Though many changes in Sydney have occurred since its formation as a convict settlement, there has been preserved through time historical buildings and places that tell stories of a past time.
The Sydney Opera House, The Mint, Hyde Park Barracks, The Australian Museum and Government House have all played a role in the history of this city and indeed Australia.
The Rocks, a restored historical district at the north end of the city center, has buildings that date right to almost the very beginning such as Cadmans Cottage, with the other buildings dating from then till the late 1800s and early 1900s. It is called Australia’s First Place.
Of the lesser well known historical buildings scattered through the city, there are many, each with their own story to tell. These buildings are well worth visiting for their architectural and visual appeal as well as the role they played in Sydney history.
Anzac War Memorial, Hyde Park: The Anzac War Memorial is a radical fusion of sculpture and architecture. It caused uproar in the architecture fraternity when its design, a departure from revivalist traditions, was revealed in 1929. Combine a walk through Hyde Park with a stop at this monument featuring 16 granite buttresses and granite figures which reflect on the loss caused by war. Hyde Park South, Sydney. There is a small museum there.
Central Railway Station, City: Next time you’re dashing for the train, take time to admire the stature of this transport hub. It was designed as a landmark building on the southern edge of the city to complement the GPO. Completed in 1906, the clock tower and main northern façade at street level are most impressive. Railway Square, Sydney.
Old Darlinghurst Gaol: This gaol was built to address the appalling prison conditions in the 1820s and was an experimental design featuring six radial wings centred on a circular chapel. The gaol was occupied by prisoners from 1841, when public hangings were still popular entertainment in Sydney. The last hanging at the gaol was in 1907 and it was closed in 1914. It now houses the National Art School. Cnr Forbes and Burton streets, Darlinghurst.
General Post Office, City: As one of Sydney’s most popular meeting points, the steps of the GPO underneath the clock are always crowded with people. Built over a 25 year period between 1864 and 1891, it marks the heart of the city on Martin Place. Today it houses elegant restaurants and cafes, designer fashion boutiques and The Westin Sydney hotel. 1 Martin Place, Sydney.
Martin Place: where Sydney GPO is situated, has other wonderful buildings built in the 1800s. Banks made rich through the pastoral and gold boom years built grand buildings here reflecting their status, with massive bronze steel front doors to symbolize security for their clients. Interestingly, most ot the banks have long ago ceased trading, but their names etched into the buildings and bronze doors continue to exist.
Queen Victoria Building QVB: This grand old dame of Sydney with its distinctive copper dome roof, has been beautifully restored into a five level shopping centre. Originally purpose designed as a shopping arcade and completed in 1898 to replace the old Sydney Markets, its use gradually deteriorated over the years. There were plans to demolish it in the 1950s, but public opinion went against the plans and the building was saved. Boarded up for many years, it was finally restored in the early 1980s.
St Mary’s Cathedral, City: Sitting beside Sydney’s green heart, Hyde Park, the spires of St Mary’s Cathedral dominate the landscape. Built in 1865 from sandstone quarried at Pyrmont, the cathedral’s inspiration is an impressive mix of French and English Gothic from the 13th and 14th centuries. College and Cathedral streets, Sydney.
State Theatre, City: Be transported to another world in this lavish theatre adorned with statues, gilt mirrors and elaborate floral ornamentation. While unremarkable on the outside, its striking interiors are truly spectacular. Don’t miss gliding down the divided staircase modelled on the Paris Opera. 49 Market Street, Sydney.
University of Sydney Main Quadrangle: Skip the lectures and tutorials and head straight to the main quadrangle at the heart of Australia’s oldest university, completed in 1859. It was modelled on the mediaeval gothic styles of Cambridge and Oxford universities and has a similar stately air. Enter at the public entry at the front, dominated by a striking stained glass window. University of Sydney, Darlington.
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