Taking in the area between Martin Place, Bathurst Street, Elizabeth Street and George Street, this is primarily a retail district, with Pitt Street Mall, the main shopping precinct, situated between King and Market streets, and the exclusive shops of Castlereagh Street to the east
A sweeping vista of buildings in the High Victorian and Art Deco styles line Martin Place all the way to Macquarie Street. Chief among these notable buildings is the old GPO on the corner of Martin Place and George Street, which was designed by colonial architect James Barnet and has been gloriously transformed into the Westin Sydney, a five-star hotel with stunning interiors. The lower ground floor contains an up-market food hall along with a carefully preserved part of the old Tank Stream , which until recently was thought to be irretrievably lost below the streets of Sydney. Once a major source of water for the Eora people, it was also a deciding factor in the choice of Sydney Cove as a settlement site.
Pitt Street Mall
Head south along Pitt Street from Martin Place to find the busy pedestrian precinct of the Pitt Street Mall.
The heart of the CBD’s retail area and home of Westfield Sydney Shopping Centre, its overhead walkways, small arcades and underground tunnels lead to David Jones and the QVB (the Queen Victoria Building).
The mall houses department stores, boutiques, and music and book emporiums, as well as the lovely Strand, the last of the old arcades in what was once a city of arcades. The Strand has three levels of beautiful and unusual shops to explore.
The Sydney Tower Eye
A visit to Sydney Tower is a must for any visitor. Your ticket grants you access to the 250-metre observation tower, which commands superb views of Sydney, all the way from the Blue Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Access the tower by Westfield Sydney on Pitt Street Mall. Included in your ticket price is a 4D-movie 'flight' through Sydney. For those who like to live on the edge, there’s the Skywalk, an outdoor walk on clear glass. Level 5, 100 Market St; (02) 9333 9222; open 9am–10.30pm Mon–Sun.
An extravagant mix of Art Deco, Italianate and Gothic architecture, the State Theatre is the final word in opulence.
Built in 1929 as a ‘Palace of Dreams’ with marble columns, mosaic floors and plush furnishings, it boasts a beautiful chandelier, the four-tonne Koh-I-Noor, and several paintings by well-known Australian artists.
Classified by the National Trust, it is still a working theatre and has seen performances by artists such as Bette Midler and Rudolf Nureyev. Self-guided tours of the building are available, but it’s best to ring first to check times. 49 Market St; (02) 9373 6655 or (02) 9373 6852; tours 10am and 1pm Mon–Wed, tickets through Ticketmaster, 1300 139 588.
Queen Victoria Building
It’s astonishing to realise now that the QVB was once in danger of becoming a multistorey carpark, but this was indeed the case. Built in 1898 to replace the old Sydney markets, it was later used for a number of purposes, at various times housing a concert hall and the city library before being restored in 1984 to its former splendour.
Now one of Sydney’s most cherished landmarks, it is considered by some to be the most beautiful shopping centre in the world, with three levels of stylish shops and cafes.
The QVB features elaborate stained-glass windows, intricate tiled floors, arches, pillars, balustrades and a mighty central dome. The building’s bestkept secret is the old ballroom on the third floor, now used as the supremely elegant Tea Room. 455 George St.
Sydney Town Hall
Immediately to the south of the QVB stands the Sydney Town Hall, a wildly extravagant piece of Victoriana, now the seat of city government.
Erected in 1868, it was built on the site of a convict burial ground – as recently evidenced by the accidental discovery of an old brick tomb. While you’re here, slip inside for a look at the Grand Organ, which was built in London by William Hill & Son and installed in the Concert Hall in 1890.
Free lunchtime concerts, lectures and other events are held occasionally. 483 George St.