Designed by George McRae to resemble a Byzantine palace, the QVB occupies an entire block on George Street, and once dominated the Sydney skyline with its dramatic domed roof – an inner glass dome encased by a copper-sheathed outer one. Completed in 1898 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, it originally housed street markets. It has suffered (and gamely survived) long periods of neglect, and demolition threats were finally quashed in the 1980s when a $75 million budget restored the building to its former grandeur.
It now houses 200 outlets, including shops, cafés and restaurants. Of particular note are the coloured lead-light wheel windows, the cast-iron circular staircase and the original floor tiles and lift. The ballroom on the third floor is now The Tea Room.