016

    […] but no means least, is the late nineteenth century Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Constructed between 1893 and 1898 the Romanesque Revival building takes up an city block. […]

  3. October 23, 2016

    […] the last day we have a little time to kill so we walk up to the Queen Victoria Building for a guided tour before lunch, a walk back to Darling Harbour and one last quick stop at the […]

  4. January 22, 2017

    […] you enjoyed this post you might like to check out QVB in Sydney. Did you find The Block Arcade as stunning as we did? Would you like to shop, escape […]

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